New Delhi-based President of Druk National Congress (DNC), Rongthong Kuenley Dorji (RK Dorji), who was in Nepal after his extradition case was rejected by Delhi High Court, has been asked to lead the democratic struggle of exiled Bhutanese by Bhutan People’s Party (BPP), Bhutan National Democratic Party (BNDP) and Bhutanese Movement Steering Committee (BMSC). The top brass of these parties and BMSC agreed to go under the leadership of Dorji based on their crucial meeting of August 22, which Dorji has accepted.
Coinciding the 62nd Human Rights Day, Dorji talked to TP Mishra, Editor of Bhutan News Service, on various contemporary issues including the situation of human rights in Bhutan. Excerpts:
BNS: How do you evaluate the ‘state of human rights’ in Bhutan especially aftermath of 2008 general election in the country?
The real sense of human rights exists only on paper post 2008. The regime applies human rights discriminately. The human right is upheld if it pleases. However we have to admit slight lee way is granted in terms of freedom of press. The real sense of democracy is absent, so the real sense of human rights is also absent.
BNS: Why do you think Bhutan has been always successful in convincing the world communities that there is ‘improving situation’ of human rights and democracy despite the truth being the otherwise?
In modern world economic motives determine the nature of relationship. Outsiders have so far only observed the good thing in country. This must have shaped their flaw picture of country. The army, state machinery and money are with king so he seems successful. In addition, international communities have to deal with him whether you like it or hate it for the larger interest of Bhutanese citizens. His success is temporary.
BNS: In one sense, whatever the comments from exiled groups, parties or individuals be, the situation in Bhutan is little different. People inside the country are silent and that they are happy with what’s been prevailing there. Why it concerns so much to exiled Bhutanese when it comes to ‘democracy’ and ‘human rights’ in their country?
The grass root people are ignorant of democracy and human rights knowledge. So far some fifty thousand people who enjoy the state privileges believe that democracy exist in the country. As the democracy knowledge is ingrained into Bhutanese society, people will automatically come forward to campaign for genuine democracy and Human rights.
Exile people are fortunate to have experience the democratic cultures in their refuge country. Because of these exposure and experience, to exiles, the democracy is a basic requirement to lead the respectable life.
BNS: Of late you have been consented to lead the ‘struggle for democracy’ by three major exiled forces—Bhutanese Movement Steering Committee, Bhutan People’s Party and Bhutan National Democratic Party. Tell us about your new road map.
Our road map is illustrated in five points that we have announced during joint press conference. Our objective is to hold meeting with Government of Nepal, Bhutan and India in realizing the five points which are as follows:
Five points are:
– The exiled political parties and the exiled Bhutanese must be permitted to participate in the forth-coming elections.
– The Bhutanese refugees must be repatriated with honour and dignity, and must be allowed to participate in the political process. To call upon the international community to pressurize Bhutan to take back its citizens.
– The immediate unconditional release of all the political prisoners in Bhutan who have been in prisons since the early 1990s.
– To promote and strengthen the existing bonds of friendship at the people to people level among the citizens of Bhutan, India, and Nepal, which hasn’t been promoted to the desired level thus far.
– To extend thanks to the international community and all well-wishers of the Bhutanese democratic struggle and seek continued support and solidarity.
BNS: The exile activism for genuine democracy in Bhutan have never received convincing support and solidarity from the international communities. What is your logic that now your leadership will gain momentous support and solidarity so that the struggle takes a good height?
Our demand for democracy is genuine. Besides the international community also want to see genuine democracy taking roots in Bhutan. I therefore expect India and Nepal to counsel Bhutan to resolved exile Bhutanese issues.
Bhutanese have now spread throughout the globe. All wanted genuine democracy to take deep roots in Bhutan. We need to work together to realize the aforementioned five points. Besides, we are hopeful that international communities will support our initiatives to utilize of small opening that we saw in Bhutan since 2008. We will take the confidence of India in our works. For that, we will meet the government functionary and political leaders in India. Our country and India enjoys special friendship and each other destiny in 21st century is intertwined. My main thrust of work involves India.
BNS: But, in one sense you have even failed to garner government support and solidarity from India, where you have been taking shelter for years?
The atmosphere of 1997 and 2010 is different. You have failed to observe my nature of shelter in India. I was undergoing trail and the open support to me was inappropriate.
But in retrospection, I see that India had supported me. I owe gratitude and indebtedness to India. I was not extradited to Bhutan. Now I am able to campaign for democracy and human rights. The support is one thing, working is another. We all must work towards genuine democratization of Bhutan. We must cook food ourselves for our own eating.
BNS: What positive and welcoming changes have you noticed so far in Bhutan since the country stepped into ‘democratisation process’ beginning 2008?
The positive change is that we see an absolute Monarchy being replaced by Constitutional Monarchy. The democratic institution of parliament, Supreme Court, etc has been displayed to world community. However, the intrinsic power continues to rest with King.
BNS: What needs to be changed further then?
The institution of democratic set up has up in Bhutan. We irrespective of our stay in exile or inside country must struggle together to bring genuine changes tearing current façade of ‘democracy’. Change is inevitable in life. But we must work together to bring this inevitable changes favorable to us.