The committee of Bhutanese pundits and dzongkhag chapters of the Hindu Dharma Samudaya of Bhutan (HDSB) have called for re-election of all its board members.

The HDSB’s annual general meeting (AGM) was held on March 26 at Tarayana Centre, Thimphu where the organisers announced and endorsed four new board members.

The newly elected board members are Rabilal Pokhrel, Deepen Giri, Menuka Pradhan and Krishna Mukhia.

A day after the AGM, a petition signed by presidents of dzongkhag chapters, pundits and prominent members of the HDSB was submitted to the president of HDSB.

The complainants say the organisers conducted the selection of the new board members without abiding by the Religious Organisations Act of Bhutan and the HDSB’s Articles of Association (AoA). The new members were picked without an election although there was no consensus on their endorsement.

Members of the community are happy that the meeting’s agenda covered most of the issues. “However, we strongly disagree and are unhappy with the proceeding of the nomination and election of the new board members with clapping of hands by the emcee, which is not in line with the Religious Organisations Act of Bhutan,” the letter stated.

The Act prescribes that the members of the board of directors should “elect from among themselves a chairperson, a secretary and a treasurer”.

The president, however, refused to accept the appeal letter. HDSB’s senior vice president, Achyut Bhandari, claimed the letter was withdrawn and that there were no issues left. “The AGM was conducted very democratically,” he said.

It is expected that the issue will be taken to a higher authority if the HDSB does not address their concerns.

Also, the organisers did not take consent of the floor for continuation of the existing board members, which according to the appeal letter, is not in confirmation of the general norms and AoA.

The Act, local chapters say, guides the HDSB to appoint religious personnel with backgrounds in religious education and no adverse records.

“But the HDSB board conducted the election hurriedly without the proper consent of the pundits and representatives of dzongkhag chapters, and the floor, which is against the norms of HDSB’s AoA approved by Chhoedey Lhentshog,” the letter stated.

“We would like to appeal to you to kindly look into this matter as per the norms and guidelines of the religious Act and AoA, and announce the date for re-election of all board members, as most of the current members have completed their terms,” the letter stated.

The letter also stated that the committee of pundits and local chapters do not have “trust and faith in the present board”. The letter stated that if the president fails to call for a re-election of board members, they would be compelled to take the matter to a higher authority.

A social worker, BP Bhattarai, said: “The HDSB board directors have the capacity and tendency to bulldoze and never listen to others’ pleas and suggestions.”

BP Bhattarai said: “With such developments in the central committee of HDSB, the working class people who mostly live to meet their ends, have over the years started forming their own groups and division.”

He added that the people would have been fortunate if HDSB central committee members were pundits with knowledge of villagers and adhere to the government’s policy and give the people the right guidance as expected.

BP Bhattarai said that HDSB from its inception was run by retired dashos, parliamentarians and senior members of the lhotsampa communities despite the religious organisation’s guidelines, which say that religious organisations should be run by religious persons having religious background and without any adverse record in the government as well as in private or social life.

“All other 93 religious organisations are run by lamas and anims, but the HDSB is run by retired high ranking civilians, although the Hindu community has more than 30 learned pundits with sastris and people with acharya and doctorate degrees,” he said.

“Such learned religious people with their deep and wide understanding on the world’s oldest and tested religion practice can successfully run HDSB with wisdom, solidarity and give people their enlightened leadership,” he said.

BP Bhattarai said that board members should be “elected and not selected”. The new members were picked without the consent of the HDSB members present at the meeting, he added.

MB Subba