Web Letters | The Nation

The Enigma of Bhutan

First-hand account

To many of you, this is just a history, but for the ones who lived it, it was a nightmare. I can still remember when I was in in Dichilling, Nyamgal when my father received a telegram saying, “matter urgent come soon.” He rushed to Gola, Sibsoo, to find my brother, who had fled Bhutan and was living in India. Dechilling is a remote village. It is so remote that I didn’t even see a bicycle, and the people were so poor that they lived on frogs and oranges. It also holds so much of my fond childhood memories. My parents were in charge of the dispensary (health post). It was there that I first learned that we were designated ngolops (terrorists) in overheard conversations amongst my few father’s friends who subsequently boycotted us when my father didn’t return. My father left only to return after eight months and was arrested. He spent eighteen months in Samdrup Jongkhar jail and was released. We left Bhutan after a week or so.

I was in fifth grade when all this happened. And my life changed. A big guy slapped me so hard one day because I was a Nepali: my first taste of discrimination. After fifth grade, I packed my bags and my brother—he had returned to us—helped me relocate to Nyamgal for higher education. An eleven-hour walk from Dichilling. This was were I came face to face with racism—in a institute of higher learning. I spent only a month there when I was called one day to the headmaster’s office and was asked to leave the school. No explanation was given.

After I left, I went to Daranga, India near Samdrup Jongkhar to continue my education. My father was imprisoned at the jail in Samdrup Jongkhar. We could not visit him as was the rules. I clearly remember a day when we went (brother and mum) to a river near the jail, shouting each other names and nicknames so that he would hear us. I don’t think he ever did.

The day he was released, I went to see him. He looked well and had a long beard. I was so happy. We went to meet our mother in Deothang where she was transferred and after a week left Bhutan.

After eighteen years in camp and now working with refugees in finding them jobs in the United States, I am still searching for the meaning of my life. And in my search, I have made Facebook friends from Bhutan. I befriended them not to question or seek explanation but to understand them better and hope to find friendship and acceptance and recover what was lost and to forgive and forget.



Jul 4 2012 - 3:28am

The Enigma of Bhutan

Historic article

In a world where (now) not only the rulers can have history, this is a historic article on the plight of the Bhutanese people, who were stripped off of their birthrights and all other human rights. The refugee issue has been protracted due to the unwillingness of India and Nepal to diplomatically resolve it. Of course, Bhutan always thought it could brush off the issue, that the tyrant's sins would never be observed elsewhere or at least by the affluent Western tourists.

I love my country—where I was born but could not get to call it my own. Gross negation of the reality facing the populace and trumpeting about gross national happiness under a totalitarian regime just feels like a big joke!

I am now in my undergraduate career, where my fellow Bhutanese form the ruling circle ( I say this because if there were equal representation/access to higher education for all Bhutanese, there would be at least one Southern Bhutanese among about ten of them, as I have seen at my university), and only from the Ngalongpa-Drukpa families. Who do not even have slightest clue about what happened in the late 1980s and early ’90s that caused a massive exodus of fellow Bhutanese. When they know that we are doing as well or better, they think we are “lucky”—lucky that we got to be dumped into the sand banks and got to live as refugees for twenty some years? Or lucky that we got to come to the United States? As much as we will be law-abiding citizens in the States, we will always have love for our motherland.

If the government of Bhutan thinks that the refugee issue is solved because the “people in the camps” are being resettled to different Western countries, it will be the biggest lie they will ever tell themselves. As the Bhutanese refugee children get to the schools and other institutions where they can narrate the reality facing the majority of the Bhutanese populations, including Sarchops in the east and others, along with the southerners of Nepali descent, their lies about GNH and model of good governance will fall apart—across the globe.

Thanks to Mr. Bird for presenting a historical document on a people from a country that is not of interest to the American foreign policy (or maybe it is), who have almost become a forgotten people.

This article will have a great impact for ages to come.

Dom N. Acharya

Erie, PA

Mar 9 2012 - 11:34pm