After an arbitrary census was held in Bhutan (1989), the government of Bhutan displaced approximately 100,000 Southern Bhutanese (Lhotshampas) out of Bhutan. There are several explanations for the expulsion/displacement as well as the conflict between the Lhotshampa and the Northern government, which a series of protests in the late 80s were held within the country against the government’s repressive ‘One Nation One People’ policy; illegalising Nepali/Lhotshampa cultural practices under the social code of conduct: Driglam Namzha.
After the initial civil unrest in 1991, thousands of Lhotshampa Bhutanese arrived at the border of in Eastern Nepal from West Bengal, India by foot and trucks. By the mid-1990s these Bhutanese refugees had increased to the rough estimates of 100,000 individuals. As a response to the crisis after conflict with the continuously collapsing Nepali government, Bhutanese officials stated the Bhutanese refugees were, in fact, opportunistic economic-migrants rather than vulnerable refugees they self-claim to be. Thus the Bhutanese government has not repatriated the refugees.
Since their exodus, individuals have reports of torture, murder, arrests and rapes during the late 80s to early 90s in Bhutan. Furthermore, many of the individuals have remained as refugees within Eastern Nepal or India for over two decades to either look for repatriation or simply to find peaceful residency in their refuge. Whereas many refugees have resettled into third-nations to find a better life from their traumatic experiences.
As of today the Bhutanese government has not repatriate the displaced group in totality and continues to deny the legitimacy of their vulnerability and refugee status. As a consequence of lack of pictorial evidence, caused by the unavailability of video, photo or audio records, there is little evidence of the events that lead to the exodus other than personal accounts, and it remains a serious question of Bhutan’s dark past in isolation from the rest of the world.
All information here is based on the accounts of the government of Bhutan, the international communities, third-party witnesses, refugees and scholars. Any misinformation presented on this website will be removed as appropriate.