According to the following article published by none other than New York Times, "The last of the once-isolated Himalayan Buddhist kingdoms is fighting for survival, victim of a South Asian population explosion that is changing demography on the roof of the world. "
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Title: BHUTAN STRUGGLES TO STOP MILITANTS
By BARBARA CROSSETTE,
Published: April 14, 1991, (New York Times)
THIMPHU, Bhutan— The last of the once-isolated Himalayan Buddhist kingdoms is fighting for survival, victim of a South Asian population explosion that is changing demography on the roof of the world.
Over the last six months, a campaign of violence and terror by small bands of ethnic Nepalese guerrillas in southern Bhutan, most of them Hindus based in India, has shattered the peace of this small mountainous nation.
The militants' campaign is couched in the language of democracy and minority rights, but the goal of the movement is free access to the underpopulated forests and valleys of Bhutan for those of Nepalese origin.
While there are about 600,000 Bhutanese, there are 32 million people of Nepalese extraction in overpopulated Nepal and India. Many prefer to be called Gurkhas, and they are heirs of a warrior clan who dream of a Gurkhaland stretching across the Himalayan foothills. The King Is a Modern Man
Bhutan, now ruled by a modernizing King, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, had for 1,300 years of independence been the land of the Bhutia people, a group similar to Tibetans in language, culture and religion. Bhutanese say that over the last decade, illegal immigration across an unprotectable border with India has reduced the northern Bhutias to a fast-dwindling majority that is now about 60 percent.
"If this continues, we are done for," Foreign Minister Dawa Tsering said.
Bhutan's predicament raises questions about the rights of small, distinctive cultures to protect themselves by closing borders and introducing regulations on national dress and language.
The Bhutanese see that as the other side of the more common separatist demand heard from Eastern Europe to Kashmir.
Half a century ago, Bhutan was not alone among the Himalayan Buddhist states. There was Tibet, where Buddhist teachers known as lamas dominated society and often government. There was Sikkim and Ladakh.
Tibet, crushed by Beijing in 1959 and absorbed into China as a region, is being remade by Han Chinese. Ladakh and Sikkim have been absorbed by India. In the forefront of Bhutanese concern is the fate of the Sikkimese, against whose ruler New Delhi plotted until he was finally overthrown in 1975 with the help of disaffected subjects, most of them also ethnic Nepalese.
The King has personally taken charge of Bhutan's national defense and efforts to counter rebel assertions of human-rights abuses. He says he is prepared to abdicate if he cannot end the insurrection peacefully.
"I have little to lose when what is at stake is the survival of the Bhutanese people," he said in an interview at Tashichleo Dzong, the monastery-fortress that is the center of religion and Government in Bhutan. Symbol of Bhutanese Culture
The 35-year-old ruler had just returned from the south, where dozens of Government properties have been blown up or burned, bridges destroyed, and buses and trucks hijacked.
At least 38 policemen or soldiers have been killed or wounded, the King said, and 168 people kidnapped for ransoms as high as $30,000.
Because the King is the symbol of Bhutan's culture, the Nepalese make monarchy the focus of their movement, along with the regulations imposed on all Bhutanese citizens in 1988 requiring the wearing of national dress.
The King, dressed in an embroidered silk kho, the national costume, said tiny, landlocked Bhutan is neither an economic nor military power, "so the only factor we can fall back on, the only factor which can strengthen Bhutan's sovereignty and security is our identity, our different identity. We are really the last bastion of Himalayan Buddhism."
Bhutan's per-capita income shot up to nearly $400 last year, higher than in India, Nepal and Bangladesh.
"We have free education and health care, and plenty of land," the King said, adding: "The whole of Bhutan has become fertile ground for economic refugees. It has become the promised land."
The nearby Indian hill stations of Darjeeling and Kalimpong are controlled by Gurkha movements, the largest of which is the Gurkha National Liberation Front. Leaders of Bhutanese movements, including the Bhutanese People's Party and the Bhutanese Students' Union, operate from that region. To those people, the ethnic Bhutias are the regional minority.
The militants have benefited from the backing of political parties to the left of the Communists in the Indian state of West Bengal and in Nepal.
Reproduced courtesy of New York Times.
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