Nepali Diaspora: Rethink Time?
America has a special place in the world, and so it does among the Nepali diaspora. The ANA convention that takes place every July 4 weekend, this year in San Francisco, is an event thousands of Nepalis from all across North America make a point to make a pilgrimage to. It is landmark social event. Many look forward to it for good reason. I don't think I will make it, I will likely stay put in New York City, but the oncoming event has made me think again about some of the issues I have thought about before. Why should Nepalis in the diaspora get organized? To what end? How? How much progress have we made? Without expressing disrespect towards those who did the early work, how can we ask the tough questions and level the tough criticisms that will help take our diaspora organizations to new heights?
I think the number one reason we talk so much about Nepal in the diaspora is homesickness. It is self interest. Bonding has to happen. The identity has to be claimed and nurtured while the dollar chasing goes on.
(2) Cream Of The Crop
Even those who are not super duper educated are entrepreneurial to have left Nepal. It takes much initiative. Much is asked of those to whom much is given. The diaspora seeks to give back. I think the best giving back would be if the diaspora could invest big time in Nepal. I hope the leaders in Nepal create such an environment. I am for both the service and the profit motive.
(3) Immigrant Rights
Immigrant rights are far behind where globalization has already taken us. We try and get organized to make our modest contributions to the cause of immigrant rights.
We can help each other out. We can share expertise and experiences. We can pool resources. Although it gets me that not enough of us have gone for hard core entrepreneurial pursuits. It helps our careers here in the diaspora when we network among ourselves.
These are some of the reasons why we need organizations like the ANA. But I have to be honest about something as a Madhesi. To be a Madhesi in the Nepali diaspora is like being a Madhesi in the Nepal Army, or the Nepal Police or in the state bureaucracy in Nepal. You represent a community that is anywhere between 35-45% of Nepal, but is less than 1% of the Nepalis in America. I think it is more like 0.1%. I have felt much more at home giving my time to digital activism for the Madhesi Movement back in Nepal than I have mingling with the Nepalis in America, especially when you routinely encounter the prejudice, the chauvinism, the attitudes, the whole nine yards.
Good thing in Nepal we have a constituent assembly for the first time in history, and we are working to reinvent the Nepali identity because, so far, the Nepali identity has never been inclusive of me and people like me. Maybe the new Nepali identity we will create will.
But then it is that same dissatisfaction that also helps me see the stark fact that the Pahadis on the global stage are powerless like the Madhesis on the national stage in Nepal. Maybe we can empathize with each other. Maybe we can seek and find common cause.
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Some of the deficiencies of our organizations are that:
- They seem to have no desire to go mass based. There is too much living room politics going on.
- Too much elitism. No major membership drives. Elected officers end up from the same small group of people who all know each other. It is like a game of musical chairs.
- Not enough transparency and democracy within the organizations.
- Not enough use of Web 2.0.
- Our sights are too low. There is seldom talk of immigrant rights.
- No reach out to create a larger South Asian, Asian solidarity. Too much inward looking.
- Not enough constructive, respectful engagement with our counterparts back home. You can't help people you look down upon.
- The few umbrella organizations are in name only. Most organizations act autonomous. Not enough talk, not enough coordination.
- I absolutely don't see the Beer Gorkhali thing on immigrant rights. We almost never bring that up as a topic.