It was 31st July, 1991, I was privileged to have an audience of His Majesty Jigmey Singhe Wangchuk at his royal chamber in Tashichodzong, Thimpu.
Minutes ago, I was with the Home Minister,His excellency Dago Tshering and discussing a problem the country had confronted then over expulsion of thousands of Nepalese who migrated to Bhutan as hired labour. Bhutan was then experiencing a unique situation. Everyday, members of the evicted Nepalese organisations were killing innocent people, damaging property,blowing up bridges. Yet,the royal government was determined to face the challenge. The Home Minister was trying to make me understand why it became necessary to push back over one million nepalese who came as labourers but did not return on expiry of the contract period. He gave me a bunch of photographs to prove his point. A brilliant product of convent school and college at Darjeeling, Dago Tshering knew that I was from a democratic country and was against forcible eviction from one's adpted homeland where one has sojourned for years. I was not very impressed. It was,to me, a planned move of the royal government to ensure that Bhutan remains for the Bhutanese. Let others come and contribute for the development of the ountry and leave when their services are no longer required.
At this point of time a military officer came and informed that His Majesty the King is waiting for me. I was led to the Royal court by a band of army officials. I felt amused for I had never had such experience. This would be my first encounter with a King, be he the King of a small Himalayan country, who was enthroned at the age of 14 only( coronation was held after four years) and who had by then proved himself to be more worthy of the highest seat than his legendary fathe HM Jigmey Dorjee Wangchuk. He was waiting at the door. I was ushered in and seated on a chair in front of the King. He made me easy in a moment. we discussed many things, from politics to sport, his vision for his country, empathy for the evicted nepalese. He was vry sad at the ghastly murder of his close friend ,Rajib Gandhi. It was during our discussion that the King admitted that he wanted Monarchy to make room for democracy in Bhutan. I was stunned. A young King who had his schooling in India and UK, who spent 18 hours a day at office or on the street to see Bhutan moved ahead with developmental projects, who preferred a woodhouse to royal palace, who is worshipped by the common people, wanted to relinquish his throne and absolute power. I thought he was just kidding me because I came from a democratic country. After about an hour I came back but never forgot his simplicity and erudition.
That he really wanted Bhutanto abolish Monarchy and embrace Democracy became manifest only a few years later. It is a history.
( In my next article I will discuss the monarchy and people initially rejected the King's proposal for Democratic Bhutan)
About Author / Additional Info:
I am associated with the UTTAR BANGA SAMBAD, the largest circulated Bengali daily in NE region, as its CEO. I have visited Bhutan several times at the invitation of the the fourth King and have written articles on Bhutan in many journals.