Sunday, January 25, 2015

Non-resident Nepalese Association (NRNA) and Issue of Dual Citizenship

Dr. Rabin Man Shakya
Portland, Oregon,  USA.

Today more than ever, non-resident Nepalese movement has truly become a global force. The Non-resident Nepali Association which was created by a conference held on Oct 11-14, 2003 in Kathmandu is continuously gathering momentum.

In fact, 2003 the year of formation of NRNA was a year of tremendous importance for Nepal. Hundreds of thousands of people of Nepalese origin across the world have become the part of Nepalese diaspora's global forum that is dedicated to support the economic development of Nepal with different projects. NRNA is the most effective and organized international body of the Nepalese abroad.

Non-resident Nepalese Association - National Coordination Councils have been established in 72 countries of the world, so far. As of now, there are more than 100,000 NRN individual members in the world. Among the hundred thousand NRN individual members in the world, 17,000 are only from the United States making it the most representative NRN - National Coordination Council body in the  world followed by Australia where the number of NRN individual members is 8,000.

A number of countries across the world have benefited tremendously by mobilizing their own people residing abroad, by utilizing resources and expertise, and Nepal should not be an exception. There is no doubt that NRNs have, palpably, rendered significant contributions in some economic and social sectors of Nepal.

NRN-NCC-USA Oregon Chapter's office bearers outside of the Oregon Chapter's office in Portland, USA

Well, the Nepalese people are also not untouched by the process of globalization and international migration. Globalization and global migration are taking place very rapidly. Millions of Nepalese have migrated to other countries in search of jobs owing to dismal economic scenario in Nepal. In fact, as result of globalization and global migration, it will be hard to find a country where a Nepali has not reached today. Thousands of enterprising, educated and professional Nepalese  have sought opportunities abroad. Even twenty years ago, it was unimaginable for Nepalese to go abroad  (except India) for  permanent residency or employment opportunities. The new wave underscores the evolving nature of global migration. However,  no matter, where they go or settle, a Nepali always remains a Nepali. NRNA  should be the common platform of the Nepalese people living abroad. It should champion the common cause and interest of the common Nepalese living abroad, not just the interest of  the nouveau riche, entrepreneurs and technical experts. Today Nepalese diaspora living abroad have some kind of  effects on the entire rural and urban lives of Nepal. In fact, non-resident Nepalese have become the house-hold word in Nepal.

Judging by the contents of the social media sites,  since the debate about the role of NRNA in the nation-building process kicked off some years ago, some sections of the Nepalese people are skeptical about what they view it as the club of some riche-rich.

There is no doubt that NRNA should not be a political platform and NRNs should not be contracted by viruses of political maneuvers and bickering. But it goes without saying that there should always be cordial and harmonious relations between the state and NRNA. At the same time, the state must play a proactive role to facilitate and encourage the NRNs to create jobs and augment the national economy.

Individual members of the NRN-NCC-USA Oregon Chapter

Therefore, when the Constituent Assembly of Nepal enacted Non-resident  Nepali Act 2008, one pillar of the Act's sweeping objectives was to motivate NRNs to take part in all round advancement of Nepal and enhance their attachment towards Nepal and to encourage their investment in Nepal.

For last several years, the NRNA has been earnestly demanding dual citizenship with the   Nepal government.  As of now, according to Nepal's existing citizenship law, people of Nepali origin who have taken up foreign citizenship automatically lose Nepali citizenship, even if the Non-resident Citizenship has been guaranteed in the new constitution of Nepal.

 Anyway, one of the remarkable aspects of the new constitution of Nepal (2015) is related to a provision that grants non-residential citizenship to non-resident Nepalese living across the world.

Thus, the new constitution of Nepal has included a provision to grant non-resident citizenship without voting and political rights to NRNs who hold citizenship of  countries other than SAARC nations.

As per the  new constitutional provision, NRNs holding such citizenship will be ensured economic, social and cultural rights in Nepal.

