Make your own free website on Tripod.com

Government Repression of Southern Bhutanese
[Lhotshampas]


The Citizenship Act of 1958 granted the Nepali speaking people (also called the Lhotshampas which means people living in the south) the full citizens of the country. As the nationwide programmes of development and modernisation commenced in 1961, the Lhotshampas, with the development of education, social services and the economy,during the 1960s and 1970s, rose to occupy influential positions in the bureaucracy. During the 1980s, the Lhotshampas came to be seen as a threat to the political order and Drukpa culture. The Durkpas of the northwest or the ruling elite began to see themselves as an endangered species that would one day be swamped by the Lhotsampas of the south or the Sharchops of the east.

In 1985 the government began its defense of Drukpa culture and traditions. A new citizenship act was passed that applied new criteria of citizenship, and made them retrospective, declaring all previous legislations null and void. The new citizenship Act of 1985, One Nation One People policy, Driglam Namza, Compulsory Labour, and No Objection Certificate were the vivid government repressions against the Nepali speaking Lhotshampas that resulted the democracy movement of 1990.

One Nation One People Policy

In the name of national integration, government's drive for "One Nation One People'' policy made all the southern Bhutanese liable to a fine or imprisonment if they ventured out in anything other than western traditional costume, and Nepali language was removed from the school curriculum. Many southern Bhutanese were fined and imprisoned for not complying with this order. The wearing of 'gho' and 'kira' , traditional Drukpa male and female garments was unsuited to the heat of southern Bhutan.

Driglam Namza, an ancient code of social etiquette of the western Bhutanese which dictates how to eat, how to sit, how to talk, how to dress or how to bow before the authority, and what hair style to adopt, was made mandatory to all the Bhutanese despite their cultural diversity.

May it be Driglam Namza or One Nation One People policy, but they clearly had the political objectives behind and were initiated politically with a view to binding the growing class of educated lot with complete obedience to the crown and the ruling elite. However it was difficult to the Bhutanese nationals of other ethnicity to surrender their own traditional customs whatsoever.

No Objection Certificate (NOC) and the closing of schools in Southern Bhutan

After the democracy movement of 1990, No Objection Certificate or a police clearance was made mandatory to all the southern Bhutanese in order to work, obtain license or attend school allegedly for having their implication in the movement. NOC was denied to the southern Bhutanese and all the schools in southern Bhutan were closed down which deprived about 30,000 southern Bhutanese school children of their right to education. Seeking admission in schools in other districts was impossible owing to the so-called NOC.

Other repression included strict marriage laws that imposed heavy burdens on anyone marrying a foreigner. A policy to create 'Green Belt' along the southern border threatened the eviction of thousands of southern Bhutanese; a one month free labour was demanded from each household, the noncompliance of which was a heavy fine.

***