15 Dec 2003 – Lest we forget

Dec 15, 2003. We all remember that Day. At least my generation does. It was the day when the Operation All Clear was launched. After living for almost a decade in a peril, this was it.

No one had a hint that it was going to happen – not even us in the media. And so, like on any normal day I had just walked into my office around 10 am (I was the GM in BBS then) in Thimphu when I was informed that it has started. I froze and it took few minutes for me to react. I immediately called up the MD and told him that as per our standard practice, we don’t do the normal programming on the radio. I then rushed to the radio studio and stopped the day’s programming. I think it was Sangay Tenzin, the host on duty and together we pulled out the tape and played the moelam. Back in those days, we always kept a tape with moelam prayers and played it when there were national disasters, emergencies or demise of a VVIP. 

For the next three days, I didn’t work. No one around me did. All I, or we, really did was to hope and pray that nothing happened to His Majesty the King – above all. He was everything to us. Rest was secondary. There was nothing much I could do other than to walk around like a zombie with a deep sense of guilt for not signing up for the militia.

The whole town of Thimphu was quiet like a graveyard. Silence had gripped everything I could see. Even the trees didn’t move. Back in office, we cuddled around rod-heaters in different rooms and shared the bits of information that trickled in from the battle front. The question on everyone’s lips was, ‘Where is zhab now?’

The question on everyone’s lips was, ‘Where is zhab now?’ 

I spent lot of time in the small garage office of my late cousin, Lam Rinzin, checking on our boys who were in the military. We had seven close family members (two from my own household) there fighting. And most of them were officers leading their troops. I never prayed or sought the divine interventions in my life more than I did in those few days. I also challenged every deity in the land that came to my mind to show up – otherwise, I told them, I would never believe they exist. They say people would do anything in desperation. I felt desperate. We all were desperate. We saw the world slipping away in front of us. The beautiful country looked so gloomy. For a moment, I thought we were never going to see our King again. I sobbed alone.

From the next day, NDTV started reporting from the Indian side of the border and it looked like we were doing well. Actually, great. Then came December 17, where HRH the Crown Prince (and now His Majesty the King) announced the great news in Changlingmithang. I cried – together with men and women who were near me – out of a sense of relief to know that our King was fine.

I became religious overnight. Something changed in me dramatically.

As we celebrate the 112th National Day, there is no need to really talk about what happened some two or three hundred years back. Those are legends at best. Let’s remember this Operation – and pledge ourselves to the greater good. For, this happened right before our own eyes – in our lifetime and with our King leading the troops – risking His own life to protect ours. Literally, our King rescued us from the jaws of a very uncertain future. We all lived through it. And it was just 16 years ago. Those who can read this were all born by then.

We, Bhutanese, have short memory. But this event is one in history that we should never forget. There have been quite a number of occasions in recent decades when Bhutanese came together as one nation – as one people.

For me, that moment was the moment I will never forget 

His Majesty the King leading in frontline – as depicted and immortalized in Druk Wangyel Temple in Dochula (built to commemorate that victory)




On December 14, Martshala temple was consecrated by Thuksey Rimpoche and graced by His Majesty the King. Next day the Operation All Clear was launched.



Photos of the fallen soldiers are maintained in Tenxholing Military Academy. They died because we could live. May you live forever in the minds of the Bhutanese


HM the King at the frontline. His name means Fearless Lion in Dzongkha. And fearless he is. No armored jacket and no helmet. Just a modest free gho (national dress). The soldiers nicknamed the platoon with the green gho as “Green Gho Company”


One thought on “15 Dec 2003 – Lest we forget

  1. Namgyal Tshering

    I am revitalized with patriotic feelings indeed. I can hear echoes of gun fire as I imagine His Majesty at the forefront of our soldiers


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