Kathmandu Politics in Retrospection

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It might perhaps appear too early to say as to if the exiled movement led by RK Dorji will yield fruitful results but if his recent activities are selfless-driven, it might drive our long struggle to a good height.

Dorji, President of Druk National Congress (DNC), who was in Nepal after his extradition case was rejected by Delhi High Court, has been asked to lead the democratic struggle of exiled Bhutanese by Bhutan People’s Party (BPP), Bhutan National Democratic Party (BNDP) and Bhutanese Movement Steering Committee (BMSC). A coalition-like body has been announced, which will be led by Dorji, especially to carry on the struggle for democracy and human rights in Bhutan. Of course, the type of agreement and declaring merger of different groups and parties is not a new drift in the political movements and Bhutanese establishments are not an exception. Interestingly, the Kathmandu understanding of August 26 has drawn the attention of Bhutanese from across the globe in three folds.

Firstly, the accord fell in lime light when Dorji, the most wanted opposition leader in the Thimphu regime’s list landed in Kathmandu after receiving clean cheat from Delhi High Court.  The motion declared in favor of Dorji by the Supreme Court of India has flashed a ray of hope amid pro democracy leaders. This signal from India can be taken as a change in the position of India, the champion of democracy, towards Bhutanese political struggle.

Secondly, the setting has been forged in such a situation that the solitary concentration of International community has centered in the third country resettlement of the exiled Bhutanese en masse. Majority of the Bhutanese denizens in the refugee camps are half way through in the ongoing resettlement scheme.

Thirdly, strategically a new set up is in the offing. Of course, they haven’t term the agreement as a coalition, yet, the nature of the declaration and the statement chimes the same. Here the note worthy substance is the set up and the members’ affiliation. National Front for Democracy (NFD-Bhutan), Bhutanese Movement Steering Committee (BMSC), Bhutan National Democratic Party (BNDP) and DNC, these abbreviations reads and contain the galaxy of political leaders struggling for the common cause but never been together in any move before this. If this set up is true to what people have expected and demanded since long back, this is laudable move and an honest acceptance of peoples’ appeals by the leaders, albeit late.

The coalition partners BMSC headed by Tek Nath Rizal is known for an advisory committee for any sorts of peaceful movements, and comprise of chairpersons and representatives from different human rights groups and social organizations. NFD-Bhutan, headed by Balaram Poudel consists three political parties viz Bhutan People’s Party, Thinley Penjore-lead Druk National Congress- (Democratic) and Bhutan Gorkha National Liberation Front (BGNLF) headed by D.B. Rana Sampang and BNDP with most of its executive members in abroad headed by Dr. DNS Dhakal. Note worthy aspect of this coalition sounds comprehensive for that reason that there was close coordination between DNC and BNDP and never had accepted coalition with NFD-Bhutan. NFD-Bhutan and BMSC were working in hand to hand. This shows if the leaders work with committed consensus keeping aside their petty differences can do a lot and go ahead.

The above affirmed understanding has sparked some questions, and answers to those questions hold the truthfulness for the greater cause. In this coalition, NFD-Bhutan headed by Balaram Poudel has shown the worthy presence and which was must, yet, the absence of Thinley Penjore-led DNC-Democratic is the question of the people. And nowhere BGNLF is seen quoted in the locale. The prime concern of the people is DNC-Democratic should tell people if this is not in favor of peoples’ well fare and bring forth the alternative roadmap so that every Dick, Tom, Henry and the like would analyze the motive. People are far more educated. They are in no mood to be ‘yes Men’ cadre as were treated by the leaders in the past. If the reason for the absence of DNC-Democratic in the coalition is the presence of Dorji, this is the true indication of lust of power and position for petty interest still being guiding principle in the leaders.

This is, for sure, the time to forget the past and think collectively for the situation in the hand. If there exist other reasons, people deserve the right to information from DNC-Democratic in this regard. At equal length, this is the time where considerable number of Bhutanese people in the refugee camps are awaiting repatriation to their homestead with honor and dignity, people are being ignored by the agencies in the field of health. As a result, innocent people sacrificed their lives for no fault in their place. Hundreds of non-registered genuine Bhutanese are seen begging for alms in front of the refugee huts to solve their hand and mouth war all around the clock. The degree of frustration in the mind of people has crossed the limit. The cases of suicide are thus being reported at different times from the camps. Involvement of youths in unruly activities can never be a good news; youths lack morale education and engagement.  Hence, the joint effort from all responsible organizations is must to address and resolve the basic humanitarian problems faced by the people in the camp at the earliest. People in the camps have felt the need of representative approach so as to address their plight and the August 26 agreement has shown rare hope.

