Srinand Jha, Hindustan Times ,
New Delhi, November 5, 2006
Anti-India sentiments are brewing at the Himalayan foothills in Nepal, fanned by belligerent groups of refugees from neighbouring Bhutan. They are desperate to return home, but India is barring their passage. The anger threatens to snowball into acts of terror against India.
Fired up by the success of the Maoist groups, Bhutanese refugees holed up in seven United Nations makeshift camps at Jhapa and Morang districts for the past 16 years, are opening a new battlefront against India.
A yet-to-be published joint survey by the Bhutan Solidarity, Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF) and the Group for International Solidarity (GRINSO) paints a grim picture. Forty per cent of the 1,10,000 refugees from Bhutan — aged between 17 to 40 years — are seething with rage against India for repeatedly scuppering their efforts to go back home.
With growing Maoist influence in the camps, the survey anticipates a ‘Palestine-like’ situation along the Himalayan frontiers. Over the past one-and-a-half decade, the camps have seen the rise of several Left wing political formations with Maoist links. One of them — the Bhutan Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist-Maoist) — formed in April 2003 aims to overthrow the Bhutanese monarchy through a democratic revolution. The party’s first press release was issued through a website of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist).
For India, which enjoys cordial ties with the Himalayan kingdoms, the developments do not bode well. The External Affairs Ministry failed to respond to a set of questions by HT. India’s stated position has been that the issue is of bilateral concern between the Bhutan and Nepal governments. So far, 15 rounds of talks have been held between Nepal and Bhutan and the 16th round is slated for November 21-22.
The draft alleges that the forced exodus of Bhutan citizens of Nepalese origin in the early Nineties was aided by the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), Indian security forces and the Royal Bhutan Army. Over the past two decades, Indian security forces thwarted nearly 10 attempts of refugee groups to re-enter Bhutan, it adds.
“India has been a silent spectator to the loot, rape, murder and forced eviction of Bhuta-nese citizens of Nepalese origin (referred to as Lhotsompas) and the emergence of a ‘Gorkhaland or Sri Lankan-kind’ of a situation cannot be ruled out; the situation may well get out of hand,” said Tek Nath Rizal, convener of the Bhutanese Movement Steering Committee — an umbrella group of Bhutanese civil rights organisations.