One nation, one people pie: A treat tested bitter

Rizal posing for a photo during Mission Pittsburg Conference held by Bhutan News Service in 2016. Photo/BNS.

“Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world…would do this, it would change the earth.” William Faulkner

Dagapela Series IV

By January 1980 Dagapela residents had completed their contribution to Jharlangi (a form of conscripted labor) carrying back-breaking loads from Damphu or Kalikhola, for building wireless station, Basic Health staff quarter, Namchela and Goshi (primary block) school, police staff quarter, suspension bridge in Daga river, agriculture extension center, animal husbandry center and were carrying building materials for Powgang and Dokap school buildings. Over 50% of the time of male member of a family went on to contributing to Jharlangi.

When the news of Chirang–Daga Dzong road construction traversing through Dagapela reached to the public, they celebrated with jubilation thinking that the burden of carrying load on their back would end. The good news came with additional nuance that Jharlangi, which erstwhile was limited to head of household was changed to each head, counting all male members of family sixteen years and older. The reason behind the change was to expedite the construction work to complete the road by 1982 and observe National Day celebration in Daga Dzong. There was no chance to question the supreme order, to which the people relented. On April 28, 1980 the then Home Minister, Lyonpo Tamji Jagar inaugurated the Damphu-Daga road.The construction began from Damphu passed through Tshokana, Tintaley Bhiri, Sunkosh River, Neopaney Bhir, Budechhu Simsarii, Batashey Bhir, Tashidin Simsar, Tara Bhir and finally reached Daga Dzong.

Pema Sherpa, Tara Bir Rai and three others lost their lives while tearing through Neopaney, Batasey and Tara Bhir. To remember those brave men, the rocky cliff standing west to Khagochen village was named Tara Bhir, where Tara Bir Rai lost his life. The construction didn’t progress as planned because of rocky terrain, extreme weather conditions and unstable soil. So the finishing deadline postponed to 1983 and thus National Day celebration in Daga Dzong was scheduled for December 17, 1983. During this road construction, each individual of Dagapela community contributed fifteen days labor per year for three years consecutively.

Upon completion of this road connecting Dagana with Damphu, grand National Day celebration was planned for December 17,1983. The plan included that most of the entourage would travel by road to Daga Dzong, whereas King Jigme Singye Wangchuk would land in Daga Dzong on a helicopter on December 16th, observe National Day in Daga Dzong on December 17th and while returning King would also travel by car and stop in Dagapela on December 18th. Preparation began months ahead; songs and dances and drills began in all schools across Dagapela. Community members contributed Jharlangi to level the paddy field of K.B. Dahal at Suntoley danda and mobilized construction materials to build a temporary rest house to host the entourage. They leveled the ground, built bamboo structures and covered with pine leaves for the monarch to tread at. Every houses of Dagapela contributed rice, butter, meat products and vegetables whatever they could to feed the cohorts. Goshi bazar community donated cash and materials.

The itinerary ran as planned; the entourage arrived Suntoley danda at 11:00 AM on December 18, 1983. About 8,000 people gathered from across Dagapela and some from as far as Lamidara and Kalikhola sub divisions to see the king. The Hindus believe King to be the reincarnation of Lord Vishnu and the Buddhist believe the king as Avalokitesvara. Both faith welcomed the King in Suntoley danda; Pancha Kanya offered garland and bouquets of flower, gurus chanted Swasti Bachaniii Dagapelians showered the King with garland and gifts in a godly treat. The king Jigme Singye Wangchuk’s brief speech followed cultural program and a public luncheon. The entourage left Suntoley danda at 2:00PM, people took the soil, pine leaves from the ground considering Vishnu Pad (foot of Lord Vishnu) had touched it and kept it in an alter where they prayed every day.

Uncommon command
Goshi was the only Junior High School in Dagapela sub division, other schools were Primary Schools. Weeks before the scheduled National Day, Headmaster K. G Nair received order from Officer of Royal Body Guard assigned to monitor the National Day preparation. The headmaster was told to submit the list of senior girls from Goshi School to be assigned to serve (meant for sex) the entourage. Dagapela had 99.98% Nepali speaking community; offering girls for sex before formal marriage was against the Hindu culture. Moreover sending students through school was against professional ethics. So, K G Nair declined to send girls, and thus he saved them earning a bad reputation for himself in the eyes of officials. Though Dagapela had not served entourage before but they had heard enough stories of assigning girls to serve the entourage in Homa Khola, where King Jigme Singye Wangchuk use to frequent for recreational hunting. Stories of local people’s representative harassed /punished by entourage for not arranging local girls for sex was live.

The plan was unlikely to channel through Dungpa Harka Gurung, Mondals and Member because all were Nepali speaking; it was culturally inappropriate. So, the Royal Guard choose to succeed his plan privately using retired security personnel., He arranged fourteen village girls from Tashidin, Suntoley and Goshi block to serve the entourage.

As a punishment for not sending school girls to entertain the entourage, headmaster K. G Nair was transferred and his citizenship through naturalization was withheld for five years. Mr. K G Nair was granted citizenship in May 1990 after he retired from service. He passed away year later.

