To continue deliberation on consolidating the idea of Non Resident Bhutanese (NRB), we have asked executive chief of Bhutan National Democratic Party (BNDP) Dr D. N. S. Dhakal to explain more on rationale of this mission and his role.
You are just back from visiting various states of America. How are the resettled Bhutanese doing?
I could not visit all the places where Bhutanese are resettled but I contacted my friends over the phone. I met some resettled Bhutanese in Maryland, North Carolina, Atlanta, Jackson Ville (Florida) and Minnesota. They miss being together, they miss our culture, our society and they miss their country, Bhutan. The younger lots are trying hard in the schools, and that is the only consolation for the refugees since the school systems are good in the US, and success in education would be the only way to graduate from the sweat shops for the upcoming generations. There is a need to create interconnectivity among our people; there is a need to rekindle the hope of re-establishing our connection with Bhutan.
What is the mechanism to make the scattered Bhutanese together?
Our people are scattered in North America, Europe and Australasia. Among the recipient countries US would be by far the largest host of Bhutanese. Even the remotest state like Alaska has resettled Bhutanese. It is a real challenge for us to reach out to these people. Fortunately, our people have started organizing themselves into community based organizations. There is lots of cooperation to help each other, and that itself is a good beginning.
Why do you think NRB is important for Diaspora?
Identity is important for our people. They are being resettled as Bhutanese. The word Bhutan would be attached in every document. The social security number, the green card, travel document, citizenship certificate or passport. Also, every immigrant has a county of origin. Our people’s belongings are in Bhutan. The resettling countries will not deny the rights of these people to return to Bhutan, and they would encourage the effort to bring inclusive democratic changes in that country. Bhutan National Democratic Party has always maintained that the third country resettlement is an interim solution, and it will continue to fight for the rights of the resettled Bhutanese to return to Bhutan. In that sense, BNDP believes that the resettled Bhutanese should declare themselves as non-resident Bhutanese, and the formation of non-resident Bhutanese (NRB) platform is a necessity. The NRB platform will enable them to participate in their own way in the struggle that they had been with for the last 18 years to reclaim their rightful place in Bhutan; the NRB will continue to provide them with Bhutanese identity; and the NRB could form as an important resource base for Bhutanese Diaspora in the years to come. NRB could do a lot in the long-run.
Who else will be under NRB according to you?
We should think in long-term basis. We should not create a difference between the people who have directly gone from Bhutan, or would go from Bhutan, and those people who are resettled under the third country resettlement program. Our meeting point is the country of origin. All those people whose country of origin is Bhutan should be given an opportunity to be part of the NRB platform.
What mechanism should you suggest to go ahead for forming this platform?
It is heartening to know that our people have not remained silent. Bhutanese community based organizations are formed wherever they are being resettled. There is a need to introduce the idea of NRB in such community based organizations. In addition, there is a need to form a “Consultation Group” to do ground work for launching the NRB with proper consultation with our fiends and sympathizers in Bhutan, Nepal, India and elsewhere.
What about its legitimacy in Nepal, Bhutan and India?
The legitimacy of NRB remains unchallenged from the fact that we are being resettled as Bhutanese with full protection of our rights to return to Bhutan by the recipient countries. Nepal as a host country for the last 18 years there is no question for it not supporting the effort of Bhutanese people to strengthen their identity. India knows well that we are Bhutanese and it would be morally wrong for it to object to the idea of creating a platform for our long-term identity. Bhutan might ignore this concept for sometime, but it is bound to reach at NRB in future. For a country like Bhutan, having a powerful Diaspora in developed countries will always be an advantage.
It’s likely that some of the resettled Bhutanese will be driven towards NRN or NRI in future. What are your comments?
We strongly advise our people against such ideas. First, it is morally wrong to give up the identity based on which we are being resettled in overseas countries. Our history of struggle for 18 years should not go as waste to the forgotten pages of history. Second, our loyalty towards our county Bhutan should not be diminished because a regime at particular period of time in history felt bad about us and expelled from the country on ethnic grounds. The situation would change over time, particularly when there would be a change of regime in Thimphu. Third, exiled Bhutanese will not qualify for NRN or NRI unless they had taken citizenship of those countries when they were in the camps. Even if some had obtained the citizenship certificate, they will face legal problem when they apply for NRN or NRI since all their documentation in recipient countries will have the word “people of Bhutanese origin”.
APFA/BNS started the discussions among the Bhutanese three months ago. Several have commented well regarding the formation of network. What should be the next step that we take?
I appreciate the effort of APFA/BNS to reach this idea to our people. I have been reading the comments and I could see plurality in the opinions. It is heartening to know that our people have started challenging the idea before accepting it. The democratic process should be encouraged. However, we have to move on with the work, and the NRB platform will have to get materialized sooner than later. The next step would be networking, and the networking base should be established in Kathmandu until NRB is allowed to operate from Bhutan. I would think that we should start contacting Bhutanese organizations and individuals and get their ideas on how we should go about the modus operandi and on how we work about the logistic and increasing the connectivity. The role of APFA/BNS is important since you are based in Kathmandu.
Only BNDP and DNC supported the concept. Rest parties and organisations in exile are silent. What do you say?
Probably, other organizations are examining the development and would support the idea at their convenient time. I believe that there is no alternative to this idea, and we should all support it. It is a question of our collective identity, salvaging the suffering and struggle of our people for more than 18 years in the camps, and intrinsic value of this platform for our country in the long-run. We should make it a win-win situation for the resettled Bhutanese, the country and those who supported us in difficult times. That is the sole reason why BNDP and DNC felt the need of NRB so strongly.
DNC has even hinted that you are one of the capable leaders for leading the network. Are you ready?
I appreciate the proposal of the DNC President R.K. Dorji. It is natural for him to think in this line since I have some flexibility to travel around the world. As executive chief of BNDP I do not qualify for non-resident Bhutanese. I am a Bhutanese political activist; officially my party’s headquarter is in Thimphu. I am willing to provide the necessary support whenever needed, and I have been doing that during my visits abroad, during my meetings with concerned people in Nepal and India. As executive chief of BNDP I am going to do more for recognition of NRB in Bhutan when we are allowed to participate in the democratic process. We will have to create its leadership through democratic process. The formation of NRB will have to have wider consultation and democratic process, for that the need of an hour is formation of “Consultation Group” with establishment of the networking base in Kathmandu.
Your message to the Bhutanese citizens
The third county resettlement is a painful decision. This is for the fist time in the history of South Asia people had been moved en-masse in overseas countries for political reason. We have become the victims of geo-politics and we cannot do anything about it at least for time being. Those of us who have chosen the option for third county resettlement let us focus our effort on children’s education. Children are our hope; we have to do what we can to give them the best education, appreciation to our cultural heritage and inculcate in them the spirit of being Bhutanese. Our identity should not be lost at any cost and there are lessons to learn from the Jews, Armenians, and from many other communities who have suffered in the process of history. We will continue to work for dignified repatriation of Bhutanese people who have been unjustly expelled at different period of time for political reasons. The struggle to give justice should continue from one generation to another until it is given to everyone. The immediate task at the moment is to create a space for our collective identity. Let us create NRB, which is our legitimate right, and continue to nurture it. If NRB becomes strong, our identity would consolidate, our sufferings and pains of the refugee camps will not be lost in the forgotten pages of history, and we will have an opportunity to contribute towards growth and development of our beloved county, Bhutan. Let us start the process, and the process will take us to the logical end.