Ethnic cleansing in Bhutan.

Bhutan is the only country in the world that has the highest percentage of
population living as refugees outside. The absolute monarchy of Bhutan
forcibly exiled about 20% of Bhutan’s populations, mainly the ethnic
Hindu minority Lhotshampa since 1990.
Fourteen years of degrading exile to live as refugees in the UNHCR
administered camps in Nepal and outside in India made Lhotshampas to
suffer from torture and expulsion to humiliation, hopelessness, despair
and loss of legal status to a point where they have now nothing to lose.
They cannot be any more dispossessed than they are today.
Bhutan is the last bastion of hereditary absolute monarchy with a feudal
order. There is no written constitution, no bill of rights, and no right to
freedom of opinion, expression, press and association. All most all the
rights and freedoms given in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
are being violated in Bhutan. Half of Hindu population are forcibly
exiled. Since 1990 ethnic cleansing is continuing under the policy called
one nation one people. In Bhutan there are only two types of ethnic
groups. The ruling elites are called Drukpas. They are Buddhist. The
ethnic minorities are called Lhotshampas. They are Hindus. Now the
policy of one nation one people eventually mean only the Drukpa
Buddhist can live in Bhutan and the rest of the other ethnic groups will be
gradually eliminated. How can that be possible, one cannot believe it. But
think about the Jews during the Nazi period of Hitler. Dictators and
absolute monarch have few things in common. That is, if they do not like
any ethnic groups, they will eliminate from the country. They will cling
on power and suppress democracy. The dictators in other countries use
active violence. But Bhutanese king is smart. He is eliminating the
Lhotshampas through passive violence. Here passive violence means
more strategic, systematic and more silent terrorism. The end result is
same as that caused by bombs and guns. Such a passive violence or silent
terrorism is dome by making discriminatory laws and its illogical
One of the most discriminative laws is its citizenship act 1985. In 1985,
the government revised the Citizenship Law of 1958. It then implemented
the act with retrospective effect of 30 December 1958. Now understand Page 2-6
this clearly. When a government makes a new law, or revises the old one,
the same law should be effective from the date such a new law is made or
revised. It is illogical to implement a new law with retrospective effect
that is also 35 years back. But Bhutan government did it to denationalize
the ethnic minority Lhotshampas.
As per the Citizenship law 1958, Citizenship Identity was given for the
first time to all the Bhutanese. According to the new act 85, the
government revoked the citizenship of Lhotshampas minorities. Then the
government asked them to show the land tax receipt of 1958 if anyone
wants to hold his citizenship by naturalization. Naturally due to various
reasons, Lhotshampas could not produce 35 year old tax receipts.
Otherwise whoever fails to produce the receipt of 30 years back, their
citizenship was revoked. As per this revised Act, Lhotshampas are
separated in to 7 classes of citizenship status. People who could produce
the receipt and other requirements were grouped as 1
class citizen, 2
class are those who left Bhutan once and came back again but before
1958, 3
class are those who were absent during 1958 census, 4
class are
the children of foreign mothers, 5
class are the children of foreign
fathers, 6
class are adopted people and the last 7
category is the non
national. In this way the government disintegrated the Hindu families and
systematically forced them out of the country one class after another.
Lotshampas were authorized immigrants from India and Nepal. They
came to Bhutan before the hereditary monarchy was established in 1907.
They were brought in three times officially. First time in 1625 and second
time in 1640 by a theocratic ruler, Dharma Raja The Shabdung. In early
1900, Bhutan’s Prime minister titled Gongzin Ugen Dorji and ST Dorji
were authorized to induct Nepalese in to Bhutan. They were brought in as
the legal subjects to protect the Border and develop economy. Bhutan is
now fully developed. The government wants now to tactfully get rid of
them. Say for example, Turkish and Morokans were allowed to come to
Holland for work about 50 years ago. They are now naturalized citizens.
Can the Dutch government ever force these people out of Holland? Can’t
because Holland is democratic and these people know their rights. In
Bhutan, the government exiled people easily because the government is
undemocratic. There is no bill of rights. No human rights, no constitution.
There is a reign of terror. Page 3-6
Of course just by downgrading one’s citizenship, people were not leaving
the country. So, after that, the government made some more strategy.
Survey: The government measured Lhotshampas land holdings in a new
method of cadastral and land survey. Under that method the government
sized the best part of almost every body’s land. They were accused of
encroaching and even penalized.
Language: the government stopped teaching Lhotshampa language in the
southern schools. Burnt down books. Courts stopped accepting
application written in local language. The national language Dzongkha
was made compulsory although it is spoken by a small group of ruling
Forced labor: Lhotshampas are forced to work for free labor to the
government and military. They have to construct roads, bridges, and army
barracks, everything without payment. They have to cultivate crops for
Ngalong elites. Government takes away all the cash crops from
Lhotshampas calling it as illegal cultivation.
Traditional etiquette: The king made classical Tibetan cultural traditions
compulsory to follow. Under this rule, every body has to wear new design
of dress of Ngalong people. All the manners and religious practice must
be done in Buddhist customs. Through this law, Hindu culture, religion
and traditions are forbidden. Hindu temples are closed down. It hurt
people at the very heart. The root of Hindu’s existences in Bhutan is
gradually wiped out. Such atrocities are many.
