Perhaps it will be difficult for anybody to believe that we, the Bhutanese people, spent over two decades of our precious lives struggling for a vibrant and inclusive democracy in Bhutan. We wanted our country to be glorified with the establishment of true democracy, where we anticipated that each one of us would live a free, secured, happy and dignified self-sufficient life.
With democracy becoming a global trend, the world community saw monarchy as obsolete, and the people of Bhutan were not an exception whereby we too thought to embrace democracy within the framework of the established monarchy. As for modern kingship, peoples’ voice for parliamentary democracy under constitutional monarchy was thought to best serve the interest of both people and the palace in Bhutan; the country could move forward on the path of modernization. Ironically, however, people’s genuine quest for democracy suffered a deaf ear by the then regime, thereby culminating the mass peaceful movement for human rights and democracy. The popular demonstration faced heavy crackdown by the government.
As a result, our journey to an exiled life in the refugee camps in Nepal took heavy toll in the course of two decades lingering with the hope to bring about solution to the problem with just repatriation as an alternative. This never materialized, as the bilateral negotiations between Kathmandu and Thimphu failed. More frustration and disappointment continued to be fueled in the refugee camps while government began resettlement of so-called landless people in the south thereby building human walls for fear of any untoward retaliation by refugee youths that were deeply frustrated for want of justice and repatriation.
Nevertheless, as we trace back to the point from where we began our journey, we find some level of satisfaction and feel that our efforts have not really gone in vain. We know, however, when we say satisfaction, it will certainly hurt the sentiments of our friends who are still waiting in the refugee camps in Nepal looking forward to repatriation and those political prisoners languishing in the prisons anticipating release even after the establishment of so-called democracy. At the same time, we cannot forget our martyrs, whose soul cannot be in peace until true democracy flourishes in Bhutan.
Simultaneously, during the long struggle for human rights and democracy, we went through the vicissitudes of human life, especially in terms of managing and running our party owing to almost non-existent or too scarce resources. The means of strength for our survival had been our unity within the party and perennial source of both logistic and moral supports and solidarity extended by our friends, relatives and families. We also take this opportunity to acknowledge the friendly and harmonious relationship we enjoyed with other Bhutanese political parties, human rights and social organizations despite several anomalies.
That said, things have definitely changed a lot in Bhutan compared to what was in place two decades ago. Whether the monarchy accepts or not, leveraging democracy became possible clearly because of our continued and persistent efforts, for which each and every one of us in exile own the credits. However, this does not mean that our struggle for human rights and democracy has come to be ceased now.
The period from 2008 to 2013 witnessed tremendous change of the situation both within the country and outside in exile. In the country, the biggest change has been the formation of an elected government with bicameral parliament replacing the authoritarian government through popular ballots. Again, this does not mean that we fully endorse and accept whatever change that has occurred in Bhutan. Nonetheless, we do accept and hope nobody will disagree that even the minimal change occurred in Bhutan has obviously created a potential avenue to further accelerate our two decades old struggle for justice.
Now with our shift to developed world, better opportunities are apparently visible for all of us to use a different method: not through aggressive confrontation but opting to softer diplomacy and brighter path towards reconciliation, peace and communal harmony.
Considering the five years (2008 to 2013) as the period of internationalization of the Bhutanese movement, and given the fact that over eighty thousands of fellow Bhutanese – majority of whom have lived the most degraded and painful lives in the refugee camps- are relocated in different parts of the world. They are now getting empowered themselves in terms of education, experience, exposure, and of course building self-sustained economy, making everyone financially independent and strong enough to face any hardships, if any, in the days ahead.
Time has come to acknowledge these great resources gained by the Bhutanese movement. We believe that if we all can utilize these resources, we not only will make Bhutan a different country to live in peacefully and happily, but also contribute substantially as global citizens for world peace and prosperity.
This is, therefore, the right time to think for the new strategy, a new phase of the Bhutanese movement, where we all can work under an umbrella theory. We consider this as the best and matured time to join with solemn faith in the mainstream of the national movement within the country, opening a new chapter of Bhutanese movement. This would mean developing trust that will bridge diaspora with those broad and like-minded think tanks inside Bhutan thereby paving our way forward towards achieving the common goal of socio-economic development taking into consideration the changed context of Bhutan’s political milieu.
By entering into this new phase, we believe that we can do much better for our fellow countrymen, who are either languishing in the refugee camps or living a painful life behind iron bars in Bhutan. We can, together, make our demands for repatriation stronger, campaign effectively for the release of those political prisoners, create force to usher in inclusive democracy more substantially, and of course, take measures to ensure human rights and freedom of press and media more realistically which would be in line with the global trend – as the beginning of third phase of the Bhutanese struggle for justice.
Let’s all develop a common thought, strategy and vision, and enter into a new platform of international arena, irrespective of minor difference of opinion or thoughts if existed at all. We hope this new phase of the movement will bring new energy and new vision for all of us to work together for a new Bhutan – where we can visit and meet our friends and relatives. We can invest and move forward together, no matter where we are living today.
After all, the entire world has become a global village, and as neighbors, we can live to make ourselves more prosperous and happy, and aspire for a peaceful and harmonious land to live happily.
In order to pave our ways forward, we the authors of this piece, of Druk National Congress (Democratic) have resigned from the party with effect from October 8, 2013, realizing that adhering to any single political party or associated organizations any more would be less worthy than integrating to greater diaspora believing that working together in this changed context is much more stronger.
To conclude, we would like to thank fellow Bhutanese citizens—both inside and outside the country—exile-based political and human rights organizations, our own colleagues in the party, media groups, the political, human rights and social organizations of the host country, Nepal, and India—particularly the neighboring states, cross border social organizations and those from other parts of the world, for their support and solidarity in the acceleration of Bhutanese movement for so many years.
[Penjore and Adhikari served as President and General Secretary respectively of the Druk National Congress -Democratic (DNC-D) since its foundation. It has come to our notice unofficially that Rinzin Dorji and Lop Karjey are serving as Acting President and General Secretary respectively of the party after the duo (writers) resigned. ]