Nepali Times
Gross national misery


Torture: Killing Me Softly Tek Nath Rizal Friends of Bhutan, Kathmandu 2nd Edition, 2010 Page: xiv+175
NPR 450

British India considered the three Himalayan kingdoms of Bhutan, Sikkim and Nepal as 'protected' client states. The ruling Ranas of Nepal proved their loyalty to the British Crown with the blood of Gorkha soldiers, the sweat of Tarai farmers and a share from the earnings of Newar traders and secured the right to deal directly with London on most matters.

The Chinese occupation of Tibet ensured that Kathmandu could exercise more freedom in its foreign policy than ever before after Indian independence. Ironically, developments beyond Himalayas in the north had a different effect on kingdoms smaller than Nepal.

Egged on by his American wife Hope Cooke, the Chogyal of Sikkim ran afoul of the Empress of India, Indira Gandhi. The Chogyal was forced out of his throne in 1975, and his kingdom annexed into the 22nd state of the Indian Union. A few years earlier, New Delhi strategists had engineered the admission of Bhutan into the United Nations to have a handy extra vote. The formal independence of Bhutan was now ensured, but so was its unofficial subjugation. Thimpu lost all control over its foreign policy.

With a population of over 600,000 Bhutan takes its distinctiveness rather too seriously. During the seventies the country was best known for its 3-D postage stamps, but by the nineties it had become notorious for its inhuman treatment of Lhotsampas: the only country in the world that has forced out one-sixth of its population. Aided and abetted by India, more than 100,000 Bhutan refugees have languished for 20 years in UN-managed camps in eastern Nepal. Western countries have now absorbed half of them, but the resettlement plan runs the risk of being interpreted as acquittal of the repressive regime in Thimpu.

Bhutan's best known prisoner of conscience, Tek Nath Rizal, has been a witness as well as victim of his country's ethnic cleansing. In Torture: Killing Me Softly he tells his story, perhaps more for the record than anything else, in simple but compelling prose.

Rizal has the credentials to present the case of Lhotshampas to the world. Born in 1947 in Lamidara in south Bhutan, he rose to be a member of National Assembly and the Royal Advisory Council. When he tried to protect the people he represented in the court of King Wangchuk, Sr., his position became a liability. The royal regime arrested him and put him through the techniques of torture tin-pot dictators the world over are infamous for. His book narrates the regime's crimes against humanity before the court of world history.

The 14 chapters detail what the world has pretended not to know about Bhutan behind its faÁade of 'Gross National Happiness'. Rizal recounts how the oppression of Lhotsampas was planned and systematic rather than the whim of an absolute ruler. However, when the author meanders into mumbo jumbo of "mind control" and gives full vent to his rage, the book tends to lose focus.

Some descriptions, however, capture the realities of torture and prolonged solitary confinement. Rizal writes about Rabuna Prison: 'The bird was furiously flying from wall to wall in sheer desperation, and was repeatedly colliding against the rough black wall. Its struggle continued for about an hour and helpless bird fell on the floor.' This understated sentence, like classic prison memoirs of other world leaders, brings out the full horror of what Rizal lived through much more than his seething tirades against the regime.

Also none too subtle is Rizal's indictment of the unhelpful attitude of the United Nations. 'I also realised that contrary to the universal principles and the ethos it espouses Öpeople lacking integrity and professionalism can find their way into high echelons of the UN agencies,' he writes. There is little doubt that the UN could have done a lot more a lot sooner than it did for the Lhotshampas.

The book is a timely critique of the 'one country, one people' concept and its unsuitability in South Asia's multicultural societies. Rizal's is a reasoned voice for liberty, equality and fraternity in a bastion of institutionalised discrimination in the world.

New home
"We will struggle for full democracy"

1. Karma
Guess what had Bhutan Government killed this disrespectful treasonist in the prison he would not have lived to tell the distorted story full of lie. International communities know the fair truth about these nepalese doofuses, and therefore settlling in the third country programme on humanitarian ground.

