When Beatings Become Routine…


In 1989, when Peoples Forum for Human Rights in Bhutan started to campaign for restoration of fundamental human rights in the country, I along with some friends went to meet the leaders living in exile. Few days later, after I returned to Bhutan, a Police Officer came to my house and spoke to me for a long while. Soon, a rumour began to float around about my arrest. I fled for safety to Assam, the bordering state of India. Five months later when I returned home, I found most of my friends arrested and imprisoned.

For safety reasons, I continued to stay in India. While staying in India, I had arranged a meeting with the then Governor of Assam. I went to discuss about this meeting with my friends inside Bhutan. On 26th January 1991, as we were proceeding to India for the meeting, our vehicle broke down. Suddenly, the police force led by Captain Tandin and Captain Ugey Sonam arrived at the spot and arrested four of us. We were taken to Lodrai Central Jail, 7 km away from Gelephu.

In the prison, Captain Tandin and Captain Ugey took away all my clothing and started charging ruthlessly with wooden baton. Next, they started to beat on the soles of my feet. At first, I screamed in agony. Due to nonstop beating, I began to lose the sense of touch. My entire body started swelling up and nerves began to numb. Slowly, I began to lose my sense of place and time. They stopped beating. One of the officers leaned towards me and said, “Tomorrow, I am meeting the King and what do you think I should tell him for the resolution of the problem?” I replied in fractured and faint voice, “Remove the ban on Bhutanese Nepalese culture; withdraw the implementation of Green Belt along southern Bhutan bordering India and promote national harmony”. After that I was taken into a room and kept in solitary confinement.


On the second day, they began to torture me again. I was punched on my face several times. With their knees, they would hit on my abdomen. Beatings became routine. I was always beaten during the night and interrogated during the day. On the fourth day, Captain Ugey Sonam and Captain Rinzin again interrogated me. After that interrogation, 20 inches long heavy iron rod was clamped on my leg as shackle.

On the 23rd day, I was allowed to wash my face. Still my eyes, skull, forehead, jaw-bones and cheeks were all bruised and swollen up. My vision had been badly damaged. Shortly afterwards, police Major Kipchu Namgyal, [present Chief of Police in Bhutan] came to Lodrai Jail. He started to interrogate me. He asked me similar questions, what other officers were asking so far. And in reply I gave him the same answers what I was giving to others. He got infuriated and yelled at me – “I don’t want to hear your Mahabharat [a Hindu Epic]. Answer what I ask”. In pain and frustration, I would retort – “Instead of treating me like this, why don’t you kill me?” He would grin sarcastically and say – “If I killed you here, the King will thank me. He will never ask what happened to you. And no one will question either.”

As interrogation advanced, I was made to sit on the ground with my back on the wall. A long log of wood was slipped below my calves. Another log was kept atop my shin. Policeman stood on each end of the log atop my shin and began to roll and crush my bones. Another policeman took a wooden baton and started to hit on my soles. While Kipchu continued asking questions, the three policemen kept on crushing my shin and hitting my soles. After awhile, they removed the log beneath my legs and continued to press with the upper one.

Still later, they started to clamp my thighs. The policemen stood atop the clamp and began jumping. The pain was excruciating and I felt that my thighs were flattening out. Blood drained from my legs and spread across the concrete. I wailed. I yelled. I begged them to shoot and kill me instead of inflicting such pain. Nobody listen to my plea. They continued with interrogation and torture. When they stopped, they asked me to get up – but my legs did not move. They dragged me into a room. Later on, my friends said that I had been beaten continuously for eleven hours. A doctor was called to see me. When he asked what happened to you? I pointed at Kipchu and said – He tortured me. Kipchu almost jumped over me. He was restrained by his fellow officers. After that my days of solitary confinement began.

Due to torture, I could not move my jaw properly and my teeth were aching. I couldn’t eat the food provided by the prison guards. There was a Dimpen, a junior officer, who I knew from my days in the Forest Department. He came to my rescue showing genuine sympathy. He ordered his constables to make chapatti. I could eat only one piece. He sent one person to massage my body.

