Sunday, December 24, 2017

The politics of culture and the Bhutanese nation.

Every once in a while a Ministry or a dzongkhag administration or a local government ( this time in Shemgang ) comes up with rules on how Bhutanese people should be dressed and punished. This kind of official tone has become a disease for social illness rather than any relief for nation enhancement. If the  unemployed youths are given sustainable jobs in the like manner of orders of official threats and penalties about culture and code of conduct are issued, there would be no idle youths, no drug problems and possibly no suicides either. How wonderful !

National dress should never be used as a tool of politics or as a whip of social disciplining. Any Governnent or political leaders that endorses or allows enforcement of such disciplinary regulations into the homes and daily lives of general citizens would be promoting the sense of social fear and oppression. To what end ?

It was partly the blind enforcements by Dzongkhag officials of such rules and  regulations right into the homes and fields that made it possible for anti- nationals to incite social upheavals in South Bhutan. Bhutanese authorities must understand and realise that the end result of such official repressions can be either serfdom for the populace or forced rebellion. Neither is desirable for the People, the Royal blessed democratic system and the cherished institution of Monarchy.  

It is possible that some of our local government elected officials and appointed  dzongkhag administrators are playing into the hands of anti national forces or they are by intent manipulating cultural ideals to ruin the fledging democractic system. 

I hope the central authority and leaders respect the wisdom of prevailing status-quo. Our culture,  tradition, the institutions of Monarchy and Dharma are central features of the Bhutanese nation. It would be unhealthy to attempt to drown the 700,000 Bhutanese in one particular heritage. Bhutanese authorities at central or dzongkhag level need to refrain from promoting  a repressive social condition. Such a path contradicts the precious gnh philosphy and much cherished image of benevolence at the highest level. 

Culture wise, the nation is very healthy. Bhutanese in general are proud of our culture and are most respectful to authorities. We understand the importance of national identity of our  culture and are very much aware of the central role of the Monarchy for the sovereignty and stability of the Bhutanese nation. Bhutanese in general zealously guard our way of life and soveriegnty with much pride and determination. The opposition to BBIN Agreement was one such expression of unified national aspiration. Too much cultural dictates and penalties would kill national inspirations and aspirations.

Now national attention and energy must be directed where improvements and enhancements are most needed. 
Life of a nation is much more than attires, disciplines and reverence.

His Majesty the King as well as the voice of majority of the people are for better education; more employment opportunities; reduction in problems of drug addiction of youths; reducing the ills of spiralling divorce trends and alcohol menaces.

The prevailing national administration  scene calls for tackling the monumental institutionalised monetary corruptions in financial institutions, ministries, agencies and corporations; fighting misuses of power and influence and bribes in many sectors ; combating systematic manipulations of land transactions and so on.

The only benefit the authorities would gain from repressive policies in the name of culture would be a brief respite for their corrupt acts including mismanagement of development funds and official positions. There is no benefit to the larger national  interest.  

Besides the objective to subjugate the will  of the people, it seems that the fascination of some leaders with gho, kira and kamni is rooted in two personal agendas. One seems to be a ploy to cover up short-comings in their professional and official responsibilities through outward act of nationalism.  And the other seems to be to remind the people of their low social status so as to maximise the full powerful impact of kamni and patang attire of officials " from 9am to 5pm."  Much like an exhibition of superior natural endowments by the peacock to a congregation of peahens devoid of colours and dazzles. Could such be the original fundamentals of knighthood tradition in feudal Europe? 



Wednesday, December 20, 2017

A jewel of a hamlet- the Wangtsa ( Wangcha ) Village.

The Wangtsa Temple site was identified by Jhekhen Shakya Rinchen as symbolised by two very gnarled huge Juniper trees. A structure was built by JheKhen Sherab Gyeltshen and later enhanced by Jhekhen Ngawang Yonten Pelzang. Since then known descendant Lams include Lam Yeshey, Lam Rinchen. Lam Rinchen was great grand father of my father. He was  one of the two main disciples of the welknown first Jhe Sou- Chhoe- Ku ( a lineage of Shhadrung Ngawang Namgyel ). My father was just nine years old when Lam Rinchen died. 

