Bhutanese nationhood needs to be well defined. It should encompass a broader sense of the term which is inclusive of the aspirations of all the peoples in the east, west, north and south alike not just the rulers and it must be in the best interest of the nation.
What is in the best interest of the nation anyway? Given the Bhutan situation, the idea of nationhood must include all those people who are rightfully the tillers of that soil and serving the nation in one way or the other. The concept of nationhood seems like being entrapped in a cocoon which needs to burst open to realize the real world. It is only through the realization that the common man will get empowered to take charge of his rights and duties as a true citizen.
Many of the times the intellectuals with the vested interests or those called statesmen- project such a narrow sense of reality that they put the whole country at stake. It is time all people in the country, in the exile, realize the gravity of the situation, fathom the depth of the issue and realize these as the shadows of the mistaken past which have come down to haunt the minds of the young generation of Bhutan today.
The present politics in Bhutan is no different than the narrow-minded politics of casteism, discrimination and a false notion of nationhood prevalent in some Indian States like West Bengal; in other words- a copied system. West Bengal system of governance does not recognize the value of human dignity and racially discriminate against the minorities who are undoubtedly the bearers of Indian nationhood. It must be remembered that during the southern Bhutanese uprising in the early 1990s, the fourth King Jigme Singye Wangchuk invited the Chief Minister of West Bengal, Jyoti Basu to Bhutan.
What was weird was that King himself walked half a kilometer while receiving Jyoti Basu in the Paro Airport. Does the protocol call for that? He was definitely not receiving the President of India to whom he would be sharing equal status. To drive the point home, he wanted to influence the Chief Minister to crack down upon the Nepali speaking south Bhutanese dissidents in the border.
While on a human rights campaign, in Madarihat, Duars, India in the early 1990s, one highly respected intellectual Gurkha popularly known as Maila Bau illustrated to this writer that Bhutan’s one nation one people policy is like unfeathering all the birds and attaching the feathers of the only raven on it. Maila Bau lived in Madarihat, Jalpaiguri District of West Bengal bordering southern Bhutan. He even disclosed how petty Indian leaders, reporters, journalists, and hooligans were invited to Bhutan, given a huge party and paid to speak, create disturbance in the border or write against the movement for human rights and democracy in Bhutan.
Another equally appalling situation is how under the influence of high government officials in Bhutan, the BODO Militants from Assam were invited ostensibly to crush the south Bhutanese movement. I was at the Indo-Bhutan border in Galephu for my personal work, then; could witness supplies being transported to jungles hideouts in trucks. The truckloads of food and other supplies were transported in the government vehicles to the militant hideouts in Bhutan. It boomeranged!! The King himself had to take the lead and inspire people to fight the militants back.
Lessons to Learn:
It is high time Bhutan think- what the copy paste of West Bengal style of governance may result to? The October 28, 2018 issue of the National Herald quotes Prof. SD Muni as saying – “If the Chinese develop diplomatic ties with Bhutan, they would be able to help Bhutan diversify much faster.”
The pseudo vs the real sense of Nationhood deserves rethinking to keep Bhutan secure, prosperous and peaceful.
The author, who is based in Des Moines, IA, is a Human Rights Activist of Bhutan, and one of the contributing authors for Bhutan News Service.
Editor’s Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the BNS.