Scrutinizing Silent Sufferings


Good evening ladies and gentlemen,

It’s my pleasure to stand in front of you all this evening to share a story, a true story, in which I am one of the characters. This story has always given me pain, aggressiveness and a choke in my throat – no matter whether I have shared this with my dear and loving ones or strangers. I hope you’ll not misunderstand to visualize the content of my speech, even though most of you know my background and therefore you can make a guess as to what I am going to speak today.

Before jumping into the subject, I express my heartfelt and sincere gratitude to “Welcome to America Project” for this great opportunity to share our stories. I am; indeed, out of words for those American hearts who have strong attachment with our hearts and understand the sufferings of thousands of Bhutanese refugees and refugees from around the globe. The events in this story may not necessarily say that, but that’s how I felt the story would be complete and meaningful. This character, who was born in Bhutan, grown up in refugee camp in Nepal and now struggling for her future in America, is the most deprived one in the story. And, to make it clear, this story is about atrocities of the Bhutanese regime on its citizens and is a part of thousands of untold stories, which refugees like me carry in their hearts around the world.

Bhutan – a country sandwiched between two Asian giants India and China- is regarded as the last Shangri-La and equally well known for the state-promoted concept of Gross National Happiness. Bhutan remained almost unknown to the international community until Bhutan formally decided to join the United Nations Organizations in 1971.

There are many unique geo-politics and socio-cultural features that make Bhutan a unique country in the world. And, as a Bhutanese I am proud of it. Until 2008, Bhutan’s area was around 47,000 square kilometer, but sadly it was squeezed to 38,000 square kilometer as Bhutan lost its northern border in the same year I landed in America; after spending successive 16 years in the UN-administered refugee camp in Nepal.

Khanal presents her speech

Bhutan is a multilingual and multicultural country. Some analysts compare it with America in the sense that it is a land of immigrants. As a matter of fact, even those who are in power for over centuries, migrated there from outside. I am an ethnic Nepali-speaking Bhutanese whose official population is above 20 percent of the total. If we consider what history has depicted is  correct, it dates back to 1624 when the first group of Nepali-speaking people were accepted into Bhutan for construction of administrative buildings with a provision that they would enjoy equal rights as enjoyed by the ruling elites.

By culture, my forefathers were productive, hardworking, and sincere and dedicated to the land, law and the king. It is an undeniable fact that there was a time when all Bhutanese enjoyed harmony, cooperation, peace and everything as required by all beings for survival with dignity and honor. Importantly, when Nepali-speaking people entered into Bhutan, it was all covered by dense forest. There were no roads. The country lacked other infrastructural developments. So, my forefathers contributed selflessly and even sacrificed lives to make the present Bhutan. By law, Bhutan uses forced labor and these laws apply to Nepali-speaking southern-Bhutanese only.

Gradually, looking at the progress and success of my forefathers, the regime started becoming jealous, modified the existing laws to threaten, paralyze and victimize Nepali-speaking citizens and made many things unacceptable to southern Bhutanese, mandatory by law in an arbitrary manner.

When every government’s move crossed the limit, southern Bhutanese started demanding rights, justice and equality. But, this instead added fuel into the fire and the regime became more cruel and inhuman, which I can’t explain in detail. The unprecedented suppression includes but not limited to are the denial of the right to: language, religion, education, job and even personal matters.

The Bhutanese regime applied various unacceptable and arbitrary policies, revised the citizenship act to bar citizens from getting legal status, decided to implement green-belt policy in southern-Bhutan to uproot the settlement and made the dress code compulsory. Not only this, all schools, where children were studying, got  converted into military barracks to torture innocent and illiterate people. Nepali-speaking Bhutanese were unlawfully and without any compensation terminated from the civil service. Rape, arrest, kidnappings, killing and torture became rampant in all villages. Martial law was applied to create state-sponsored terrorism among the citizens. All documents and properties in possession were seized, citizenship declared invalid, houses were burnt down and people forced to leave the country.

When all attempts to living and survival in the country failed, our parents and grandparents were finally made to agree that they would leave the country. It was not their choice, but a decision at gun-point where they were made to smile and all those actions had been digitalized for the regime’s proof.

