WHILE CHANTING AN INCANTATION, a Hindu priest mixes a paste of rice and dye into the dirt in an attempt to summon luck and prosperity for this audience. Both have been in short supply for the Dangal family, the eager recipients of his well-wishes.
Nandalal Dangal, 43, is at first squatting in the narrow, muddy alley in front of the wooden hut he shares with his family but stands up from the ceremony to talk about his tormented past. He was a 25-year-old student, he says, when Bhutan’s state security forces pushed him, along with tens of thousands of other ethnic Nepalese, out of the Himalayan country.
“Soldiers would come to our house and tell us, ‘Leave Bhutan: this is the policy of the government,’” he says. Army and police personnel allegedly backed this message with threats—and acts—of violence against Nepalese communities in Bhutan’s south.