Bhutan’s much-touted happiness rating lies atop a bed of pain. The pain of Bhutanese refugees of Nepali origin. I know, because I am one of them.
I come from an average working-class family that lived in Bhutan for generations with no interest or involvement in politics. My community, known in Bhutan as Lhotshampa, has traditionally lived in the south of the country.
In 1989, Bhutan conducted a national census and revoked our citizenship after retroactively implementing the Nationality Law of 1985. The policy of “national integration” and “revocation of citizenship” catalysed our community’s large-scale exodus.
One night, the coal mine office at the Bhutan-India border where my father worked as a clerk was attacked and ransacked. The next day, security personnel picked up my father and assaulted him.
They questioned his patriotism and nationality and tried to force him to confess to the attack or name who was to blame. My father, born to a simple farming family, had no clue. After this traumatic experience, he made the difficult decision to leave the country.
On March 3, 1990, we were among the Bhutanese who fled to save our lives. I was nine years old. We relocated to Timai, a Bhutanese refugee camp in eastern Nepal, where I grew up.
The United States Refugee Resettlement…