By Ashi Kesang Choeden Wangchuck
I have read Mr. Maharajakrishna Rasgotra’s recently published memoir, “A Life in Diplomacy”. In his memoir Mr. Rasgotra has made completely false and malicious accusations against my late brother Dasho Lhendup Dorji who had looked on him as a friend. Since my brother is no longer present to refute these claims, I am doing so on his behalf.
The former Indian Foreign Secretary has mentioned Indo-Bhutan relations briefly on two occasions in the book. However, the first brief mention of Bhutan was unfortunately not to enlighten readers on the origins of the exemplary relations that Bhutan and India enjoy today, but to purge what one suspects may have been a deeply held personal grudge against my brother Lhendup Dorji.
Mr. Rasgotra has chosen to dedicate most of the miniscule space on Bhutan to malign Dasho Lhendup Dorji. He says Dasho was “a good friend”, but then promptly goes on to make the most serious charges against someone who is not alive to clear his name.
Mr. Rasgotra has reduced the troubled and heartbreaking period in our lives from the time of the assassination of my brother Prime Minister Jigme Dorji in April 1964 and its aftermath into a simplistic narrative where Mr. Rasgotra plays the central role.
Mr. Rasgotra claims that a “confidante” of Dasho Lhendup Dorji came to see him in Delhi and told him that Dasho Lhendup believed that the late King His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck was somehow responsible for the assassination of his brother Prime Minister Jigme Palden Dorji and that he wished to take revenge by ousting the Royal Wangchuck Family as well as more importantly hoping for Mr. Rasgotra’s support in the matter.
According to Mr. Rasgotra’s account, he is responsible for single-handedly stopping Dasho Lhendup’s designs to wrest control of the country, which he writes, led to Dasho’s self-imposed exile in Nepal.
He also goes on to claim it was again his personal intervention years later at Dasho Lhendup’s request that enabled a peaceful family reconciliation whereupon Dasho returned to Bhutan.
After moving to Nepal, Mr. Rasgotra claims that Dasho Lhendup Dorji “settled down to a quiet unpretentious life as an expert chicken farmer”.
But the truth is that His Majesty King Mahendra of Nepal was well disposed to the Dorji Family and to Dasho Lhendup Dorji, who was a dashing, gregarious and all-round sportsman, who soon became good friends with the King’s brother Prince Basundhara Bir Bikram Shah, who shared a similar interests and background.
The King later gave his consent for Dasho Lhendup and Prince Basundhara to open the first casino in Nepal. Dasho “Lenny” as he was affectionately known to his wide circle of friends and admirers world-wide, was a top tennis player, golfer and a much sought-after presence in the elite social circles in Kathmandu, Hong Kong, Calcutta, London and the Bahamas.
Mr. Rasgotra’s immediate predecessor Mr. L.P. Singh, the Indian Ambassador to Nepal (1971-1973), a good friend of Dasho Lhendup said of Dasho “Lenny has been more sinned against, than a sinner.”
It is evident that Mr. Rasgotra’s version does not corroborate with the actual and true events, and whatever Mr. Rasgotra’s intentions and motives are towards Dasho Lhendup Dorji, it is difficult to understand the reason for his serious and false charges against a man he claims to have been his friend.
Mr. Rasgotra’s description of Dasho Lhendup Dorji is not at all like him.
In 1959 His Late Majesty received word that two Chinese had entered Gunitsawa, a day’s march north of Paro.
At that time Dasho Lhendup Dorji was serving the Royal Bhutan Government as Paro Thrimpon (Magistrate). His Majesty the Third King ordered Lhendup to go to inspect Bhutan’s northern border.
After Dasho Lhendup had made his report to His Majesty, His Majesty commanded Lhendup to increase the strength of the Bhutan Army, and to set up the first Army Checkpost Camp at Gunitsawa. Within a short period of time Dasho Lhendup Dorji was able to raise 1,000 soldiers from Paro and Ha.
In 1962 during the Sino-Indian war, Babu Tashi the Nyerchen of Tashigang, father of Lyonpo Sonam Tobgye, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and also the revered teacher of His Majesty the Third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, sent his Majesty a wireless message to Thimphu to report that 400 Chinese soldiers had entered Tashi Yangtse and more were expected to come. This news raised alarm bells.
His late Majesty immediately summoned Dasho Lhendup Dorji, Maksi Lam Dorji and Maksi Penjore to Thimphu. They rushed to Dechencholing Palace in Thimphu and were given audience by His Majesty at 9.00 p.m.
At this meeting, His late Majesty the Third King entrusted Dasho Lhendup Dorji and Maksi Lam Dorji to look after the Dzongkhags of Bumthang, Tashi Yangtse and Lhuentse. His Majesty entrusted Maksi Penjore to look after Tashigang Dzongkhag. Next day the three officers left for their respective Dzongkhags.
Later it was learnt that Tashigang Nyerchen Babu Tashi’s information was incorrect.
During the 1962 Sino-Indian war, the Chinese Army stayed scrupulously within their Tibetan border and never set foot in Bhutan.
During the war Dasho Lhendup Dorji and Maksi Lam Dorji stayed three months in eastern Bhutan. Together the three officers succeeded in raising 14,600 soldiers.
Dasho Lhendup Dorji spent most of his time in Lingmithang overseeing the training of 6,000 new army recruits.
The eastern Bhutanese loved Dasho Lhendup and submitted numerous petitions to His late Majesty to keep Dasho Lhendup in eastern Bhutan.
My brother Dasho Lhendup Dorji was a brave and honourable man, and like my brother Prime Minister Jigme Palden Dorji, was completely loyal to His Majesty the Third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, and like Jigme was ready to lay down his life for his King.
We feel deep love, admiration and pride in the way Dasho Lhendup Dorji conducted himself throughout his life with greatest dignity, courage and magnanimity, and who in the face of adversity, abided by his life-long motto “Total Love and Loyalty to his King.”
(Ashi Kesang Choeden Wangchuck is Queen Mother of King Jigme Singye Wangchuck)