Friday, September 7, 2007

Bhutan’s repression on Journalists

By: TP Mishra
The repression on innocent Bhutanese refugees by the Royal Bhutan Army (RBA), who endeavour entering their original homeland, Bhutan continues unabated. The detention of Shantiram Acharya, a registered refugee of Beldangi-II, Sector ‘D’ Hut no- 85 along with three other Bhutanese refugee youths, on a fake charge of being Maoist militant, on January 16, is one of the latest subjugation of Druk oligarchy.

The online version of absolute Bhutanese regime’s mouthpiece, Kuensel has initially made it public only on January 24. It is learnt that those youths were arrested at Tashilakha under Chhuka district (South West Bhutan) by RBA. It has claimed that the detainees clandestinely entered Chukha dzongkhag (district) to survey the security deployment of the Tala project.
But, on ten minutes long telephone inquiry with Devi Acharya, his senior brother on January 25, strongly denied his junior brother’s involvement in Bhutanese Maoists. I was also informed that Shantiram was suspected to have undergone metal depression since two months. Meanwhile, one of the news portal ( run by journalists in exile has quoted Devi Acharya as stating that Shantiram was a good writer and used to work in different newspapers in Bhutanese refugee camps.

Dadiram Neopane, Editor of ‘The Child Creation’, a monthly newspaper funded by LWF, says that Shantiram has served as a Guest Editor of Bal Awaj, a Nepali wall bulletin meant for Bhutanese refugee children before one-and-half years. However, Neopane opines that Acharya had gone mental disorderness and used to deal abnormally. Acharya’s editorship in the wall bulletin is also confirmed by Bhim Adhikari, the present Editor of it.

Meanwhile, Communists Party of Bhutan, CPB-MLM in a press statement on January 23 has also denied his affiliation to their party. But it is worth mentioning here that the history will blight Bhutanese Maoists if they are intentionally trying to conceal the facts in front of his innocent family members denying Shantiram’s affiliation.

But when dealing with the facts from the online version of Kuensel then several superfluous and orchestrated messages can be read between the lines. Mr. Acharya was quoted in Kuensel as saying that he confessed the RBA stating he was a Maoists militant sent by Party President. Now this particular vow has turned controversy when it is known that the CPB-MLM doesn’t have presidentship system. It should also be understood here that either RBA had forced him at gun points, like during early 1990s, to split out such a baseless and creative statement or Mr. Acharya might have truly gone mentally depressed as revealed out by his relatives and many close friends.

Here it also appears that the RBA has hatched out fabricated allegations against him simply to save the face of royal regime, as it’s Foreign Minister, Khandu Wangchuk had reported in the recently concluded winter session of the Bhutanese National Assembly that "people in the camps in Nepal are ready-made-terrorists."

Acharya being from the refugee camp, it became the best weapon for the Bhutanese regime to use his arrest in the best Considering torture in police custody is most inhuman in the police and army barracks in Bhutan. The international human rights bodies should be deeply concerned about the life and liberty of Acharya.

According to the online version of Kuensel, Acharya would soon face Judiciary for additional exploration. We cannot predict that the Druk government-controlled Judiciary system would exercise all norms of ‘fair trial’ during the investigation process. Bhutan actually doesn’t have independent judiciary that delivers justice to suppressed and unheard voices.

It should be well noted here that no any detainees, on whatsoever cases, in Bhutanese jails are left physically untouched even if s/he is kept for few hours. And it has almost become more then a week that the whereabouts of Acharya is not made public.

The history clearly reveals that Bhutanese prominent human rights leader Tek Nath Rizal was arrested from his residence in Birtamode on December 16, 1989 by the then panchayat government. He was extradited to Bhutan government via Druk air on the very day. It was the same judiciary system that stated Rizal innocent on December 17, 1999 before releasing on the same date.

This shows that Bhutan’s judiciary system hasn’t gained independency and question on Achary’s fair trial would just be a blunder. What actually had Acharya, who is reportedly known to be of just four years old before forcible eviction from Bhutan during early 1990s, committed crimes for facing government-owned Judicial?. If he is really a Maoist militia then Bhutan shall be able to bar international criticism only if the investigation on him be carried-out amidst international human rights bodies.

This detention is a direct violation of the provisions of international instruments like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 19) and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Therefore, international human rights organizations such as the Amnesty International, Global Human Rights Defense (GHRD), Human Rights Watch (HRW) and International Committee for Red Cross (ICRC) should take intervention on the situation and initiate urgent measures for his immediate release.

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