This means that NRNs can purchase and sell properties or engage in business activities in Nepal. Article 19 of part 2 of the new constitution of Nepal dealing with citizenship states that NRNs that NRNs holding citizenship of foreign countries excluding SAARC nations can be granted non-resident citizenship that will make them eligible to exercise economic, social and cultural rights as per Nepal's law.

However, make no mistake. There should not be any confusion that non-resident citizenship guaranteed by the new constitution of Nepal is not a dual citizenship. Anyway, the provision of non-resident citizenship in our new constitution is a fait accompli. That means for the time being, at least, there is no option for NRNs (who have taken citizenship of a foreign country) except to accept it because that is the practical and real situation that NRNs cannot change right away. But NRNA should always be effortful in pressing the government and the parliament for the full dual citizenship in future.

NRNs holding green cards and permanent resident status are still the one hundred percent citizens of Nepal and non-resident citizenship guaranteed by the  new constitution of Nepal does not apply to them. The new non-resident citizenship provided for by the new constitution only applies to those who have obtained citizenship of a foreign country.

More than 70 nations across the world including India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan have already implemented the provision of dual citizenship with none or minimal exceptional prohibitions.

Since NRNA Position Paper on Dual Citizenship has unambiguously thrown light on the importance and benefits of dual citizenship, I am just going to express some random thoughts on NRNA and dual citizenship issue. According to the NRNA Position Paper on Dual Citizenship, all major political parties in principle agree to provide dual citizenship to the NRNs.

But the discrepancy between the rhetoric and action is the main problem in finding an amicable solution to the issue of dual citizenship. Majority of the stalwarts of the mainstream political parties are committed to granting dual citizenship. However, their actions do not match their verbal commitments. In the past, in rhetoric and public speeches, leaders of the main political parties kept saying that they would leave no stone unturned to provide dual citizenship to the NRNs.

The challenges facing the NRNs are indeed formidable since the global forum of the Nepalese diaspora has to win a lot of 'battles' including the dual citizenship issue. Going by the social media pages, the issue of dual citizenship has drawn fire from some of the social media users who accuse NRNs of having a 'vested interest'.

Well, every organization has its own aims, objectives, priorities and interest, so does the NRNA too. At least, comparing to the notorious political stalwarts and dubious business tycoons of Nepal, the NRNs have a lot more credibility and trustworthiness of the Nepalese people and intellectuals.

The complexities, fluidity and uncertainty of the dual citizenship issue have created illusions among the common Nepalese living abroad.Though, there are lots of debates going on about the dual citizenship for the NRNs, my personal opinion is: Dual citizenship is pretty good and beneficial for an economically beleaguered  nation like ours. The impoverished nation like ours can only benefit by providing dual citizenship to the NRNs.

There are two sides of the citizenship issue. On the one hand, tens of thousands of NRNs have acquired the citizenship of the nations where they are living and on the other hand tens of thousands of the NRNs have still maintained the Nepalese citizenship by holding the green cards. Thirteen years have passed since I moved  to the US with my family. Although I was eligible for taking the US citizenship ten years ago, I have not embraced for one mainly because I do not want to lose my Nepalese citizenship. Therefore, as soon as Nepal government enacts the full dual citizenship, I will be one of the first to apply for the US citizenship. And I am not alone in this case, there are thousands of Nepalese only in the US waiting for the passage of dual citizenship law.

USA-Oregon's NRNs Pradeep Bajracharya and Dr. Rabin Man Shakya
There is no doubt that government's lingering or reluctance  to provide full dual citizenship to NRNs will only provoke a crises of confidence and goodwill for what was long seen as global diaspora force that had provided some kind of support to the Peoples Movement in 1990 and 2006.

Therefore, any decision on the approval or disapproval of dual citizenship motivated by the parochial and partisan interest of certain political parties or groups cannot address and meet the overall aspirations and interests of the Nepalese diaspora.

It would be in the best interest of the government to distance itself from the dual citizenship, mono citizenship dichotomy, and just take effective steps to enforce the dual citizenship to NRNs.

Therefore. procrastination and dilly-dallying in announcing the dual citizenship to the NRNs is harmful to the interest of the nation. Obviously, the political parties especially the ruling Nepali Congress and CPN-UML should shed their rigidity and come together to address the dual citizenship issue in a broader perspective.

