The newly minted Minister of State for Minority Affairs in India and Alipurduar MP, John Barla, in an interview to a facebook based media outlet in Jaigaon made some unfortunate remarks.
The minister in all probability misled by the admin said that what The Bhutanese reported on the extortion syndicate is not correct and it should not happen again.
It is another matter that the admin of this facebook media outlet in Jaigaon briefing and interviewing the minister is currently charged with extortion in the same story by this paper and is convicted for forgery in the past.
The minister also said he would talk to the Bhutan government and our Ambassador in Delhi to control the content of The Bhutanese.
The minister may have been speaking in his capacity as the MP of Alipurduar which includes the Jaigaon area, but when he does it he should remember he is also a Union minister of India carrying the weight and prestige of the Government of India.
The MP and Minister for State should realize that Bhutan is not only a sovereign country with control of its own borders, but it is also a democratic one with a free press.
No MP or for that matter minister from India or any other country has a right to dictate to Bhutan on what happens within its borders or try and control the content of the free press here.
Bhutan is grateful to the GoI for all the help extended during the lockdown in India, but this does not mean that we give into bullying by a few sub-local players just across the borders.
It is equally unfortunate that the local SSB and the Customs in Jaigaon have decided to teach friendly Bhutan a lesson only because a private newspaper exposed some extortionists in its ranks. They are subjecting Bhutan bound trucks to rigorous checks as if Bhutan is Pakistan or Afghanistan.
Given the increasing trade difficulties for Bhutan since it closed its borders- from exporting vegetables to now boulders, there is an unproven but growing view within some sections in Bhutan that all of this is a deliberate ploy to get Bhutan to open its gates.
Such comments and actions above will only reinforce this so far unproven view.
As a small landlocked country Bhutan has no option but to swallow all this petty humiliation and suffer, but in some ways this is good as suffering and facing up to realities can change a nation.
“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” – Ambrose Redmoon