The Wangtsa Goen-Chham during Lomba was a 8 day long religious event starting from the 24th day of the 10th Bhutanese month that culminated in the Tsechu held on the 1st day of the 11th month ( the photos are of the Tsechu ).  It  is a mixture of Bon rites and Kagyu practices. Gradually in recent times due to lack of qualified Lams within the traditional families responsible for the religious roles, the events have been condensed to 3 days and jointly conducted at the temple..

It is difficult to ascertain when exactly the Goen-Chham was instituted. But it is safe to assume that annual Bon rites were there much before Buddhism came to Bhutan. Ap Chhundu is actually a Bon Deity.Thus the yak sacrifice. Over the centuries, Bon practices and Buddhism merged and in my village the Bon culture of animal sacrifice was gradually reduced to offering of raw eggs.

Today at the Tsechu, the overcoming of the evil force is conducted by use of a statue of Shabdrung instead of the Bon way of fire torch and long sword. But the ground breaking or rather blessing of the ground in the morning is done by not Dhu-Dhar Chham as in many Tsechu festivals in Bhutan but by Saa-Cha Chham performed by two dancers with bull masks.

There are traditionally identified families responsible for the mask dances of Saa-Cha, the Lam Kenchoe represented by fierce masks of Pel Yeshey Goenpo and Pelden Lhamo and Goddess Tsomin the source of community water and wealth gifts. The Tsechu ends with the offering of Lamai Shhabten and Yul Lha Soelkha. The following next three days are devoted to annual village archery game.

A community annual Lomba festivities really  comprise of activities to thank the past year and welcome the new year and above all a gathering of young and old both who live away and in the village. As long as a you are within Bhutan, a Wangtsa born would not want to miss the Lomba festivities of the village.

On behalf of the families of Wangtsa community, I thank Kuensel Team for visiting our village and sharing our joys of Lomba celebrations with the nation through the two photos.      

Sunday, December 17, 2017

National Day 110th at Haa.

Most forunate that the Day was celebrated
here at Haa. It was done in great style blessed by three lines of Wangchuck Dynasty and by beautiful and  beloved all Royal Majestic Oueens and Royal Highnesses.

I was intent upon  attending it in person but following official directives to the letter has its defaults. " Register in advance " the order was and did get registered few weeks in advance. " Gate opens at 6am and closes at 8am " was the directive.  But by 6:45 , gates were closed and advance registration had no purpose.   There was open space enclosure where TV was installed but even there, there seems to be some problem in admission procedures.

Naturally,  participation if by TV was the only available choice then much more comfortabe at home. So I returned to the confort and pleasure of home. Maybe this day was also neant to be   shared with the spirits of departed souls of many beloved family members.   Do not get me wrong. I am not at all disappointed though I had come a day ahead to witness the celebrations. Instead, I am fully contended that it was a well attended event. Thank you especially to those who came from other Dzongkhags to make a huge success of the 110 th National Day at Haa.
All Haaps have to be feeling very proud today!

Lhakhang Karpo complex is ok for Haa Tsechu but such national events like National Day  must be held at the Traditional Dha- Chhab- Sai- Pang. Thousands and thousands of spectators can view the Celebrations  from both sides of the Haa river. A natural stadium more or less the size of Changlingmithang stadium in Thimphu  but more beautiful and very naturally designed.   

Today's National Day programmes were very impressive and so well managed. Not a minute was wasted. Congratulations Dasho Dzongdag and all those who worked so hard. And thank you all the participants especially the beautiful ladies of Haa. It was a kind of nostalgically a honeymoon environment especially the Lomba celebrations enacted in unison.  

