Power and knowledge within the Non-Resident Nepali AssociationAs Nepali diaspora grows, the NRNA should continue to address the issues of non-residents and their families.
I entered a big waiting room of passengers waiting for their flights at Dubai airport on October 4, 2019. Exhausted by the long flight from Toronto, I was sitting at one corner when suddenly I heard somebody intimately addressing me. A middle-aged man approached me. I didn't remember meeting him earlier. I feel overwhelmed when people show familiarity with me. A familiar writer and government officer joined the crowd, making me feel more comfortable. After talking with at least half a dozen men and their wives, I decided to go on shifting in the crowd and asking the mostly middle-aged people about the purposes of their travels. To my surprise, about 80 percent of the couples were returning after visiting their children in America. Their story is the same—they occasionally go abroad to spend a few months with their children. Except for a few, all were proud of their children and their jobs. I was surprised to see how that has become a rhythm of many families.
One could feel how Nepali society has begun to bear the impact of such migration, and how a new pattern of non-resident identity has been growing. I remember meeting and talking to some of my erstwhile students in Toronto a few days earlier when they organised a programme to listen to my discourses about Nepali culture and literature. These non-residents are confident, educated, and are working in various jobs there. Some of them are prominent leaders of the Non-Resident Nepali Association (NRNA). One among them, who was a well-known leftist politician in Nepal, has continued to work with the same spirit and, as he claims, with the same degree of success. So much so, he had come to Nepal at the NRN election and played a very important role in that. Our conversation revealed to me a few things about the identity of the Non-resident Nepali’s (NRN) and their future. I began to wonder where the NRNA stands as the movement of non-resident Nepalis becomes wider, without cutting links with their families in Nepal as indicated by the parents' pride, passion and hope.
The acronym NRN has become more than a familiar term in Nepal and among the Nepalis who live outside the country. According to the Non-resident Nepali Act 2007, the term has these meanings: ‘a person who currently holds citizenship of Nepal, a former Nepalese citizen, foreign citizen of Nepalese origin, Nepali citizen residing abroad, person of Nepali origin’. Opening a business in Nepal and making investments in banking, tourism, hydropower, and other sectors is considered to be the objective of the NRNA. In this short essay, however, I do not want to discuss the structure and responsibilities of the NRNA, but to address a few developments especially related to the question of knowledge and its political implications.
The NRNA from its very inception has touched on the issues of identity and the variety of Nepali engagements around the world, making Nepal the locus of investments in various sectors as listed above. However, the underlying implication of the definition of Nepali identities and the goals of the organisation warrant more serious attention than understood on the surface. Nepal as the locus of origin, ancestry and action appears to shape the definition of non-resident Nepali organisations worldwide. The relationship with Nepal is clearly defined through the location of economic investments. But it is clear from the very nature of the NRNA that it cannot be understood in linear terms as an organisation of Nepalis of the above types. Instead, it is synonymous with a grand quest for identity.
The NRN pioneers, incumbents and current office seekers all have run into some kind of politics of definition of this organisation's action modality. The NRN jamboree in Kathmandu in October this year, when the association held elections for its leadership, earned many commentaries and criticisms in the press who saw this organisation seeking to accept the Nepali political partisan model hook line and sinker.
The political structure, at this moment, is harping on the rather unclear definition of the politics of knowledge. Without evoking the semantics of this term as used by theorists and philosophers, I want to indicate that the Nepali political parties intend to link their knowledge to power. The knowledge is couched in the familiar reiterative languages of socialism, loktantra and partisan culture, none of which is defined properly as yet. Power contests within parties and among ambitious political leaders are valorised as a mantra. Such formations create opportunities to create power centres, divide the flocks accordingly, and spread that system as knowledge. The NRNA, in search of a model, appears eager to adopt this very same system. But that will only complicate the already complex structure of this organisation.
My student leader in Toronto believes that the NRNA should continue to make Nepal the focal point of its activities and should return to hold elections there. He believes that any other attempt to keep it away from that position will eradicate its very purpose.
Personally, I am an admirer of the NRNA, both as an organisation and a marker of identity. But I want to point out that this organisation should not be lured by the confusing knowledge and definition of power as practised in Nepal. They should address the issues of the non-resident Nepalis and their families. They can also champion the cause of familial links, as these could grow more distant as time passes. And as my student believes, they should maintain their link with Nepal by overcoming the practice of using knowledge and power together—something that has quite not changed through multiple regimes.
What do you think?
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