The concept of Gross National Happiness (GNH), which was introduced by the fourth king of Bhutan in 1972), has been gaining ground among the ruling elites and hypnotized-sort-of international communities. Prime Minister Jigmi Y Thinley is advocating GNH everywhere he makes visits to. Nonetheless, it has failed so far to incorporate the people’s sentiments, thus failing to provide the real happiness among them.
The people inside and outside Bhutan have been long craving for justice and peace. The dissent voices have been heard from every citizen many a times. However, they are compelled not to bring themselves to the streets to protest the increasing atrocities of the government forces.
In a true sense, Bhutan does not have real democratic government. And its claim of Buddhist spiritual values established in Bhutan is not true. Buddhism does not believe in act which is against human beings. Wangchuck’s team is good to sell its ideas to the outside world but inside it is equally ruthless when it comes to considering the freedom and happiness of people.
There are numerous instances in which the Bhutanese authorities have ruthlessly acted upon the people’s will. In one such instance, on October 22, 1997 a Buddhist Monk, Gomchen Karma was brutally killed by Chief District Administrative Officer (Dzongda) in Mongar district of central-eastern Bhutan for his appeal to ‘justice in the country’. Hundreds have been thrown behind the bars without a formal trial, some killed by the security personals, carried out arson while women were raped and tortured brutally.
The regime is too obsessive of its prowess of rule over the pacifist citizens of Bhutan. So, it is least bothered about granting and ensuring fundamental civil rights to all citizens. Atrocities still prevail through the country. Many houses in the southern villages had been razed; some school buildings still used as army barracks and the hospital buildings as army supply depot. For Bhutanese, there is no divergence in these voices when it comes to the question of liberty, equality and fraternity.
The Bhutanese bureaucrats have always played with the sentiments of the other religious communities in Bhutan. The ban of Nepali textbooks from schools and the compulsion to adopt their way of lives and culture was politically motivated. The frequent misunderstandings between the different sections of the society also owe their genesis to the politicians. The minority population of the Brokpas, the Doyas, the Kurteops, have always been looked down by the tyrants.
The GNH has been viewed as the tool to swindle the international communities. It is certainly a shroud to cover up its cruelty and covert injustice done to citizens. The term “Gross National happiness” was coined in 1972 by Jigme Singye, soon after the demise of his father, king Jigme Dorji Wangchuk. He used the phrase to signal his commitment to building an economy that would serve Bhutan’s unique culture based on Buddhist spiritual values. The four factors of GNH derived by Bhutan king are the promotion of sustainable development, preservation and promotion of cultural values, conservation of the natural environment, and establishment of good governance. All sounds top ranking agenda to yield GNH, yet without good governance, all four factors can never amount to the desired output regardless of its superior marketing. It is a disgrace for Bhutanese elites to claim that Bhutanese are happy.
The malicious acts of the Bhutanese monarchs have greatly eroded the Bhutanese image in the world. Some of the countries have even voiced against atrocities of Druk regime. However, many countries still endorse the Bhutanese concept of Gross National Happiness precisely because of their ignorance of the actual situation inside Bhutan. The troubled Bhutanese, both inside and outside the country are certainly integral citizens of Bhutan where peace and normalcy means to open the door for repatriation of willing Bhutanese refugees and establishment of real, vibrant democracy.
King Wangchuck planned democratic set up for Bhutan in early 2008. In April 2008 general election was held to show to the world that Bhutan has transitioned from an absolute monarchy to a multiparty democracy. Certainly, it is a step towards wellbeing of people but such democracy is not for the general people of Bhutan. In this situation people are not free to make their choice but are constantly directed to ensure the sovereign institution of the king. The former king’s call for writing Constitution for democratic government and handing over of power to own son Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck has somehow ignored the people’s call for freedom from outside or inside the country.
The irony also lies in the fact that the exiled movement did not have any participation in the birth of the new democracy which it has advocated for.
The exiled Bhutanese people have maintained that they would continue to raise the issue of instituting a true democracy and human rights in Bhutan until the erstwhile absolute regime realizes the perpetration it unleashed against the genuine citizens.
It is long felt that direct talks between the government and refugee community under the auspices of an independent international body shall open the door to repatriation with safety and dignity.
Editor’s note : The views are solely of the writer and does not represent anything of the Bhutan News Service.