In November and December 2008, Bhutanese monarchs celebrated 101 years of rule by Wangchuck dynasty in Bhutan. This year was also remarkable as fifth monarch from the dynasty was crowned. In hundred years, there were no external threats as both big neighbors, China and India were sympathetic and brotherly towards Bhutan but the monarchs have been fighting with and against the citizen to keep themselves in the power.
In the beginning of 20th century, Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck fought against his tribe, the Drukpas, chased his cousins beyond the north western border of Bhutan, exchanged support with the British, then in India, and became the monarch. The displaced people took refuge in the kingdom of Tibet and Sikkim, now under China and India respectively. The families were divided, and members and their descendents who live on either side of the border are strangers if not enemies. There has been no treaty or understanding for the reunion of the broken families. Even today, the Bhutanese royals have little rapport with the people of Tibet and Sikkim.
The second monarch Jigme Wangchuck, fought with the people in the east. The Drukpas and Brokpas were chased from eastern Bhutan. Those fugitive families entered Tawang district of Arunachal Pradesh in India. The families were separated, any attempt for their reunion are seen as threat to monarchy, disloyalty to the country, hence an antinational activity.
The third monarch Jigme Dorji Wangchuck fought and expelled the people twice during his two decade long reign. In 1952, the people of Chirang, Dagana and Sibsoo formed political parties namely Jai Gorkha Solidarity Front (JGSF) and Bhutan State Congress (BSC), who demanded introduction of democratic reforms in the country. The ring leaders were either shot to death or hanged or packed alive into leather bags and thrown into rivers. The family members were chased from Bhutan, who till date live in the neighboring Assam and Bengal in India.
Second time he fought with his own relatives. Pandit Jawakharlal Nehru, then prime minister of India wanted to visit Bhutan. To maintain the diplomatic protocol, a prime minister was to be received by a counterpart prime minister. Monarchs, according to protocol of hierarchy, are above the prime ministers. Monarch’s brother in law (a queen’s brother) Jigme Dorji Palden, who was a chief minister was promoted to PM, initially to receive Indian PM on the protocol basis. Very soon, he became more popular and powerful than the monarch. He was mysteriously murdered and his supporters and sympathizers fled to Kalimpong and Darjeeling in India.
The fourth monarch Jigme Singye Wangchuk did three major evictions of the citizen and a military flush out of the fugitives from the neighboring Assam, India, hiding in forests inside Bhutan. The first eviction was the result of a family dispute, following untimely demise of third monarch, over the share of properties and benefits of the royal family members. Third monarch had 2 queens. Jigme Singye Wangchuck was the only male child from the first wife who was from Kalimpong and his Tibetan concubines had two sons. Jigme Singye faction gave his step mother, half brothers and their wagon of supporters an ultimatum to either leave the country or face severe consequences. They fled to Delhi, in India and to Nepal. Later, a few people who took refuge in Nepal were granted amnesty and let to return. The evicted queen, princess and their relatives continue to live in the Indian capital.
In late 1980s and early 1990s, the monarch evicted the large number of people from south, most of who were initially accused of participation in anti government demonstration and rallies organized by Bhutan People’s Party, a banned political party, on different allegations and pretexts. An estimated 130,000 fled from the country, out of which around 100,000 could reach Nepal and receive attention and support from the international humanitarian organizations.
His third eviction was in 1997, when the local officials and monks mostly from the eastern districts were targeted for openly supporting the democratic movement called by Druk National Congress, another banned political party. This time the number of incarcerated and disappeared people were more than the evicted. Most of the people evicted in his second and third eviction reached Nepal and lived in camps for up to two decades, waiting for the monarch to realize his flaws, introduce accommodative system of governance and allow the people back. Failing to receive any such assurances, the governments supporting them decided to take them to their countries for better treatment.
The world nations who observed the situation closely, took up the humanitarian part of the onus to keep the people evicted from Bhutan safe and alive. The supporting countries formed a communiqué to solve the problem. After about one and a half decade of life in camp, and seeing no green signal from the Bhutanese monarchs, the communiqué members decided to share and take the refugees to their countries and offer them an opportunity for an honorable living. The USA alone has declared to absorb sixty thousand, out of which 7500 have reached their destination by the end of 2008. The initial response from those thus resettled was positive but the complex challenges are defiling the optimism. With USA alone accepting the bulk and other countries accepting a significant number of them, the protracted problem, either for a while or for good, will be solved humanly. If and when this problem is solved, the relationship between Bhutan and other countries especially with Nepal improves. Bhutanese government whose image is tainted with the infamous issue of refugees, shall once again gain an opportunity to rise and shine among the world governments. Thanks for the American and other countries’ generosity.
