Thank you for your letter of the 28th March.35 I am sorry for the delay in answering it, As a matter of fact it took some time to reach me and then I had go away from Delhi. Also I wanted to make further enquiries about the matter referred to in your letter.
As a matter of fact, information had reached us at an early stage about these troubles on your border territory. The moment we heard about this, we immediately got in touch with the Governments of Assam36 and West Bengal and also our Political Officer in Sikkim.37 We told them that Indian territory should not be allowed to be used for any aggressive movement, even though peaceful, against Bhutan. Our officers carried out our instructions in this matter Your Government must know this fully and in fact we have received letters from officials of your Government thanking the Government of India for the action we took. The agitation subsided then, chiefly, because of the action we had taken.
You will appreciate however that we have 10 functions in terms of our Constitution and the Fundamental Rights guaranteed therein. We allow a large liberty even for agitations against our own Government.
Opposition parties can function and are represented in Parliament. They can arrange demonstrations against Government. They write in condemnation of our Government in newspapers and deliver strong speeches. It is only when there is violence or threat to violence that we wish to interfere. That is the policy of our Government in consonance of our Constitution. Apart from this, our Supreme Court is anxious to protect the freedom of action of our people and judges governmental action strictly.
I am pointing this out to you to indicate the limits within which we can function. Normally, any peaceful action is permitted, although it may be very much against our Government. We are, therefore, put ii’ some difficulty in dealing with agitations if they continue to be peaceful. We had to keep this factor in mind when dealing with the agitation on the Bhutan border to which you refer.
In a letter which we received through our Political Officer in Sikkim, Shri Jigme Dorji38 had suggested that “security proceedings” might be instituted by us against some of the office bearers of the Bhutan State Congress. I very much doubt if this would be in consonance with our Constitution, because our Government’s legal powers in such matters are strictly limited and if we go beyond them, they will be challenged in our courts. As I have said above, it is only in ease of violence and threat to violence that we can take such security proceedings. Apart from this, it is doubtful if any such proceedings will be wise at this stage. Any penal action that we might take against some persons of the Bhutan State Congress would be criticised by many people in India and might serve as an irritant. The agitation has now subsided and it is best to leave matters there.
Such agitations, if they exceed constitutional limits, have necessarily to be dealt with by the Government. But we know from long experience in India that the way to deal with such agitation merely by law and order methods is not enough. We have to find out the causes of discontent as well as legitimate grievances and seek to remove them so that all sections of the population might feel that the being treated equally and with justice by the authorities.
You are no doubt fully aware of the trend of world affairs and how major changes have taken place in various parts of the world as well as in Asia. No one can put a stop to these ideas and the desire of people everywhere to have s larger measure of freedom as well as an advance on the path to democracy. These ideas will no doubt reach Bhutan and it is a wise policy not to wait for pressure from outside in order to remove any legitimate grievance.
So far as we are concerned, we shall do everything in our power within the limits of our Constitution and policy, no prevent any trouble to Bhutan from Indian territory. You can rest assured about that, but the real remedy rests with Your Highness’ Government and not with the Government of India.
I am glad you wrote to me on this subject. I hope that you will not hesitate to write to me whenever you feel like it.
With all good wishes to you,
Prime Minister of India
Editor: The letter adopted from Some Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru and dated 9th May 1954 was written by Nehru to the the third King of Bhutan, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, in response to a letter from the latter that sought India’s advice on probable demonstrations by cadres of the Bhutan State Congress (BSC) in Bhutan.
35 Druk Gyalpo, the Maharaja of Bhutan, reported about Nepal people gathering in Indian territory far incursions into Bhutan to create disturbances and added that since Indian territory was being used, it was the responsibility of the Government of India to control the situation.
36 On 21 March 1954. See ante, pp.463-465. Medhi on 3 April informed Nehru that the Bhutan State Congress leaders on being contacted informed that they were sending a delegation to Nehru and that no Satyagraha would take place before their return. He also stated that Bhutan State Congress office at Senalpara near the border had been closed and the Nepal Congress leaders had left the area.
37 B.K. Kapur.
38 The Prime Minister of Bhutan.