His Majesty graciously thanked the Haa people for their voluntary services. Yes indeed it was a well organised voluntary service from the heart. I was here in Haa twice within the last 2 months and there was so much enthusiasm. It is immensely a happy and privileged occassion to be in Haa today.

I try not to miss National Day Addresses of His Majesty. But today two things stood out not just because I had not  heard them before or did I forget. Memories can play tricks at times.

1.His Majesty made a very special mention of all Bhutanese working and residing away from Bhutan. Such gracius thoughts and wishes on the National Day had to have deeply touched those who are in foreign countries as well as those of us here in Bhutan.   I was deeply touched and warmed and I thank His Majesty for remembering my beloveds along with others living away from home and hearth. And that too, during Lomba when family  members especially children are most missed. 

2. His Majesty also touched upon the dangers to a small nation like Bhutan when our giant two neighbours China abd India are at logger heads. His Majesty reminded Bhutanese to be united. " As long as we are united and do not have internal discord, we can meet any external challenges " His Majesty said.  " Gyel- Lyen- Bang Sum gi Thadamtsi "  was the phrase His Majesty used. This means trust, faith and love between the three social and political  tiers of the Kingdom :  Monarchy - Government - People. So true!   And so very heartfelt appeal and assurance from the beloved Monarch to all Bhutanese whether in government, armed forces, in private or public services, politicians or Political Parties and the People at grass root. 

His Majesty also thanked the Armed Forces. He usually does but there was a difference this time. The King made reference to the efforts of RBG, RBP and RBA within and at the Borders in the North and South. And His Majesty was not talking about normal duties or efforts of the Three Service Forces in combating like natural calamities. In talking about the security status of the Nation, His Majesty specifically mentioned both internal and external dangers. His Majesty mentioned the Service Forces in the order of  RBG, RBP and RBA. Maybe it was just a random sequence. But it could also be an  emphasis on internal security. RBA is the one we would immediately think of in case of external threat whilst the other two are more responsible for internal security matters.

Haaps may have missed His Holiness the JheKhen Rimpoche Trulku Jigme Choedra. Not that His Holiness usually attends National Day with Their Majesties but there was talk about this happening this time. As it was Lomba so many believed the rumour that His Holiness will grace the Nyira - Gu- Lue- Fang-ni. At normal times, I would have doubted the rumour but not this time. Haaps were told that instead of individual house Lue, it will be one big event as Haa Dzonkhag. And with Doklam lying  extreme south of Haa though under Samtse Dzongkhag, I simply thought that  it was a very thoughtful initiative. Well, I guess some plans are just talked of in wishful thinking.

In summary,  the National Day in Haa has been a great gift to Haaps by His Majesty the King. And we are highly honoured and deeply touched by the royal presence of Their Majesties the Kings and Queens and Royal Princes and Princesses and delighted by the enthusiasms of the younger Royal lines headed by Gyalsey HRH Jigme Namgyal Wangchuck. Haa Miri Phuen Sum, Gyenpo Tsebarmi and Ap Chhundu had to be in celebratory mood because the day was sunny and so beautiful.

Greetings from my Haa Home to all my fb friends. Tomorrow is our Wangcha Village Mang-gi-Chhoku and the day after our Village Tsechu. So I will be blessed thrice from National Day, Mang-gi- Chhoku and Tsechu. So let me share with all of you the abundant Blessings for the coming New Year. Thank you for being my friends.

Happy Lomba ! And Happy New Year!           

Sunday, December 10, 2017

History of Bhutan and its relevance.

Recently I read a very eloquent write up on why Bhutanese history should be taught in Dzongkha. And that made me think of the content of our history in school text books as well as in other writings by scholars. 

In whatever language history is written or taught, it should be accurate and should have profound details. Only then the nation and we the people whether youths in  schools or adults elsewhere will derive vsluable benefits.

It makes no sense to write history short on facts and excess in poetic phrases like ' Shabdrung preparing his ride towards the South''. But naturally Bhutanese history written and taught in Bhutanese language would make learning richer.

