On some individuals of interest
Interestingly and coincidentally, both writers have mentioned names of senior civil servants, some ‘dashos’ and ‘lyonpos’ who played roles in the state of affairs. Some names appear just for personal matters, while others are mentioned to value their contribution to nation building. Notable are Dasho Lam Penjor, Lyonpo Sangay Penjor, Lyonpo Dawa Tshering, Lyonpo Dr. T Tobgyel and Dasho Benji(Paljor) Dorji.
Hari applauds contribution of late Lam Penjor in bridging the north and south with inclusive approach. According to him, had Lam Penjor lived, the events in the 1990s would not have taken such ugly turn, or so many people would not have to leave the country.
Om Pradhan also mentions him for his contribution in having inclusive national view,but does not count on that. In place of seeing Lam Penjor in such a position, Om has Rinzin Dorji who could speak, read and write, in his words, Nepali, English, Hindi and was acumen in cross-cultural knowledge. Rinzin Dorji was the secretary of special commission of cultural affairs, with his wife from Kalimpong, so spoke Nepali at home.
Mention of Sangay Penjor by Om Pradhan is not for any significant milestones, except his deputation to New York as first permanent representative of Bhutan to UN. But for Hari Chhetri, Lyonpo Sangay was someone whom he could talk very frank, since knowing him first in New Delhi, and then again in Kuwait. Hari writes that he shared all matters with Lyonpo Sangay, even the personal and family affairs and that his two sons were very fond of ‘aunty’, wife of Lyonpo Sangay.
With Dawa Tshering, the longest serving foreign minister, Om Pradhan does not seem happy about his statement in a newspaper(not mentioned) which supported lhotshampas’ contribution in the building of Bhutan and protecting the southern border. In the same writing which he contributed after his retirement, Dawa Tshering, according to Om, had pointed to a contentious historical event that Kazi Ugyen Dorji (in Kalimpong) sent written recommendation for establishing monarchy in Bhutan. Yes, of course, Dawa Tshering had played double standard in dealing with the ethnic politics, concerning southern Bhutanese, one time favoring them to be loyal citizens, while other time alleging them to be Nepalese seeking to create a“hypothetical” Greater Nepal.
Quite contrarily, Hari mentions Dawa Tshering of good virtue, with integrity and a caring boss. He particularly mentions Lyonpo Dawa’s good faith showered on him, clearing all his papers for his posting to Bhutan’s permanent mission in New York. There is no hint in Hari’s writing of Dawa Tshering having misinformed the National Assembly about the threat of Greater Nepal, that led to very callous debate in the NA in 1990s condemning southern Bhutanese all and sundry. However, Dawa Tshering’s private meeting with Hari in New York on October 7,1992 in the mission’s office did not carry any good message. Dawa was just to remind Hari of the charges against Bhim Subba and R.B Basnet after their defection to Nepal, possibly putting Hari in the same ambit of distrust.
Another personality mentioned by Hari in his book is Benji Dorji, or Dasho Benji. Despite bearing the legacy of powerful Dorji family that commissioned to settle Nepali subjects in the south, Benji Dorji expressed his reluctance to intervene in the southern affairs when they were going through difficult times. Hari recalls his appeal to Benji Dorji for reaching out to the King that Dorji turned down. Very recently, Benji Dorji received a gift from the fourth King, and later to that, Dasho Benji was sued by the DPT for a libel against the party.
Aftermaths of petitioning..
The result of petitioning to the King as per the established norm of Bhutan’s judicial practice came rather unexpected, at least for those who were directly or indirectly involved with the petitioning. The most dramatic and dangerous fell upon Tek Nath Rizal. In the book, Hari Chhetri vividly explains how the group members, barring a few, were summoned by Dago Tshering, the deputy home minister for answering questions. The clarification was sought from all senior officials including Lok Bahadur Gurung and Megh Raj Gurung. The author assumes that those who presented vociferously against government’s ongoing policy on that May afternoon at Tek Nath Rizal’s when Om Pradhan was also present, were called for explanation. Within a few weeks time, lhotshampa officials in Thimphu began to feel the troubled waters. It can be gleaned from the book that Hari Chhetri and other group members were being hunted for or at least being intimidated by active presence of security forces. Meantime, TN Rizal was nabbed and manhandled, banished from talking to others and compelling him to leave Thimphu for unknown destination. Evidently, Dago and other racist chauvinist, as the cronies are often referred to by the dissidents, were fishing in muddy waters preventing the King to read the petition in good intention. As indicated in the book, Dago Tshering had entered into personal vengeance for putting his brother in jail by TN Rizal and the audit team while inquiry was made to abuse of authority.
This environment of dark clouds hovering above Thimphu is not accounted for by Om Pradhan, although he fully understood what was going on. Though he claims to have written the book to present his neutral position and set the record straight, Pradhan has not shown sincerity to relate events on how such a visionary King could be grossly misinformed, prompting rapid action against the loyal officials, he fully trusted. Om Pradhan seems to be convinced of how Dago Tshering maneuvered the process of victimizing the lhotshampa people tarnishing their sincere but bold actions to be anti-national. He might have deliberately missed the Dago Tshering’s empowered machinations to demand written explanation, calling to his office one by one.
Another conflicting point we find on what Om Pradhan suggested in the book is how people simply opted to leave the country following the call of those dissident leaders rallying from across the border. What Om Pradhan could not frankly accept to write is the ‘state of denial’ that authorities imposed on lhotshampas for putting up any genuine grievances to higher court of appeal, let alone complaining to the HM. And, the deputation of high-court Judge D N Katwal with royal kasho for the purpose of finding truth was nowhere to listen to the general people. Mr. Pradhan is too presumptuous to say that people should have stayed put in groups in Gelephu, even if their life was jeopardized instead of crossing to India. Going by the story of Hari Chhetri’s father taken to jail in order to destabilize his firm conviction of not leaving his home, it was absolutely impossible for any layman to show that strength who is already rounded up, coerced and threatened not to show up in groups anywhere.
Stories are alive in the memory of those who listened to the King of his request not to leave the country during the day, but faced battalions of militia in the spell of night that threatened them to leave the country within three days.
The assumption that camp should have been established just across the border and seek aid assistance from India is a fallacy of intellectual perception. Soon after leaving the homesteads, cohorts of people had tried to stay in temporary shelters provided by the Nepali speaking Indians of Assam and West Bengal. Om Pradhan suggesting this to happen is simply under-estimating the security policy of police force of India; that the Indian police sufficiently bribed or taken in confidence by the army of Bhutan was rounding up people and handing over to Bhutan army. Om Pradhan probably had no chance to realize how threatening was the situation just across the border, already rendered volatile due to armed struggle of Bodo and ULFA militants.
This is ironically interesting to note the antagonism of intellectual perception and moral understanding of these two ‘high-ranking officials and one-time diplomats’ for the very unfortunate exodus rendition prompted by vengeful bias of home ministry. While Hari’s psychological self was undergoing a tormented affinity and resentful allegiance for the government he represented, Om Pradhan ventured himself a sadistic personality free of any blames and blemishes churned out by under-current of ethnic hegemony designed by the state.