Simple words are better suited for bitter truths and blatant fallacies. In dealing with topics of this complexity I prefer to use them over beautiful ones that are better suited for poetry and legal jargon.
Earlier on I expressed some views about the time period between 1977 and 1985 in a brief analysis titled Nine Years of Truth. I spoke about why we do not need truth commissions but need to focus on unity. That is because, the truth has been out there for 30-35 years i.e. Bhutan began assimilationist policies to wipe out nepali cultural traits, well before 1989. The touchy-feely politik of Bhutan could have simply ignored cultural differences. But they cultivated an obsession for their own culture, and an apprehension for ours.
They treated their own country like a machine with blocks and flocks, not a place where different human beings, with different opinions lived. Much like we still zip our lips about the caste machinery and ethnic differences in our exile community, expecting it will be fine as if we were always fixed parts, certain forms and features, with no potential for taking a different direction in history. And such machinery always leads to injustice. I did end my earlier analysis saying that we posed a cultural and economic threat to the Ngalops, but their response to it was extremely disproportionate. And they misjudged our strength, and our resilience to remain an issue. They could not act like the elder brother or elder sister showing tolerance and love, right from the start. They could not. Because apparently between 1977-1990, we all had plans to pack them up, one by one and send them off to the moon.
From my own family experiences, I sense that people were angered, only when they were dispossessed of their identity and challenged for who they were, when in fact everyone had equal rights to be dignified citizens. Horrific torture victim stories remain testament to the degrading treatment of the southerners.
Obviously, Gross National Happiness was the happy hoax of butterflies, that fluttered its wings through the nomadic skies, with blood petals and contagious slogans of parochial tribalism. Yet you ask, a little sip of truth for this bloodlet, in this bloodletting game of truth versus truth.
Historical facts can never be made from thin air. And nothing could be more short-circuited than that. Look at the whole Bhutanese Nepali historical paradigm, squeezed like a piece of lemon, by the propaganda and technocratic potential of Bhutan, stampeding all the life out of genuine stories that remain latched to our continuing existence.
We on the other hand, are coughing and kicking back, with blindfolds and suicide notes.
Simply put, history is important, but even after 27 years, we have not used it enough. The cultural hegemony has to be reversed and this cannot be done by writing and talking, more and more truth. It requires political action through unity and communication.
The Kings of Bhutan have ruled with mystic power based on Buddhism and the raven crown. But we did not buy any of that. Educated and free, we asked for an explanation for the discrimination, second class treatment and denial of the nepali identity. By the way, I use Lhotsanepali as a short hand definition of our cause. I know it could be confusing, but I find it more liberating than long winding names. I understand why we still have to use Bhutanese for obvious reasons. But I use this word for convenience. So in 1989 thousands of us became anti-nationals, while the Royals transformed themselves into God’s children and also became significant propagandists in their form. They struck to the world as being extremely good looking, cinematic and symbolical. That is how they built and maintained their tribe. They focused all their attention on physical symbols and have almost won doing so. If they can have communities made of Kings and Queens, we could have actually made a community of people. Nothing fancy, just the usual thing. However need a unified process and symbols for that in exile.
So I suggest we:
1. Hold a universal day of remembrance for Bhutanese Nepali or Lhotsamapas or Lhotsanepalis across all resettlement countries in the common form of a World Bhutan Day
We can choose a historically significant date or we could make such a date. Also it should not conflict with major holidays. It should be a sustainable and flexible date such as – First weekend of July, so that people could participate, yet make time for other plans for families. The date should be convenient as we live in third countries, which have a completely different holiday cycle. This is an extremely important consideration.
This year it could be 5 September 2015, Sunday and the next year it could be 3 September 2016. This could also replace the burden off local community organisations to carry out local and national annual day celebrations. Firstly, these current celebrations are localised and secondly, they are losing participants. In fact there could be a steep revival in community if we are able to coordinate local to global scale events all at once. This will give everyone their community and connection back to them.
2. At this stage, let us think of a simple global candlelight vigil apart from a decent program and focus on the spiritual aspects of reviving a community by reading a declaration or anything for that matter to express solidarity at the same time. I have drafted one below.
“Our ancestors were citizens of Bhutan. We suffered immense socio-cultural persecution that continues to impact many lives to this day inside Bhutan, in exile and in third countries. The loss of lives, the perpetual physical pain, and the suffering associated with our persecution should always remind us that our common journey has been difficult. We acknowledge that our own heritage is socio-culturally, linguistically and spiritually diverse, but all are undeniably equal in significance. If we want to achieve collective justice for our dehumanisation some day in the future, then we must stand together with one bond, one cause for justice, that is free from caste, religion and ethnic divisions. We stand in unity.”
3. As part of your local community in cooperation with your local groups both incorporated and unincorporated, you will be in control, and the program could include just about anything from a simple candlelight vigil to a major traditional festival with traditional music, and this would depend entirely on communities within cities, states or countries.
4. Repeat it every year to keep the community alive.
5. Perhaps that could also act as a launchpad for many other social and international activities including campaigns for long-term justice, unity and freedom of political prisoners languishing in treacherous prisons.
So if you agree or if you are thinking to agree, then I would say that after twenty-seven years there is no harm in a modest show of solidarity. We must do this every year to bring the calm and unity whatever the circumstances back to the community, wherever the individual goes and whatever she or he does. Let it be the resting spot for our worldwide Bhutanese community. I invite you to visit the Facebook page and give your thoughts there or on google groups.