Still no news from Jeetan

I think I have a friend in prison.

At least, he was imprisoned a couple of months ago and until today I’ve not been able to get new information regarding his safety and well being.

My friend Jeetan training refugee kids in a Journalism Training, summer 2011

I am convinced of his innocence to the charges against him. I worked with him for a while and I’ve seen his passion for his people and the youth that he supported and trained. He is a special guy.

I suspect that his arrest has a lot to do with his continuous efforts for the youth in the camps and his work as a writer / poet involved in community work and refugee journalism.

Currently most contacts in Nepal seem more or less frozen or have at least weakened. Partly because some of my friends were resettled to other places on the globe and mostly to the United States. Partly because some of them have been threatened. The effect is that the story of Jeetan (an alias for his real name Jit) is still unclear.

And I find that worrying.

Therefore I repeat the appeal made by the AHRC (Asian Human Rights Council) on his behalf. Here is the story. If you want to support and apeal his case, and I urge you to do so, go to the AHRC website and sign the petition. This is the link.

This is the story of a desperate guy who was arrested unjustly only days before he was supposed to resettle and get a better life elsewhere:

14 May 2012

———————————————————————
NEPAL: Bhutanese refugee tortured and threatened with false charges in Kathmandu

ISSUES: Torture, Refugees, IDPs & Asylum seekers, Police violence, Arbitrary arrest and detention
———————————————————————

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information that a 29-year-old Bhutanese refugee, Jit Bahadur Subba, having applied for third country resettlement was arrested from the office of the International organization for Migrant on 27 April 2012. After his arrest, he was kept in illegal detention for two days without receiving any arrest warrant or detention letter in the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB), Maharajganj, Kathmandu. He was severely tortured under interrogation and threatened that false charges of drug smuggling would be filed against him. He is now detained at Hanumandhoka Police Station and needs immediate medical treatment. He was not allowed to meet with his lawyer without the presence of the police. 

CASE NARRATIVE:

According to the information we have received, 29-year-old Jit Bahadur Subba lives in the Bhutanese refugee camp, Beldangi II. He belongs to one of the thousands Nepali-speaking families who, after having lived for several generations in Bhutan, were expelled from the country to refugee camps in Nepal twenty years ago. Mr. Subba had applied for resettlement to the USA and was kept in the transit office of the International organization for Migrant (IOM) in Baluwatar, Kathmandu for investigation of his identification documents from 12th to 27th April 2012.

On 27 April 2012 at around 2.30 pm he was arrested from the IOM office by 4 to 5 police officers in civilian clothes. He was not given any reason for his arrest nor was any arrest warrant produced by the police. He was then brought to the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB), Maharajganj, Kathmandu. He was kept there for two days, without being provided with a detention letter or an arrest warrant. He was brought before a judicial authority on 29 April 2012, exceeding the 24-hour delay set up by the constitution for every person who is arrested to be produced before a judicial authority. This amounts to illegal detention.

He was kept in the CIB for two days, reportedly without being provided with any food or water. His family was not informed of his arrest. There he was interrogated regarding his alleged involvement in the forging of a fake passport and of having purchased Nepali citizenship. The first day he was tortured under interrogation by two policemen, wearing civilian clothes. He was slapped across the face a dozen times, the soles of his feet were beaten and the policemen beat him all over his body. Due to the pain he almost lost consciousness. The policemen then interrogated him on other the involvement of other persons in the same charges and, as he could not provide information, the policemen put a packet of drugs in his pocket and threatened to charge him with drug smuggling. As the policemen were wearing civilian clothes, he could not identify their ranks.

On 29th April, he was sent to Metropolitan Police Range, Hanumandhoka, Kathmandu, and was provided with warrant papers. He was produced before Kathmandu District Court on the same day. The court remanded him into custody for five days the first time, and for six days a second time. According to the police his case is under investigation under charges of forgery of citizenship documents and passports.

At no point during his detention was Mr. Subba informed of his legal rights. His lawyer visited him twice: once on 3 May in the office of the District Attorney, Kathmandu, and the second time on 8 May at the MPR Hanumandhoka. In both cases the police refused to allow the lawyer to meet with his client without the police presence. This is in spite of the Interim Constitution of Nepal guaranteeing the right of every person who was arrested to consult a legal practitioner and that the consultation should remain confidential.

