Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2016

Rabin Man Shakya
Advisor, Nepa Chhen

The great cultural holidays of Nepal - Bijaya Dasami and Tihar - are over. This year's Halloween and Thanksgiving Day are also over. Now,  on the occasion of Christmas and New Year 2016, I extend my best wishes to all my relatives and friends living in Nepal, the US and other countries.

Nepa Chhen is a local Nepalese community organization in Portland which is committed to enrich and enhance the Nepalese arts, culture and traditions. Nepa Chhen has been  organizing various programs in the past to celebrate Nepal Sambat, Mha Puja, Lhosar, Dashain etc. It is a matter of great satisfaction that Nepa Chhen is going to celebrate Happy New Year 2016 on Dec 31, 2015 at Nekusing Memorial Theater, Portland.

Nepal is a country that probably has more cultural and traditional festivals and holidays than any other countries in the world. Art, culture, rituals and traditions are the integral part of our national life in Nepal. They are like the mirrors which catch the glimpses of the whole nation.

In economic terms, Nepal may be a poverty-stricken country, but in the front of arts, culture and traditions, there are reasons for Nepal to be proud of her cultural heritage, ancient arts and architecture.

All the countries of the world have their own cultural holidays. Well, Christmas is the most important holiday in the Christian world. Even in the former Soviet Union, the people privately celebrated the Christmas because Christmas was prohibited in the former communist superpower in those days.

I knew and heard about the Christmas still when I was a high school kid in Kathmandu. But I must admit that I came to know about North American holidays like Halloween and Thanksgiving Day only when I listened to the song "I just called to say I love you."  The album entitled "The Woman in Red"  by Academy Award winning singer Stevie Wonder was released in 1984. At that time, I was still in Minsk, the capital of Soviet Belarus and we used to listen to Steve's wonderful and melodious songs again and again on our turntable.

Here in the US, we celebrate Mohani Nakha, Swanti Nakha, Nepal Sambat new year and other holidays of Nepal. Similarly, we also celebrate Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas as well in our own way.

Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday in the United States and in Canada. Thanksgiving is the second biggest traditional and cultural holiday of the Americans after the Christmas.  Thanksgiving is the fourth Thursday in November, but majority of Americans take a day of vacation on the following Friday to make a four-day weekend, during which they may travel long distances to visit their nearest and dearest. In fact, Thanksgiving dates back to 1621, the year after the Puritans arrived in Massachusetts, determined to practice their dissenting religion without interference and the indigenous Indians taught them how to grow corns and other harvests.

Thanksgiving dinner almost always includes some of the foods like: roast turkey, cranberry sauce, potatoes and pumpkin pie. Before the meal begins, families or friends usually pause to express gratitude for their blessings, including the joy of being united for the occasion.

Halloween is celebrated on October 31 of every year. American kids dress up in funny or scary costumes and go "trick or treating" knocking on doors in their neighborhood. The neighbours are expected to respond by giving away children small gifts of candy or money. Adults may also be attired in funny and dramatic costumes for Halloween parties.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Non-resident Citizenship: That's the Way the Cookie Crumbles

Dr Rabin Man Shakya
State Education Director, NRN-NCC-USA Oregon Chapter

It is true that Nepal is in the constitutional crisis today. Whatever  trouble and agony the Nepalese  people are bearing today is mainly because of the stupidity and stubbornness of the ruling parties as well as the Terai Madhesi parties.

But one of the remarkable aspects of the new constitution of Nepal is related to a provision that grants non-residential citizenship to the non-residential Nepalese living across the world.

The new constitution of Nepal has included a provision to grant citizenship without political rights to NRNs who hold citizenship of countries other than SAARC nations. As per the constitutional provision, NRNs holding such citizenship will be ensured economic, social and cultural rights in Nepal.
This means that the 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 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, there should not be any confusion that non-resident citizenship guaranteed by the new constitution of Nepal is not a dual citizenship. It is just partial 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 except to accept it because that is the practical and real situation that the NRNs can not change right away. But NRNA should always be effortful in pressing the government and the parliament for the full dual citizenship in future.

