Historical facts about Bhutan & Bhutanese

Dr Bhampa Rai

: In his foreword to the revised edition of ‘BHUTAN”, a book first published in 1972 and written by Nagendra Singh, one time Constitutional Advisor to the Royal Government of Bhutan from 1970 until his election as a judge of the International Court of Justice in 1972, the fourth-king Jigme Singye Wangchuk of Bhutan has evidently accepted that today’s Bhutan was a tutelage of Kamarupa, Assam (India), until 650 A.D and the northern Bhutanese including the present dynasty migrated to Bhutan from Tibet. So the ruling elites of Bhutan are as much migrants as any other communities that make up the Bhutanese nation, and they are no more or less threatened out of extinction as any other ethnic groups.

Immigrants from Tibet
After the death of Bhaskaraverma, the ruler of Kamarupa, the tutelage of Kamarupa, today’s Bhutan, got separated from Kamarupa only to expose itself to incursions from  Tibet which swept the country in about 861-900 A.D (“BHUTAN’ by Nagendra Singh 1978:18.)

Prior to this, there were no Tibetans (Bhuteas) in today’s Bhutan. Those Tibetans who swarmed Bhutan liked it so much they refused to return to Tibet and such deserters were called “Milog”. More influx followed from Tibet and these immigrants began settling in today’s Bhutan without any edict from Indian rulers who were ruling this area until 8th century. Those immigrants were mainly attracted by better ECONOMIC conditions of this Indian ruled area.

Ousting India rulers
Later, these migrants succeeded in gradually ousting the Indian rulers and their subjects and today no descendants of the Indian rulers are present in Bhutan who, by virtue of their being original inhabitants, could have labelled all migrants to Bhutan as ‘illegal immigrants”. However, we have a situation where descendants of earlier immigrants with the reins of State power labeling the descendants of later immigrants as economic and illegal migrants and evicting them from their motherland, Bhutan, to become refugees. What an irony?

Immigration of Tibetan Lamas
Historical evidence suggests that since 13th century AD onwards, some prominent lamas like Gyalwa Lanangpa, Phago Drugom Shigpo, longchhenpa Drime Ozer, Barawa Gyaltshen Passang, Kuenga Pajo etc. from Tibet started immigrating to today’s Bhutan and started ruling this area with each lama holding sway over small principalities.

Later in 17th century AD, all those territories were united by a monk named Zhabdrung Nawanag Namgyal, who immigrated to this area in 1616 AD from Ralung in Tibet. He ruled this unified nation under a theocratic system which in many ways still persist in Bhutan through “Driglam Namza” but under internationally more acceptable guise of “Unique Democracy”.

Although the system of monarchy in Bhutan was established in 1907, the ruling system persisted as that of medieval theocracy and the people were subjected to arbitrary rule and their existence was painful and difficult.  In this difficult situation, the people from southern Bhutan defied the authorities and dared to form a political party called “Jai Gorkha” under the guidance of late Sahabir Rai to address their grievances against discrimination and oppression and organized a mass peaceful rally at Dagana, Bhutan, in 1947. This party was brutally crushed down by the regime with the help of India by killing Mahasur Chhetry, one of the leaders from Chirang, Bhutan and high premium was put on the head of late Sahabir Rai.  Following this, another Political Party “Bhutan State Congress” under the presidentship of Late D. B. Gurung was formed in 4th November 1952 to address the same grievance as that of advanced “Jai Gorkha”.

Citizenship in Bhutan
Because of the protest of those two political parties, the then rulers of Bhutan were forced to re-think their policies and hence, promulgated laws for the first time to grant citizenship to all Bhutanese domiciled in Bhutan on or before 31st December 1958 through a resolution of the National Assembly (No. 3, 11th session, 1958 and No.8, 11th session, 1958). And the census record was maintained by the village heads called Mandals until 1968 when the Ministry of Home Affairs of Bhutan was established.

Regime’s ethnic cleansing move
All Bhutanese, irrespective of their regional or ethnic affiliations, lived in peace and harmony. And they all contributed equally to the nation building process until late 1980s.  But the rulers of Bhutan shook them out of their blissful life when they began implementing discriminatory and suppressive policies and conducting irrational census exercises only in southern Bhutan in 1988 targeting only the Bhutanese of Gorkha/Nepalese ethnicity. With strong inbuilt intention of ethnic cleansing, this illogical census forcefully disqualified many bona-fide Bhutanese citizens of Gorkha/Nepalese ethnicity and labeled them as “economic migrants”.

Such a discriminatory policy of the rulers was resented by the bona-fide Bhutanese and they organized mass peaceful rallies in southern Bhutan in 1990 and in eastern Bhutan in 1997 to express their grievances. Both the rallies were brutally crushed down by the regime which instantly labeled those demonstrators as anti-nationals and terrorists.  And later they were labeled as illegal immigrants to make their propaganda sound more imposing and realistic. Surprisingly, such dirty propaganda of the Bhutanese rulers seems to suit the powers with vested interest to see the plight of the Bhutanese refugees continue.

