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Dipta Shah: The Face of a United Nepali Community

Unity in Diversity – The Face of a United Nepali Community

By Dipta Shah

The 13th of March, 2005 marked a significant milestone in the history of Nepali residents living in the United States of America. For three hours, Nepalis from all walks of life gathered in solidarity to voice their concerns on the plight of their homeland.

In an atmosphere of tolerance and unity, members of the Nepali community gathered to express their collective voices in what served as a united declaration in support of peace, democracy and national pride.

There were several striking features of the gathering in Lafayette Park (Washington DC). First, the ethnic, economic and cultural diversity was evident. In terms of these broad social indicators, there was no single dominant group or ideology and thereby, no ulterior motives that were exclusively upheld.

Second, the existence of a range of views was recognized as various groups respectfully acknowledged the differing opinions of their compatriots. There were some who expressed unconditional support for the monarch; others who voiced cautious optimism regarding the Royal move and still others, who expressed their outright disapproval of the King and the suspension of the democratic process in Nepal. For once it seemed, the existence of such varied opinions served to galvanize (instead of weaken) the Nepali community’s collective resolve.

Third, the momentum of the gathering was buttressed remarkably by the sheer number of individuals who traveled to Lafayette Park to be heard. For a brief moment in time, the notion of remaining silent witnesses to misrepresentation was dispensed with as Nepalis emerged from all corners of the DC metro area to voice their own unique set of opinions and beliefs.

Despite the differences that prevailed, there was complete and unconditional support against the prevalence of Maoist tyranny in Nepal. Disgust was expressed by many at the degradation of Nepal’s political leadership while the hope that much needed reform within Nepal’s democratic parties may finally foment, was given a breath of fresh air.

The much sought after “middle ground” appeared in Lafayette park that sunny afternoon with the emergence of unanimity by every democratic measure: majority representation, a varied range of opinions and inclusive, tolerant and peaceful demonstration/expression.

No doubt, the burning desire to extend the provision of a similar environment in Nepal (whereby all Nepalis are able to exercise their democratic rights in an aura of peaceful co-existence), featured prominently on the minds of those who were present.

The demonstration at Lafayette Park unknowingly fell on the heels of meetings held by another group of prominent Nepali intellectuals with American Senators. The Lafayette Park demonstration’s organizers had also submitted a separate petition (that although varied in semantic detail, maintained a similar democratic spirit), to US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice. This petition was endorsed by approximately 1300 plus, Nepalis living in the US.

The combined effect of two separate initiatives resulted in precisely that which Nepalis have sought since the first of February – the galvanization of a non-partisan “middle ground” which serves as a forum for the majority of Nepalis (living in the US), to voice their undying devotion to a peaceful and democratically vibrant Nepal.

Perhaps the most significant outcome of this exercise was the further marginalization of a divisive and destructive force that has failed in its feeble attempts at spreading extremist propaganda within the Nepali community in the US. The frustration experienced by these radical elements was apparent in the barrage of attempts at character assassination (they) exacted upon members of the Coordination Committee of the demonstration in Lafayette Park.

Immediately following the successful show of unity and coherence, a few radical elements engaged in what they do best – lie, deceive, fabricate and divide. The natural targets of these acts of cowardice were a handful of organizers who selflessly spent time and effort in mobilizing the Nepali community in support of peace and democracy in Nepal.

These radicals may have found solace in their ability to hide behind pen names and gossip on chat sites (targeted at adolescent teenagers experiencing puberty), but their weak attempts cannot deceive the feeling of national pride and unity experienced by hundreds of Nepalis who emerged to voice their collective views.

The same radicals may believe that the tactics of their contemporaries in Nepal (which contributed significantly to the demise of democracy) may help boost their egos in America, but this is hardly the case. By stooping to such levels, these extremists have irreparably undermined their own agenda; by displaying intolerance and jealousy, their true undemocratic intents and selfish motives have been exposed.

All in all, the expression of solidarity in Lafayette Park was a paramount success. The majority in the “middle ground” remained triumphant while the extremists were relegated to where they belong – obscurity.

With the outcome of this experience in mind, it is hoped that a similar exercise will be replicated in Nepal so that a peaceful and sustainable democratic polity may grace the homeland at the earliest possible opportunity. The sooner the myth that opposition towards failed political leaders (and the Maoists) translates into unconditional support for the King is dispensed with, the sooner we are likely to experience concrete results on the ground in Nepal.


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