Remittance, foreign aid and tourism remain the cornerstone of Nepalese economy and NRNA as the global forum of the Nepalese diaspora can play as a rallying force to enhance  and consolidate them.While this is also true that the role of the Nepalese diaspora abroad in the upliftment of the economy is pivotal and dignified,  time has also come for  the NRNs to come forward with more concrete actions and projects to lend stimulus to the process of country's progress and prosperity.

*Dr Shakya, a Portland based writer, is former assistant editor at the RSS, former associate editor at The Rising Nepal and former lecturer of journalism at the Peoples Campus. He is also advisor of Nepa Chhen, a Portland based non-profit and Education Director of Non-resident Nepali Association, USA Oregon Chapter. Also, Dr Shakya is founding executive member and former secretary of Nepal-Russia Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

**Please read my other NRNA related articles headlined (1)"NRNA-USA Oregon Chapter's First General Meeting Kicks Off" in the month of June,  2015 (2) "Certificates of Election Awarded to NRN-NCC-USA Oregon Chapter Officials" in the month of August, 2015 (3) "Non-resident Citizenship: That's the Way the Cookie Crumbles" in the month of Dec, 2015  (4) "Are the NRNs of the US sidelined in the Recent NRNA Vote?" in the month of Oct, 2015 and (5) "Non-resident Nepali Association - NCC - USA Oregon Chapter and Local Nepalese Diaspora" in the month of Aug, 2015 and "Economic Blockade and Role of NRNA" in the month of November, 2015.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Terrorist Rampage at 'Charlie Hebdo'

Rabin Man Shakya

In a blatant attack on freedom of expression, two Islamofascists assaulted Charlie Hebdo's Paris office last week killing scores of people including eight journalists. Thus, Charlie Hebdo was drawn into the maelstrom of terrorist assault. It was the deadliest single attack against a news and cartoon magazine in the history of the world journalism. Why should journalists suffer fatal and ferocious terrorist assaults merely because of what they write or because of certain cartoons they print?

And, meanwhile, according to news reports, a leader of Yemen's al-Qaeda  branch has officially claimed responsibility for the attacks by two gunmen that left 12 dead at the weekly publication, saying in a video posted online that the slayings came in 'vengeance for the prophet.' It is to be noted that the newspaper had received repeated threats for lampooning Muhammad. Paris has been subjected to repeated Islamofascist attacks. Charlie Hebdo's office was firebombed in 2011 as well causing damages to its building and its computers.

Charlie Hebdo is a French satirical weekly magazine which does not care about the religious emotions and blasphemy. Going by the history of French journalism, Charlie Hebdo was launched in 1970 as a successor to the Hara-Kiri magazine that was banned for making mockery of President Charles de Gaulle's death. Well, in satires and mocking, Charlie Hebdo does not spare anybody, any political party and any religion. But the beleaguered magazine had to cease its publication in 1981 and was relaunched only in 1992.

Despite fatal terrorist assaults, Charlie Hebdo continues to express its views more freely than ever, undaunted by the ferocious attacks. The terrorist rampage that killed eight journalists of Charlie Hebdo  did not, however, deter the publication to go ahead with more journalistic works: Three million copies of Charlie Hebdo were printed and sold out after the terrorist assault. Given the overwhelming sympathy of the people, the circulation of the Hebdo, it is believed, could reach as many as five million copies.

Terrorist rampage by the Islamofascists at the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris can not be justified in any words. Assaults on the media outlets should not be condoned and tolerated under any circumstances or pretexts. The international community should be serious about the terrorist attacks and culture of impunity in relation to catastrophies  of fatal assaults on the Fourth Estate. The most important thing is to create self-awareness about self-security. The journalists are vulnerable to all kinds of assaults and intimidation especially when they do reporting or cartooning which are not liked by the Islamofascists and terrorists. No cartooning on Muhammad justifies a terrorist assault on a media outlet. No words excuse brutal assassination of innocent journalists.

