REPORT OF SYMPOSIUM “BHUTANESE REFUGEES – THE TRAGIC STORY OF FORGOTTEN PEOPLE”
The symposium, titled as “Bhutanese Refugees – the tragic story of forgotten people” was organised by the HRDI to address the plight of 1,30,000 ethnic Hindu and Nyingmapa minority of Bhutan, which formed one-fifth of its population and was forcibly exiled by the State to suffer torture, hopelessness, despair and loss of political status and thereby making Bhutan the only country in the world that has the highest percentage of population living as refugees outside its boundaries.
The symposium was held on 14th July, 2012 at Indian Law Institute, opp. Supreme Court of India, New Delhi. The program started at 10 am. During the program 92 delegates got themselves registered which included lawyers, journalists, professors, students, poets, authors and Human Rights Activists and organisations.
Dr. Inder Mohan Kapahi, an educationalist and the Vice-President of HRDI, initiating the discussion, greeted the delegates and the distinguished speakers. He invited Mr. K. N. Adhikari, Charge’ d’ Affaires, Embassy of Nepal, New Delhi to the dias and reqested him to be the as the Chief Guest and key-note speaker for the first session. He further invited Dr. Bhampa Rai, Chairman of Bhutan Refugees Repatriation Committee; Mr. D. P. Kafley, General Secretary, People’s Forum for Human Rights, Phuntsholing Bhutan, presently operating from Jhapa, Nepal along with Mr. Gopal Aggarwal, noted economist on the Dias.
Mr. Chandra Shekhar Randev, the Secretary – organisation opened the program by introducing the delegates about activities undertaken by HRDI in the past and about the future activities of HRDI. For the explicit list of HRDI past and future activities, kindly visit our website www.hrdi.in
Mr. Rajesh Gogna, Secretary General of HRDI, introduced the subject and assured all possible help and support to the cause of Bhutanese refugees.
Ms. G. Sanjana, recited the poem ” Refugee “. The Poem was authored by Mr. Naresh Shandilaya, noted Hindi poet and secretary of HRDI. To read the poem and it’s recital by Sanjana kindly visit our website http://www.hrdi.in/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Kavita-Naresh-Shandilya.pdf.
Prof. Anand Kumar of JNU explained the plights of Bhutanese Refugees and condemned the mockery of democracy (family form of democracy) being practised by the King of Bhutan. He strongly demanded that the Government of India should play a proactive role to solve this problem.
Dr. Bhampa Rai, Chairman of Bhutan Refugees Repatriation Committee, enunciated the political history of Bhutan. He informed the gathering that Nepali Hindus were invited by the then Bhutanese Ruler in 1624 A.D. and were subsequently recognised as Gorkhas. He explained as to how the political transformation and retrospective implementation of the Citizenship Act, 1985 opened Pandora’s Box and declared most of the Bhutanese Nepalese , the illegal immigrants. He appealed the Indian people and the Indian Government to take strong initiatives to help repatriation of Bhutan refugees back to their original homes in Bhutan and thus solve this refugee problem and the resultant social and political instability it is causing in the region as a whole. Visit our website http://www.hrdi.in/?p=3422 to read and watch the speech of Dr. Bhampa Rai.
Addressing the symposium, Mr. D. P. Kafley brought the Amnesty International’s report BHUTAN: FORCIBLE EXILE, 1994 to the notice of delegates. The report pondered upon how 1985 Citizenship Act of Bhutan contains a number of vague provisions and appears to have been applied in an arbitrary manner and pressed the immediate need to amend the same. Mr. Kafley in his speech commented upon the unrationaled articles of the Constitution of Bhutan which ignores the cultural diversity in the country and thus denies the right to equal protection of culture, costume and tradition. The addressed the inconsistency between Constitution of Bhutan on one hand and Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and International Covenant on Economics, Social and Cultural Rights on the other hand which gravitated the Bhutan towards multi-dimensional problems such as living in a state of fear, deprived of basic rights and freedoms, and refusal to the exiles of their rights to return back to their mother country with dignity and honour. Visit our website http://www.hrdi.in/?p=3427 to read and watch the speech of Mr. D. P. Kafley.
Concuding the session, Mr. K. N. Adhikari explained as to how Nepal Government established a Ministerial Joint Committee (MJC) with the intent of bringing about a speedy and durable solution to the problem. MJC conducted meetings from time to time and categorised the people staying in the camps into bonafide Bhutanese and non Bhutanese. He also described how persistently Government of Nepal requested Government of Bhutan for resuming the stalled bilateral process. He asserted that “Bhutanese refugees problem has created financial burden for Nepal and international community as well as social and environmental problem for Nepal”. In 2007 Nepal agreed to a third country resettlement programme. He informed the gathering that till date 66,876 Bhutanese refugees have been resettled in various countries of the would. He explained that being neighbours,Nepal expected and still expects, balanced, constructive and positive role from India in finding a durable solution to this common problem concerning refugees. Visit our website http://www.hrdi.in/?p=3431 to read and watch the speech of Mr. K. N. Adhikari.
