Bhutan: The Unheard Voices

Mr. L. N. Adhikari (This article may be disturbing. Therefore, people with labile psychological status may refrain reading this article!)

Bhutan, a land beautified by falls, swift flowing rivers, snow covered mountains and known by the dictum; a country with Gross National Happiness, on other hand, has terrible unheard voices. The mute spectators have been watching the totalitarian regime’s drama since decades. But the suppressed and entangled voices are never heard or brought to international arena. The authoritarian regime continued pouring its dirty policies, especially directed to the southern belt to eliminate the Nepali speaking Bhutanese from the land. The law of nature is inevitable. When the limit of atrocities were crossed, people showed their dissatisfaction towards the government in a form of peaceful demonstrations and rallies throughout the belt. However, the seed of basic rights and freedom was crushed by the autocratic regime by random arrest. Furthermore, the levying of martial law gave way to rampant and widespread incidents of rapes, killings and abuses by the armed forces .Schools were turned into army barracks, southerners were paralyzed by denying the access to education, access to health care, free transportation and other basic facilities. Thousands were arrested, many killed and more than 16% of its population is displaced. However, longing for fundamental rights and freedom is still alive in the hearts and mind of those exiles forced out since early 90’s.

Thousands were arrested and imprisoned without trail. The condition of the detainees in the prisons is woeful and indescribable. The detainees who dared to raise voice against the regime were tortured to death, women were raped to death and documented as suicide cases. Detainees were treated no better than animals. A meal with boiled radish without salt that used to be hardly permitted per day would be a kingly supper. No relatives would have access to meet the detainees and their access to news and medical care was out of question. They had no choice than to face hardships; once they got arrested. Sleeping in space of one square meter dark box without clothes was common practice. The detainees had no possibility to bathing and washing, therefore the sickness. Communication among the detainees was never possible. The detainees passed months and years without witnessing sun light. With the approach of the darkness, the daily routine of torture would begin. A group of security personals in disguise come in each prison box. They torture the detainees till they were exhausted. Then after came the other group to continue it, again till the dawn. So the nights were nothing but a symbol of death. Making to dance nude, exposing to snow, and hitting on the venerable areas were the common torture techniques of the security personals in Bhutan. The detainees were made to accept the fake charges by using electric shocks. Making them blind folded and letting high speed water to run through the face was another technique of torture used by the government. The magnitude of cruelty committed by the regime is unimaginable and inhumane.

Ability to day dream and self gossip was the happiest span of time in the jail. Months and years passed hoping for hopeless hope to establish freedom, and begin a new way of life in the land of dragon. But time didn’t favour. Rather it turned worst. A set jean trousers and a T-shirt rot to pieces. The tight and continues use of hand cups and shackles caused wounds on the hands and legs, later turned to rugged, deformed and permanent scars. Hair and beard grew long and shabby; body became pale, lean and thin. The detainees, with each dying day and each dying month could limit to the chamber, weak and fragile; with virtually no energy to move. One could hardly distinguish whether he was a teenager or a meditating priest.

On one hand, hope of life was slowing fading due to unbearable routine torture, horrifying experiences and continuous fear. But on the other hand, a ray of hope of release always embedded in one corner of the heart. An aching thought, expectation and faith on party friends never died - sooner or later they would do something for the release. Later on a rumour came that all the party cadres and villagers were forced to leave Bhutan also those who were organised in India to assist for our welfare. They had no choice other than to regroup in Nepal and share their retrospective views. Sympathetic system retarded, collapsed and eclipsed both the hope of life and the release.

1 Mr. L.N Adhikari is one of those Bhutanese who narrates the other side of Bhutan. He is one of the successful Bhutanese in the Netherlands. His ability to go through the hardtimes is unmeasurable by the Gross National Happiness propaganda of Bhutanese regime.