A dress code diktat by Gorkha Janmukti Morcha asking all students to wear traditional dress on three days a week has the Bhutnese government worried about its students in Darjeeling. The Bhutanese students have been asked to wear traditional Bhutanese apparel.
A Bhutanese government delegation has sought exemption for its students from the dress code diktat, as it feared that they would become soft targets for anti-Bhutan ultras. It was ironically, a similar decree by Bhutan king that had forced thousands of Bhutanese students of Nepal origin to flee Bhutan and seek refuge in refugee camps in Nepal.
The Gorkha Jamukti Vidhyarthi Morcha, the student's front of the GJM, has refused to give any concession and said that the code will be strictly enforced. If the Bhutanese students had no objection to following the dress code, why should the Bhutan government and more important, the West Bengal government rush into the matter, it questioned and alleged that it was a conspiracy by the West Benal government to propel a minor issue into an international one.
"No expemption will be allowed," the Morcha declared.
In Darjeeling there are 400 Bhutanese students and 450 in Kalimpong studying in colleges like St. Joseph's College, Darjeeling Government College, Ghoom Degree College and Salesian College Sonada, among others.
Now, the Bhutanese govenment plans to take up the issue with the external affairs ministry.
A delegation of Bhutan government officials called on the Inpsector General of North Bengal Kundan Lal Tamta, who assured the delegation of protection to Bhutanese students if they wanted to ignore the dress code. "The Bhutanese students feel threatened and apprehensive. As they are foreign nationals they have nothing to do with the issue. On top of that the Bhutanese Government feels that they coould be the targets of ultra outfits as they would stand out in their Bhutanese traditional outfit" Tamta said after the meeting held on November 12 in Darjeeling.
Keshav Raj Pokhrel, General Secretary of the GJVM questioned "When the Bhutanese students have no problem in sporting their traditional clothes, why is the IG interfering? He has stated that he would be providing police protection to the Bhutanese students. This is a conspiracy hatched by the State Government to disrupt the peace and tranquility in the Hills before the next round of tripartite talks slated for December 21 in Darjeeling. We will foil all such attempts."
Incidentally after the end of a month-long "cultural revolution" of the GJM (in which Hill residents were asked to wear traditional clothes) on October 25, GJM Supremo Bimal Gurung had asked all college students to sport their traditional attires three days a week (Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday) continuously. Accordingly students sport traditional clothes to college including students from Bhutan wearing traditional Bhutanese clothes.
"From tomorrow checks will be severe. The Youth wing of the GJM has also assured us of all cooperation. If the State Government can use their police force to protect the Bhutanese students then we will ensure that they wear it. Practically there is no existence of police in the Darjeeling Hills, we will further ensure that the police disappear theoretically also" warned Pokhrel.
Janchuk Dorji, President of the Bhutanese Students Association of Darjeeling talking to HT confirmed of the meeting held in Darjeeling. "Officials from the Indian and Bhutanese side along with Bhutanese students were present in the meeting held at the Darjeeling Circuit House. In the meeting we were asked not to wear our traditional clothes."
KL Tamta, IG, North Bengal stated that the Director Law and Order of Bhutan led a Bhutanese Government delegation that had called upon the State Government asking for help. uld become soft targets to anti-Bhutanese ultra
On January 16, 1989, the King of Bhutan issued a decree requiring all citizens to observe Driglam Namzah - a traditional code of conduct and dress based on the Drukpa culture of the ruling autocracy. Institutes were opened up to teach Driglam Namzah. These institutes taught people how to eat, dress, and speak. "Gho" and "Kira" (Drukpa dresses) were enforced along with Dzongkha language. Soon there was a ban on Nepali language.
The alleged ethnic cleansing gave way to an exodus in 1990 as thousands of Southern Bhutanese fled the country to seek refuge in neighboring India. Now nearly a lakh Bhutanese refugees of Nepali origin languish in refugee camps in Nepal. Many anti-Bhutan ultra outfits are believed to be operational.