Mr. Gopal Aggarwal concluded the session and thanked the speakers and the delegates for contributing to the discussion.
At 11:30, during intermission of 30 minutes, views were exchanged between speakers, delegates and other guests over tea.
The second session was addresed by Mr. Tarun Vijay, noted journalist and Member of Parliament of India; Mr. Karma Chhojey, President, Druk National Youth Congress, Bhutan and HH Swami SARV Chaturvedi, the Chairperson of Ramanujan Trust, Chennai.
Mr. Karma Chojey threw light upon the grave violation of basic natural rights of choice of religion in Bhutan. He expressed how the Sharchokps, who are the inhabitants of eastern part of the country and are predominately the followers of Nyingmapa tradition of Mahayana Buddhism, have been victimized by the regime during several periods of their existence. He pointed out how the elected government, even today, promotes only the Kagyu Buddhism while other Buddhist sects like the Nyingmapa continue to be sidelined thus depriving people’s right to their choice of belief. He enlightened the delegates about how Nyingmapa followers were victimized and as many as 16 teaching centres were closed down overnight with students having sent back to their respective homes. He explained the draconian behaviour with the people voicing their right to freedom of practising the religion of their choice. Visit our website http://www.hrdi.in/?p=3435 to read and watch the speech of Mr. Karma Chhojey.
Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Tarun Vijay, Parliametarian, explained the social constitution of Bhutan as a multi-religious, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-lingual society. He reminded the unfortunate event in the history of Bhutan when more than 1,00,000 Bhutanese citizens, nearly one-sixth of its kingdom’s total population of approximately 7,00,000 were forced to leave or forcibly evicted from the country by the royal regime solely on the basis of their religio ethnic identity. Visit our website www.hrdi.in to read and watch the speech of Mr. Tarun Vijay.
Mr. S.B. Gurung shared his personal experience of being a refugee. He explained the horrible conditions being faced by refugees. Mr. Gurung has been separated from his parents who are now taken refuge in Canada. For him the HOPE is the only HOPE for refugees and nothing else. Visit our website www.hrdi.in to read and watch the speech of Mr. S. B. Gurung.
Mr. Anil Arya, President Arya Samaj also extended support of Arya Samaj to Bhutanese Refugees and assured that Arya Samaj would impress upon the Government of India to intervene and support Bhutanese Refugees.
Mr. Arun Anand, being a senior journalist and diaspora expert pointed out the stagnant and underdeveloped media in Bhutan and its repercussions on the social development in Bhutan. He also expressed his unhappiness and melancholy over the fact that Indian media considering the Bhutan as an undervalued and unimportant subject to cover. He explained the exigent need of free flow of information between the media of two countries. Visit our website www.hrdi.in to read and watch the speech of Mr. Arun Anand.
Mr. O. P. Gupta, Former Ambassador and Diaspora expert in his speech brought attention of the delegates towards the ailment and passiveness of the Government of India in protecting interests of Hindus both within India as well as abroad. According to him though the relations between India and Bhutan are warm and friendly, yet the Government of India is unable to persuade the Government of Bhutan to resolve this refugee problem in more humane and effective way. Visit our website www.hrdi.in to read and watch the speech of Mr. O.P.Gupta.
Dr. M. Mahalingam, Research Fellow, Centre for Policy Analysis also read his paper and sympathised with the Bhutanese refugees. The condemned the growing tendency of intolerance towards religious and ethenic minorities. Visit our website http://www.hrdi.in/?p=3437 to read and watch the speech of Dr. M.Mahalingam.
HRDI also presented the “HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDER” award to Prof. Anand Kumar of JNU, Dr. Bhampa Rai, Mr. D. P. Kafley, Mr. Karma Chojey, Mr. Tarun Vijay, Mr. Anand Swaroop Verma, Mr. S. B. Gurung and Mr. Anil Arya for their outstanding contribution to the cause of Bhutanese refugees.
Mr. S.Sital, Chairman, Global Human Rights Defense, Hague, Netherlands was presented with the award of “HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDER OF THE YEAR” for his contribution to the cause of Indian Diaspora in Nepal, Pakistan, Bengladesh and Sri Lanka. Mr. Sital was awarded in absentia as he was not allowed to enter India by Indian Authorities for his Human Rights background and activism.
In the resolution session, the experts and the delegates discussed various ramifications of the conflict and passed resolution demanding intervention by Government of India to expedite the process of repatriation of Bhutanese Refugees. The government of Nepal was called upon to formulate refugee policy, enact refugee laws and provide all possible help to Bhutanese refugees. The international agencies were also called upon to revisit the issue and urge upon Government of Bhutan to expedite the process of repatriation. Visit our website www.hrdi.in to read the resolution.
Mr. Gauri Shankar Gupta concluded the programme by giving vote of thanks to the learned speakers and delegates.