Since my arrest on 26 January 1991, I was kept incommunicado. My family was not informed about my arrest and detention. The Police instead went to my house and harassed my family. They asked my wife about my whereabouts, while I was being detained by them. She was beaten by the police on several occasions. Once she was hit by a police with the butt of his rifle.

In December 1991, I was transferred to the building that housed National Institute of Family Planning in Gelephu. The institute then had been converted into a prison and around 20-25 inmates each were kept in 6 different blocks. For the past eleven months, I had been handcuffed at the back. It was extremely difficult for me to take food with the handcuffs on. It was a big relief when they handcuffed me in the front.

Even in the new location the beatings continued. I was taken to Gelephu Police station for taking my statement. I signed to the fact that whatever I had confessed on the second day of my arrest in Lodrai Central Jail was true. I saw Kipchu moving around the prison, which worried me. Again, I was taken back to Lodra Jail.

On 5th April 1992, twenty-eight of us were transferred to Chemgang prison, near Thimphu. At around 7 pm we reached Chemgang. As the tradition of the prison, we all were beaten by the policemen before entering the prison complex. Few days ago, large number of prisoners had been released due to lack of evidence. And we were taken to replace them to construct three new prisons.

Early morning we had to get up and pray. We were given raw wheat flour with hot water as breakfast. They would order us to run up the hill and if we didn’t, the police guards would start kicking randomly. During the working hour, one prisoner was watched by one policeman. If any inmate ever slowed down, even out of fatigue, they start to charge with sticks or begin to punch. They would yell at us and say – “You need to work like lightening”. We had to carry stones; size them into a given measurement; make pebbles and make concrete. There were seven of us who were specifically assigned to make concrete out of the pebbles and cement. In a day, we used around 80 sacks of cement to make concrete. With heavy shackles in our legs, we toiled the whole day.

As Tandin Wangdi came as the supervisor of Chemgang prison, beatings resumed. During day time we had to do ten hours of hard labour. And at midnight policemen would come in the cell and beat regularly. The food was horrible. Criminals were kept as prison cooks. We never got to eat vegetables. When the criminal inmates distributed food, they would give thin soup and few pieces of radish from the top to the inmates from southern Bhutan, while they served thick soup and potatoes to their friends from the north.

In six months time, we completed the first prison house with the assistance of Bengali carpenters from India. The dimension of prison building was around 110 feet long and 30 feet wide and was very high. We partitioned it into 12-14 rooms on the sides and a corridor in between with an entrance gate. The very next day, 91 of us were transferred to the new prison. And we continued our work to build the next prison.

Many died in Chemgang prison. Around 12 inmates disappeared in August 1992. Inmates like, Maden Budathoki, Man Bahadur Bhujel, Lal Bahadur, Man Bahadur Rai disappeared. We thought they went to refugee camps in Nepal, but they were never found alive again.

In 1992, the old set of prison guards were sent away and was replaced by a new team. We were also provided with blankets. On 12th January 1993, they removed our shackles. From the 17th January onwards they stopped sending us to work. By then we had completed the construction of second prison and inmates had already been moved into it. On 20th January 1993 members of International Committee of Red Cross visited us in Chemgang for the first time. I got registered with ICRC with Reg. No. ICRC N BTN-000 107-01. After ICRC’s visit, the prison conditions improved a little. However, beatings continued and we were again made to do hard labour.

On one occasion, the ICRC members visited the prison and went back. Immediately, they returned to the prison and asked us to talk to them freely. Some inmates gathered courage and registered the complaints of continuing ill-treatment and torture. Incidents where police official urinated into the mouth of inmates, when they asked for water and other homosexual incidents were also reported. The complaints made impact. Prison officials were reprimanded. Nonetheless, after ICRC left, the police officers came around and scolded us, saying “Is the Red Cross your father that you need to complain to them?” With the visit of ICRC from time to time, medicine became accessible and medical treatment improved. It was also through ICRC that I came to learn about my father’s death after 45days.

On 26th December 1994, I was released after 3 years and 11 months incarceration. I eventually joined my family in the refugee camp in Nepal, who had fled from Bhutan in 1992.