The initial days in Nepal were without any hope of survival. There was no food to eat, no shelter, no education, no health care services and everything was a distant dream for me and all. But, there were people speaking the same language and having cultural ties with us who shared the survival kits. Slowly, the UN stepped in and we could get something to eat and a place to take rest. Then, we started getting the basic education, basic health services and a few more things, but all of them were ‘just basic’ especially meant for survival.

My heart cannot bear all those feelings if I recall my days back in Nepal. Sadly, thousands of my fellow countrymen are still there and I hope, I would be able to meet them physically one day here or hear about a change in their status and life style, be they anywhere, in homeland or in third country.

I have a faint memory of the day my family was forced to bid good-bye to the homeland, leaving behind every belonging. During my 16 years in the camp, I always had the desire to see my hometown with my parents and fellow countrymen in camps, but no refugees were accepted to enter Bhutan and were termed as terrorists. Repatriation has always been merely a speech and dream. Nepal tried a lot to convince Bhutan to accept its citizens and offer them equal rights, but Bhutan was not interested to listen to Nepal’s request. Even, powerful nations and international communities have so far failed to make Bhutan realize the illegal ethnic cleansing it promoted.

For me, the resettlement is a better choice than spending life in the tumbledown huts in Nepal. So, my friends in Nepal have no legal work permit. They are confined within the camp by the local authority. I have availed a privilege to earn my educational degree of my choice here, I have found a place called home and I can never imagine of dying without medical treatment in this land. Additionally, in a few years, I may wish to become an American citizen. However, nothing replaces my homeland, my village and everything that I had to leave behind, due to the autocratic regime of Bhutan.

I have a dream that my country will accept me one day as Bhutanese and I’ll be able to spend rest of my life in my own village.

My heartfelt thanks to the donor agencies for saving our lives for years and providing us basic necessities, to the international agencies and governments for giving new life with a new hope, to the “welcome to America project “for making an empty hall a  beautiful home.

I request all the leading organizations, international agencies and the Governments to help those lingering countrymen of mine to get out of hell and give them a new life. The gratefulness you receive from those needy souls will worth thousands of awards.

Please, “Welcome to America Project” accept my heartfelt gratitude for your outstanding and distinct role.

(Khanal, BNS correspondent in Phoenix, delivered this speech at ‘An Evening in Bhutan‘ of Welcome to America Project on October 2 in Arizona).


  1. Nandita Baini,
    A very powerful, influencing and authentic speech. A history defined in one page that gives a clear picture of the sequence of events that took place in Bhutan for real. you did a job, that most of our leaders have failed to do in the past. Bravo! and Thank you.
    Dhruva Dai

  2. This is a very compelling speech told very succinctly in first person. Nandita jee deserves a special applause from us all. Keep sharing more, and doing more.

    I am overpowered by her feelings of patriotism for Bhutan even after going through such long struggle. I agree that nothing can substitute a motherland that remains dear to us ever – not even the big houses, the cars, the cards and the shopping malls etc. I am not sure whether we shall see our mother land again, but we sure are operating on a faith level that one day we will; at least as American citizens and write more about it.

    Rp Subba,

  3. Hi Nandita,
    I am delighted to see you growing and serving the community, your speech is the living proof of intullactual growing. It contained all the facts and figures. I appriciated the words selection and the flow of your write up; they are powerful and well articulated. Keep it up you can be a great writer.
    DB Adhikari

  4. Very well written ‘untold story’, Ms Nandita. Certainly, the callous thoughts of some contemporary creatures have put us in the most humiliating and inhuman conditions. You have also mentioned that Bhutan lost a large percentage of its territory in its north, which was not known to me. If so, it is in fact a sad news to everyone born and brought-up in Bhutan. The Drukpa elite was not capable enough to safeguard Bhutan’s territory even in the past. It was our community who were actually more responsibly providing the security in the south. The country was never sovereign but a community’s dominance was orchestrated over other communities and this design is just to enforce volunteer assimilation of territory with that of another in a unique and acceptable way.
    We all know we were only scapegoat of some vested interest. However, we must work together to prove the world that the drukpa regime is exploiting all its means to produce a clean chit through some of its tools as GNH, last shangrilla and the like. Again, please accept my appreciation for such a nice write up and look forward to reading more of your views in future.

