The Bhutanese refugee impasse is progressively stepping towards complication. Gradually, it is attracting individual refugee and well-wishers into hot debate. This decade-and-half years of pending issue has been one of the biggest burdens for South Asia. Even the world community is unreceptive to the dilemma. The long stay in the unimproved camps under the plastic canopy with hesitant future has multiplied aggravations and dejections within individual refugee.
The final hopes have once again revived after the news stating the announcement regarding 16th round of Nepal-Bhutan talk was publicized. Repatriation Vs Resettlement: Citing the unfeasibility of early repatriation, the US and few other countries and the refugees’ chief aiding agency, UNHCR have almost begun hinting the package of third country settlement. Countries such as the Netherlands, Canada, and Switzerland are well-ahead to back the dealings of relocation. However, it is not yet made public about the procedures, pros and cons about resettlement. Indeed, the UNHCR’s slow poisoning towards making refugees forced to opt for only one option is against international laws related to human rights. Since the time when relocation package is brought-up it provoked faction within refugees; individual’s opinion can be distinctly seen divided into different forms. The literate youths’ circles are running behind third country resettlement. The other elderly, illiterate groups are still willing to get repatriated as they say they have sweated a lot to bring Bhutan into present state.
A query, why America despite exerting pressure over Druk dictator to take back its citizens, is encouraging these refugees in allowing the US land to relocation, always remain hidden. The core group comprising 14 big world’s democratic countries’ joint effort for repatriation would pave a way for discouraging absolute monarchy towards further suppression inside Bhutan. Leading political and apolitical organizations existing in exile have repeatedly criticized such moves claiming this option would not give entire justice to refugees. The other interesting fact is that groupism in camps has begun to anti-campaign about leaders stand towards only repatriation. This proves that right to choose any options should be given to refugees unconditionally. Nepal’s Fallacy: Nepal waited for the solution depending upon the futile bilateral talks between the two Himalayan nations, which held one after the other in Kathmandu and Thimphu. This is the biggest and uncorrectable mistake that Nepal did amidst refugees’ appeal to involve India in the talks. These talks’ unfruitful outcomes resulted into frustration and mental depression within refugees. Perhaps, it wouldn’t be mistaken to say that India, the chief vigor to solve the issue, remained inert for the past 16 years. However, Indo-Bhutan Treaty of 1949 hands over the foreign policy control to India. Nepal always stands flexible in its policy and situate towards the imbroglio. It would be better if Nepal could clearly and urgently make public about government stance and policy towards Bhutanese refugee issue to bar ideological differences and internal divergence within refugees. There will be Nepal’s ‘diplomatic failure’ if it could not step towards safe landing of the crisis before it is too late. It was Nepal which entirely lingered in two-sided talks despite internationalizing the mess during the early years when few round of talks yielded no progress.
The agreement of placing refugees into four categories was another biggest fault because of which innocent, old-staged including even children at Khudunabari, one of the verified camps were put under the ‘Terrorist group.’ 16th round of bilateral talks: Now, it is learnt that the government of Nepal is arranging for bilateral talks with Bhutan. This would be 16th attempt to find amicable solution to the prolonged refugee stalemate through bilateral talks. Refugees including their well-wishers are eager towards this talk as it is going to be held after a long gap and amidst confusing state. In fact, Bhutan at hand is having more risks in the days ahead if it still conceals the facts that these refugees are to be repatriated without a delay. The more divided opinion it finds in refugees the more problem it generates to Bhutan. Bhutan should clearly understand that if these refugees opt for third country resettlement and still posse a feeling of nationality, it would be at menace because those refugees would be well equipped both physically and mentally to step towards normalizing silent state terrorism inside Bhutan.
The rising of communism both inside Bhutan and in refugee camps would be an additional threat to Bhutan if it cannot return these refugees to their original homestead at the earliest possible. Nepal, on the other hand should comprehend that the refugee problem is a problem aroused between Bhutanese government and refugees. It shouldn’t abscond Bhutan in the 16th round of bilateral talks free of giving concrete, practical and justifiable decision to refugee problem. Nepal must then understand that the US is in a position to overcome onto Nepal’s policy forcing refugees to accept its package in case if it fails to grasp concluding decision during the talks. The Nepali community from every corner of the world will test Nepal’s eligibility towards giving entire justice to the minority Lothsampa ethnic group from Bhutan making them return homeland with honor, dignity and compensation. Furthermore, Nepal is sure to encounter similar problems in the future if these refugees are allowed to relocation in western lands. Thus, it should not go agreeing with the unnecessary conditions of concerned states or other countries. Without delay, Nepal should work towards expediting repatriation process of these refugees.
(Editor of ‘The Bhutan Reporter’ and Assistant Editor at http//:www.apfanews.com, Mishra is President of Third World Media Network-Bhutan Chapter and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org)