Regime’s deceptive propaganda
In the mid 90s, when the international pressure on Bhutan vis-a-vis the refugee issue grew stronger, the rulers of Bhutan accepted the truth of its bona-fide citizens living as refugees in eastern Nepal. It proposed to categorize and verify them before taking them back to Bhutan. But when time actually came to take the verified ones to Bhutan, the ever-cunning tyrant rulers of Bhutan prevaricated and successfully diverted world attention from the real issue of finding a solution to the refugee problem with their self-serving slogan of “Gross National Happiness”

It is a matter of great regret and shame that the international community and many democratically elected leaders who have made civil liberty and human rights their plank are found supporting gimmick of doubtful worth of autocratic tyrant Bhutanese rulers at the cost of fundamental rights of the Bhutanese citizens including respect for Human Rights in Bhutan.

When speaking about “Gross National Happiness” in Bhutan, however, it is very important to know whether the present rulers of Bhutan who evicted about 1/6th of their citizens from the south and the east are still happy in Bhutan.  And if indeed they believe so, they must at the least accept themselves to be barbaric rulers of the medieval period ruling Bhutan under a theocracy through Driglam Namza. If they are not, coming up with such slogan of Gross National Happiness (GNH) is shameful and violating their conscience..

We ask how rational and conscious Bhutanese can live happily in Bhutan when;

  1. more than one lakh of their fellow countrymen were evicted from their motherland to become refugees just for raising voice against discrimination, oppression and human rights violation in Bhutan;
  2. they are not allowed to meet their evicted relatives by the rulers of Bhutan  even on tragic occasion like the death of their relatives;
  3. the landed properties of their evicted relatives is distributed mostly to the northerners;
  4. the land of southern Bhutanese, still living in Bhutan is tactically  declared excess by the land surveyors and allotted to the  northern Bhutanese with inborn intention of creating misunderstanding between northern and southern Bhutanese and ultimately displacing Bhutanese of Nepalese  ethnicity;
  5. vast area of northern Bhutan, about ten thousand square kilometers is surrendered to China after confiscating vast lands of evicted bona-fide southern Bhutanese;
  6. tyrant Bhutanese rulers sign treaty with India to pile up plenty of arms and ammunition just to subdue the genuine voices of the Bhutanese citizens at present and in future;
  7. once the Bhutanese rulers proposed to sacrifice one of the southern districts  to………? after resettling all bona-fide Bhutanese of Nepalese  ethnicity  in that particular district. (Bhutanese refugees in Nepal by Prof. Mahendra P. Lama, June 2007:22 );
  8. their motherland,  Bhutan is mortgaged only for the welfare and security of the tyrant rulers;
  9. many Bhutanese still living inside Bhutan express their desire to resettle in third countries
  10. no Bhutanese have right to raise voice against the existing human rights violation, particularly after 1990 and when the rulers are working against the bonafide Bhutanese and nation, Bhutan.

Without tackling the pre-existing and structurally fostered gross human rights violation in Bhutan and addressing the Bhutanese refugee issue, the catchy and attractive slogan like “Gross National Happiness” is to lull the gullible outside and cover up one crime of the Bhutanese rulers with another crime.

Nationalistic Bhutanese
That the Bhutanese rulers lacked in nationalistic feeling have been well manifested from the past when the then rulers of Bhutan handed over vast tract of Bhutanese land from the east bank of river Teesta (in India) to the west bank of river Jaldhaka (in Bhutan) along with 18 (eighteen) Duars to British India in 1865 just to save themselves and remain in power.  Recently about 10 thousand square kilometers along the northern boundary is surrendered to the Chinese so the present rulers continue their tyrannically rule under the cover unique democracy.

Even in 2007, the rulers of Bhutan thought to cede one of the southern districts of Bhutan after resettling all bona-fide Bhutanese of Gorkhas/Nepalese ethnicity in that particular district. Such attitude of Bhutanese rulers clearly reflects their nationalistic feelings and demonstrates their love for the country. Hence, rulers of Bhutan coming up with slogans like “Gross National Happiness” in Bhutan are nothing but great deception, particularly to Bhutan and to all nationalistic Bhutanese. We are very sure their deception will be exposed before long in future.

In contrast, the Bhutanese from the south and the east have more ardent nationalistic feelings observed by their strong determination to stay back in Bhutan despite discrimination, oppression and their gross Human Rights violations by the regime. Even the evicted Bhutanese proved their strong nationalistic feelings by living in horrendous refugee camps situations and awaiting repatriation to their motherland, Bhutan.

No law and religion has ever said that a country belongs only to the rulers of the particular country. It belongs as much also to the citizens who live in that country. So evicting the children of a particular nation by the people in the power is a grievous crime. And in the same breath one may say that the citizens of any nation easily forgetting their nation and giving away their nationality are committing the biggest sin. So, all the children of Bhutan, resettled anywhere in the world are constantly reminded not to forget their motherland, Bhutan and work hard to return with honour and dignity.

Editor’s note : Facts and views presented in the article are entirely based on author’s finding and do not necessarily reflect the official stance of the Bhutan News Service.

