NOT QUITE SHANGRI-LA
BHUTAN’S PERSECUTION OF ITS NEPALI-SPEAKING MINORITY, LHOTSHAMPA, TELLS A DIFFERENT STORY ABOUT THE HIMALAYAN IDYLL
The Himalayan nation of Bhutan, often described as a “Shangrila” where happiness is equated to wealth, is holding elections this week. But the Lhotshampa people, brutally driven out of the small kingdom in the 1990s, won’t be voting.
The Nepali-speaking Lhotshampa were branded as immigrants and stripped of citizenship rights when the then-king introduced a “One Nation, One People” policy in 1985.
The edict made following the customs of the Buddhist majority mandatory, including wearing their traditional dress, and speaking Nepali was banned.
Those who resisted where labelled “antinationals,” arrested and subjected to brutal treatment including rape and torture, according to Amnesty International.
The security forces made detainees sign declarations saying they would leave
Bhutan voluntarily as a condition of their release.
Some 100,000 — one sixth of Bhutan’s population — fled, ending up in refugee camps in eastern Nepal.
One man who left Bhutan is Bhumpa Rai, who was serving as a royal doctor when the king’s edict was promulgated.
“They humiliated us... they said that we are not Bhutanese and chased me and my people from the country,” Rai said.
The king offered him protection from the Draconian rules,
Some 100,000 Lhotshampa — one sixth of Bhutan’s population — fled the kingdom, ending up in refugee camps in eastern Nepal.