Another content of the chapter in the agreement is the office set-up of the coalition. At the present context, the issue of setting up their office in Kathmandu does not sound fruitful. Nepal is in the turmoil of unstable political move. In the past, ample approaches were made from different offices stationed in Kathmandu and could not bring any outcome. For this, New Delhi based coordinating office would add more meaning towards any future programs and Kathmandu can bear sub-office. The coalition should have two fold working strategy one based on human rights and the other for political affairs. The first move of the coalition should be to address the problem of the people in the camp as the primary deal and future strategy should be on political achievements.

Now the matter is strategy and approach and then unity with vision and mission. United Bhutanese voice from across the globe for peace and justice in Bhutan has no alternative, thus, the leaders should coin a special roadmap to lead the movement to a successful height.

(Pokhrel, who blogs at http://runapok.wordpress.com, can be reached at: [email protected])

10 COMMENTS

  1. I take the previlage to appreciate the author for putting down this article with lot of reflection on the recent political development in our movement.

    I sincerely feel a good initiative has begun in Katmandu, but there is a long way to go. A true consolidation of movement is the need of the hour and the rest will follow the suite. We should definitely support our leaders for the establishment of inclusive democracy and genuine human rights in the country. At the same time the leadership should be accomodative, open and accountable to the people on their conduct. We cannot deny the flaws and inefficiencies in the leadership, but we should be able to comprehend the complexity and make reminiscence of the crisis.
    I am optimistic, the newly accorded coalition led by Dasho R. K. Dorji shall bring the remaining political forces in the main stream. I have a firm belief if the new forum act democratically and transparently, we can gradually expand the support base of our movement nationally and internationally.This is time to send a clear message to the leadership, that we are the soldiers of change in the country, but we look forward for a quality planning and implimenation from our commanders.
    To my opinion, we have moral obligation to advocate our very own cause and the leaders are our spokespersons. We shall not achieve by letting down our own spokespersons. Our responsibility is to send them our advise and suggestion in the right time with positive perspectives. We should act responsible in contributing our inputs/comments at such a time of delicate political development.

  2. Obviously times have changed – and so have our situations, perceptions and manner of contributions. I agree with Durga Daju that only constructive suggestions from us at this time would warant a healthy outcome of what has been taking place. I also feel that the leaders should keep the larger interests in mind as they coalesce and forge a united platform.

  3. A National Alternative for ‘Certificate Citizenry’

    The geo-political challenge posed by demographic invasion of Nepal needs to be handled with full allegiance to the state, and in its totality

    By Dr. Upendra Gautam

    For this Himalayan State of Nepal population movement in this part of South and Central Asia is tantamount to demographic invasion and dismemberment of a country. Driving factors for population movement here are religious and economic security and safety from political and ethnic repression.

    Unregulated borders

    The country’s extreme vulnerability to demographic invasion is primarily a function of Nepal’s unregulated southern border with the Republic of India (ROC). People from Afghanistan to Burma, Kashmir to Bhutan are pushed into Nepal through the ROC. Even those Tibetans who have been taken to the ROC in the initial stage are sent back to this country at a later stage.

    Influx of many Indians into Nepal has taken place on the ground of “filling vacuum” in services and skill markets such as education, health, politics, security, intelligence, industry, business or trade. Added to it, many people from the countries with whom India, not Nepal, shares common borders come to Nepal. Either of the human intrusions adds burden on Nepal’s peaceful and secure development.

    First it was Kashmir. Long-drawn conflict between the ROC and Pakistan over Kashmir has remained as the major factor in the past fifty years to send Muslims from the ROC to Nepal. These Muslims continue to come to Nepal for religious and economic security. Then came Burma. It expelled many people in mid 1960s. These people came to Nepal through India. Third, it was East Pakistan (later Bangladesh) in early 1970s. It sent many Bihari Bangladeshis to Nepal through India during Bangladesh’s war of liberation. Next turn was of Afghanistan. Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan in mid 1970s sent many Afghans to Nepal through India. Intensification of Khalistan separatist movement in the ROC Punjab in early 1980s sent many Sikhs to Nepal.