We need more indepth details and less flowery praises. Like how or why Shabdrung went into meditation and his death kept a secret for over 50 years.The secrecy around the death of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel  could well be the most successful palace coup by a coterie of palace officials in the history of all palace coups in the world. Who gained and who lost through this secrecy? Was Shabdrung forced into retirement/ meditation and thereafter silenced/ died?

Why there was no reincarnation during that long period of 50 years? Why did Shabdrung not believe in his own line of  reincarnation? He married to produce an heir and when his only child died, Shabdrung went for adoption and named Tenzin Rabgye as his Gyelsey ( Crown Prince ).  He never envisioned roles for his incarnations. So did Shabdrung actually believe that the true Druk Ralung Kagyu Lineage belonged to Passang Wangpo line?

History can be so rich if told in honest setting. Like how King Ugyen Wangchuck managed to consolidate national administration and  establish the Wangchuck dynasty? Who were his staunch supporters and adversaries ? Such information will illustrate in depth the personal qualities, leadership abilities and administrative acumen of our first King.

Everything should not be explained in religious terms like  prophecy or call of Palden Lhamo. Faith the essence of religion is poor in attendance when it comes to actual test of history and convincing educated minds. History must be worth remembering in substance than just statistics of numericals, dates and role of faith and fate.
What made King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck convert Thimphu as the seat of the Throne?  How did King Jigme Singye Wangchuck succeed in re- negotiating the 1949 Bhutan- India Treaty? Was it a sellout as India claimed during Doklam transgression or did it strengthen Bhutanese sovereignty by asserting Bhutan's right to manage her own external affair?  Through renegotiation of 1949 Treaty in 2007,  the Triple Gem King succeeded in removing the clause of 1949 Treaty that required Bhutan to  seek Indian advice in matters of External Affairs?  Was the para on annuity payment by India to Bhutan reflected in 1949 Treaty removed as a barter exchange for Bhutan gaining her right to conduct her own foreign affairs? These are vital issues and should not be buried in silence.

Bhutan history book should have full text and particular circumstances governing the time of  Singchula Treaty between Bhutan and British India as well as  Bhutan- India Treaty of 1949 and the 2007 renegotiated Treaty with India.  Also the Border Treaty between Bhutan and  China. And the terms and circumstances of the Treaties should be fully discoursed so that Bhutanese generations can comprehend the endeavours of their leaders.

Also we need full text of Nehru's speech given at Paro Ugyen Pelri ground to the people of Bhutan and the full address made by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi to the National Assembly of Bhutan because these record India's historical acknowledgement of Bhutan's sovereignty.  Like wise the major adresses of our Kings to the Indian people or major press releases should be part of Bhutanese school history books. The nation should be truly informed.

Instead our history books leaves a big void in facts and relevance when crisis happens as it did during Doklam. When India cited 2007 Bhutan- India Treaty as India's right to invade Bhutan on pretext of defending Bhutan from China, our fairy tale type of history books proved to be useless reference points.  History of a nation should not wholely comprise of just poetic praises for rulers and statistics of development works as important as these are as part and parcel of nation building process.     

History is part of nation nuturing process. It is wrong to shape history in the light we want in hindsight. Just because someone alluded that King Jigme Singye Wangchuck may be a reincarnation of Shabdrung, modern Bhutanese scholars took to claiming that Shabdrung created the Bhutanese nation. The great Lama certainly made major contribution to nation building. But Druk Yul was there even before Guru Rimpoche was invited to Bumthang and that was long, long time of some 800 years before the Ralung Lam sought refuge in Bhutan.

By the way, His Majesty our great Fourth is a Truelpa of Triple Gem qualities in his own right. And facts of history should never be distorted to please or displease any individual, race or region. Such twisted recording would be prejudiced political narrative not authentic history of a nation. 