(The writer is Chairman of the Bhutanese Refugee Representative Repatriation Committee (BRRRC) and has been based at Damak of Jhapa)


  1. Dr. Bhumpa.
    I appreciate your great deed for reminding Mr. Jigme Y. Thinley that they were the true economic refugees to Bhutan and not the Lhoshampas. In my view he should read your article and learn out of it. He is pointing to the southern Bhutanese as illegal migrant by saying that they are economic refugees who were attracted to Bhutan from Nepal. He has forgotten that the Lhosampas were the ones who sacrificed their lives to construct the roads during the first five year plan for the economic development of Bhutan. I feel that the first elected PM wants to create some turmoil still in Bhutan to push some thousands of the Lhosampas out of Bhutan again. So you the political leaders should be very cautious of the present situation and ideology about the Govt. of Bhutan regarding the Lshosampas.

  2. Dear Daju Dr. Bhampa,
    I salute to your concern to Bhutan and Bhutanese people.
    Here, I am not adding additional facts about immigration account of different communities in Bhutan as I have not found reliable and comparatively written books about this nor I am making my own chronicle but, I am wording and adding the simple facts to your write-ups which can be experienced even now. To be very acceptable the Bhutanese history of immigration is not recorded in the correct way it should have been by the writers who have written about Bhutan. Some rulers who invited foreign writers orchestrated them to believe their own version of account and these foreign writers have written the book to suit the interest of the rulers. But, truth cannot be distorted for long time nor defeated by writing own make-believe history. Ngalungs who lived in Northern Bhutan and claims to be original citizens of Bhutan never visited Southern Bhutan until 19th century as they knew barely about geographical location of the country and also due to fear from Malaria. Whereas, Lhotshampas who for centuries lived in Southern Bhutan toiled and sweated hard to make the Malaria Infected Land suitable for human living are today being questioned for their existence in Bhutan they are mercilessly evicted and made to suffer as refugees. The fact Lhotshampas were in Bhutan since centuries is also proved by the names of places, villages and rivers in old Southern Bhutan. The names of places, villages, rivers and districts in Southern Bhutan carry our lingual, ethnic and cultural identity which is the testimony to the historical facts of our existence in the country. Maps of Bhutan with these names are available to testify the account. Surprisingly, shameless Wangchuck Government of Bhutan today has started changing these names of villages, rivers and districts of Southern Bhutan that our forefathers named to erase our mark of existence in the country and fool the world.

  3. Bhutanese people lived before the time of old stone age and you people came as a laborer to Bhutan. Bhutan govt. has hired you for works and paid huge amount of money for you. You guys felt better because you had nothing in your country. This is not a contribution, it is a job for making living….so the govt .. paid you well, you should feel very happy to be helped by Bhutanese govt.

  4. To Babu and its roots. You are HIV infected sure to die due to this. Do you know babu! your Wangchucks are fed and broughyt up by India like dogs. The true citizens of Bhutan are cheated by this rulers since long time. Everytime this community goes to Delhi it brings blessings for its existence. Bhutan is mortgaged by this community. And there are babus to support this rulers because these babus are like stray dogs. babus and its family cannot travel out of Bhutan in pride. babu and its community can not raise itys head out of Bhutan border because this community is guilty. So? So why are you barking babu? You people are inside pond where you smell and see only your own shit. You are beggers came from Tibet. I remember your fathers used to beg in our villages. Thery used to rinbell tink tong – tink tong – ting tong and collect rice and maize from our villages. Stupid people. Now you are trying to make us angry. You will see your ass rotting in the soil oneday. If you want to live well then repent your evil works, repent your crimes, repent everyting you committed against others. If not you will not be able to come out of Phuntsholing or Gaylegphug or Samdrupdzongkhar, you will surrender to Indian police who will take your ass and allow you? Do you understand that?

  5. Babu, your comments is as like babu( small child). You believe what ever your ruler says, but you never look for evidence and facts. Do not be fool, running after a crow.

    Mr. Kezang Dorji Wangchuck, I can feel your frustration. We need to be aware with this agents of Wangchuck, other wise they will soon make Bhutan their play ground. From citing their own rules, to naming historical places on their own will, form enforcing their believes, to centralizing the power, these jacks could, if possible one day claim Bhutan is only Wangchuck’s property.

  6. Hahaha Dr Bumpa’s historical accounts of Bhutan is politically very shrewd with a lot of fabrications but the facts about the Wangchuk’s dynasty is just bogus without any authenticated source.
    Dr.Bumpa Rai,if you really like to know where from the Royal of this tiny nation originated then go to google net and look for Pala Empire of India so will you will know exactly who they were from the time of the rise of many Bharati princely states in India from sometime 770-810.
    They were defeated by called Sen Dynasty,a hindu king n exiled to the north of Bengal, Govindha pala and his brother 1162-1174.In exile these two brothers married the tibetan noble ladies and extended their families in Bhutan.But this is a history of about ten hundred years.
    This is for your information otherwise I am not interested in politics and history.Go man do the better research and tell the world perhaps you will get rewarded atleast in terms of financial benefits.Good Dr.Mr.Bumpa. adios senora