  5. This is a biased story. Why has this story did not cover BPP atrocities in some of the rural villages in Bhutan in early 90s? Why has this story has not cover their (BPP caders) coerceive demand for those young boys of high-school level (YHS, Khaling, Samchi etc) to leave the country and to join thier bandwagon? Can you expain what do you mean by CHAA-AIICHEEE GHATAI-DINCHU IF YOU DONT JOIN BPP MOVEMENT!

    So dear author of this story, please be rational while writting such article? It is true to some extent that the then Bhutan goverment did atrocities, at the same time it does not mean that you guys (lotshampa) did not make blunder that time.

  6. Thanks, Nandita, for sharing your story.

    Tanding Dorje: We (Lhotsampas) did not look upto the BPP to provide us with protection. We looked up to the government.
    We did not pay taxes to the BPP. We paid them to the government.
    We were not serving the BPP- we were serving the government.
    We did not really give a crap about the BPP – we cared about our country, our lives, our duties and our faith in the government to protect us.

    Both BPP and the government used us as pawns. The government had the ability (and a duty)to protect us. It didn’t. Instead, it threw away the baby with the bathwater. The governemnt did not need to extort loyalty from us – it already had it. It just had to let us stay on in Bhutan like any citizens while giving us protections from the “chha aichi” walas you mention. Instead, the government provided complete auithority to local goons – the mondals, the dungpas the chimis, the dzongdas, thrimpons, the militia, the army, the police and even folks as low as forest guards- to intimidate, torture and pressure us into leaving behind the only life we had ever known. That is not what a government does. At least not a government with some morals and with some guts. The government burned down the house because it thought a few bad guys were taking advantage of the roof.

    Anyway, a huge number of us are resettled now. We are not coming back, no matter what we say. However, that does not change where we came from, what was done to us, and how we suffered for someone else’s (apparent) faults, and how we were dealt with by those in power. The write ups, protests, demonstrations, reports, stories will NEVER stop. In fact, they are just beginning. We will make an all-out war on the history the government is writing. There will be a government version, there will be a dissident version, and there will be one REAL version – one that of the real people on the ground, simple farmers who were picked up, humiliated, tortured and thrown out while minding their own business and living their own simple lives. No one ever trampled on helpless innocents and got away for too long.

    There are way many more Nanditas in the making than you can ever contend with.

  7. In addition, BPP caders forceful coercion to burn Gho and kira, BPP caders forceful closer of schools and coercing young students to join their bandwagons for distruction of schools that were functioning peacefully, BPP caders torturing our loopons in southern schools, BPP caders looting golds and silvers in rural village, BPP caders kiling some of our innocent villagers.!!!!!! What is your comments on this Mr Bhotagay? Dont Blame only goverment. The article above is bias.
    Saying all these yet, i do acknowledge that there were some atrocities on part of our the then goverment.

  8. “I am an ethnic Nepali-speaking Bhutanese whose official population is above 20 percent of the total”.

    Nandita jee, your figure above could be a factual error – and so, we’ll appreciate if can verify that.

    Again, its a good work.

    Rp Subba.

  9. Thank you Bunu for sharing real story which was hidden for so long. I had expected this before a long time, but never had this opportunity. I heard many speeches from our great leaders in the past, but this was never known or they told their own stories. Keep it up!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  10. While I have full appreciation for Nandita jis above article, I respect what Tandin is saying. To be really fair some of may want to write about BPP.I would really aprreciate that too. Many many of us feel real bitter for BPP. Dont we?

  11. Nandita Khanalji,
    You have made a very powerful deliberation.Your sence of belonging and patriotism towards our motherland has touched everyones heart. Keep up your campaign for the cause of the Bhutanese people.
    Your contribution in the international forums shall have a long lasting effect in the Human rights situation of the people inside the country.The gradual changes taking place in Bhutan are the results of our struggle and suffering in camps for last two decades.Bravo for your good work.