(As published in “Refugees from the Land of Gross National Happiness” by Bhutanese Advocacy Forum- Europe. Ghaley shared this story with Avishek Gazmere and Jogen Gazmere in South Australia.)

The first and unique of its kind, the column “Untold Story” will continue to carry stories of suppression we had faced back home in Bhutan. It might sometimes look fiction in nature but they are real stories. BNS encourages you to contribute your “untold story” about the suppression you or anyone in your family/neighborhood faced. Anything such as physical or mental torture, imprisonment, rape, harassment, among others  will become an untold story. We also kindly request you to contribute related photographs, if possible. If you are confused whether or not your story is an untold story, always feel free to correspond with us prior you start writing it. Please remember that it has to be a real story, not a fiction. We highly encourage you not to exaggerate anything but remain focused on the real happenings while writing untold story.

– Editorial Team, BNS ([email protected])


  1. Great! Sharing is loosing the pain RK Dai thank you so much for this real story that you got the pain in your life We were very closing neighbouring in the camp (a3) but I did not know this much about your pain when you were in prison but now I know this much please share more in coming days so that all the young bhutanese youth know about how cruel was Bhutan Govt was in those days thank you once again

    DC sharma
    Kentucky USA

  2. Rup Kumar Ghalley, commonly known to us as Mr. RK Ghalley is a very senior activits of the Bhutanese movement. He has shouldered very important positions and responsibilities in the movement during the early days before his arrest. His arrrest had created a vaccum of leadership in the Gaylegphug area. Mr. Ghalley is simple, straight forward and honest. I have had the opportunity of working with him before he was arrested in India and extradited illegallly to Bhutan. After he retuned from jail we did not have much time to interact as he was busy getting treatments for his health.

    Much about the torture he went through is vividly expressed in this story. It is unfortunate that even in this 21st century, some governments believe in torture to contain dissidence. Mr. Ghalley’s story is not the only story we have with us – he just happens to be one of those strong men among us who has endured the pain and still remained faithful to the cause of human rights a democracy in Bhutan. I did not know so much in detail about the pains inflicted on him by the regime. Thanks Mr. RK ji for standing tall and strong again. Your story has uncovered one more chapter about the cruelty and barbarism that exists in Bhutan and certainly the wrold will one day hear us through people like you.

    Your friend,

    Rp Subbba.

  3. This is really really a sad and pathetic one. Mr. Ghalley’s article is fluid and touches everyone. It is very strong and expressive. I think this gives a vivid picture of the situation where our innocent folks served for doing no crime.
    The bargaric police crew took the full advantage of the invited situation and whatever they did was the law of country.
    My second grandfather was detained as he was going to his rice field with a sickle at his hand during the rice harvesting season. The patrolling force during 1991, detained him for carrying the knife and he had to serve for 9 months blaming him as ‘antinational’. First he was kept for a month at Goshi Jr. High School which was converted to barrack. He was tortured heavily.
    The armymen used to ask the inmates to kiss each other and getup in different sexual positions for their entertainment and leisure. One day my Grandfather was ordered by the personnel to kiss his roommate. Grandfather had never heard of the word ‘kiss’ in his complete life time as our society was of closed order. He remained idle without any actions from the decre and in return got heavy torture for not obeying the cowardice act. Later the man ordered the next man to kiss my grandfather and the man caughthold of his face and made a deep kiss. Then my grandfather knew the meaning of word kiss. Later he was taken to Damphu and ultimately to Chemgang jail. At Chemgang, the officiating commander asked him to sign a paper which was Greek to my grandfather, the document was later translated and it mentioned to leave the country at will.
    I just wanted to add here that the forces used all the dirty and filthy means to harress the people irrespective of the torture. Yes there was biasness in treatment for the people of north and south. There was a heavy discrimination which could be felt and could not be expressed. It is a slow poisioning and killing, ending the life in disguise.
    One of my Professor went to Bhutan in 1998 to give training on Geographical Information System (GIS) requested by Home secretary. There were 22 civil officials who took 2 months course and 4 of them were from south. After a month, professor became close and 4 of the participants began to talk fluent Nepali language during the break time when other people were not around to listen the communication. When the professor asked their identity, in great distress they told who they were and requested him not to say to anyone in the group that they talked in Nepali language. You see, high level civil officials with that level of fear. What a pity and life. Absolute hate and fear. Such is the situation even now.
    I don’t think nation is a private property to make the ownership by just a group of people.
    Lastly a saying from KING HENRY VI – William Shakespeare:
    Unloose thy long imprison’d thoughts, And let thy tongue be equal with thy heart. Shall I endure the sight of somerset? False king! why hast thou broken faith with me, knowing how hardly I can brook abuse? Thou art not king; Not fit to govern and rule multitudes. Which dar’st not, no, nor canst not rule a traitor. That head of thine doth not become a crown. O monstrous traitor.

