The Government has moved towards doing away with traditional rights to pasture land. The traditional rights has been interpreted as only grazing rights in the recent years. Likewise the sokshing rights has been interpreted as right to collect dry leaves or pine needles. In the absence of a strong independent judiciary system, the civil authority of the day reserves the right to interpretation.
This was not the traditional understanding and practice. Grazing rights came together with protecting water catchment area. This meant some others just cannot start felling trees in the pasture land. Water source is the fundamental requirement of pastureland. Today many water sources are drying up precisely because traditional check and balance has be removed and indiscriminate destruction of water catchment area has devastated catchment vegetation leading to water sources drying up.
In case of sokshing, it is the same situation. Traditionally, the thram holders looked after the sokshing and ensured healthy growth of trees. There cannot be indiscriminate felling of trees. Even the sokshing thram holder required permission to fell trees for self house constructions or repairs. If sokshing right is removed then surely the natural forest will gradually get destroyed.
My family has a traditional grazing land. It's a beautiful highland on the ridges of hills that separate the Valleys of Haa and Paro. We are under pressure from powerful forces who wants to turn it into tourist camps.
My beloved mother died there in the cowshed herding the cows. The land means more than just grass to my family.
It is precious not just for grazing but for the sacrifice the ancestors made to keep it. Even in modern times during the early 1940s, whilst many families from my village Wangcha sold their grazing rights to the family of Prime Minister Jigme Dorji, my grandfather kept his. The then Haa Drung remarked, " Ap Fuchu, I am told you have no yaks so why not sell ". My grandpa Fuchu humbly submitted, " I have children Dasho ". The great far sighted personality who later became the Prime Minister of Bhutan immediately understood what need not have been said in words. My family was going nowhere and we will always have descendants and no present generation can do away with the source of future family sustainence.
Today, I am faced with the same dilemma. The Dzongkhag Administration in Haa has called upon my family along with others to accept Government compensation of the grazing lands and if we want to use it, then lease the same. I want to thank the Royal Government for granting my family the priority in leasing what was ours for so many centuries. I fully respect the demands of changing Times and Laws of the Land. I am humbly and dutifully prepared to be a lessor from the position of thram holder.
I have asked my family in Haa not to accept the compensation but to take on lease the grazing land and pay for it. It would be an unforgivable sin to sell even to the Government what my ancestors so preciously held on. I am unable to accept a price for my mother's spirit and the sacrifice of my ancestors. Something tears up within me when I think of parting with the land that I have walked over so many times and know it like the palm of my hand But if it is taken away by a Government degree, I am sure my law abiding ancestors, too, would understand my position. Its like death taking away your heart beloved. One must come to terms with reality of life and living. I suppose that there cannot be shame or breach of ancestral trust in surrendering what I cannot keep by law. And I am willingly to take on lease the very same grazing land if granted the choice.
The younger generations of my family may never fully comprehend my ways and my beliefs. At times even my ancestors did not understand me when I was a growing up youngster. I have gone through so many weathers of life and living. And I survived because I never ever compromised my faith and love for my family and my nation. I do not expect others to be swayed by my thoughts but let me remain true to Bhutan and my family in my own ways.
I will always be a true Bhutanese national through and through but as a responsible citizen and subject of the Wangchuck Dynasty, I will voice out my trepidations in the hope that we become a better nation and better Bhutanese.