Why the government is so cruel against a section of its citizens? In
general there used to be very friendly social cohesion between Buddhist
Drukpas and Hindu Lhotshampas. But as the year passed by, the the
government suspected that the Hindu Lhosthampas are politically active
because they live close India. They are more fertile than others owing to
their want of son or a large family leading to faster population growth.
This scared Drukpas that these Lhotshampas may grow in to majority in
course of time
Government sees globalization as the threat to absolute monarchy because
globalization inspires for democracy. So the king is afraid thinking that he Page 4-6
might loose his power in future. The fear increased more when the Indian
Nepalis living along the border with Bhutan started agitating for a
regional autonomy. And in Nepal, movement for democracy was in the
offing. Ironically the government thought ethnic cleansing, cultural
cleansing, hate and suppression of democracy as their solution to fortify
the monarchy. The government provoked the Lhotshampas to agitate so
that it will force them out of the country.
The Lhotshampas appealed the government to ease such harsh rules,
through a representative. Unfortunately the government jailed their
representative, Mr. Rizal. Then the people demonstrated on the street on
September 1990. That was a historic event. But soon after the
demonstration the government deployed military in the Lhotshampas
villages Loot, plunder, rape to persecution began tremendously.
Government closed down all the schools, hospitals, water supply and
communication facilities in the six southern districts. These are still
closed. With the military force, the government forcibly exiled nearly the
half of Lhotshotshampa population. About a hundred thousand
Lhotshampas were forced out of Bhutan. They went first to India, but
India pushed them to Nepal. They are still living in UNHCR refugee
camps in Nepal for the last 13 years.
The government imposed strict rules against all the reaming Lhotshampas
in Bhutan. One of such a harsh rule is that Lhotshampas are forced to
obtain No Objection Certificate from Police in order to get anything from
the government. Without NOC, the government do not give school
admission, scholarship, employment, business license, travel documents,
everything. At the same time Police do not give such certificate to the
Lhotshampas because the government has already declared them as
antinational. At the moment the government is issuing a new type of
citizenship card. Old ID card is now not valid. But the Lhotshampas are
not given this new ID card because they are not NOC in the first place.
Now you know how the government violates human rights. As a result of
this system, the remaining Lhotshampas are held as stateless in their own
country. They will also face forcible exile systematically.
Several rounds of talks between Nepal and Bhutan held until now to
resolve this humanitarian crisis has failed due to Nepal’s incapability or
insincerity and Bhutan’s trick to delay and dissolve these thousands of Page 5-6
Lhotshampas in Nepal and Indian slums. Bhutan forced to divide these
refugees in to four categories such as those found to be forcefully evicted,
emigrated, criminals and non nationals instead of categorising them as
Bhutanese and Non Bhutanese if it ever was suspicious. 15 rounds of talks
between Bhutan and Nepal failed to repatriate these refugees. Bhutan
declared only about 2% of these 130,000 refugees to accept them back but
yet repatriation was never initiated.
This is a great injustice that was done to the minorities by Bhutan
government because this crisis was created not by war or natural
calamities, but by the regime. Here unless we pressurize the culprit,
Bhutanese minorities will be eliminated in course of time.
India has ignored the plights of Bhutanese minorities. India did not give
shelter to Bhutanese refugees but instead pushed them to Nepal. Now
India does not give way to these refugees to go back to Bhutan.
While half the population of Bhutanese Hindu minorities are living as
refugees in exile, half of them are resisting inside Bhutan. The
government made the life of these people very insecure. They are likely to
be exiled step by step unless the forcibly exiled ones are not repatriated.
Our 13 years of refugee life has proved that simply bilateral talks between
Bhutan and Nepal are not going to solve the refugee crisis. If the refugees
are created by war or natural calamities, than such refugees may be able
go to back to their original home land and begin their normal life. But
Bhutan’s refugee crisis is created by the king himself. So unless he is
compelled to accept the refugees back, the crisis continues.
At the moment Bhutan government is drafting a constitution. In the
drafting committee the king did not include any Lhotshampas. So the
constitution will be bias and does not protect the rights of minorities. In
other words, the rights of the minorities will be violated constitutionally
and no one can help any more. Bhutan’s economy is dependent largely to
the grants given by India and European governments. So far not a single
human rights condition are attached to such grants however Bhutan has
been violating all the 30 rights and freedoms given in the universal
declaration of human rights. The Dutch government provides about 10
million Euros to Bhutan every year and does not control how Bhutan is Page 6-6
using it. Such grants have been elevating the atrocities against the
If we are committed and develop feeling of oneness, all of you can tame
Bhutan to observe the International norms and principles. If this is not
done in time, right now, then the minorities of Bhutan will extinct in next
few decades and results to what have happened already to Hindus of
Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Please help us for the justice.
For information on Bhutanese Hindu and Bhutanese refugees please
Nanda Gautam
The Netherlands
Tel: +31 (0)6404 90975

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