We need to stick to known historical facts. Drul Yul provided refuge to Lam Ngawang Namgyel who fled Tibet to escape the laws of his home country. He was a great Kagyu Lam and he was backed by  his powerful Bhutanese Chieftan benefactors and therefore, found easy acceptance among the Bhutanese populace especially the Kagyu clans established by Phaju Drukom and his descendants whose root goes back to Druk Ralung and great Kagyu reviver Tsangpajari. Further, Shabdrung 's rise could also have been fostered by powerful Bhutanese clans who understood only too well the Tibetan ploy of using religious figures to enhance their own authority. That was how Monasteries in Tibet spread their influence and on same model, Tibet was largely administered before 1959. Great Lams and Trulkus were figure heads with coteries of monastic or palace officials exercising real powers.

Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel is undoubtedly a great political and religious Ruler of his time. He deserves all the national venerations.  However, the man who really was responsible in bringing the east and the west under one central rule was Chogyel Minjur Tempa. The Chunipai Losar of the Eastern Bhutan could be a legacy that began under Chogyel Minjur Tempa because  Shabdrung was dead by that time. And in Bhutanese history books, Chogyel Minjur Tempa's achievements and contributions does not even warrant half a page. Is that a correct and sincere reflection of Druk Yul history? 

By nature Bhutanese like many others  have blind faith in religious figures. Even during rupee crisis, people had no hesitation to demand rupee from the government to go to India for attending  the yearly Kagyu Moelam Chhennmo conducted by renowned Kagyu Rimpoches and HH Dalai Lam's Teachings at Dorji Dhen. Likewise, the greatness of Shabdrung and deep faith in his spiritual and temporal powers are ingrained in Bhutanese society.  However,  Bhutanese history and people cannot ignore other forces and their contributions . Their roles, too, cannot be discounted in Bhutanese nation building history of past centuries before the Wangchuck dynasty was instituted in 1907. We need to correct Bhutanese written history to reflect honest facts before deciding upon any medium ( english or dzongkha) for transmission of the history of our nation. 

Thus  substance is more important than the language used to impart history. I do certainly hope that we attain the age and wisdom of teaching our worthwhile history in our own laguage. Palden Drukpa Gyal Lo!           


Wednesday, December 6, 2017

National Day 17th December 2017 celebrated together with Haa Lomba Day the 29th Day of 10th month of Bhutanese calendar

All enthusiasms and planning to make a great joint celebration graced by Their Royal Majesties and His Holiness.  The area for staging the celebration seems limitted of space. The rehearsal photo in Kuuensel confirms the space constriction.

Haa has a great traditional and naturally formed open stadium on the other side of the Haa Dzong site across the Haa river. It is near about or maybe larger than Changlingmithang stadium in Thimphu. Certainly far more scenic. Haa river flows on one side and on the other side rises the huge hill known locally as Jho Tok- Khap. Few would know that this hill is the Singye
Karmo-Ri  and about the bowl shaped stone in the midst of Dumchho village said to be the milk bowl of the Snow lion. I was educated about this legend by an elderly friend from Dumchho village.

The most historical event held in this open stadium ( much before my birth ) was during the reign of His Majesty Jigme Wangchuck the Second King of Bhutan. The ground is popularly known as Dha- Chab- Sey- Pang ( Official archery ground of Haa Valley when required and all other times the cattle grazing area of Wangcha village ). 

At that long ago historic national event an archery match was played with players selected from all geogs of Haa and the two teams led by His Majesty King Jigme Wangchuck and the His Excellency Dasho Deb Zimpon Sonam Tobgay Dorji. HRH the Crown Prince Jigme Dorji Wangchuck the future Third King and Dasho Haa Drung Jigme Palden Dorji the future Prime Minister were present. Both " so young and handsome and great friends " and so it appeared to elders of my village who were never tired of repeating  the tale. I wish I had paid more attention to many  oral history witnessed live by them during their extraordinary days of history making.  

