Ethnic Conflict in Bhutan

Ethnic Conflict in Bhutan. ISBN81-85693-68-4 1999. Hard pp.251. Rs.395 Indian.

Political and Economic Dimensions

by Dr. Mathew Joseph C.

Dr. Mathew Joseph C. is a prominent South Asian scholar. Ethnic Conflict in Bhutan is an exhaustive study exposing the socio-political scenario behind the recent surge in the ethnic nationalism and ethnic conflict between Ngalong-dominated state and Lhotshampas (Southern people mainly of Nepali origin).

The book opens with a survey of the British colonial policy towards Bhutan and the Himalayan region and offers a critical examination of the structure of the Bhutanese society and policy.

Employing  empirical date based on up-to-data research, Dr. Joseph explores the hidden chapters of Bhutan’s obscure history, and locates the roots of the ethnic conflict in the politico-economic developments that took place in the early 1950’s.

Negating the Government statistics that gave misleading image of “Drukpa backwardness” and “Nepali prosperity”, the author states that the post-1964 alliance between King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck and the “theocratic” traditionalists initiated the lethal “Bhutanese drive“ of “one nation, one people”, which was vigorously implemented in 1980s, and in due course resulted in an ethnic inferno that has till today rendered more than 1,00,000 people of Nepali origin homeless.

Dr. Joseph also points out the emergence of paranoia among the ruling elite of Bhutan due to the role of the people of Nepali origin in Sikkim in her accession to the Indian Union and their militant struggle waged in the Darjeeling Hills for a separate Nepali-speaking state in India.

Ethnic assertion contrary to the experiences of our times has unleashed the forces of democratization in Bhutan. The only viable solution, Dr. Mathew Joseph suggests, for the ruling elite of Bhutan, is the establishment of constitutional monarchy with multiparty democracy based on secularism and ethnic diversity.

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