  12. @T Dorje: This is what I have to say about your assertions about BPP: I don’t know what BPP did or did not do. Common people of the villages of Bhutan did not know what BPP was – we knew what the Dungpa was, who the mondal was, who the dzongda was and who the King was and we looked up to them for protection from all kinds of problems, including the BODOs and the ULFA. What the BPP did is immaterial as far as the eviction is concerned. When the ULFA was camping in Bhutan, the government had the guts to go on the offensive against an established militant organization and flush them out of Bhutan. Didn’t the government have enough arsenal and the military power to keep at bay a few remnants of aspiring militants(which you accuse the BPP of being?) Instead, the government decides to round up innocent villagers, women, children and forcefully throw them out of the country! So, yeah, the BPPP issue you bring up is not really an issue. The government could have snuffed it in the bud if it wanted to. Instead, it decides to arrest, intimidate, torture, imprison and evict innocent villagers who wouldn’t know the BPP from a dead horse.

  13. Nandita ji,
    Women voice is powerful. There are very few women activist in our struggle. You made a good one with this speech one on one with the audience.
    With much appreciation, in addition to your untold story:
    1. please check your numbers. As the number does not lie, it must be accurate or quote the source or just say estimated (20% that you mentioned is wrong)
    2. Stay on the message: do not forget to mention, “One Nation, One people” policy of the RGOB which ironically divided us into 7 categories with hidden agenda of ethnic cleansing.
    3. Do not forget to mention “Slow, secret and systematic ethnic persecution” that continued……
    4. How GNH is absued to hide the acts of the government and how it promotes it by kicking out unhappy people.
    5. How our people are treated as second class citizens, even after the onset of democracy and GNH.
    AND What is the HOPE?
    Thank you again

  14. Good Job Nandita,keep it up .
    Whatever the debate is, hopefully it must be clear to the out side world, comming to the resettlement phase after 18 years of exile.Who were oppressed, tourtured and looking for just,Bhutan or bhutanese refugee?It is unavoidable and unhiddenable fact,whoever wants to avoid and falsify and try to make a wrong statement against the spirit and sentiment about Bhutanese refugee in Nepal,has to eventually regret and suffer.Bhutanese refugee,bhutan and gross national happiness, these three trangular factors always have interrelationship with each other.Wherever Bhutan go, heaven or hell there will be Bhutanese refugee.Because this prolonged issue and black spot on Bhutan is given birth by Bhutan itself.
    Bhutan did a great mistake by supporting third country resettlement program instead of taking back its fellow citizens back to their own country.The situation is just viceversa.If we take the whole scenerio into consideration,Bhutan government used to wander around the world especially to its donor countries to patch the big hole but now after the resettlement, bhutanese refugee are around the world who are trying to give the message of real episode happened after 1990 in Bhutan, to the outside world.
    In my openion Bhutanese refugee are becoming stronger in one way or the other after resettlement program.
    The program of protest in Nepal was limited within Damak and sometimes in Mechi river and its effectiveness was known to limited countries and people.
    But now after arriving in the civilized and advanced country,definately the nature and the way of protest differs.
    I am not a politician who is declearing the declaration but simply trying to share what i am feeling right now,hopefully you don’t take it otherwise.

  15. Wonderful job Nandita Bahini,

    May you stand as the mouthpiece of all those who were victimised by the diabolic, autorat of Bhutan. I am touched by what you have done and, no doubt, you did it to all attentive audience you addressed.A few royal and loyal dogs from within or outside Bhutan might raise their ugly heads and bark to make a vain attempt to falsify you or distract you.Never mind them. They are doing nothing beside serving their vampirish master!! But reading your story,I am quite confident that you are powerful enough to brush aside the trash that might appear on your free way.And what’s more? We all are by your side.. We all are proud of you. Keep it up….!!!

