Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Lhotsampas: Bhutan's forgotten people...

My first memories of Bhutanese refugees are of them arriving in trucks to eastern Nepal. It was the year 1992, and refugee camps had just been set up to house more than 100,000 new arrivals. I have a faint memory of a dusty truck with tired looking people arriving out of a stunning sunset. At high school, I thought I could solve the problem. It was, in my na├»ve view, just a simple misunderstanding between two communities. That’s what I told my mother. Twenty-two years on, the problem is still intractable.

The story of Bhutanese refugees never captured popular imagination. The expulsion of such a large population did not tarnish the image of Bhutan as Shangri-La, a beautiful Himalayan Kingdom with peaceful Buddhist citizens. While journalists were quick to pick up stories about Bhutan’s “Gross National Happiness”, they let the story of the ill-fated Lhotsampas, or the Nepali-Bhutanese community, slide.

The Lhotsampas always had their own distinct culture and identity. And it is this difference that led to their segregation. The Nepalese-Bhutanese population has always extended beyond the current Nepalese borders. It is easy to forget that long before nations were created and formalized, there was a fluid movement of people.

 Bhutan’s ruling Drukpas became concerned about the rebellious nature of the ethnic Nepalese from across its borders and the potential for trouble at home. It wasn’t a new concern. Back in 1954, the Maharaja of Bhutan - Jigme Dorje Wanchuk, had written to India’s Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, appealing to him to stop the political activities of Nepalese against Bhutan. Full story...

See also: Photo essay: refugees from Bhutan...

Related posts:
  1. Did you think Bhutan was a paradise? Not for its refugees...
  2. Hazara, one of the most persecuted ethnic groups on the planet...
  3. Kingdom of Happiness Bhutan struggles with democracy...
  4. Afghanistan: The Hazaras and ethnic cleansing...
  5. Rohingya: the world's most forgotten and abused people...

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