OPINION: People without a nation

OPINION: People without a nation – problem soon to be fixed, but when, lets see the peaceful solution first ?!!

From Republica
BY DINKAR NEPAL

2010-07-28 03:06:48: Entering Bhutan through the Phuentsholing border is an amusingly contrasting experience. The bumpy road of the Indian town of Jaigaon burdened by the chaos of people, auto-rickshaws, vehicles and muddled shanties suddenly ends at the border gate. What follows is an orderly serenity manifested by broad clean roads with parking spaces, identical architectures with similar signboards and people dressed alike.

A taxi driver dressed in the traditional ‘national dress’ – Gho or Bakkhu – welcomes me to Bhutan. He introduces himself as Shakti Gurung. A mixed stream of emotions churns inside me with the soothing breeze and altered landscape. Had I not visited the ‘refugee camp’ in Jhapa district of Nepal just a few days ago, I would also have taken the beauty at face value like many tourists in Bhutan.

THE HAZE

Phuentsholing to Thimphu is a four-hour drive on meandering mountainous road mostly covered in haze due to sudden rise in altitude. This haze, as one looks at history, Bhutan has been able to maintain in its politics and policies toward the refugees. Or, at least it tries to with the help of the altitude of privileged platform provided by India.

Rising further into Bhutan, closer to the center of power, Thimphu, closer to Tibet, the land from where the present ruling family (and the ruling class of people?) originally came in the sixteenth century, the mist seems to clear away. Southern Bhutan, geographically similar to hilly regions of Nepal, is home to the people of Nepali origin. These people who migrated to Bhutan about a century ago from different parts of Nepal were suddenly deprived of many privileges by a very stringent citizenship rule in 1985.

The Gorkhaland movement in India, the uprising for democracy in Nepal and the expulsion of people of Nepali origin from Bhutan happened in the same chronological neighborhood. And for people who try to interpret events in history through intentions involved, this is not a mere coincidence.

SKEPTICAL DEMOCRACY OR JUST AN OUTER FAÇADE

Looking at the outer façade, it is hard to realize the price paid for uniformity in culture and politics by the ‘people’. The uniformity in architectural landscape, which provides Thimphu city its uniqueness, comes from stringent rules regulating constructions. The exclusivity of culture and tradition comes with the ‘legal’ compulsion for Shakti Gurung to wear the completely wrapping attire in the hot weather of the southern plain. When I realize this, I suddenly stop admiring it. And, I believe, anybody with slightest idea of democracy will not appreciate this.

These regulations are a result of the ‘one-people, one-nation’ policy. This was also the root cause of the expulsion of the people of Nepali origin from Bhutan 20 years ago. Policies of the monarchy are always aimed at strengthening its roots in the country, be it on foreign affairs or internal matters. The people of Nepali origin were seen as a threat to the monarchy in the years to come. Hence, this shrewd political ante under the shroud of the ‘one-people, one-nation’ policy was propounded by the king. With the convenient ignorance and comfortable numbness of the southern neighbor, it was executed to perfection.

PEOPLE TORN APART: WITHOUT A NATION

Although two of the ministers in the first elected democratic government of Bhutan are of Nepali origin, many people of Nepali origin who still live in Bhutan whisper about the injustices. The stringent rule for jobs, where a no-objection certificate (NOC) is mandatory is one such example. If any member of the family was ever involved in any anti-government (read anti-monarchy) activity, you will not get the NOC. The vague definitions of such activities, left for the interpretation of local authorities at their own discretion, further makes things difficult for people like Shyam Bahadur Darnal.

Shyam is a friend I met in Delhi. After graduating in Bhutan, he moved to Delhi, completed his MBA and worked in a multinational for over five years. His father, after 20 long years of service to the government of Bhutan has now left the job without pension because of problems in documents. Shyam has come back from Delhi to support his family.

The café in Thimphu where I met him is run by a couple in their early thirties. The woman is of Nepali origin and the man is a Bhutanese. “I got a job so easily in Delhi. I used to in fact hop jobs without any insecurity. Here, in my country, it took me four months to get a NOC.” He takes out his frustration. There are other reasons too. The property that belonged to his father has been nationalized by the government. The documents were still with his grandfather when they left the country. (His father was the only one from the family who stayed back, being in a government job.) His grandfather is dead now; his grandmother lives in a refugee camp in Nepal. His uncles have moved to the USA and Canada, conveniently accepting the third-country settlement after two decades of exile. And Shyam’s father now cannot prove his ownership over the property.

