The two women at the heart of the ‘chilli controversy’ Daw Zangmo (27) and Mindu Wangmo (26) denied the RBA press release allegations of them sleeping with other men or having male ‘customers’.
In the interview with the paper they, for the first time, gave their own version of events which differed in certain aspects from the RBA press release.
The two women, alleged that Dedrim Dorji hit their Kira, once each, with a piece of cloth wrapped around a stick soaked in chilli in his office, and then later called them all kinds of names in a gathering of around 60 army wives.
The two women, however, denied that chilli was put on their private parts or that they were beaten mercilessly and chased out of the camp.
The Bhutanese independently tracked down and contacted the two women at the heart of the controversy, and interviewed both of them, on the phone and on the record, over a period of four days from Monday to Thursday to get their version of events.
The women who at the time were staying outside the Gelephu Army camp in private quarters and away from the camp life talked to The Bhutanese freely.
The paper also got a clear consent from both the women to publish their version of the events including their names.
Daw Zangmo and Mindu Wangmo are two friends who said that they like to go out together to the local Gelephu town for shopping, and Mindu Wangmo who herself does not drink accompanied Daw Zangmo to local bars.
Daw Zangmo said that she liked to have the occasional drink there.
The two friends told the The Bhutanese that on 6th August 2015 they had visited a local Drayang in Gelephu where Daw Zangmo had a drink. Both of them at the same time denied that they went with men to such places or slept around for money.
Daw Zangmo said, “On 7th August we were called to the office where Dasho (Company Major) told us nicely to not go to such places in the future and then left.”
However, as soon as the Major left, the two women said that Dedrim Dorji, who appeared to be in an agitated state, took over.
Mindu Wangmo said, “He had a container with some red chilli power mixed with water and there was a small stick with a piece of cloth at its end dipped in it. He was very angry and kept accusing us of various things, used abusive language and called us prostitutes.”
The two women said that Dedrim Dorji then took out the stick and threatened to put chilli on them if they did not change their ways.
Daw Zangmo said, “The Dedrim was very angry and was swinging the stick all around. He then hit the cloth end of the stick on my Kira once and then he also hit my friend Mindu on her Kira too.”
However, both the women said that they were neither stripped nor was chilli put on their private parts by the Dedrim.
Daw Zangmo said, “We will not hesitate to say what really happened to us as we are simple people but we will also not lie and make up stories.”
The Dedrim Dorji on his part said that he was swinging the stick around and while doing so some of the chilli water from the end of the stick fell on the women’s Kiras. He denied making deliberate contact.
The two women were then asked by the same Dedrim to come for a company family line meeting.
Daw Zangmo said she took the opportunity to go home and change her Kira and put on some thick pants underneath. Both of the women were apprehensive of what would happen to them in the public gathering.
The two women said that their company’s family line consisted of around 130 families and at the meeting called by the Dedrim around 60 aums or army wives came.
According to the two women, the Dedrim came to the meeting with the chilli water container in his hand and in the gathering called the two women abusive names and warned others not to copy their examples or have chilli put on them.
The two women denied being physically caned or beaten in the gathering by the
Dedrim or the Aums. They said that the only person making hurling various verbal abuses on them was the Dedrim who left after a while.
They said that the aums who had gathered were in fact sympathetic to them and after the meeting was dispersing some of them came up to them and advised them to change their ways or the Dedrim might carry out his threat.
Next day on the 8th August, which was a Saturday, the two women were told by the Dedrim that once the two women’s husbands were back on Monday all four of them would be called together for a meeting and the issue would be informed to their husbands as well.
Both Daw and Mindu then met privately and discussed the issue. Given their experience and humiliation by the Dedrim so far the two women were apprehensive of what would happen to them on Monday.
Both of them decided to flee the camp by Saturday evening to avoid the Monday meeting.
On Saturday they booked a Taxi and headed towards Tsirang and stayed the evening there. On Sunday Morning or 9th August the two women started out for Paro and reached there at night where they stayed for around three days with Mindu’s friend’s younger sister. They then spent a night at Thimphu
before deciding to head back to Gelephu after their husbands started calling them.
When the two women got back they lost their family line accommodations as their husbands had been shifted to the bachelor’s line.
They were called by the wing commander and being illiterate and semi literate were asked to give a statement of the events as part of the RBA’s investigation into the incident. The two women said that all of their statements were recorded in Dzongkha but when it came to the chilli incident they were questioned in detail. The Dedrim’s version that chilli got on their Kira accidentally was accepted and since a senior camp officer questioned their version and said it must have been an accident they decided to go with it.
The two women said their Dzongkha statement was then translated into English and they gave their impressions on both the documents stuck with legal stamps.
Meanwhile RENEW is also in touch with the women and they gave another statement to the CSO. The two women said that their account to RENEW is largely similar to what was told to The Bhutanese.
The Company Major said that RENEW had later told the Gelephu RBA that the Dedrim had been too harsh and should not have embarrassed the two
women. RENEW is in touch with the two women and will be providing necessary counseling and guidance to help the two women in a comprehensive manner.
A RBA official said that RENEW after looking into the matter on its own has advised RBA to transfer the two women to a different camp for their own welfare.
Gelephu RBA speaks
The Company Major said that the two women had been seen numerous times in the past engaging in different kinds of behavior and there had even been two official complaints filed.
The two women had been warned several times to uphold the security and norms of the camp or risk losing their family accommodations.
He said the two women were even asked to give written statements saying that it was the last time they would engage in such activities or risk losing the family line accommodation. He said one of them signed and the other one did not turn up.
He said the RBA investigation was done by officers from another company and Dedrim Dorji was strongly cornered, interrogated and even warned about losing his job by the officers. He said that the Dedrim Dorji would face action from the RBA for his conduct.