The police was also present during the medical check-up of the victim when they sent him to Bir hospital on 7 May. Due to the presence of the police, the victim did not dare mentioning the torture to the doctor and the doctor did not ask about it either. Therefore the presence of the police during the medical examination prevented the victim from getting proper treatment and he was just provided with some anti-allergic medicines.

The victim’s health condition has deteriorated due to lack of proper treatment and the poor conditions in Hanumandhoka detention center. His body is covered with scars of worms and insects and he suffers from sleeplessness.

The victim is very afraid that he may receive further torture and measures must be taken for his protection immediately.

SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please join us in writing to the authorities listed below to express concern upon learning of the torture inflicted to Mr. Subba and urge the authorities to guarantee his physical and psychological safety. Please demand that an investigation should be launched into the allegations of torture and that the perpetrators should be held accountable. Please further urge the authorities to ensure that no confession extracted under torture could be used in court proceedings against the accused.

Please be informed that the AHRC is writing a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment calling for his intervention into this matter.

Alice Anna Verheij
writer, filmmaker, journalist, human rights worker

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Is resettlement a solution and a success?

As you all know I am pretty much involved with the fate of the Bhutanese exiles and especially with ones who have been resettled to my country and the ones who are left behind in the refugee camps in Nepal.

Today I read the following on Bhutan News Service, the webzine that is the only viable news source from the global Bhutanese community with good access to the refugee camps and the communities in the resettlement countries. They have become a trusted and all important news agency for te Bhutanese people focussing on Bhutanese in exile. No matter what the Bhutanese government is saying by the way. Anyway, this is what was written:

If everything goes as projected by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and resettling countries, at least 10.37 percent of exiled Bhutanese are likely to remain in the camps when the ongoing resettlement program ceases by 2015.

The initial camp population of 113, 486 has come down to 54,652 as 58,834 individuals have left for various western countries by January 19 this year, according to the UNHCR.

In total, 49,396 exiled refugees have left for the US, 4,213 for Canada, 3,217 for Australia, 589 for New Zealand, 612 for Denmark, 372 for Norway, 324 for the Netherlands, and 111 for the United Kingdom.

Of the remaining residents, at least 42,873 individuals have declared an interest in resettlement. Once this figure leaves for resettlement, the camp population will come down to 11,779.

The information is – as always – pretty reliable. But honestly, it’s also incomplete. Because the figures do not take into account the reality completely. Thing is, in the refugee camps live another over 3,500 refugees who have for various reasons not been registered as refugee by the Nepal government and therefore do not show up in the UN based statistics. So, if policy doesn’t change and there poor people are not counted and their situation managed properly the real figure of the population in the camps (by 2014 probably only the Beldangi camp will be left) will be closer to 15.000.

Giving a Journalism Training in Beldangi 2 camp, Summer 2011

And that is not all. Not all refugees live in the camps. Some (and their number really is unknown) live outside the camps in Nepal. Often in dire straits as they have no civil rights. And many live in India in Sikkim, Assam and elsewhere. Still they too are refugees, the ones in India obviously not acknowledged as such because there is the 1948 treaty between Bhutan and India stating that Bhutanese are allowed to travel, live and work in India. But these are the ones that can not return to Bhutan. They are just as well refugees and their figure is unknown. Only estimates exist that run upto 20.000.

So the worst case scenario of the number of remaining Bhutanese refugees in the Himalayan region really should be close to 35.000 and not less than 12.000 in 2014.
It is the way figures like these 11,779 in 2014 are communicated by the UN and the international community that assist in the cover up of reality. So the UNHCR statement that the resettlement is a success is based on the reality of the statistics simply not true. Of course it’s also not a failure, but a success is really sometinhg else.

The other thing that’s against the PR from the international community is the thoughts that resettlement is a good solution to the problem. Well, honestly is many cases of young people it certainly is for them. But many resettlers are older than 35. Which means that it is not certain they will be able to adjust to western society and for the elderly it is pretty clear that they never will. The social issues in the resettled communities are diverse and form a heavy burden. Issues like lack of possibilities to exercise religion, home sickness, loss of culture, conflicts in families because age differences and adjustment problems to western society, broken friendships and continuing long distance family ties that are increasingly difficult to handle are but a few of the issues burdening resettled refugees. Life is often a struggle that is not always lessened by resettlement. Because:

Imagine being in 40 years old.
Imagine that in the past you were driven into exile and ended up without any hope for a decent future in a refugee camp.
Imagine living under bamboo roofs and simple soil for most of your life. Next to the river where the dead are being cremated.
Imagine loosing sight of friends and family who have been resettled from your daily existence.
Imagine that one day you might very well resettle to a far away country with a culture that is completely different from your own.
Imagine you have children whom you want to have a better life.
Imagine that in reality you long to return to the country you were born.
Imagine there is no mandir to go to.
Imagine not to be able to eat the food you are used too… because it’s nowhere to be found.
Imagine living a town or village and being the only one from your people, being the alien in the minds of your neighbours and anyone else.
Imagine having to learn another very complicated language in a few years to be able to have some sort of life, and if you don’t succeed you’ll get a penalty or will not ever get a passport meaning you will never really be free.
Imagine all that…

Would that be seen as a success? Western society does a lot for refugees who have been resettled but still it starts of as a completely alien place to live. Surviving there is not easy at all and while in the end most will find their way through perseverence it is never an easy path to go. And western society is not becoming nicer to immigrants. So, where UNHCR speaks of a success it should also push the governments of the resettlement countries to really take their responsibilities and support the immigrants and their communities to find some sort of new life that is acceptable. These responsibilities are certainly not always met because much support is being broken down as an effect of the global financial crisis leaving imigrants more on their own and with less support than is reasonable. And don’t forget, once resettled there is no way back. Ever.

It is for all this that I will have to continue writing, filming an photographing the reality of the Bhutanese resettlement. Because in my country, in the west, most people simply have no idea.

If you feel that you might be able to support me, the Headwind team and the Empowerment Foundation, please make that decision and do so. It’s easy. Buy a Headwind production share or become donor. Help us finishing the documentary that will dive into the issue of the Bhutanese in exile and resettlement. The first feature length film that covers it all and will be screened globally. We need your support and we need it now! Send an email to alice@empowermentfoundation.nl or goto to the Headwind website and check the crowdfunding page!

Alice © 2012

Headwind production team brought donations to Beldangi hunger strikers.

Dear readers and visitors,

Attached here is a newsitem as published on the Bhutan News Service, the information regarding the handover of donation funds for food and first needs support from the Dutch Nepal Foundation (Vereniging Nederland Nepal) by the Empowerment Foundation’s Headwind Nepal Production Team in co-operation with BRAIN (Bhutanese Refugees Association of Intellectual Novas) on Janury 3, 2012 in the Beldangi 2 refugee camp in Nepal to the ex hunger strikers.

Please read and support the Bhutanese refugees, the making of the Headwind documentary and the Empowerment Foundation for making this charity work possible.

Alice © 2012
director of Headwind
communications Empowerment Foundation
www.headwindfilm.com
www.empowermentfoundation.nl 

A Bhutanese story from the past. History re-told.

To my Bhutanese friends,

the (unedited) story below was penned down and published on an independent news website. It’s an untold story like many stories from the southern Bhutanese. It tells about the gross human rights violations that happened in the early nineties of the last century in Bhutan. The problem with stories like these is the absence of physical evidence so people can only base opinions on oral reporting of the events.
In Europe over the years projects were started to re-tell the stories of the people who have been oppressed and dislocated during the second world war. These project collected these stories and the basis was always recording first hand experiences told by the people themselves. It’s project like those that are continuously raising awareness of what happened and the threat of such situations in society.

Until now, the stories from the southern (and eastern) Bhutanese, have not been captured and saved for history.

But I am sure that just like the story below they have a function in society. They remind everyone of what has happened and might in the end even proof to be of great importance to find justice for the people who became victims of a derailed regime.
It is therefore that I republish this, and it is therefore that I seek confirmation of this story.
So, can anyone confirm this specific story. First hand? And has anyone stories like these? If so, please let me know because I would like to collect them, list them and republish them on a dedicated website so that history will not be forgotten and not be deformed by propaganda.

This idea for document unwritten history came to me because of the problems concerning registration of refugees in the camps and the hunger strike of the past few weeks by a brave group of women in the Beldangi camp. It occurred to me that if stories untold become stories unwritten history will become blurred and truth fades away.

Namaste,
Alice 

— from APFA Bhutan —

Reviewing Eviction Options – Historical Human Disaster

Previously published on 23 November 2011 at http://www.apfanews.com

By Santi Ram Poudel

Dorona is the most remote and backward ‘Gewog’ (block) of all the inhabited area of Dagapela that can be logically argued through the availability of goods and services both in terms of forward and backward linkages. It had a dispensary in a two roomed single floor house at Nimtoladara with the staffing of a compounder and local peon and other was the Extended Classroom (ECR) of Powgang Primary School at Tharphu with the provision of one full time teaching staff and a local temporary teacher. The ECR was three roomed shed with wild bamboo messed walls and the double-pitched roof freely standing at the mud floor.