A grand Tokha was held for the people of Haa. The future King and Prime Minister handed out the the Royal sorlrey/ shudrel  of silver coins to the congregation. My father who was one of the archers thought the two future great  leaders of Bhutan were competing in youthful spirit to outdo each other in the coin distribution. I guess most would have shared the same thought. In Shudrel Phuentsum Ceremony the speed at which shudrel is offered to the gathering  is that of sportsmanship competition spirit.

Today this natural stadium is still a huge open ground except that IMTRAT has fenced off access to Haa Public and has converted this Traditional Official Event Stadium cum cattle grazing ground into Indian Army golf ground.

And poor sorry Haa Dzongkha Administration had no courage or traditional duty sense to hold perhaps the most historical event ( this 2017 National Day Celebration ) since the reign of the Second King,  at this ancient naturally set open  stadium. The Spirits of our Forefathers must be  perplexed by subdued spirit of Haa people. It was far more fiery and dedicated to Palden Drukpa pride at one time of Haa history.  

So dear fellow Haaps let us cramp ourselves in the couryards of Lhakhang Karpo whilst golf balls fly about from foregn hand held clubs at the spacious natural stadium.

Happy National Day! And its never too late to assert one's rightful rights! With Risum Goenpo as our collective witness and inspirations,  wishing all for brighter  sovereign days ahead.


Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Do not feel disadvataged so easily.

A few days back a fb friend who is also a fellow ( much younger ) of same village root expreesed that there were two laws: one for rich and one for poor. I guess he has had some disappointments. Out of natural affection for a fellow village colleague, I shared my following thoughts. Maybe some of you would find a trace of similarity.   

" There are no different laws for poor and rich though application may differ at times so one has to fight harder if you are devoid of backing. Thats what I do.  What is fundamentally right cannot be turned into wrong. That I learned from  my proven life long experience.

I never think in rich or poor term. The first rule I still follow as I did as a village boy is live within one's means. Do not gamble. Do not waste.  And do not try to keep up with elites or those far fortunate than you. And above all never accept that you are disadvantaged. Every human being is basically equally born and die in like manner. Never ever envy or be daunted ". 

Saturday, December 2, 2017

National Council at peak of performance

1. BBIN ratification ( Bhutan Bangladesh India and Nepal Road Transport Agreement in name but in essence a mini SAARC organisation structure) had to be deferred as NC had wisely  opposed it.

2. The Media Act got passed only after NA accepted all the changes demanded by NC.

3. The Money Bill ( passed by National Assembly ) regarding promotion of tourists to the six Eastern dzongkhags has been rejected by NC. Possibly this will result in the death of the Bill. I still wonder why the Government could not include Zhemgang the least developed Dzongkhag in this tourist incentive Bill if economic enhancement was the main reason. Was the Money Bill a political move aimed at the coming General Election? I am not sure.

In a meeting 2 years back with Lyonpo Sonam Kinga ( I had gone to lobby against Parliament decision to establish Thromdes in all 20 Dzongkhags. I had already  met the Honorable Prime Minister His Excellency Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay and later also met the Honourable Speaker Lyonpo Jigme Zangpo. They all patiently heard me out but felt that rules did not permit over turning of Parliament decision immediately. Miraculously much later, Supreme Court Ruled against the immediate estsblishment of the new Thromdes). During the meeting with the Honourable NC Chairman, I had tried to educate myself on how exactly the Upper House worked on proposed Bills.  His Excellency the Chairman of National Council Lyonpo Sonam Kinga patiently described the working methodology of NC. I was very impressed. My response was " Thats quite a workaholic machinery, Lyonpo. Perhaps a direct connect with stakeholders could further strengthen the position of the House because many stakeholders in the proposed Thromdes were kept in the dark by the Executive Agencies". Since then I have paid close attention to the views and ways of National.Council. The working style of the Upper House have produced many nation enhancing decisions and preserved genuine common interests of stakeholders.   

National Council was set up as a Check and Balance Legislative Body and thats what the present MPs at NC are effectively doing. Thank you Honourable Dashos.