Letters to the Editor Himal Southasian

India oversight
Thanks so much for your recent coverage of the Lhotshampa refugee issue (June, "Repatriation or resettlement"). We found it unfortunate, however, that the writer did not stress India's role in ending this near two-decade-long tragedy. India has been instrumental in creating this problem, and its involvement is necessary in finding a solution.

With regard to third-country settlement, this should be a choice made by individual refugees. That said, it is also important to note that the UNHCR and the members of the core group have been emphasising only resettlement, rather than putting pressure on the Bhutanese authorities to take back the country's citizens. In addition, the US and other resettlement countries have not yet demonstrated that refugees' right to return to Bhutan will be guaranteed after resettlement. Furthermore, they have not made clear the conditions under which refugees will be kept in these new countries. This oversight has created unnecessary tensions in the camps.

UNHCR and the 'core-group' countries have also not spoken about the Lhotshampas who remain in Bhutan, who were not registered as Bhutanese citizens during the last census. Thousands of Lhotshampas are now in line to be booted out of the country, and the US, India and most human-rights groups are acting as mere spectators as the events unfold. To claim itself as the largest democracy in world, how ethical is it for India to remain aloof from these activities, taking place in a country to which it has offered guidance for decades?

Bhutan News Service team

Poor taste (simulated)  
I was recently browsing through your back issues, and came across the article on India's national ID card initiative (November-December 2005, "Peeking out of your pocket"). While the article was competently written, it included a very offensive illustration, showing a simulation of a national ID card belonging to Rahul Gandhi. The illustration mentions the "Place of Worship: Church", "Parents: Italy + India", as well as a fake CBI Code – all of which show poor cultural values, as well as the radical leanings of the illustrator and publisher. The poor taste and lack of respect exhibited should be apologised for, and the illustration withdrawn.

Savio Pereira

Beware the US
In your coverage on Bangladesh, you have not given due weight to the role of the US at this critical time. It is worrying to note, for instance, that the current prime ministers in both India and Bangladesh are former World Bank employees. The US – in collaboration with European capitals, as well as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the Asian Development Bank – is bent on the 'Pakistanisation' of Bangladesh. Washington, DC knowingly allowed radical Islam and rampant corruption to flourish in Bangladesh during the 2001-06 rule of the BNP-Jamaat-e-Islami government. Even while US officials now talk publicly about establishing democracy in Bangladesh, they continue to quietly back the army.

India's kowtowing to the US could seriously hurt the Southasian cause. New Delhi must not give in to US imperialist ambitions for petty short-term gains. An unstable, undemocratic Bangladesh will be a significant threat to the region, particularly for India and China. As such, New Delhi and Beijing must ensure that human rights are quickly restored in Bangladesh, and that it returns to democracy soon. Prolonged dictatorship and Islamic fascism will plunge Bangladesh into an abyss. The current unconstitutional government has neither legitimacy nor mandate to push the hidden agenda of its foreign mentors.

Wasim Rajin
By e-mail

Glad Himal's banned
Re: the June cover on Bangladesh, I would suggest that you and your reporters refrain from creating confusion among people by writing what you think will get publicity. The Bangladeshi military has always backed the government, irrespective of whether it was run by the BNP, AL or JP. Why didn't you write such critiques during those times? I for one am happy that your publication has been banned in my country. I believe in freedom of speech, but most reporters forget that the definition of 'freedom' includes an element of responsibility. Please understand that I am also against military government. But the present situation has only occurred because the two major parties could not reach a consensus on the holding of elections. I hope that the situation stays like this, so that the people can be rid of strikes, street demonstrations and violence created by the political parties. Politicians in Bangladesh like to talk about freedom of the people. All the while, in the name of 'agitation', they torch buses and create an environ-ment of chaos that destroys our country's economy.

Saidul Alam
Edmonton, Canada

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