28th May 2007: Program at Mechi bridge
In protest of the general mock election on 28th May 2007 in Bhutan, National Front for Democracy-Bhutan (NFD-Bhutan) organized a mass Long march to Bhutan. The Bhutanese refugees numbering about 4000 while trying to march to Bhutan where 8 parties alliance/senior citizens/Human rights activist of Nepal were stopped by the Indian security forces at Indo-Nepal border on the Mechi Bridge. NFD chairman Mr. Thinley Penjore, Vice Presidents, Balaram Poudyal, D.B.Rana Sampang and Gup Khilla. led the march. The Indian forces resorted to lathi charge to the leading persons and marchers when they tried to force their way. The scene turned worse when refugee forcefully tried to march forward where the Indian forces started lathi charge and tear gas was thrown on the refugee mass. Mr. Thinley Penjore, Balaram Poudyal, D.B.Rana Sampang and Mr. D.P.Kafley (a Bhutanese refugee Human Rights activist) along with many refugees were injured seriously. A team of supporters led including MP and MLA who came from Delhi to express solidarity was stopped at Panitanki by the Indian forces and without meeting, the refugees were returned back. The forces also arrested around 28 refugee women (who were released next day) and man. Those injured were treated in Kanchanjunga hospital in Birtamod/ Dhulabari Health Post and Mechi Zonal Hospital in Bhadrapur. The bullet injuries were taken to BP Koiralla Hospital in Dharan. Rest of the refugees was in Dharna in the middle of the bridge. The Nepal Red Cross Society (NRCS), Jhapa branch had provided the first aid treatment to the wounded and injured. 80 persons had the First Aid treatment and 249 had the basic First Aid treatment. International Council of Red Cross (ICRC) later purchased the medicine and handed over to Mechi Zonal Hospital for distribution to the injured and referral cases since the UNHCR have denied providing the medical treatment through its Implementing Partner AMDA Nepal. The local people provided food and water. 29th May 2007Indian Security forces first lathi charge and later opened fire at Mechi Bridge. More enforcement of refugees poured in from various camps although there was strike and no movement of vehicles in Jhapa. Again, the refugees tried to push their way. Seeing the uncontrollable mob, state government of west Bengal imposed 144 Section of IPC. The forces resorted to firing and throwing tear gas. In retaliation, refugees also threw stones at the forces. In the firing 9 refugees were bullet injured and one a student Saha Bahadur Sewa died on the way to the hospital. 39 activists were sent to Mechi Zonal Hospital, Bhadrapur.
Reportedly, many Indian security forces were also injured. The situation remained very tense. Inspector General of Police (North Bengal), superintendent of police Darjeeling, DIG of SSB, District Magistrate of west Bengal visited Panitanki, had talk with National Front for Democracy, Bhutan leaders and requested to lead the Peaceful program than throwing stones and harassing the administration and to lift the barricade of International boarder. They also agreed to release arrested 2 females and 14 boys and spokes person of NFD, Mr. Narad Adhikari. 2 Nepali supporters and two Bhutanese boys will not be released as allegedly violated the law. Most of the participants are youths. To day also refugees decided to spend the night on the bridge. This is not the first time that Indian government prevented Bhutanese refugees going back to Bhutan through India, as it is the only route but had thwarted numerous such attempts in the past too.
The people of Nepal and the local Nepali Organizations have provided the food, accommodation and Ambulance services to the agitating refugees. Refugees pay their gratitude to all those who were directly and indirectly involved in making this program (Long March Home) successful.
Dignitaries from India like Member of Parliament: Mr. Brigbhusan Tiwari, MLA Dr. Sunilam and other few members were not allowed to reach the program place by the Indian security forces, so they sat for Dharna in Panitanki where they were stopped. The Indian guests came from Delhi and MadhyaPardesh, organize press conference in Bagdogra.
30th May 2007.
A meeting was held at Panitanki, India, between the Indian team lead by District Magistrate of Darjeeling District, Nepalese team lead by the Chief District Officer of Jhapa, 8 parties District representatives of Jhapa, Nepal and the Bhutanese Refugee agitating leaders of National Front for Democracy (NFD) Bhutan on the Long March to Bhutan by the Bhutanese Refugees.
The Indian team has agreed to create the environment of the talk with Bhutan to resolve the Bhutanese Refugee problem within 15 days.
15 activists including Mr. Narad Adhikari, General Secretary of Druk national Congress, are released un-conditionally by 4 pm.
The Appeal to Honorable Prime Minister of India shall be submitted by the District Magistrate.
The agitation shall be suspended for 15 days with immediate effect, 30th May 2007
May 31, 2007
Outcome of the Tripartite meeting at SSB (Sima Surakthsa Bal) camp at Panitanki, Indian Check-post Indo-Nepal border convened on May 30, 2007:
After the three days' struggle for long march movement of the Bhutanese refugees residing in Nepal to Bhutan, clashes erupted between the participants of the movement and the Indian security forces on the Mechi Bridge at the Indo-Nepal border Checkpoint, which commenced on May 28, 2007. As the situation became tense following curfew at the border a proposal for a tripartite dialogue was proposed by the Indian side to the CDO Jhapa, Shri Jaya Mukunda Khanal along with NID SSP Mr. Min Bahadur KC and Nepal Police SP, Mr. Yogendra Katwal. As a result, the Refugee Concern Committee Jhapa, NFD-Bhutan leaders, eight party delegates of Jhapa District led by the CDO, was held at the Indian side of the SSB camp.
Outcome of the dialogue:
The Indian side felt the Bhutanese peaceful program having gone beyond control, which had compelled SSB to take up action to charge battens and later tear gas extending to firing to disburse the peaceful marchers citing their responsibility on duty. The peace marchers were described as violent by the SSB and as many as 15 people were detained under charges of 144 Indian Penal Code during the operation.
We feel that it is a successful program and hope for India's involvement in this process. The refugees have respected the leaders decision to suspend the agitation for 15 days. The "Long March Home" has crossed the Mechi Bridge and is halted at Darjeeling for 15 days.
Deeply pay our condolences to the family of the deceased activist and pray for the speedy recovery of all the injured and wounded.
PFHRB request all the sympathizers and well-wishers of Bhutanese movement to pressurize the Indian Prime minister and foreign minister of government of India, New Delhi to allow the Bhutanese refugees to go back home as they came to Nepal to seek asylum through India.
General Secretary, PFHRB.