    Struggle in Afghanistan against the Soviets and Khalistani separatist movement coincided with expansion of Tamil ethnic liberation movement in Sri Lanka. Ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka sent many Tamils to Nepal through India. Bhutan continued the process of sending stream of people to Nepal through India in early 1990s. The sources of origin from where the people left for Nepal would not complete without mentioning the Northeastern parts of the ROC where the ethnic cleansing and repression of the people of Nepali origin has forced them to leave the places for Nepal. The source-list has all the probability of being enlarged as the military action against ULFA in Northeastern India and sufferings of minority communities (including Christian) intensify in several areas of the ROC. In short, the unregulated Nepal-India border has through out been a designed instrument in pushing two sets of aliens into Nepal: one, who comes directly from India, and the other, who enters Nepal after satisfying needs of Indian security, intelligence and bureaucratic services. According to Dr. Harka Gurung, Nepal showed the highest rate of naturalization of Indians (that is, 62.8 percent) among South Asian countries as compared to 32.1 percent in Sri Lanka, 0.1 percent in Bhutan, and none for Bangladesh and Maldives.

    Key Incentive

    While the unregulated border works as a convenient springboard to high jump into Nepal from any part of India as well as any country sharing borders with India, Nepal’s citizenship policy, which is ranked as the softest in the world, provides aliens the required incentive to do a Columbus. In other words, the ROC’s unregulated border with Nepal and Nepal’s multiplely raped citizenship policy are highly positively co-related.

    The alternative arrangement of ID will ask for repealing the existing Citizenship Act. A new legislation to arrange ID for the country’s residents should be enacted. A separate law dealing with provisions for awarding honorary citizenship to the foreigners who contribute in promoting Nepal and punishing those who fake as the citizen of the country should be enforced.

    Nepal’s policy views citizenship as commodities for distribution like a ration card in India. The policy’s operative objective is to distribute citizenship certificate (CC), as if it was an identity card, to all “the eligible” people living in Nepal. The policy aims at solving the so-called citizenship issue once for all. Each consecutive government has established “supremacy” of the CC in such a manner that any aliens’ first natural priority in Nepal would be grabbing of a CC. Without this certificate, banks would not open accounts; college would not enroll the students, you can not buy a motorcycle. For passport, this certificate is needed. The awe-inspiringly engineered need to acquire CC even for daily chores provide great motivation to aliens to get CC by hook or by crook. This motivation is matched by the government’s behavior to distribute CC as expediently as possible. Aliens have amply profited from such a policy. They can just buy it. The exception is many Indian teachers in Nepal. So far they have been deprived of Nepal’s citizenship. This deprivation, however, is not because of their “inability” to get it. They could also buy it like those numerous aliens. They are “deprived” of it because they are known Indians. The Indian Home Ministry has invariably been raising the Indian teachers issue at “the highest level.” This is an ROC way to convey a message for the public consumption, and the message is: Indians are continuously deprived of their legitimate entitlement in Nepal.

    Loss of Identity

    Unregulated border coupled with the citizenship policy is sufficient to destroy the independent cultural identity of the Nepalis and outnumber them by the CC holders. It also creates a serious development-planning problem. As the demand for CC will grow much faster than growth in any development sector, and that each consecutive government will go on satisfying this demand for the sake of election politics, allocation and delivery of socio-economic services to meet the needs of ever increasing number of CC is bound to make this country more dependent on supply of ready made goods and services from the ROC.

    The governments and political parties in Nepal are so eager to provide CC to each and every person in Nepal that they want to give CC to each voter listed in the voters’ list of 1980 referendum. Their love for distribution of CC seems to be so intense that they will like to amend the Constitution of Nepal, which attaches a person’s Nepali citizenship entitlement with his/her parental citizenship. These governments and political parties would like to simply ignore 5 April 2002 ruling of the Supreme Court of India. In this ruling the Court established that a foreigner, in this case he was a Pakistani resident in India, could not claim Indian citizenship on the grounds that he was in the voters’ list and has been enjoying all the state-provided facilities and services for so many years.

