-  Tuesday 04 August 2020

Bhutanese refugees an int'l issue: India

 -  Kantipur

June 11 2007 - India has for the first time said the outstanding Bhutanese refugees issue is an international problem, a marked departure from what the southern neighbor has maintained on the impasse to date.
"It is an international problem and the government of India is trying to work out a solution," The Indian Express, an English daily, quoted Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee as saying.

India had been dubbing the refugee issue as a bilateral issue between Nepal and Bhutan, to date.

The remarks of the Indian foreign minister comes at a time when Bhutanese refugees have been eagerly waiting for Indian support for their repatriation. Indian authorities had stopped their Long March -- a campaign for voluntary repatriation -- early this month.

Emerging from a meeting with West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadev Bhattacharjee at his residence in Kolkata Saturday night, Mukherjee informed the media that Bhattacharjee told him the refugee problem was creating serious problems in law and order situation in Bengal, and it was unacceptable" to the state government.

"Nepal claims that these are not Nepalese citizens and Bhutan is also not ready to accept them. The refugees want to enter Bhutan and they want to pass through Indian territory," Mukherjee further said.

During the meeting, the Chief Minister urged Mukherjee to initiate a dialogue with Nepal and Bhutan, according to the newspaper.

However, Mukherjee said, "We are on friendly terms with both countries. The issue of Bhutan refugees cropped up 11 years ago (sic) and as far as I know there are about 100,000 refugees in the camps. The population of Bhutan is about 600,000. If these 100,000 people enter Bhutan it would create demographic imbalance."

Two weeks ago, at least two refugees succumbed to bullet injuries during a clash with Indian Seema Suraksha Bal deployed at Mechi Bridge bordering Nepal and India in the east, as refugees attempted to return to Bhutan via India, which was a part of their "Long March", a campaign for voluntary repatriation. But the refugees halted the campaign for 15 days after signing an agreement with the district official of Darjeeling. The Indian official agreed that the Indian government would make its stand on the refugee stalemate known within 15 days.

Source: Kantipur

Other articles by reporter Kantipur

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