“Gross National Happiness Is a Lie”: Oakland’s Bhutanese Refugees Speak Out
Jason Ditzian

There is no Gross National Happiness in Bhutan. The Government of Bhutan is throwing the sand in the eye of International Community. Even today, there is no freedom of Speech and expression. The decision of the King is final and binding in the Himalayan kingdom.

Bhutan is a landlocked country bound by the Tibetan Autonomous Region of China to the North and India to the East, West and South. It is a multiracial, multi cultural and multi religious Himalayan Nation. Its population is 7, 00,000 and plus. Its area of 46,500 sq Km. Politically, now, Bhutan is a constitutional monarchy.

In the early 1990’s tens of thousands of Southern Bhutanese were arbitrarily stripped of their nationality and expelled from their homes from Southern Bhutan. The Southern Bhutanese, who are of ethnic, Nepalese origin, lost their jobs, homes, properties and citizenship as a result of discriminatory policies implemented by the Bhutanese government in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. Schools in Southern Bhutan were closed; the teaching of local language ( Southern Bhutanese Language) in the school and colleges was banned. The introduction of new and discriminatory citizenship laws followed by a census operation conducted only in Southern Bhutan stripped large numbers of Southern Bhutanese of their citizenship. Stringent citizenship requirements, including fluency in Dzongkha, the language of Northern Bhutan, and knowledge of the culture and history of Northern Bhutan, make it extremely difficult for Southern Bhutanese to re-acquire citizenship.

By the early 1990’s life in Southern Bhutan had become untenable for many and a nascent pro-democracy movement had formed. Demonstrations were held throughout Southern Bhutan in September 1990. The government responded with an aggressive crack-down resulting in widespread arrests, imprisonment, torture and rape of Southern Bhutanese. Forcible expulsion of Southern Bhutanese began in 1991 with the largest exodus in 1992. The Southern Bhutanese were forced to sign the so-called “Voluntary Migration Form” when they were expelled — thus forfeiting their rights to Bhutanese citizenship under the country’s citizenship laws. Although India boarders with Bhutan and is the natural country of first asylum, they were transited to Nepal boarder by the Indian armed force.

The Bhutanese refugees were forced to live in a riverbank, in Eastern Nepal with no food and shelter, no medical facilities and no educational institutions. Thanks god, UNHCR steps into the camps in 1992 with humanitarian aids thus making ease of the life of these thrown out people. The camps have administered by government of Nepal and assisted by UNHCR. Lutheran World Federation (LWF), CARITAS Nepal, Save the Children (UK), Oxfam (UK), Nepal Red cross Society have worked in the camps as Implementing Partners of UNHCR to provide food, shelter, medical facility and education to the Bhutanese Refugees.

The political efforts between Nepal and Bhutan were also made to find a solution for the Bhutanese refugee issues. They did not find any result. After the failure of sixteen rounds of bi-lateral talks between the two Governments, resettlement was proposed as durable solution by donor countries. Government of Nepal agreed on it.

The process of Third Country Resettlement began in October 2007 and 11 refugees were resettled in the month of January 2008. Since then, process of resettlement of Bhutanese Refugees to USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Netherlands and Denmark is being continued.

Now Where is Gross national Happiness?? if one sixth of the her population are living in exile seeking asylum, and many of the Eastern Bhutanese and southern Bhutanese are lacking appropriate Health, Education and Transportation facilities in Bhutan. People do not have clean drinking water and people have to walk a mile to purchase food even today.

There should be independent survey by foreigners to find out whether Bhutan has GNH or not.

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