The al-Qaeda and ISIS activities had posed and are still posing a serious threat not only to the French and Western journalists but also to the entire human civilization. There is no doubt that beheading of journalists, ferocious terrorist assaults and threats against journalists have increased in recent times. 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

History of Nepali Journalism

Dr Rabin Man Shakya
Former Lecturer of Journalism at Peoples Campus, RR Campus, TU.

The history of origin and emergence of the Nepalese press is profoundly interrelated with the activities of the Nepalese immigrants in British India. Nepalese journalism's closed doors or 'cul-de-sac' was opened for the first time in Nepal's journalism history with the publication of Gorkha Bharat Jeevan in Varanasi, British India in 1886. It was a landmark event in the chronicles of Nepalese journalism. Absence of conducive political conditions and specter of Rana regime's repression - these  were some of the reasons that prompted some Nepalese intellectuals to embark on 'magazine publication venture' not from within the territory of Nepal, but from abroad.

It is to be noted that the coup d' etat  orchestrated by Jung Bahadur Rana in 1846 paved the way for brutal and repressive hereditary Rana prime-ministership which lasted for more than a century (1846-1951). Except for the 'Mulki Ain' there were no press laws and regulations during the notorious rule of Rana generalissimo. More often than not, the words coming from the mouth of the Rana prime minister used to be the law.

However, the founder of the Nepalese journalism is considered to be Moti Ram Bhatta, who brought out the first Nepali monthly publication "Gorkha Bharat Jeevan" in the year 1886 AD. Since "Gorkha Bharat Jeevan"  was the first and pioneering publication venture by the Nepalese in British India, there is no doubt that this magazine championed the cause of enhancing and enriching the Nepali language. Although the first monthly literary magazine was launched by Moti Ram Bhatta, the editor of the magazine was Ram Krishna Varma. Gorkha Bharat Jeevan's publication, however, gave an impetus to other Nepalese intellectuals in British India to  go ahead with other publications.

A monthly magazine 'Gorkha Khabar Kagat' was published in January, 1901 in Darjeeling and was edited by Ganga Prasad Pradhan. Likewise, another Nepali literary monthly 'Upanyas Tarangini' was launched in Varanasi in 1902 and was edited by Sadashiva Sharma. The aim of the magazine was to publish novellas  in Nepali language. Other monthly magazines which were launched in Varanasi were "Sundari", "Madhavi" and "Udaya" all published in early 1900s. The pages of the weekly "Gorkhali" edited by Surya Bikram Gyawali in Varanasi in 1915 for the first time voiced  for the restoration of civil liberty in Nepal.

In Indian town of Calcutta, a monthly magazine "Buddha Dharma" was published by Dharmaditya Dharmacharya. It was the first publication in the history of Nepal Bhasa journalism. Meanwhile, Thakur Chandan Singh of Dehradun had brought out three weeklies - The Himalayan Times (1926), Gorkha Sansar (1926) and Tarun Gorkha (1928).

Jung Bahadur Rana upon return from his landmark Britain visit had brought with him a hand printing press (Giddhe Chhapakhana) in 1851. It is true that no newspapers and magazines were published in Nepal during Jung Bahadur Rana's regime, Nepal's first newspaper "Gorkhapatra" had to wait for liberal Rana premier Dev Shumsher to be published on May 6, 1901. This newspaper first published within the territory of Nepal was brought out still in the epoch of feudalism in Nepal. The newspaper continuously served the interest of feudal institutions headed by the hereditary Rana premiers until 1951. The authorization orders of 1901 issued by Rana prime minister Dev Shumsher clearly point out the fact that the first editor of the Gorkhapatra was Pandit Nardev Pandey. It is to be noted that the Gorkhapatra did not print the name of its editor for decades during the Rana autocracy. The Rana generalissimo handed over the Giddhe Chhapakhana and Litho Press to Nardev and authorized him to publish Gorkhapatra under the supervision of Lt Col Dilli Shumsher Thapa

The Gorkhapatra's publication during the Rana period is a testimony to the fact that some kind of liberal moves and reforms were brought out in fits and starts. The launching of the Gorkhapatra became the raison d' etre  of the emergence of journalism in Nepal. It will not be an exaggeration to assert that the Gorkhapatra is the newspaper which is the quintessence of journalistic history of Nepal. Well, the Gorkhapatra was a harbinger of 'little change' or reform during the notorious Rana autocracy.