Father William Mackey and Ashi Dechen Wangmo Wangchuk were the only two Thimphu based high ranking government officials who had visited Dagapela before the National Day event. It is evident that most of the Thimphu based high ranking officials got first glimpse of Dagana district as well as Dagapela sub division in the National Day celebration entourage in 1983. Then 99.98% Dagapela resident were Nepali speaking citizens. The terraced paddy field, orange and cardamom garden up and down the road from Khagochen to Daga Khola owned by Nepali speaking citizens made Thimphu officials eyes soar. The history speaks the first Nepali settlement began in Dagapela in around 1872 AD and formal settlement process ended in 1945. Even family reunion was not permitted after 1947. Except for three families with outside marriage cases, 99.99% of Dagapela residents were bonafide Bhutanese citizen. Unfortunately, what transpired in Thimphu after National Day celebration in Daga Dzong can be fathomed by reading Bhutan: The Kingdom besieged by Jigme Y Thinley. Let observations and conclusions thereupon remain to the liberty and faculty of reader’s judgment to decide whether Thinley’s narration is an outlay of crime plot or the confession of a murderer.

Dagapela police post had six member force that included four constables-Santa Bir Biswa, Lal Bahadur Gurung, Lal Bahadur Rai and Wangda Duckpa; a Gopa Gum Bahadur Waiba and a Junior Dimpon (floating assignment). In preparation for National Day celebration additional three new recruits Bhanu Adhikari, Chandra Lal Subba and Dil Bahadur Rai were added to Dagapela police force. After the National Day celebration constable Wangda Duckpa and Bhanu Adhikari were transferred, constable Lal Bahadur Gurung and Lal Bahadur Rai and Gopa Gum Bahadur Waiba retired. Constable Janchub and Girchung were deployed in replacement of the ones who retired. Until 1984 Dagapela police had very good relation with the community.

Rogue cop’s rampage
Under One Nation One People Scheme Gopa Passang Tshering from Damphu police force was given last promotion before retirement as Junior Dimpon and sent to Dagapela as a force commander in 1984. He was ethnic Ngalong from Nindokha Dagana, he boasted having close family ties with former Royal Advisory Councillor of Daga Dzong Councilloriv Sonam Dorji, Dago Tshering then Deputy Home Minister and considered himself superior human than all the ethnicities of Bhutan.

Dimpon Passang Tshering built a house at the east end of Goshi bazar, north of police camp. Mandals were forced to impose Jharlangi on public to carry stone, cement and timber to build his private house. Other required construction materials were grabbed from local businesses but never paid. If one visits Goshi bazar today it can still be seen that private house of Passang Tshering, a symbol of injustice, standing at the east end of Goshi bazar. If you smell the wall you will get the odor of the sweat of Dagapela community then, if you pull up an iron nail and watch it close you will see the blood of Ananta Lal Pokhrel, Dhanapati Rizal and other shop keepers of then Goshi bazar turned into rust.

Being drunk on uniform, rampant insulting, harassing, threatening fellow residents were part of his routine activities. Forcefully taking goods and services from local shopkeepers, nonpayment for goods and services were routine practices. In fact it was his typical means of survival. Not only the permanent shopkeepers were the targets, even the villagers who brought few bunches of green vegetables on the market day were looted. Since he was the chief of Dagapela police force, there was no avenue left to lodge complain. There was no written law-what drunken Passang Tshering’s conscience perceived was the law.

Drukpa-Nepali cross breeding farm
After 1985 one of the stall owner of Goshi bazar extended the business towards flesh trade. As it was one of the objectives of One Nation One People policy to encourage Drukpa-Nepali cross breeding, it received good protection and promotion from Dagapela police Chief Passang Tshering. After the departure of Dungpa Harka Gurung and before the permanent placement of Dungpa Thinley there was a period in which a fresh graduate was deployed as officiating Dungpa. As the officiating Dungpa was a sex enthusiast, the flesh trade developed into a full-fledged enterprise. That enterprise not only supplied young women to Dagapela visitors including police chief’s guests it catered women to King Jigme Singye Wangchuk’s entourage during his Daga Dzong visits in 1989 and 1990 too.

Dagapela police post was under the control of District Police Office, Chirang. Police Supervisors from Chirang used to frequent Dagapela post for inspection, upon their stay visiting officers were served with local women for their entertainment (sex). Dagapela Police Chief used to arrange local women for sex for supervising police officer. It was not only ones or tens, scores of innocent young women were lured or forced to offer sex to fulfill government’s cross breeding mission. Then Goshi bazar and surrounding village residents’ present numerous examples of Nepali Chelis forced to cross breed shattering their lives. Among those Nepali chelis half a dozen met untimely death, many landed with father less children, broken family and they are suffering at present.

Passang Tshering retired in 1988. After his retirement his subordinate officer Jugpeon Sangay was given the responsibility of officiating chief of Dagapela police force. Though Passang Tshering retired he settled in Goshi bazar, as his subordinate officer was given officiating status his interference in Dagapela Police Force and atrocities to the community continued for a long time.

iiiReligious prayer for peace and well being
ivAdvisor to King representing Daga Dzong residents

Editor’s Note: Padam Rizal is one of the contributing authors at Bhutan News Service (BNS). This piece and/or his opinion doesn’t reflect the official view of BNS


  1. This tale projects other side of a nation seen as seeking social unity and happiness. The versions of its method to achieve the goal display the moral character. Can person or group with such background ever OWN them as their creators and benefactors to the mass, in true sense?

  2. Mr. Rizal has brought out anti social injustice to a community conscience with the government officials as the perpetrators. If you can have one or two of the victims come forward and speak up, your writing will carry much more weight.