Meeting with Swami Agnivesh

By Dr D.N.S.Dhakal

Swami Agnivesh is a known personality among the Bhutanese refugees. He was founding member and patron- in chief of Bhutan Solidarity; visited the camps in Nepal on several occasions, and even approached the Prime Minister I.K Gujral for resolution of refugee problem.
I had the opportunity to meet Swamiji on several occasions. In fact, I have been meeting him every year since I left Bhutan on 18 October 1991.

Swami Agnivesh is known for his work on bonded labor. His erstwhile colleague Kailash Satyarthi shared Nobel Peace Prize with Malala Yousafzai in 2014. He is a scholar, politician, social activist and monk of Arya Samaj order. His contribution is immense in Indian society.

Dr. DNS Dhakal meeting with Swami Agnivesh.

Dr. DNS Dhakal meeting with Swami Agnivesh.

Swamiji had shared with members of Bhutan solidarity an interesting response form the Indian Prime Minister Gujral when he went to see him on Bhutan issue. He was personal friend of Gujral.
When Swamiji raised the issue of Bhutanese refugees I.K. Gujral stood up from Prime Minister’s chair and raised his hands and said, “Swamiji, we can talk about any issues under the sun but not the issue of Bhutanese refugees. If I raised I will be considered anti-national”.

That information was shared to me by Anand Swroop Verma coordinator of Bhutan solidarity. And this information became key for me to cooperate with third country resettlement initiative of the international community.

This time I had gone to his office for courtesy call and seek his opinion on some of the issues that I have been working along.

He was happy to see that more than 100,000 Bhutanese refugees have moved abroad under third country resettlement program. His suggestion to me was that I work towards bringing a happy end to the refugee problem in Nepal.

His viewpoint is that the resettled refugees will not return to Bhutan. This was the case with indentured Indian labors in the 19th century and it will happen to Bhutanese refugees as well.

He was pained to emphasize that we should not be dogmatic to our culture and value system, be sensitive to other communities’ viewpoint and live peacefully adopting the philosophy of “Basudaiva Kutumva Kum”. After all Bhutanese refugees are resettled there on generosity!

The idea of Non-resident Bhutanese (NRB) status to resettled refugee is good in long-term perspective. His viewpoint is that even India is not able to sort out the issue of dual citizenship for non-resident Indian and it will become not an easy task for Bhutan as well. The security concern will haunt the dispensation.

However, he said, “If it could be acceptable to Bhutan government that will give dignity to the resettled community. A perfect understanding between Bhutan and the resettled Bhutanese is key for NRB”
He sends his warm greetings to the resettled Bhutanese community and considers them lucky for they have all the opportunity to succeed since there are no social problems as there are in this part of the world.
He believes that this part of the world is just beginning a fight for change. The domination of wife by husband, son by father and the lower caste by upper caste—are all some forms of exploitation.

Emancipation from these domination would require struggles, which are not needed where the Bhutanese refugees are resettled.

“Though color prejudices still exists in some refugee receiving counties but there are plenty of opportunities to succeed in education, business and lead a free and happy life. The resettled Bhutanese must seize this opportunity to succeed.”

I could read the pain in his eyes when Swami Agnivesh told me all these. Perhaps, the discussions he had with Prime Minister I.K. Gujaral were reverberating in his mind when we were talking about the resettled Bhutanese, and he was happy to see that the ordinary refugees escaping the cruel clutches of regional politics!