None of the houses were ever served with the public utilities and other infrastructure services for public goods. Furthermore, the most embarrassing situation was that due to the lack of any public built spaces; the ‘Gup’(Mandal –popularly elected block representative) had to run the office from their respective private houses. And till 1992, none of the Gups had the formal education, and this was not the qualifying criterion for that representation. The central had looked this area with least priority both in terms of capacity building and infrastructure development. May be with this reason, people used an idiomatic way of rating the civil officers as ‘am not afraid of such a high profile chaprasis (forest guards) and why should I fear of Dzongda’(Chief District Officer). Such was the exposure of the people from this block who couldn’t distinguish the comparative level of a Dzongda to a forester.

Some Phenomenal Incidences
Firstly, the officiating Gup left the country to join the antinational movements on September 1990 thereby creating a type of void between the grassroots people and the administrative authority for the proper and accurate communication. Taking the advantage of vulnerability of people, the remoteness and guardian-less condition, some 4 unidentified men took control of then on duty compounder at the midnight of September 29th, 1990. The staff didn’t surrender them but was helpless. The outfits then set the dispensary on fire where the inferno destroyed everything, the facility and the structure to ashes. On the same night they abducted the health staff leaving his wife and children there at miserable condition hardly anyone there to take care of them. This was all the movement of Dorona block.

Later when the country’s situation was normalize after a month or so the authority accused the local inhabitants not only of Nimtola village but for every household of the gewog for their involvement and not acting as a true citizen of Pelden Drukpa. People tried their best to convince their innocence, the authority turned their deaf ears and ultimately compelled everyone to leave the country.

Nimtoladara Meeting
The then Dzongda Hisey Dorji of Dagana District called a meeting for the people of Dorona block on April 4th, 1991 to convey the message of HM to the people of the block and also to review some of the occurrences that took place during the southern uprisings. The meet was conducted to find out the peoples’ involvement in the uprising that was against the prevailing regulations and give the clean sheets to the people. The meeting was scheduled to start at 9.00 am but due to commuting problems it actually began at 10.00am.

The general public were asked to sit at the ground like an amphitheatre stage, the performers at the front and the audiences facing towards the authorities that comprised of the Dzongda, the security chief Maj. Chachu with his armed military team and other local government staff. Dzongda was the all in all speaker to address the meeting. He began using really harsh language to scold the people and at times using bad mouthing. He took out a typed letter from his gho pouch and showed to the people mentioning that the very letter has been sent by the king. He didn’t read the letter but referring the document began saying that king isn’t happy with the people of south and got really infuriated with the type of situation prevailing in this region. He told that the king was caring the southern people more and had undertaken many physical development to facelift this area in spite of many developmental challenges. But he began losing faith and trust towards you all. You all used a plate to eat the food and used that same tool to pass the excreta. He questioned to the people whether or not the royal family would ever use the facilities of the local area.

There was a pin drop silence; no one had the courage to break such timing due to two reasons, first- all the participants were 100% illiterate comprising of shepherds, cattle herders and mere farmers to understand and explain the authority and second the people from the gewog never committed such act and lacked the background knowledge and factual information. Then it was dzongda himself to break the ice and said that you people pretend. Again he asked the mass to provide with the names of people who were involved at torching the dispensary building. Again no one uttered a word.

He took out another hand written paper that contained the names of all the people of the Gewog and began to read the names and segregate the people into two groups; one group was the clean sheet category and other the black list, people who had hands for the physical destruction a type of indirect challenge to the king and country. There were just two people on the clean sheet category namely the man who provided the list and second was his father in law family where as rest of the people were totally grouped under black list. The list was secretly prepared by the ‘Gup’ through the help from the local clandestine individual, a kind of espionage and was based on the personal relation of such providers.

Again referring to the letter send by HM, he began briefing that king has opened three options to the black listed people and told that it was mandatory to choose the best options for each family and told that early the better. The options opened were:-

Eviction Options

  1. Leave the country immediately with no conditions.
  2. Serve the compulsory detention term of 13.5 years.
  3. Face the extermination of public shooting at Capital’s national stadium.