However, liberal premier Dev Shumsher's rule was very short-lived and was forcefully replaced by the more hardliner Chandra Shumsher whose regime lasted for 31 years. It was during Chandra Shumsher's regime that Pundit Nardev was effectively replaced by Jaya Prithvi Bahadur Singh (his brother-in-law and petty king of Bajhang). But the very thing that the Gorkhapatra was published during the rule of Rana Prime Minister Dev Shumsher is a testimony to the fact that he was a liberal Rana prime minister.

However, the first magazine published within the territory of Nepal during the Rana regime was "Sudha Sagar" which was printed at Pashupait Press in 1898 in Kathmandu. The other notable publication was 'Sharada' monthly magazine launched in 1991 BS by Riddhi Bahadur Malla. Similarly, 'Udyog' fortnightly magazine (1992 BS), 'Gharelu Ilam Patrika' (2004 BS), 'Shichhya' fortnightly (2004 BS), 'Kathmandu Municipal Patrika' (2004 BS), 'Nepal Shichhya' monthly magazine (2005 BS), 'Aankha' (2005 BS) and 'Purushartha' (2006 BS) are other publications brought out during the Rana regime.  No doubt, these publications published in Kathmandu merely played the role of cheerleaders for the Rana oligarchy. Other two remarkable publications during the Rana regime were 'Sahitya Shrot' monthly magazine (2004 BS) and 'Jagaran' weekly newspaper (2007 BS) both edited by progressive litterateur Hridaya Chandra Singh Pradhan.

In this way, the trajectory of the Nepalese publications during the Rana period - it is sad to note - is marked by lapdog journalism plus literary writings, with some exceptions, of course. However, Rana autocracy's downfall at the hands of the popular upheaval in 1951 had stunning implications in the modern history of Nepal and opened the door for liberal journalism which, again, was short-lived.

*Shakya is also State Education Director, NRNA-USA, Oregon Chapter, Portland, USA.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Portland's Nepa Chhen Welcomes the New Year 2015 with Various Activities

Rabin Man Shakya
Advisor, Nepa Chhen, Portland, Oregon, USA

Different people and different organizations celebrate the New Year in different ways and styles. Nepa Chhen, a non-profit organization of the Nepalese community in Portland - which champions the cause of enhancing Nepalese arts, culture and traditions and which aims to build a community house - welcomed the New Year 2015 by organizing a reception program on Wednesday, Dec 31, 2014 at Nekusing Memorial Theater in Portland, Oregon.

Every new year brings new optimism, new hopes, enthusiasm, happiness and cheerfulness. The new year festivities of the Nepalese community in Portland was a happy confluence of wining and dining as well as lots of music, dance, poetry recitation, food contest and other fun, such as, bingo game - a part of fundraising for the Nepa Chhen. The Nepa Chhen's new year reception was attended by 160 people from the Nepalese community, unprecedented, of course: there were Nepalese from Portland, other parts of Oregon, from other states and some have recently arrived to the US from Nepal. On the occasion, Nepa Chhen officials wrapped khata on the new community members of Oregon.

The celebration of the New Year 2015 in Portland, Oregon by Nepa Chhen is a testimony to the fact that Nepa Chhen serves as a broader platform that accomodates the interests not only of the Newars, but of Nepal's different other ethnic communities as well. It is to be noted that Nepa Chhen is going to organize a program on Feb 22, 2015 to celebrate Lhosar New Year.

Actually, Nepa Chhen is the embodiment of Nepalese feelings and emotions in Portland. And the pattern of the presence of participants at the New Year's festivities clearly demonstrated the fact that diversity factor of the Nepalese ethnic communities in Portland was taken care of.

Well, judging by multiple activities and programs carried out by organizations like Nepalese Association of Oregon (NAO) and Nepa Chhen (NC), these organizations have been playing a significant role in the community's trajectory for enhancing the Nepalese brotherhood and fraternity.