THE FUTURE

Almost one sixth of the population of Bhutan was expelled due to many reasons. They are still living in the refugee camps in eastern Nepal where the population now has reached more than a 100,000. Many of the youths in the camps are people who have never known any life other than that of a refugee. The Bhutan government continues to give a deaf ear to the issue with an audacity beyond its capacity. Lyonpo Khandku Wangchuck, a minister in the government was unbelievably shameless to remark: “We are a peace loving Buddhist country. We can’t even get rid of street dogs. How can we do this to fellow human beings, our own citizens? They are all volunteer emigrants.”

Whatever be the play of words, whatever is the force behind the unacceptable behavior of the nations concerned and wherever they may be sent for resettlement, till the time they come back to Bhutan, they remain people without a nation. Things are not any better for people who are still in Bhutan.

OPINION: THE HILLS ARE STILL ON FIRE – no firebrigades from Bengal yet, only blabbering panic from lone crows ?!!

From The Telegraph
By Sumanta Sen

The hills of Darjeeling are approaching the autumn tourist season. It is time for hoteliers to spruce up their establishments and tour operators to work out new packages. All that is par for the course. So is the feeling of uncertainty that has become a part of life since the demand for a separate Gorkhaland was renewed by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha.

The difference this year is that after ruling the roost for two years, the GJM is facing a united opposition from the Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League, the Communist Party of Revolutionary Marxists and the Communist Party of India (Marxist).

The GJM is no longer the only representative force of the hill people. Of course that was never the case, but it had succeeded in creating a kind of frenzy that had caused all other parties to fade away. The killing of Madan Tamang has altered the situation. Today, the ABGL is able to muster the courage to organize a relay fast at the Mall, braving the GJM’s threats.

This change in the scenario may appear to be healthy to political observers. That may well be the case, but it also has the potential of deepening the ever lurking sense of uncertainty. Since its inception, the GJM has made it abundantly clear that it is not prepared to tolerate any opposition, and it will be a miracle if it now changes its ways and accepts the fact that in a democracy there will always be more than one player. The outfit has already threatened the hills with fresh spells of agitation, and any resistance from the others may well see kukris flashing again.

Make no mistake about it; the cadre of other parties have lain low for so long because their leaders were waiting to see how things would turn out. Tamang’s killing and the revulsion that it has generated in the hills have emboldened them to take their opposition to the streets.

Fluid state

The uncertainty also stems from another factor. Barring the CPI(M), the other rivals of the GJM are not opposed to Gorkhaland.They are only opposed to the manner in which the GJM has gone about demolishing its rivals in its march towards its goal.

So, at some stage, the ruling Marxists will have to stop making common cause with the GJM’s opponents and target the ABGL and the CPRM. The possibility of this happening is very real: there has never been any love lost between these parties and the Marxists. Waiting in the wings is Subash Ghisingh, who cannot be expected to remain idle in a situation such as this.

The GJM, most certainly, is not the only spokesperson of the hill people. It would have been ideal if the other parties managed to forge an alliance, but right now that seems impossible. The CPI(M) knows it, and perhaps the reason why it wanted the recent tripartite meeting to be postponed was that it needed time to create a platform that is acceptable to the anti-GJM forces. That, however, will take time. And the longer it takes, the greater the possibility of the anti-GJM forces falling out among themselves.

The Centre does not seem to be aware of the complexities in the hills. Unless, of course, it has decided that the political map of Darjeeling needs to be redrawn. Or perhaps it wants things to go on like this till next year’s assembly elections in the hope that the new dispensation, which may take over, will not be hostile to the idea of a Gorkhaland.

Whatever may be the Centre’s line of thinking, by holding talks with only the GJM, it is antagonizing a sizeable (*?!!) section in the hills. The more these people feel left out, the higher will be their resentment. This will also magnify the threat to peace in Darjeeling which is what tourists as well as the local people are looking forward to eagerly.

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