    The Way out

    The citizenship policy so far adopted by the governments in Nepal is clearly anti-Nepali and serves alien interest. The policy looks very democratic and very liberal on its face. In the presence of unregulated border with India, granting of CC to “all the eligible citizens once for all” will never happen in any point of time, unless regulation of the border and one-time distribution of CC including a sharp cut-off date are strictly planed and enforced with utmost honesty.

    The geo-political challenge posed by demographic invasion of Nepal, therefore, needs to be handled with full allegiance to the state, and in its totality. In today’s interdependent world and intra-regional and inter-regional cooperative arrangements, the country’s population management policy needs to be forward looking. For this, the country must come out from the “certificate citizenry” distribution trap. The state should withdraw and repeal entire CC issued so far. Instead of a CC, it should grant an ID to every person above 14 years age (except diplomats and tourists), who is resident in Nepal irrespective of his or her nationality. Information in the ID should include permanent and current address, place of birth, date of birth and parents name and place of birth. Nepal’s Home Ministry, National Planning Commission, Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and National Election Commission should share this on-line updated ID database. As the tasks involved in creating and maintaining the ID database is extensive and of sensitive nature, the government should solicit the guidance of the suggestions from the independent civil society and political forces to mobilize assistance of neutral and knowledge countries.

    ID holder should be able to avail of all the socio-economic services in the country. The presentation of the ID should be made compulsory for use of transport, communication, health, educational, housing and financial services. The ID should serve as pre-requisite to acquire driving licenses and buy means of transportation. It should be recognized for the election processes. Only those ID holders who are born of a Nepali parent (either mother or father who is born in Nepal) should have the right to deal in immovable properties and make entry in civil, security, and political services.
    The alternative arrangement of ID will ask for repealing the existing Citizenship Act. A new legislation to arrange ID for the country’s residents should be enacted. A separate law dealing with provisions for awarding honorary citizenship to the foreigners who contribute in promoting Nepal and punishing those who fake as the citizen of the country should be enforced. At the mean time, the governments in Nepal and India should be planning and undertaking concerted collaborative efforts to regulate the bilateral borders.

    If an honest regime of border regulation supported by a strictly enforced system of ID would have been in place in Nepal, the country of Gautam Buddha and peacekeeper Gorkhas would not even have to face the tragic situation characterized by a trans-boundary aggression and terror game.

    (Gautam is a freelance writer based in Kathmandu and can be reached at [email protected] The views expressed here are his own and do not necessarily reflect that of Nepalnews.—Ed.)

    (Editor’s Note: Nepalis, wherever they live, as well as friends of Nepal around the globe are requested to contribute their views/opinions/recollections etc. on issues concerning present day Nepal to the Guest Column of Nepalnews. Length of the article should not be more than 1,000 words and may be edited for the purpose of clarity and space. Relevant photos as well as photo of the author may also be sent along with the article. Please send your write-ups to [email protected])

  4. Transformation of Bhutanese politics in exile

    It may not be an overstatement to say, “Transformation of Bhutanese politics in exile” has begun. Certainly the current initiatives are worthy of praise for a new dawn in international Bhutanese politics. The writer, RN Pokhrel has given a visionary proposal to further enhance and involve all groups to take the movement to the next level with strategies dynamic enough to incorporate the current circumstances in the camps as well as the ongoing resettlement abroad. There are high expectations that Mr. Rongthong Kinley Dorji will consolidate the strengths of all groups and channel the energy towards realistic and achievable goals. It has been a long learning process for many of the leaders. Now the time has come to use the knowledge of the lessons and come together.

    I should add that the leaders must be cognizant of the power of the onset of guided Democracy, concept of Gross National Happiness (GNH) and the RGOB’s campaign based these changes in Bhutan largely viewed positively by many. It has offset major criticism of the regime. Therefore, there must be changes in the new strategies as well; otherwise, the parties in exile will not remain relevant to the changing circumstances. The lone history of pain, sufferings and struggles will not be enough. There must be results or the road map to the desired results moving forward befitting the Bhutanese inside and outside the country. We are looking for simple, consistent and uniform message from the central leadership and the advisors surrounding the Leader, so that we can follow with appreciation of the vision put forth.

    Thank you and good luck.