  4. It is really painful to go through this story. We have deep respect to RK daju and all other Bhutanese who have served such hard prison days for the cause of the Bhutanese people.They are the strong men in the community who have endured for salvation of the fellow citizens.Gradual political changes taking place in Bhutan is the result of their sufferings.
    Our salute to the freedom fighters who are still alive and the ones who lost their lives in the struggle. We honour them with deep respect.

  5. What are you trying to achieve out of this story? Sympathy? You have had enough of it, and the international community are tired of hearing such biased stories. Bhutan had opened up to the world and it is there for everyone to see. It is made more accessible with revised tourism policies and increased number of tourist visiting the country. Your story? What a holy…cow!

  6. How this commentator relates self as ‘Himal’ when he has no height at all? He is laughing over others pain! That means he enjoys hurting others in opponent feelings/opinions. How the story became biased, can you explain a bit???

  7. “A person should not be too honest. Straight trees are cut first and honest people are screwed first”- Chanakya.

    Reading this story of torture, I can tell Bhutanese people are very honest, who suffer for their simplicity. Even after bearing and sharing such inhuman stories of torture, we have humane-ness, remaining for those beasts in the power. We still have expectation from these devils in the human figures, of some ethics, sparks of dharma, and soft corner. We still cultivate hope that these demons under colored kabneys will turn into human and we continue to show concern at their worries. These beasts, which use their brain solely to sow, grow and spread xenophobia, who dared to expel their relatives and friends for not supporting their sinister design, will never return to their human form.
    We overlook the history, where no despot has ever understood the peoples’ plights and expectations, and expect an exception from the jungle beasts. These imps have no relatives, no ethics, no humane heart, no goodness; they use their intelligence to cling to their animalism for power and pleasure. They will never speak the truth, and never do anything good.
    This story and all the stories of sufferings should be recoded in a more permanent ways so that a proper reimbursement (with interest compounded) is made for atleast 7 generations to come.

  8. We have thousands of untold stories of torture and human rights violation during 1990 in our homeland ‘BHUTAN’. Ofcourse it is sad but we must tell to our new generation. It not only gives relief to the victims but also the world will know the real situation in ‘BHUTAN’ specially in south and east during 1990s and now too. It is also the duty of our elite groups to get printed this kinds of articles in the international media. Nevertheless we should not forget to promote the positive side of ‘The Gross National Happiness’. This concept in future will definetly help us to creat the stronger bond between the people of Bhutan inside and outside and within Bhutan.We must not blame all the people of north for the cause. I as a southern Bhutanese would like to say that, this kinds of supression in feudel system does existed in some parts of the world. I view the people of north are also ignorant and normal as us. We must separate those who misused the power and the normal people. This is the time for us to send clear messeage to the people of ‘BHUTAN’ that we all are Bhutanese whether from east, north, south or outside.

  9. Really really a very sad part of the most hidden stories highlighted by Mr.R.K.Ghalley. It sounds the really Hitlers’ age during this 21st century. But who helps to eradicate such injustice and suppression? Is there any international communities who struggles for international peace and justice to fight overcome such tyrany or just say “cannot to interfere in the internal affairs of any country” T

  10. A true story and troubling tale of abuse meted out to its citizen by a so-called benevolent and godly king. What makes it more shocking lies in the fact that such brutality transpired in the 1990s, a time that many people hearken back to as a simpler peaceful time in the Land of Thunder Dragon. This piece of agony once again reminded me of Hitler’s brutality to its own citizen, Saddam´s heinous crime and Stalin’s hangmen who killed for him.