America for long was infamously known for slavery. In early days, people of Africa were caught, shipped to America and traded there. The case of Bhutanese refugees or any refugees being taken to America is new way of systematized slavery with improved treatment compared to the earlier ones. In this systematic trade, the people in the camp are assured opportunities for jobs and education, and convinced with prospect of better life, peace and freedom in the destination land. Refugees are made to express their interest through application. People are selected on the basis of some undeclared criteria. Healthy youth or families with such members only are selected fit for USA. They are given a short orientation but no chance to look back. Then, escorted by the private migration companies’ experts, they board the flight. Each member is made to sign a debt bill of unbelievably exaggerated amount. The people assured of resettlement on the basis of humanitarian ground are bonded by a chain of debt. When they reach the new home, they are given trainings to look for jobs and are supported in the earlier days. Then comes the time for the reimbursement of the debt. Out of 7,500 people who reached USA in 2008, less than 600 people have got into jobs, mostly as the waiters in the restaurants, which they would not have done if they were in Bhutan. Unfortunately, the time of economic recession fell as coincidence. When the US workers are losing their jobs, it is difficult for the novice settlers to find jobs. Back in the camp there is a strong majority of people who see durable solution only in the repatriation to Bhutan. They term the process of resettlement- a method to acquire manual laborers bonded with debt, from which they can neither escape nor can continue - neo slavery. Their peers who are resettled in countries other than USA, like Canada, Norway, Australia, New Zealand, The Netherlands etc, are not burdened with debt, with a difference that those countries pledged to accept less number of people. A few questions the stake holders ignore to clarify the misconception are: why should USA alone take the bulk when there are over 200 countries? Why not let the people go to the place from where they originated, where they were born, where they belong to and where they actually want to go? If it is a resettlement on humanitarian ground, should they pay for the humanitarian assistance?
Mc Cain Diplomacy
Globally, people are accepting republic as the best system of governance, paradoxically the US republican candidate for the president, Senator John Mc Cain rushed to Bhutan immediately following his defeat in the election. Was he there to water the monarchy, praise and reward the government for eviction of the political opponents? Senator Mc Cain who led the 15 member delegation met with the monarchs, important government officials and selected journalists. The high level delegation maintained a low profile appearance in media. His visit to the nation where democracy was ushered in through royal decree and function at their mercy, where people are deprived of citizenship on reason that some of their family members held different political opinion, where political parties fighting for democracy and human rights were barred from contesting in the election, where the monarch chosen ministers formed two parties, contested between them and returned to the post to continue the old job, coincided with the celebration of centenary of autocratic rule and coronation of the new monarch. However, one of the delegates was quoted saying “You can lose the election in America but not lose your voice, not lose your property; so I would encourage the government and the people to make sure that you have honest and fair judges, that the judiciary be above politics”. This single sentence is sturdy enough to predict that the delegation was aware of the system. The forth coming parliamentary deliberations shall signal the rise in the level if Mc Cain diplomacy had any pressure on the government. The Bhutanese government which is hard pressed in terms of refugee issue has two points to misinterpret from the Mc Cain’s visit. Had American people maintained racial homogeneity of the whites, Mc Cain would have won the election against President Barrack Hussain Obama. So he rushed to Bhutan to encourage the continuity of homogenizing population. It is a symbolic solidarity to the regime’s racist “one nation one people” policy. The other theory doubting the senators’ rush to Bhutan is to convert Bhutan into a living museum with a king for the study of human behavior by some leading American universities. The monarchs are given a freedom to work, which the social philosophers and anthropologists shall study. To confirm it, the curious ones will have to wait till some universities publish the results, if at all.
The monarchs have always been victorious to flush out the opponents and prevent their return, which for the dynasty are the reasons to celebrate. The American generosity solves the long protracted issue of the Bhutanese in exiles; it helps to uplift the people’s living standard, even though some of them feel being traded. Senator John Mc Cain diplomacy will affect the behavior and the functioning of the Bhutanese government which in turn will affect the lives of the common Bhutanese people. Regardless of the facts and consequences, optimism and hopes are escalating among the Bhutanese people.