4 December When you read the articles of the ‘refugees’ and their supporters, they keep mentioning that Bhutan practiced ethnic cleansing and that a ‘staggering’ one-sixth of its population was ‘evicted’. They never forget to say that the Nepalese population has been in Bhutan since the time of the Zhabdrung implying that all Nepalese in Bhutan are legitimate citizens and there never was illegal immigration.

But we all know the truth. Yes there was migration to Bhutan from Nepal prior to 1958, and a lot of it was illegitimately done by the erstwhile Bhutan House led by the Dorji family. However, all of these immigrants were legitimized by the 1958 Citizenship Act that laid out certain conditions for their naturalization. 

The biggest boost to further immigration began after 1961 and the first of the still on-going Five Year Plans. When Bhutan could not provide the needed manpower for the sudden surge in constructions, Bhutan avoided the natural solution to use Indian workers of the implicit threat of being flooded by too many of them. As a ‘safer’ option, Nepalese workers from the region were instead employed.

The mistake lay in the fact that there was already a Nepali community in Bhutan which provided a very convenient cover for those wishing to stay on. So throughout the 1960s until 1988, when the first national census began, illegal immigration was in full swing.

Today there is more proof of this going on even in the face of much stricter control over immigration and census. Recently an ‘citizenship identity card racket’ was unearthed in Samtse. Eleven men with non-Bhutanese Nepalese wives produced forged documents and impersonating other people to process citizenship identity cards.  Usually the impersonation is of dead people whose identity they are trying to usurp. This was one of the observations in the south where deaths were rarely reported.

It is a joke therefore to expect the public to believe that there has never been illegal immigration in Bhutan.

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