Discussions are on to trace those responsible for spreading wrong information 

Clarification: Allaying fears of an earthquake predicted next month, the central monastic body yesterday clarified that the rumours are untrue and misleading the people.

Rumours are rife on social media that a devastating earthquake would strike Bhutan on September 25 with the epicenter likely to be Haa, Paro, Gelephu or Sarpang. For this, rumours are that a kurim (religious ceremony) would be conducted in all 205 gewogs.

Tsuglag Lopon Samten Dorji said it was not true that His Holiness the Je Khenpo prophesied an earthquake as cited in the messages that has gone viral.

“People have just fabricated and spread rumours using His Holiness Je Khenpo’s name,” Lopon Samten Dorji said over a telephone interview. “The clergy is shocked and disturbed by such rumours being created from quarters of the society.”

Lopon Samten Dorji, however, said that His Holiness had advised the clergy to perform a special religious ceremony for the country and the people in the wake of the devastating earthquake that hit Nepal few months ago.

He also said that astrologers in the country also recommended a kurim to prevent possible threats from natural calamities like landslides and earthquakes.

“Therefore, the dratshang issued a circular to all dzongkhag administrations around the country asking all 205 gewogs to conduct kurims between August 25 to September 8,” Lopon Samten Dorji said.

According to him, the clergy decided to conduct kurims within this period because of the auspicious days.  “It’s nothing to do with rumours spread by the people who fabricated or exaggerated that the earthquake would strike on September 25,” he said.

What fuelled the panic further was when gewog officials started seeking donation from people. Some local leaders, who were misinformed, told people that the kurim was to prevent the country from an earthquake.

Most gewogs would conduct the kurim tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Lopon Samten Dorji said that discussions are on at the dratshang lhentshog to trace those responsible in spreading rumours using His Holiness Je Khenpo’s name and in creating panic among the people.

Dratshang Lhentshog secretary Karma Penjore said people should not spread such rumours and create panic. “If in doubt, they should check with relevant agencies,” he said. “No body can predict an earthquake, not even scientists.”

Karma Penjore said that the dratshang had advised the home ministry on conducting the kurim, as it’s considered a bad year. “Dratshang has been conducting kurims for years and even a couple of months ago many rituals were conducted.”

Some local leaders said they informed people during zomdus that a kurim is being conducted to prevent the country from an earthquake.

A gup said that right after the Nepal earthquake, there were rumours that another earthquake would strike Assam followed by Bhutan. “As there was an earthquake in Assam after Nepal, this could be the reason why people are panicky,” he said.

Another gup said that after they received a circular from the dzongkhag administration a week ago, a zomdu was held during which he told people that the kurim is done to prevent possibilities of an earthquake. “People were supportive of the cause,” he said.

However, most gups said that with such rumours spreading like wildfire, they had to tell villagers that it was not true. “The kurim is a normal ritual performed to prevent ourselves from natural calamities, which people shouldn’t misunderstand,” a gup said.

Trashigang’s Radi gewog gup Jigme Namgyel said that even he heard of such rumours. “We are planning a zomdu soon to inform people that no one can predict an earthquake,” he said. “As for the kurim, we conduct such rituals frequently every year for the wellbeing of the gewog.”

Dzongdags Kuensel spoke to also refute the rumours.

Dagana dzongdag Tenzin Thinley said that some gups could have misunderstood as the kurim is being organised across the country. “People shouldn’t spread wrong information,” he said.  “The kurim is just a preventive measure against all natural calamities and for the wellbeing of the country and people.”

Home minister Dawa Gyaltshen said that while there is nothing wrong in being cautious, an earthquake cannot be predicted. “Since there is no such circular, there are no reasons for people to panic,” lyonpo said.

Kinga Dema and  Rinzin Wangchuk