Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Treaty of Ashley Eden and Bhutan


On 25th March 1864 A.D, Mr. Ashley Eden was made to sign agreement with Government of Bhutan drafted by Trongsa Penlop and his supporters. In 1863, Ashley Eden forced his ways into Bhutan when Bhutan was going through serious internal strife. Although Bhutanese never wanted to receive the mission, arrogant and stubborn forced his ways into Punakha despite repeatedly told to go back. Even Paro Penlop couldn’t stopped him at Paro. He was accompanied by Cheeboo Lama of Sikkim as the interpreter. During that time, situation in Bhutan was thus;
1.       Bhutan was undergoing internal strife due to which Jigme Namgyal of Trongsa emerged as the strongest leader
2.       Deb Raja was powerless and just a pawn in the hand of Trongsa Penlop
3.       Dharma Raja (Zhabdrung incarnate)was too young as well as too submissive
4.       Due to internal power struggle, the politics of power was such that sense of patriotism was at lowest point. Everybody was against Trongsa Penlop and wished he lose all power
5.       As none of Bhutanese knew English, Chiboo Lama might have played roles based on his vested interest including interpretation going by Bhutanese accusation during civil war.
The following was the agreement signed by Ashley Eden. Probably, he was probably the first person in history to sign and remarked `under compulsion` to save his own skin from GovernorGeneral of British India.
“That from today there shall always be friendship between the English and the Bhutanese. Formerly, the Dharma Raja and the Queen were of one mind, and the same friendships exists to the present day. Foolish men on the frontier having caused a disturbance, certain men belonging to the British Power, living on frontier have taken Bulisusan between Cooch Behar and the Kam Raja, and Ambaree, near the border of Sikkim, and then between Banska and Gowalparah, Rangamutte, Bokalibaree, Motteeamaree, Pappareebari, Arioetta and then the seven Eastern Duars. Then certain bad men on the Bhutanese side stole men, cattle, and other property, and committed thefts and robberies, and the British men plundered property and burnt down houses in Bhutan. By reason of this bad omen remaining, the ryots suffered great trouble; and on this account the Governor General, with a good intention, sent an envoy, Mr. Eden with letters and presents, and sent with him Chiboo Lama, the minister of Sikkim, and on their coming to the Desi and Dharma Rajas, making petition, a settlement of a permanent nature has been made by both parties. The Dharma Raja will send one agent to the east and one to the west; when they shall arrive on the frontier of the company’s territory, they shall, after an interview with the British agents, receive back the tracts above mentioned belonging to Bhutan, and after these shall be given back, and on full proof being given against persons charged with cattle stealing, &c., the British will surrender such offenders to the Bhutanese and the Bhutanese will like manner surrender offenders to the British. After that each shall take charge of his own territory, look after his own ryots, and remain on friendly terms, and commit no aggression, and the subjects of either State going into the neighbouring State shall be treated as brothers.
If, notwithstanding, any bad men on the either side shall commit any aggression, the rulers of the place in which the offender lives shall seize and punish him. And as Cheeboo Lama is the interpreter between the British and the Bhutan, the Sikkimese therefore henceforth assist the Bhutanese. We have written above that the settlement is permanent; but who knows, perhaps this settlement, is made with one word in the mouth and two in the heart. If, therefore, this settlement is false, the Dharma Raja’s deities will, after deciding who is true or false, take his life, and take out his liver and scatter it o the winds like ashes. The Bhutan’s army will take possession of Sikkim, and if the Raja of Cooch Behar shall attempt to take any land belonging to Bhutan, the Bhutan Government, Sikkim Government and the Company will invade Cooch Behar. If the British attempt to take land from Bhutan, the Bhutan, Sikkim and Cooch Behar will invade the Company’s territory; and if the Behar Raja shall invade Sikkim, the Bhutan, Sikkim and the Company shall invade Behar.  Whichever of the four States, Bhutan, British Company, Behar or Sikkim commit aggression, the other three shall punish it and if, whist this agreement remains, any other enemy shall arise to any of the States, the others shall assist him. This agreement is made between the British and the Bhutanese. And there is the seal of the Dharma Raja and Desi.
Seal here attached                                              Ashely Eden
Signed                                                                   (Under Compulsion)”

 Although Bhutan was in no stable situation to negotiate treaty due to internal strife, Ashley Eden was drunk with ego as he had, in recent years, negotiated and sign important treaty with Sikkim. On other hand, Bhutan was not really aware of actual might and military capability of British though Bhutanese tasted defeat during warfare in Cooch Behar at the time of Desi Zhidhar. Trongsa Penlop who emerged as formidable leader from among Penlops/Dzongpons was more concerned about getting back lost eastern duars which was great source of revenue for him. Probably, Paksha Raja, a runaway Indian mutineer who was acting as Jigme Namgyal’s advisor wanted to balm his own ego and didn’t disclose true might of British. Thus, Bhutanese leader especially Trongsa Penlop and Wangdue Dzongpon not only insulted him but drafted their own treaty whereby duars were to return to Bhutan. Apart from issues of borders and cross borders criminal activities, Eden was not authorised to negotiate about return of duars or any changes in boundary. If Ashley Eden signed the treaty, he was sure to face severe action by Governor General and if he didn’t sign treaty, Bhutanese might have imprisoned him. Thus, he took advantage of Bhutanese leaders’ lack of English knowledge and he wrote `under compulsion’ below his signature. Once reaching India, Indian painted worst image possible of Bhutan and Bhutanese in his report. He demonised character of Trongsa Penlop although Jigme Namgyal redeemed part of his character due to treatment of British prisoners and concern for his own captured soldiers. As mentioned in agreement, Eden spoke with ‘one word in mouth and two in heart’ by discrediting the agreement he signed. Not only that, he recommended permanent annexation of all Duars and war against Bhutanese. Thus, Duar Wars were fought where many Bhutanese were died and around hundred were massacred by  overzealous native Indian soldiers. 

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