By Dr. DNS Dhakal
It was Sunday June 28. I decided to take leave form my hectic teaching schedule from an executive program at Duke Center for International Development, Duke University.
Indra Dhital, originally from Kikorthang Block, of Chirang Dzongkha, came to pick me up from Raleigh around 8 AM. He came driving his own car navigated by his minor son who was eight grade student. He came to Raleigh in 2008. Both husband and wife work, children go to school. He plans to buy a home soon.
This has been the trend among the resettled Bhutanese. This was emerging last year, and I found it picking up at present. The elderly have no confusion what they want to achieve. Work for achieving the American dream: car, job, home, and business. Perhaps, about 25% of the resettled Bhutanese live now in their own home in America.
But this time I found the younger generation somewhat agitated. The generation that was born in the camps, who came to America without seeing Bhutan, have begun to ask questions. Lalita, Indra’s daughter, who had recently returned from Nepal, asked me this question.
“What is my identity? My parents carry American passport written Bhutan as Country of origin. In my passport Nepal is written as the country of origin. Though the States Department has assigned Nepal as my country of origin, I am not comfortable at it. I was born in the camps but I had no Nepalese citizenship. We were brought to America because of our Bhutanese identity. It seems I am always going to remain a confused person unless my identity is resolved. Am I American Bhutanese or American Nepalese? I wish that somebody help resolve this confusion, and with compelling reasons”
I was happy as well as sad at her arguments. I was happy because I had been calling on the resettled refugees to organize themselves as Non-Resident Bhutanese (NRB) since that would give belonging to thousands of Bhutanese in overseas countries whether they are from the camps or inside Bhutan. I am sad that this realization has not come yet from my compatriot whether they are in or outside Bhutan.
This recognition would give the resettled refugee dignity and identity, and for Bhutan an opportunity to win minds, hearts and goodwill of the overseas Bhutanese community who are likely to make about one-seventh of the country’s population.
This is a win-win solution for both Bhutan and the resettled refugees. NRB could serve for the resettled community as a rallying platform to be proud of their heritage, and for Bhutan government a population to count on at times of national emergency, such as the one that we saw recently in Nepal.