New Delhi – A delegation of Indian MPs would visit Thimphu and take an account of the preparation of the first democratic elections in Bhutan. This was decided unanimously in a seminar organized by Bhutan Solidarity in New Delhi today. The seminar also came to a decision collectively that a chance should be given to refugees, who are more than one hundred thousand in number and currently staying in Jhapa and Morung districts in Nepal, so that they could participate in the democratic process in Bhutan. Another resolution of the seminar sees the problem of Bhutanese refugees not only an issue between Bhutan and Nepal, but India is also involved very closely. A tripartite dialogue between Nepal, Bhutan and India is needed to solve the problem.
While addressing the seminar, Forward Block’s Secretary Devrajan expressed his concern over the plight of democracy in the neighboring country of India. He was worried also about the Indian Government’s view over this issue and the current Indian Foreign policy, which is being now guided by and in favour of economic vested interests. We are looking at Myanmar for the reserves of natural gases and in Bhutan our focus is on hydroelectric projects. That’s the reason why our government is supporting autocratic rulers and extending her helping hand in the repression of democratic forces. Devrajan was very critical of Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee. He mentioned his statement in which he said that the problem of Bhutanese refugees is not a problem between Nepal and Bhutan but it’s an international one. But a few days after making this statement, probably under pressure, he retreated from his position and again termed the problem as bilateral. Devrajan reminded the misbehavior faced by the then Defence Minister of India George Fernandes, who had to put his clothes off in an insulting manner at a airport in the US during his visit. Therefore how can we imagine that the same US would rehabilitate 60 thousand Bhutanese on its land. It’s a sheer deception. The US is maneuvering by any means to set its presence in South Asia and we should be careful of this design.
Senior Journalist Kuldeep Nayar also expressed his concern over the apathy of the Indian Government towards the atrocities on Bhutanese refugees. He was optimistic also of a democratic Bhutan and said that one day democracy would usher in bhutan and then what our government would say to Bhutanese people. He said if the king of Bhutan is really taking honest steps for a democratic system in Bhutan, he should call all those citizens of Bhutan who are staying in refugee camps since last 17 years, back to the country before the scheduled election in 2008.
Inaugurating the seminar the president of Bhutan Solidarity and MLA of Madhya Pradesh Assembly Dr Sunilam elaborated why different political parties of India are required to be active on the issues of Bhutanese refugees. He said the Indian government should rethink its Bhutan policy keeping the pressure exerted by common people and political parties and the Indian government should approach the issue through the human angle.
The ex-president of Bhutan Solidarity Anand Swaroop Verma expressed his doubt if there is no peaceful solution of this problem, then it would be not easy to stop youths of these refugees camps from taking up violence as a solution. He called the US plan a conspiracy and appealed for the Indian government to give its attention to the refugee problem timely because it would be a last chance now. He took the presence of the worst autocratic rule of the world as the most unfortunate situation in the neighbourhood of the world’s largest democracy.
Samajwadi Party MP Brijbhushan Tiwari expressed his solidarity with refugees’ struggle for return to their own country. He said that he went to Jhapa in April this year and had a dialogue with refugees. They were not ready to rehabilitate themselves in the US or any third country, under any circumstances. They have made up their mind to face any threat and want to return to their own country in any situation. Tiwari appealed to the Indian Government to understand refugees’ emotions and not to put any hindrance in the process of their return. He narrated the incidents of forcing them with lathis and bullets to go back on the Mechi Bridge built on the Indo-Nepal border. He was present in Jhapa at a time when refugees were trying to cross the bridge to go back to their homeland. He promised to launch a movement in India for the return of refugees and pressurize our government through public opinion.
Forward Block’s MP from Cooch Bihar Hiten Burman told about his familiarity with Bhutanese refugees. He always made efforts to help government in finding a solution to the problem. Expressing his discontent over the Bhutan policy of the Central Government he worried if there is no early solution to the problem, the situation could be devastating.
Representatives of three prominent political parties of Bhutan – Bhutan People’s Party, Druk National Congress and Bhutan National Democratic Party took part in the seminar. These three parties are banned in Bhutan. Expressing his greetings to the seminar, the president of Bhutan Peoples Party Balram Paudel informed the house through a message about the current situation of refugees. Due to his illness he couldn’t be present in the seminar.
The president of Druk National Congress Rongthong Kunley Dorji exposed the scheduled 2008 election in his speech. He said it is a farce only to deceive the international community. He explained how the king of Bhutan declared the leading political parties as illegal in Bhutan and formed new parties with the help of his nearest relatives. The king is designing a conspiracy for the election amongst those relatives’ parties. He alerted the Indian government about the increasing interference of international forces and suggested they follow the foreign policy towards Bhutan for the time being as it has been done in the past. Dorji deposed his faith in Indian government and requested them to rethink the refugee problem with a sympathetic approach. It is sad for a democratic country like India to support an autocratic monarchy.
Dr DNS Dhakal, president of Bhutan National Democratic Party condemned the repressive steps of the Bhutan Government and made an appeal to the people of India to pressurize the Indian government for dignified and safe repatriation of Bhutanese refugees.
The president of CPI (ML)-(New Proletariat) Shivmangal Siddhantkar also condemned the Indian government in strong words and said Indian government has been subservient to the US and busy in implementing American policies in Bhutan also. Ignoring democratic forces in Myanmar and Bhutan it has collaborated with the autocratic rulers for its vested interests, which is highly condemnable.
Pramod Kaphley, the human right activists from Nepal, narrated how there have been 16 rounds of talks between Nepal and Bhutan, but no solution has been achieved so far. He also emphasized the need for India’s presence in the dialogue without which there would be no solution to the problem.
In his presidential address, senior socialist leader Surendra Mohan expressed his concern to Bhutanese refugees and solidarity to Bhutanese refugees’ struggle. He said that in the history from the times of Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru to the present period, India never accepted such a situation where Nepal, Bhutan or Sikkim (of that period) could make a policy independently. He narrated the incidents related to Sikkim and quoted from the former prime minister of Nepal, the late B P Koirala to substantiate his remarks. Attacking Indian policy on Bhutan, he appealed to the Indian government to stop giving support to autocratic rulers and to stand by the side of democratic movements. He called the people to pressurize the government to do so. Surendra Mohan gave his full approval to the proposal made by Devrajan of Forward Block to send a delegation of Indian MPs to Thimpu for the study of Bhutan’s sate of affairs and to submit its report to the Parliament in return.