    It earnestly and lucidly presents a factual version of the events surrounding the abuse-induced death of many Bhutanese in the notorious jails of Bhutan, beatings and torture by the RBP and RBA and merciless hacks by other lynch men of the Government.

    Many are still incarcerated many are unknown of their whereabouts and many still have to undergo barbaric torture daily. AND as luck would have it, the irrational and specious caption ´The Gross National Happiness ´ constantly looms large on the phoney grinning face of JYT and his henchmen who are busy trotting the globe with the Gross sadistic propaganda. And when it comes to the multifarious viciousness inflicted to the Southern Bhutanese in and out, it is illegal immigrants. The Buddha is surely crying.

    A very touching and tragic true story of Mr. RK a living victim and witness of the nefarious injustice of the Government of Bhutan to its citizens. A story that has to be pronounced and litigated in the international court of justice one day. I am truly filled with sorrow and trepidation reading about this crime committed by our own king. Mr. RK, thank you very much for bringing it out. I reserve my full respect for your courage.


  11. Hats off to those who stood up against the tyranny, even amidst the brutal torture by the Royal Beast. This is not a story, it is a history written with golden words. I can only imagine how brave these countrymen were. RK Dai has just set an example by unfolding the bitter truth, others who sailed on the same boat should continue and let the world know what was going on in a small corner of a room, while someone from outside the same house was barking the slogan of GNH.

  12. Nonetheless, after ICRC left, the police officers came around and scolded us, saying “Is the Red Cross your father that you need to complain to them?”

    What villains were the police officials! If they thought that they were fathers to the Bhutanese, especially to those in custody, they would do what is just and right to them under their protection/care in the detention. But many of them turned “MURDERERS” expressing their zeal/fervour against HUMANITY. So sad about the institutions and personnel of justice!!!

  13. Yes, true Bhutanese, the criminals are criminals after all. It is not appropriate to show sympathy to the common criminals that commit crimes against the Law or against humanity. They should be booked with charges and brought before the Law to be tried and punished according to their deeds. But to the contrary, horrible things were reported during that time. Common Public were pressurized on one hand by group of mad persons due to indignation for seeing the loss of their culture and identity in the country they belonged as Citizens for generations lobbying for public support to demand its restoration expressed in the following statements [One of the officers leaned towards me and said, “Tomorrow, I am meeting the King and what do you think I should tell him for the resolution of the problem?” I replied in fractured and faint voice, “Remove the ban on Bhutanese Nepalese culture; withdraw the implementation of Green Belt along southern Bhutan bordering India and promote national harmony”. After that I was taken into a room and kept in solitary confinement] and the zealots from the armed forces working for rewards probably promised if the cause was won. The public were wholesomely condemned as if they all were the same criminals “that reduced 6 inches” and punished to make them confess the crime they never committed.
    Yes, many of the zealots were rewarded with ranks and properties for the successful sabotages on the honour, properties and lives of the common villagers. Is it not part of the un contended truth? Let the official books of records speak the volumes that recorded it: to achieve ONE AIM that the conscious minded that suffered were made aware. True Bhutanese, you will come to terms with yourself if you know what that ONE AIM was and continues to remain to this day gaining more strength for that ONE cause. I was one of the victims for their suspicion that escaped the possible murder! But I did not enjoy the sympathy of the other group for this adventurous journey in life, either. I am mid-way, judging both and justifying or condemning both according to their behavior and actions.

  14. It’s very hard for me to continue reading after the 1st few paragraphs, my blood is boiling. Mr Ghaley you are now in Australia, can u please file a court case against those turturers involved through Amnesty Int’l please, we must fight for justice. Even if someone has commited a crime, corporal punishment, torture is against fundamental human rights, as Bhutan is a UN member, we must bring those brutal police and other Bhutan Govt, officials along with the 4th king and Dago Tshering to justice in International court one day, I ‘ll and every one now flourished around the world will support u Mr Ghaley, pls go ahead.