Ans. Bhutan which is situated between
the two superpower countries; India & China, experienced various waves of
immigrants making ethno-history slightly complex. In the north, we have
Brokpas, laps and Bjops (the people of mountain passes) who are initially from
Tibet. In the south, we have Nepalese settlers of Indo-Aryan civilization. The
people residing in the east are said to have migrated from Arunachal Pradesh
(India) and northern
Myanmar. But prior to those
immigrants, there were tribes, such as Monpa. They were also called as forest
Monpa as they were found living in the Black Mountain Forest of Central Bhutan.
According to the First Progress Report of Bhutanese gene-diversity project
which attempts to trace the ancestry of the Bhutanese, the Black Mountain
Monpas in the central Bhutan and the Lokpus or Doyas of southern Bhutan are two
genetically distinct and aboriginal populations in Bhutan (Chand, 2009). At
present, those Monpas and lokpus have become minority group living in a remote
part of our country. I feel that being the first inhabitants of the region,
they need to be given some privileges such as native title rights like native
title in Australia.
Some of the aboriginal groups in
the regions used the land for cultivation of paddies but due to heavy rainfall
and difficult mountainous terrains, agriculture was practiced at the
subsistence level. The land area available for permanent cultivation was not enough
to sustain the livelihood. Their option was to depend on forest and practise
wild farming such as shifting cultivation, known in Bhutan as Tsheri farming.
Those practices were later continued by other inhabitants too. Later in 1969,
Royal Government of Bhutan enacted the Bhutan Forest Act with commitment to
phase out shifting cultivation practices, which was seen as the main cause for
deforestation and hastening topsoil loss (Ura and Norbu, 1992). But according
to my understanding, compared to other regions, the environmental degradation
in Bhutan is not as alarming. This is because of the low population density and
less intensive land use. Moreover, the land use practices of aboriginal people
are less damaging where they have followed traditional norms for fertility
regeneration. If people practices shifting cultivation disastrously, government
can come up with appropriate land use policies and equitable land tenure
system, otherwise poorer sections of the farming community may be pushed aside.
Therefore, I feel that some of the
traditional land utilisation practices such as shifting cultivation need to be
reconsidered by the policy makers of our my country.