In search of a Nation


Movie Desh Khojdai Jaanda literally “In Search of a Nation” is based on chronology of historical facts about the ethnic Nepalese in early history of southern “Bhu-utan” now known as Bhutan. Historical evidence lavishly suggests that the theocratic ruler of Bhutan, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal consolidated Bhutan. His visit to southern part of Bhutan influenced him to send the request to the king of Gorkha, Ram Shah (present Nepal) for 41 Nepali families to settle in the southern Bhutan. The “Tamrapatra”(copper plate treaty) signed by both the kings in 1624 stated that the Nepalese settlers shall be given Bhutanese citizenship and shall be treated equally in every respect.

A scene from  the movie
A scene from the movie

The story is true, the people are real and the ill-fate is shared in common. However, the movie has become an artistic piece of fiction representing the story that goes as:

The Lhotshampas (ethnic Nepalese in Bhutan) continued to live in Bhutan in close harmony with other ethnic groups. Abruptly, the xenophobic royal government started enforcing policies targeting the Lhotshampas. The citizenship act of 1958, 1977 and 1985 were enacted and implemented only in Southern Bhutan. The census of 1988, which required Lhotshampas to provide “Certificate of Origin” consequently resulted denial of citizenship for many in southern Bhutan. Meanwhile, the government intensely enforced the “Green Belt” & “One Nation One People” policy since 1988 in a deliberate mood to afflict Lhotshampas, interfere in practice their religion, culture, forbade wearing ethnic dress and speak Nepali, their language.

The Lhotshampas made an appeal to the forth king to reconsider those enacted policies but the government reacted by arresting the leaders and the signatories.

In the fall of 1990 and in 1997, Lhotshampas and other ethnic groups organized peaceful demonstrations demanding basic human rights and cultural freedom. The royal government of Bhutan cracked down the peaceful movement with military might. Unwarranted detentions, killings and prosecution followed intensely that resulted the mass exodus of Lhotshampas in the neighboring India and Nepal. The United Nations came to their rescue. Forceful eviction of mass continued until 1998. More than 120,000 of Bhutanese refugees were registered by UNHCR, some of them remain languished in the camps even today. Thousands of undocumented refugees are stranded in India and Nepal.

Government of Nepal held 16 rounds of bilateral talks with Bhutan to repatriate refugees. With Bhutan not ready to accept its citizens, the door of third country resettlement was eventually opened after 18 years of effort, in 2007.

Majority of the refugees opted to start new life in the United States of America, Canada, United Kingdom, Denmark, Norway, Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand. According statistics furnished by UNHCR in June 2014, still 26,000 were awaiting return to Bhutan.

The movie is filmed in the refugee camps to document the history of sufferings, pathetic living conditions of the refugees and their genuine effort to return home. It also depicts the dilemma of the refugees whether to choose the resettlement offer or just wait in the refugee camps for good days to return.

The movie
“Do you think this soil as mere sand from the river bank? It’s Bhutan’s soil, boys. Bhutan’s” – as quoted in the movie by the central character “Karbari kaka“ in the movie “Desh Khojdai Jaanda”- is finally ready to hit the theaters in January, 2015.

The movie can aptly be historical, filmed in the Bhutanese refugee camps in Nepal and post production work completed in USA. It documents the ill-fate of Lhotshampas who were forcibly evicted from Bhutan, and the pain and agony of sufferings when it comes to being stateless. The research based superior graphic contents of the movie reflects the lives and historical facts of Bhutan and Bhutanese, especially the circumstances surmounting the plight of refugees, particularly the Lhotsampas.

The movie directed by writer/filmmaker Prakash Angdambe and conceived by fine artist/filmmaker Pralhad Gurung, is based on the early settlement of Nepali subjects in Southern Bhutan. The historical facts has been presented graphically since early 17th century from the days of Zhabdrung, about the treaty between the then Gorkha king, Ram Shah and Zhabdrung, and how the Lhoptsampas took measures to clear the malaria infested southern forests to build the fertile terrain and establish farming and civilization.

The movie intertwines about the emotional shifts in various circumstances of the central character, “Karbari kaka”, the village head assistant. He is presented as a wise observer but a mute sufferer. The movie makes the Bhutanese viewer nostalgic about the past life and daily activities in the refugee camp. To the non-refugee viewers, it may shoot up high emotions.

The movie bears the clear message that Lhotshampas are not the only to face injustice but equally mistreated are other ethnic groups in Bhutan.

The movie also portrays the genuine attempt made by the refugees returning Bhutan, consequent violent crackdown by the Indian security forces to stop them from entering Bhutan. The refugees’ anguish for unequal treatment by local Nepali population is presented with humility.

The frustration, anger, guilt and disparity among refugees is interwoven fabric of the movie. The dilemma whether or not to opt third country resettlement, the conflict of interest between the acceptance and denial resulting to internal clashes and death of a patriotic character certainly make the viewers’ eyes to well up.

The movie is presented by Line Cross Movies, production by Ifacans International Foundation. Per Birendra Khadka, the executive producer, the movie is slated to be released in second week of Jan 2015.

The technical aspects are profoundly superior in 4K picture print and 5.1 surround sound quality. According to the production team the movie will be available for shows in all countries of Bhutanese settlement and in Nepal.

In nutshell, the movie provides strong history based evidence to the plight of Lhotasmpas and documents the sufferings of refugees who are fervently in “the search of a nation”.