  16. nadita khanal, get ur bloody facts right. by telling lies u r trying to win sympathy from well duped westerners but to tell a lie remember u have to have a long memory coz it is gona catch u one day!
    u have suffered nothing coz u were not even born in bhutan. there r many nepalese bhutanes who were actually raped & abused and their plight should have been addressed. put urself in their shoes (or u should have been) & u will realize how painful real experiences were under the bhutanese security forces & the bodo militia hired by the RBG.

    once again what a bloody load of crap. i hope one of her white audience is smart enough to discard this as utter bullshit. if u trying to seek attention go walk the street, someone might notice u.
    OD Kansas.

  17. Relax, dhungrakoti. Someone stood in front of real people and spoke her mind and placed facts best known to her for everyone to see, analyze and form their own conclusions. She seems a tad different from those of us who don’t have the guts to go out there and place ourselves up for criticism (like she did) from braggarts who claim to know all and do nothing about it (like you). Learn to accept that there are epole with more courage than you, more passionate than you to do something about the wrongs, more eloquent than you, and more articulate apparently. All you can come up with in terms of constructive criticism is “load of crap.” Learn from some folks up there who provided positive critique – get your numbers right, take this angle, mention this fact all the time etc. If one has no useful thing to say, it behocves one to hold the peace.

  18. perhaps bhotangey would like to pay a visit to kansas & i will enighten u with some true facts & figures.

    one of the many facts is that majority of u r either nepal-nepalese or indian-nepalese who bought ur passage to USA by duping the poor bhutanese-nepalese refugees & ofcourse TCR oficials. wad do ya think? do u feel guilty now?

    oh ps: please dont bother revealing ur true identity….u might get deported back to nepal!

  19. Thank you Om. You hit the bull’s eye. Couldn’t have said better. Can you also tell how many people in the refugee camps are also nepal-nepalese or indian-nepalese? It would be an interesting facts to know!

  20. Mr. T. Dorji,

    If you know King, Dzongda, Dungpa and Mandal why don’t you say what they did for the general people? Have you forgotten how much they have looted form the common people of the villages.

    Are you not aware of the fact that how do they take the bribe from the people? Common people have to keep something on the table of their office before they request some work to be done for them. This has been an established culture which has been into practise in Bhutan since long. This is how the civil services officers are taught to work in Bhutan. This is how the administrative units are set up inside Bhutan. And remember, this system is not going to work in modern democracy.

  21. Hi Nandita,
    It is really a good story nicely written in the american english style.
    It has some how served the program and few who are really unaware about their own story.
    The story is true and the pinching agony of demons to simplest of the mankind.
    I am very sorry if my few comments affects you speech but the fact is; you missed couple of thing in the speech. The statistics that you have used in the speech is wrong but expressed in correct english.
    1. Population of Nepali speaking Hindus,Buddhists and Christians in Bhutan is fifty one percent of the total population. So you have a big range mistake in it. Pease correct it.
    2. The Nepali speaking population in bhutan was there since twelveth centuary not just that you said have been taken from Nepal. Only few families; artistic in constructing administrative building were taken in 1624 AD.
    Facts of history is always misinterpreted. I mean not by you. The are big brothers who have never realized that what they write would become wrong when when people start becoming educated with the flow of time. Not to mention the name; I found in some same like in the coments they make at you.

    Thanks Nandita! i love to read more from you.

  22. Nandita ji..
    You did a great job.I am proud of your work.Keep on writing.We are the son and daughther of Bhutan who can speak the truth and make Bhutan realize that we are not born only for green cards, cars,house and dollars.I believed oneday Phuntso and tashi and Nandita will be treated equally with out saying refugee and terrorist.Good luck.

  23. Well done Nandita!! keep the same pace consistent. We all fail because many of the people come up when there is opportunity asnd go back to sleep.

    Do a bit but keep it regular. This is what is going to be credible.
    The other point is facts. May be collect reports from US Human rights reports from 1990s onwards or from some neutral source.

    If I am you, in the next lecture, i will also mentioned our mistakes too. Unless we present both sides of the story, we will be always judged questionably. This doesn’t mean support the RGOB case but be honest, our people too did some vandalism though most happened from other side.

    Many people who are of high profile have asked me at the end when i finsih talking like you and said “what is the version or view of other side?”

    Anyway, very good lecture and mind blowing