Regional tourist climbing on chorten inflames sentiments

The accused wrote an apology letter to the police which was accepted

The recent incident of a regional tourist climbing up a chorten in Dochula and captured on camera that sparked off a controversy has settled down a bit with the person concerned writing an apology letter to the Royal Bhutan Police (RBP) for his behavior.

The incident took place on Thursday when the tourist from the Indian state of Maharashtra, who was part of a 15-bike convoy headed by a Bhutanese team stopped to rest at Dochula. They were on their way to Punakha from Phuentsholing.

The photo of the regional tourist standing on a chorten at Dochula went viral on social media. Many have unleashed their anger on his behavior on social media and the police tracked him down and did an investigation.

According to the RBP, the regional tourist, Abhijit Hajare has written an apology letter to police and the police has accepted the apology. 

The police said that upon investigation, the tourist’s intention on climbing on and posting was not to disrespect the country and religion but was a result of ignorance.

The tourist, however, was not detained.

According to a source, the tourist while resting at Dochula saw someone carrying out renovation works at the chorten and seeing a ladder, he climbed up the chorten without considering it would be an issue.

“There are also no signboards on the dos and don’ts of the tourists at the destination,” said a police official.

The Director General (DG) of Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) Dorji Dhradhul said that he was not totally surprised about the incident as this was not the first time.

“In fact, the very reason, why we want to mainstream regional tourism was to avoid such undesirable incidences, which is not good for anyone including the tourist concerned,” said the DG.

The DG said that while there could be many reasons contributing to the unfortunate act, one major reason could be the lack of proper regulations to manage tourists originating from neighboring countries of Bangladesh, India, and the Maldives. “The present system does not warrant the regional tourist to be mandatorily accompanied by a certified guide, which leaves room for such undue incidences.” According to the DG, while TCB really cannot completely guarantee, they can definitely lower the probability of occurrence of such insensitive acts in the presence of a guided tour. “Therefore, when we talk about regulations we are talking about guided tours, which is first and foremost beneficial to the tourist concerned.” DG also mentioned that for instance, one can imagine the stress that tourists must have undergone or undergone with all kinds of comments on social media. With a guided tour there was a big chance of not committing that unfortunate act.DG said that the important thing is that the case further reinforces the need for the introduction of appropriate regulations to guide and manage regional tourism, which could be win-win for all stakeholders including the tourists themselves. Home Minister Sherub Gyeltshen said that this kind of incidents tend to happen since there is no guide guiding the regional tourists.

Lyonpo said that it was an act of ignorance and people have to understand their position also.

The Guide Association of Bhutan (GAB) posted on the social media that some have written that the guy was ignorant and thus acted innocently. “Well, Lingam or Shiva Linga is nothing but a giant black rock with three white lines and a clear red dot in the middle. Yet, anybody would know that it is a figure to worship. Nobody climbs on it. Thus, to say that the guy was ignorant is wrong.”

“Knowing that such problems are going to aggravate in the future, GAB has proposed all the concerned authorities, including the Embassy of India, to help us set up a regional office in Phuentsholing (to start with) which will basically serve as an information and facilitation desk for all the regional tourists. Not only will we assist the tourists in getting through the mandatory processes, we will ensure that they are informed and briefed well about the dos and don’ts in our country. There are also other benefits tethered if our proposal gets nod.”

Dechen Dolkar from Thimphu