The other side of Bhutan: a cruel country with no justice?

Dear Doctor Reiki,

We appreciate your long and impressive involvement in Bhutan. I am confident that you know about this country perhaps more than someone my age. Your years of involvement in Bhutan are more than my age. What concerns me is the recent book you have published about your love for Bhutan and the alleged betrayal: the title itself is at once doubtful and intriguing. Why would anybody be banned in Bhutan? That is quite baffling to me. Plus, when I went through the preview available in the google books, it seems like you have talked about the problems in Bhutanese south in the 1990s. That is how scholars from the west like to paint it — problems in southern Bhutan involving southern Bhutanese of ethnic Nepali origin. The fact — which our scholars would clearly see if only they had the willingness look at it — is not so much as a clash of a minority and a majority as it was an implosion within from the geopolitical pressures and development from without. Most of what is written about that period in Bhutan by western scholars are often, may I say, one-sided, incomplete, a tip of the iceberg, more an opinion than scholarship, as it were. The gory/sugar-coated picture of Bhutan they paint doesn’t fit the definition of objective scholarship. History is strange stuff, malleable, easily manipulated, stretched and squeezed to suit your own narrative. How long does history have to wait to be tailored to suit the needs of writers who have personal vendettas against certain people or a country?

And here too, you have made such hasty, half-true, one-sided claims which in fact doesn’t deserve even a decent rebuttal. Nonetheless, I am writing this because you are someone who has learnt enough about Bhutan to know the truth and your unsubstantiated claims are a shock to me.

My design here is not to project my country as a Shangri-La. That is a definition given, again, by the western scholars. I am not at all evangelical for such illogical tosh as that. But any civilisation or a country or a people, no matter how insignificant, how base, deserves a decent, truthful representation. One can’t denigrate a nation to solve personal scores, whoever the person in question may be.

I am writing this not as displeasure at what you have said about my country. It is just to point where the lapse of judgment lies in your claims. You are a scholar of considerable standing. We expect some truth and objectivity in your scholarship. Of course, I don’t disagree to all the points you make. There is also truth in what you say. When someone points your flaws, you have to take them as feedback for improvement. We are happy with your objective scholarship. But as to other hasty claims you make fishing out self-serving pieces from history, you simply betray your formidable learnings about Bhutan and join the bandwagon of people who are out there in hundreds who make ludicrous claims masquerading as Bhutan experts.

Let me give you come contrary truth to what you claim in several pieces you have written or said about Bhutan:

  1. The Bhutanese education system is open to all and till the tenth standard, every young Bhutanese has the inalienable right to primary education paid for by the Royal Government of Bhutan. One does not have to produce citizenship identity card to go to school.
  2. Health facilities and cellphone (ludicrous claim you have made!) are also not subject to your having or not having a citizenship ID card.
  3. Your having or not having an ID card is not defined by your ethnicity; everybody is subject to certain requirements of the laws and the due process has to be followed to get your citizenship.
  4. Young people are almost always provided with an ID card if they don’t have one yet when they reach the age to go to a college or get a job. By the way, you don’t have to produce an identity card to get a college degree from any college in Bhutan.

Also, allow me to ask of you this:

  1. You have been to Bhutan for the last 26 (?) years. What stopped you from saying all these when you were here? What made you wait for the alleged betrayal to voice out against the injustice? If you knew it all along and didn’t speak because you had a business and scholarship interest in Bhutan which would have been jeopardized if you spoke up, then doesn’t that qualify as complicity?
  2. Why were you ‘banned’ in Bhutan?

I am a southern Bhutanese of ethnic Nepali origin currently working as a government employee in Bhutan.