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

Just twenty years ago, we could not have thought about the non-residential
 Nepalese living across the world. Going to America, Canada, Britain Australia and so on  and settle down in those countries is something most Nepalese could not have imagined back then. I myself spent 10 years in the former Soviet Union doing my Masters and Ph D in Journalism. Back then, even going abroad for studying was considered a very big privilege.  Today going anywhere in the world is not a very big deal. I never imagined back then that I would end up settling in the US.

Globalization and global migration are taking place very rapidly. Millions of Nepalese have migrated to other countries in search of jobs and better opportunities owing to dismal economic scenario in Nepal.

In fact, as a 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. The new wave underscores the evolving nature of globalization. However, no matter, where they go or settle, a Nepali always remains a Nepali.

There is no doubt that NRNA should be  the common platform of the Nepalese people living abroad. It should champion the common cause  and interest of the Nepalese living abroad, not just the interest of the nouveau riche, entrepreneurs and technical experts.

Today,  Nepalese diaspora living abroad have some kind of impact and influence on the entire rural and urban lives of Nepal. In fact, non-resident Nepalese have become a house-hold word in Nepal.

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 the NRNA. At the same time, the state must play a pro-active role to facilitate and encourage the NRNs to create create jobs and augment the national economy.

It is to be noted that the seventh international convention of NRNA was held Oct 14-17, 2015 in Kathmandu in which 1127 NRN representatives from across 52 countries of the world had taken part.

*Also please read my article "NRNA and the issue of Dual Citizenship" published in the month of January, 2015.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Blockade: A Tug of War Between Govt and Madheshi Parties

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

Warning that millions of Nepalese children are at risk because of the blockade, the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) has cautioned that the blockade has led to severe shortages of fuel, medicine and essential goods.  UNICEF was quoted as saying in the media reports that " the ongoing blockade of Nepal's border with India, which has now stretched for months and created shortages of essential goods like fuel, food and medicines,  may soon put millions of infants at risk of disease or even death."

It is so nice and overwhelming to know that even an international organization like UNICEF has spoken out about the serious consequences of the blockade. The UNICEF went on to stress that "the lack of essential medicines and vaccines, as well as the onset of winter as Nepal continues to recover from last year's devastating earthquake, will adversely affect over three million children under the age of five."

Although the independent, common Nepalese people have been emphasizing on the need for building consensus among both the mainstream political parties and the Madhesi parties to give an outlet to the ongoing blockade impasse, the stalwarts of both the mainstream parties as well as the Madhesi parties are embroiled in a tug of war for fulfilling their vested interests.

As a result, the common Nepalese people are caught in the crossfire in the raging battle between the government and mainstream parties on the one hand and Madhesi parties supported by the South Block on the other hand. It is to be noted that the political elites of both the mainstream parties as well as the Madhesi parties have not been affected by the blockade.

Nevertheless, the issue of the blockade has created polarization and trivial politicization in the Nepalese political spectrum in which the political elites from both the mainstream parties as well as Madhesi parties  are divided in their views and attitude about the blockade. It is obvious that the government should not fight or confront or challenge the Madhesi parties, the government should be able to bring the agitating Madhesis to the negotiating table and be able to address their issues in a rational manner, otherwise the country may plunge into an abyss of unending trouble and violence.

Both sides (the govt and mainstream political parties as well as the Madhesi parties) are equally stubborn and adamant  about their vested interest. Until and unless both sides are willing to sacrifice something for the cause of the common people and come to a compromise, there is no solution to the ongoing impasse. The need of the hour is: both sides should be able to be flexible.

There have been many rounds of talks between the government and Madhesis in the past but there still is no signs of breakthrough very soon. The reluctance of the government, mainstream parties as well as that of the Madhesi parties to move ahead with some flexible and mutually-acceptable steps have raised genuine questions about their vested interest, about their unnecessary intransigence and stubbornness. This shows that neither the government and mainstream parties  nor the Madhesi parties do give a damn about the common Nepalese people.

The political, social and economic situation is very critical and vulnerable in Nepal. The gauntlet thrown to the Nepalese people by the Indian trade blockade is unprecedented.