Ethnic cleansing in Bhutan.

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 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 1st class citizen, 2nd class are those who left Bhutan once and came back again but before 1958, 3rd class are those who were absent during 1958 census, 4th class are the children of foreign mothers, 5th class are the children of foreign fathers, 6th class are adopted people and the last 7th 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.

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 elites.

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 might loose his power in future. The fear increased more when the Indian Nepalis living along the border with Bhutan started agitating for aregional 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 29th 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 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 using it. Such grants have been elevating the atrocities against the minorities.

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