2. R RAI

Many years ago I met a Bhutanese of Nepalese origin who was a passionate patriot and loved his king sincerely.I still remember his praises for his king and the privileges he enjoyed as a college student(free high quality education etc.) 8 years later he called me from Damak to inform me that he had been living there as a refugee for a while! My heart ached badly - I was wordless. I could not understand how it could happen to a hard working, honest monarchist who would have died for Bhutan.

I now hear he is in US.

Why bad things happen to good people?

3. KiranL
The Bhutan regime has earned a lot of bad karma for the ethnic cleansing of its population, the curse will fall on future generations of Bhutanese. You will notice that whenever the apologists for the regime (this includes European fascists)  can't defend the indefensible human rights violations they unleashed, they will start insulting Nepal and Nepalis. Viz:  #1. Then thereis Bhutan's sleeping partner, India, which is complicit in this crime.  

4. ssrj

Nothing can move in Bhutan without India's permission. The fault lies with the Indians who claim to be the "Greatest Democracy" in the world while historically  supporting all suppressive neighbouring governments and  at times undemocratic movements that suited their politics.  Whether it be the  successive Sri Lankan governments ( and prior to that the Tamil Tigers) that have refused to address the genuine atrocities committed against the Tamil minorities or the Bhutanese government that has systematically cleansed the ethnic Nepalese from the country or the Nepalese Maoists who conducted violent rebellion in Nepal, all thrived with the explicit or implicit support of the South Asian superpower. No change can come to the region until the Indians practice what they profess (to be a democtatic nation that beleives in promoting democracy in the region and the world). Otherwise how would they be any different if not worse than   the Chinese who at least do not profess to be democratic.

5. Dick Chhetri

Rizal + His Life Story =Truth

Rizal + His Rage+ Blames to Countries/Agencies =

                                                            Siucidal to the Democratic Struggle

Mistakes can be corrected with "Jewel in the Lotus of the Heart". Om Mane Padme Huun!

Dick Chhetri

6. BB
#3 and #4 absolutely right. India's role in this Bhutanese refugee fiasco is the proverbial hidden iceberg in this sorry saga. The so-called "repressive monarchy" is just the tip. Apparently Rajiv Gandhi was the one who instigated the Druk monarch to carry out the ethnic cleansing of the Lotshampas 1990! - same time as the Gandhi regime engineered the political change in Nepal. India's role in all this is the real story that needs to be uncovered. ...but how can we expect this newspaper and its columnists, who are totally under the spell of India, to do so?!

7. Dev
If anyone blames The fourth King of Bhutan for so called ethnic cleansing approach he is cent percent wrong. King himself knew this hidden drama being played under his rule only in the latter part of 1993. This is the result of his trust upon his faithful citizens and bureaucrats. The sole drama was rehearsed privately by handful of people falling under immediate circle of the golden  throne. The then FM Late. Dawa Tshering, Dago Tshering, Om Pradhan and the likes held ample rounds of confident talks to develop the strategy. Indirectly backed by Fr. Mackey in banning the teaching of Nepali language in the southern schools and making compulsory the gho-and kira to all Bhutanese. For instance upon completing his schools visit in southern Bhutan in 1988 he quoted Samchi district being ' in Samchi I thought I were somewhere in a Nepali city' this statement encouraged Bhutan to forced southern Bhutanese to wear Gho and kira compulsory and banned Nepali language from teaching in the southern schools. I got to read Mr. Rizal's book from his site and found the book still incomplete. he has missed lot more genuine matters to tell the world the other-side of GNH.

For sure the fourth king on realising the unseen threat threaded under his rule made his mind to abdicate the throne and remain civil. Otherwise, he was true to his subjects. Rizal is not so harsh  with the Fourth King for he (king) trusted him and brought him from village to palace and the same move of his sounded threat to the immediate circle. The corruption scandal brought upon by Rizal while in auditing commission vexed the bureaucrats and from there began the disclosure of the drama. 

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)