Each family from my ‘Geog’ (block) had to choose the best among the above three alternatives provided by the state administration through the local bodies. Each option were detailed and explained to make it clear so that the ordinary layman can understand and reach at decision.

For the 2nd options, it was mandatory for each and every individual who were black listed by the government and were over 18 years to serve the prescribed period. Had the people been interrogated and had chance to express their involvement or prove their innocence, it would have been fair to enlist but how rationale was it to rubberstamp the list provided by such miscreants.

Extermination threat was made more convincing through the justification of numbers of bullets per individual southern population and public announcement was made that RGOB had bought 10 bullets equivalent to each southern person very recently from India’s goodwill. And some examples relevant to such practice were highlighted naming Chabda, Mahasur and others and there could be similar fate for everyone and the people were threatened to take the matter seriously and give the prompt response.

For the first option, if people were interested to opt then government would immediately make the sufficient arrangement at the earliest possible. What people have to do was just submit in writing that the person would be leaving the country at own will. People also had to mention that they were not forced by any law enforcing authorities and need to sign it that would automatically convert into the legal documents.

People watched the government’s move for about one complete year with a hope that government will be little flexible and considerate enough on these options but the situation further ruined. There were no any indications of improvements and at each and every step there came a barrier at every mode of activity. Within the extremism there reached a critical stage where people began saying that it is worth to be sanity than to end the life. People can tolerate to certain degree and when the level crosses the bearing limit then it’s obvious to shift the position in regards to uncertainty. Sadly, at the end people were compelled to sign the eviction form preferring madness than facing unnatural human disaster. When the autocrats think in an ethnic superiority conditions with total dominating and hate feelings towards minority population then there could be chances that such exterminations would prevail in the broad daylight where history has shown many such lessons.

During the process of eviction, people need to submit and surrender all the testimonies in regards to Bhutanese identity, be it citizenship card, tax receipt or property registration certificate. It’s those documents that show the proof as Bhutanese and once such documents are seized then it is obvious to brand the people into different categories, call it by illegal immigrants, economic emigrants, homeless dwellers or people of nowhere.

Now can we term this entire phenomenal move to be at people own will or some externality compelled to leave from the place of birth and citizenry?

Donation drive for Beldangi hunger strikers.

Aimed at supporting 12 women including breast-feeding mothers, who fasted-to-death for 12 days, and nine children associated with them, the Bhutan Media Society has launched an online donation drive, involving the resettled communities of various eight countries and their well-wishers, Monday.

At least 12 women, who were forcefully evicted from Bhutan fasted-to-death for 12 days demanding “refugee status” and facilities from the Nepal government and aid agencies. The Government of Nepal finally acknowledged their demands and committed to fulfill them within the next five months. Women, who have lost their health and even developed various side effects due to long fasting, were admitted in the AMDA Hospital in Damak for treatment. However, they were released in a couple of days.

The Bhutan Media Society has been following their situations from the very start of the protest. Now, these women need diatary supports to regain their lost health. Some of them are breast-feeding mothers, and there are nine children below the age of 10 associated with these women. In our observation, these women are unable to work to earn their daily bread for at least a week or two.

This is what one of the women told us:

We would be greatful if the resettled community could help us. I have a child but no ration. My husband remained busy in escorting patients during the hunger strike. My baby was helpess during that period, without any fixed timing for food. We still don’t have food to eat.

My chest and throat ache. I have a problem in my kidneys. I am very week.

Most of us are mothers with small children. We are not in a position to earn the daily bread for our children. We feel that the support from resettled community would help us to feed our children until we become able to do so again.

For supporting the women to recover their lost health and their children with food, the Bhutan Media Society has launched a donation drive. The donations that we receive from our esteemed donors will be mobilised to assist the women with dietary supports, and ensure foods for their children at least for a week.

Based on the their request, the Society has decided to garner some supports from the resettled Bhutanese community, their organizations and well-wishers of exiled Bhutanese, added Mishra.

The Society and its associates have appealed every Bhutanese to support the initiative on humanitarian grounds. According to Mishra, the official website of Bhutan News Service will publish details of all donations made on regular basis, like in various donations drives conducted by the Society.

The donation drive lasts until mid-night of December 5, 2011, Nepal Standard Time.
Please distribute this video at will in support of our campaign.
We are committed towards transparancy of all transactions made through our initiatives.

BHUTAN MEDIA SOCIETY
Kathmandu, Nepal

For details :
www.bhutannewsservice.com
editor@bhutannewsservice.com

For donations click here to go to the donation drive.