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10/12/2004: "December 20 2003 Brutal War in Bhutan condemned"

A Naga International Support Center, Nisc
A human rights organization

Press Release

Urgent Human Rights appeal to the International Communityl

Amsterdam, December 20 2003
Brutal War in Bhutan condemned
Rampant human rights abuses turn the Political Crisis in Bhutan and Northeast India into a Humanitarian Tragedy
Royal Bhutan Offensive Against civilians in Camps of Indigenous Peoples of the Northeast turned into a bloodbath; soldiers blatantly executed, women soldiers raped and civilians massacred in bomraids. Bodies strewn all over and lie around wherey they perished,
wounded not attented to.

The political crisis in Northeast India, brought about by military repression against armed indigenous movements fighting for their right to self determination, resulted a decade ago in activists taking shelter in Bhutan.

A - The Naga International Support Center, Nisc, condems both the Royal Bhutan Army and the Armed Forces of India and calls on the international community to immediately intervene and thus to:

1 Stop the war in Bhutan. Urge Bhutan to declare a cease-fire.
2 Ensure the security and safety of civilians, women and children.
3 Provide immediate medical relief to injured civilians hurt by crossfire and bombing.
4 Prepare a detailed list of causalities and hand over the dead bodies to impartial authorities, so that they may be handed back to families of the bereaved.
5 Release detained non-combatants to their families through any impartial international monitoring body, such as ICRC.
6 Comply with the international standards and instruments while dealing with activists who have been captured, or have surrendered to Bhutanese authorities.
7 Conduct a thorough investigation on the reported misconduct of Bhutanese and Indian troops concerning extrajuidicial killings of captured militants, torture and rape female soldiers
8 Hold the Bhutan and India responsible for the reported atrocities

B - The Naga international Support Center calls on both the Governments of India and Bhutan to stop this brutal assault on both combattants and civilians.

Nisc holds both governments responsible for tremendous human suffering through their poilicies of neglect, of denial of fundamental human rights and the sheer brute force used to subdue peoples that do not readily agree with the policies of the governments, but want to determine their own future.

For more information and reports on the war in Bhutan see our website or write to

Background of the conflict and tragedy

December 19, 2003
Bhutan king, son lead troops in offensive
Bhutan King Jigme Singye Wangchuk and one of his sons are personally leading troops in the offensive to flush out anti-India rebels in the Himalayan kingdom, Indian Army officials said here Friday.
The first-ever operation by 6,000 soldiers of the untested Royal Bhutan Army entered its fifth day Friday.
Officials from the Indian Army's eastern command here familiar with the planning and execution of the offensive said the pro-India king and his second son, Prince Jigyel Ugyen Wangchuck, had been leading troops in the eastern part of his largely Buddhist kingdom for the past three days.
MASS Central Office, Guwahati.
From Political Crisis to Humanitarian Tragedy: Royal Bhutan Offensive Against non-combatants in Rebel Camps
The political crisis arising out of repression of armed movements in Northeast India resulted in many activists taking shelter in Bhutan.
The government of Bhutan, since 2000 have been negotiating with leaders of the armed opposition groups for the withdrawal of their camps from Bhutanese territory. The process was impeded due to repression on political movements in Northeast India. The government of India, in the meantime, kept up pressure on the Bhutanese government to conduct operations against the armed opposition groups. According to media sources, the Bhutanese government had engaged leaders of the armed opposition groups in talks regarding a phased withdrawal from Bhutan. In the midst of these parleys, the Royal Bhutanese Army (RBA), aided by the Indian army attacked the bases of the armed opposition groups on December 15, 2003 (The Telegraph, December 17, 2003 and December 19, 2003). The coordinated attack has been carried out with logistical and material support from the Indian army. There are reports that the famed Bofors guns are being used to shell the camps (Asomiya Khobor, December 18, 2003).
Media reports suggest that a large number of women and children had taken shelter from repression in India, in the camps of the armed opposition groups (Asomiya Protidin, December 17, 2003). The attack by security personnel from both countries has so far resulted in the deaths of many women and children and other non-combatants. According to reports in the Asomiya Protidin a high-ranking official in the RBA said that: “…(we) will not spare women and children (and)… we will kill everybody” (Asomiya Protidin, December 18, 2003). True to their word, the RBA have killed helpless victims even as they waved white flags to surrender. Two women activists of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) were shot in cold blood as they surrendered to soldiers of the RBA (Asomiya Protidin, December 19, 2003). Clearly, this is in contravention of all the humanitarian laws that are applicable in a situation of armed conflict. Moreover, reports suggest that those captured in the conflict in Bhutan, have been handed over to the Indian army’s 21 Mountain Division in Rangiya (The Telegraph, December 19, 2003). In the meantime, according to media reports, Bhutan’s government has denied access to independent humanitarian bodies like the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) and continues to carry on the unchecked violation of rights of people seeking humanitarian relief (Aji, December 19, 2003). The bodies of the victims have been left to decompose by the Bhutanese authorities. While the bodies of Bhutanese soldiers have been reclaimed by the RBA, the Bhutanese authorities claim that since the government of India has not asked for the dead bodies, they have been left to the elements (Asomiya Khobor, December 19, 2003).
Reacting to these inhuman events, civil society in all parts of Assam has held several protest meetings and rallies. In Guwahati city alone, thousands of people participated in a meeting organised Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chatra Parishad (AJYCP) on December 19, 2003. In addition, the Cotton College Students Union organised a protest rally in front of the Kamrup (district) Deputy Commissioner’s office. The North East Students Organisation has also protested against these events in front of the Bhutanese Embassy in New Delhi. The gists of the demands of the protestors are as follows:
Manab Adhikar Sangram Samiti (MASS) endorses all the demands raised by the democratic organisations and by civil society in Assam. We further request all civil and human rights bodies to call upon the Bhutanese government to comply with the demands raised by democratic opinion throughout the Northeast. If it fails to do so, it would have compounded a humanitarian tragedy whose repercussions will be felt by all people of the region in the future.
Lachit Bordoloi
Chairman, MASS

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