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Dr. Tara Niraula

Dr. Tara Niraula, educationist, researcher, social policy expert and a staunch advocate for immigrants’ rights, is an educator by profession with over 25 years of experience in teaching, research, policy development and advocacy work. Purushottam Dhakal of Nepal24hours.com talked with Niraula about contemporary Nepali-American and other related issues.


What was your objective for coming to the USA? Is the dream fulfilled?

I came to here for acquiring higher education. And this objective has been fulfilled to some extent.

What differences have you found between Nepal and America?   

Practices of learning and educating are very much different. Students here have to study and take on the full responsibility of their success and failure. America provides appropriate conditions for those who want to succeed in life.

What attributes of America should Nepal and Nepalese learn?

In terms of political structure, America is democratic nation that is governed rule of law. Every citizen and organ of the state are governed by the constitution. This is America but Nepal has still a long way to go for reaching here.

In terms of educational system, all schools whether they are private or public or be it the university every institution is required to strictly abide the education standard and cannot be exception to federal laws. Locals are given management and operational rights. But appointments of teachers, managers, or be professors are strictly made on the basis of strength and qualification. Moreover everyone is responsible and sincere towards their duties and they should be.

If Nepal implements this things strictly, I’m confident that educational institutions in Nepal will change. Every educational institution in Nepal is plagued by political interventions and every political party and each of their leaders are responsible for jeopardizing the educational standards. In democracy each citizen has political rights but it is also equally crucially that while we practice our rights we don’t deprive others of their rights.

How do you assess the conditions of Nepalese residing in the US?

With the exceptions of some handful Nepalese, most of their daily life ends up in the struggle to earn a living. We have estimated that presently there are around two hundred thousand Nepalese residing in the United State. Though the 2010 American Census has shown that there are around 60 thousand Nepalese residing here, it is evident that it has failed to take account of all Nepalese. We are scattered in all the states of America and due to this we have failed to unite to demonstrate and practice our social and political rights and gain economic advantages.

Though we live in the USA we have failed to bring timely changes in our behavior. This does not means that I am proposing for giving up our tradition and culture. Present conditions back at home has not left the Nepalese Americans untouched. But again I don’t mean that we should not bother at all about Nepal.

Americans with Nepalese origin have not been able to establish themselves. What are factors in action here?

I have elaborated the main factors in the preceding questions. But i would like to add some more details here. Most of us are still driven by the dual desire of longing for Nepal and for getting established in the Americas. This is natural to some extent. But personally I think around 95 percent of us don’t have the desire to return to Nepal. Than if we have chosen it as the place where we have to make our destiny why is that we are always engrossed with what it happening in Nepal. It does not means that I’m proposing to forget Nepal fully. But what I mean is that Nepalese American should engage in American politics and be a part of it so that they adopt to the settings here where their children’s have to make their future. We can still help our motherland whenever there is a need from any corner of the world. We should work for our prosperity so that we can assist in developing Nepal. In my utterly personal feelings there is no point in discussing and cracking daily political events of Nepal among us in America.

What is your assessment of the claims that Nepalese Americans have failed to establish in the mainstream due to the inability of Nepalese community to operate education, health, social security, business and political sectors by aiming at the society?

First of all we are Nepalese and than Americans. There are no reasons to feel ugly about it. ‘Nepalese’ is our identity here and we should not forget it. And another thing is that within us ‘one Nepali’ there is the existence of ‘diverse Nepali’. We should consider these diversity within us while we talk of a Nepali and it is necessary that we unite emotionally. Next we should work to strengthen the Nepalese-American identity.
If we are to establish ourselves in the heart of the Americas, than we should stop pulling each other’s leg. It will take time but still it has to be done and we should start it.

Nepalese Americans and Nepalese origin institutions are found divided along linguistic, ethnic and cultural lines. Is it hindering the mainstreaming of these institutions and people?

As I said earlier we have diversity within unity. We have diversified culture features with different needs. We should try to address these needs to develop all of them equally by moving ahead but along with that as Nepalese Americans we should also strengthen a collective identity. There are scores of Nepalese institutions working in the US with some working for the general good and some to fulfill their petty interests. We should be clear about our objective of running an institutions. If an institution is operated solely for personal use, than i don’t have any comments but if the institution are for public welfare than they should be transparent and operated on the basis of federal laws. As public organizations every decision should be discussed publicly and adopted.

As an individual who has worked in the social sector for a long period now, what should be done to mainstream Nepalese Americans?

First of all I would like to put myself as an individual who strives to do something for Nepalese and Nepalese Americans. We all have longings for Nepal but we should also not feel odd to identify ourselves as Nepalese-Americans and work for strengthening our unity and our Nepalese American identity.

What is your choice: Nepal or America?

In our context the question is irrelevant. Speaking earnestly its not only one but its both. In my context Nepal is my motherland and was my fortune land for half of my life. Now though Nepal still remains by motherland, my fortune land has changed. My relation with Nepal cannot be severed. This is fact and we should accept it.

Your motherland is presently mired with struggle for ethnicity based federal states. But your fortune land despite having numerous ethncities does not has ethnic based states. What are your suggestion to your compatriots back in Nepal?

I am not expert in this affairs but in I’m opinion issue of federalism should be dealt with seriousness and on scientific basis. My general understanding says that the issue should not be sorted on the basis of political division. At the inception I had urged to some Nepalese politicians to form an high level commission comprising of experts on constitution, federalism, culture, natural resources, among others and with representations from various ethnic societies, dalits, women. And i had urged them that each political party should present their own drafts of the constitution to the commission. On the basis of the proposals forwarded by the political and civil societies, i had suggested that the, high level commission should have provided three alternates for state restructuring to the Constitutional Assembly to choose from. Now this did not happen. In reality everyone needs Nepal and we should not forget the history while we make the new Nepal. This will help in securing the Nepal with diverse features.

What is your suggestion to Nepalese who even after coming to Amrica are divided along linguistic, and racial lines?
It will be sufficient if they consider some of the things i have discussed so far. This is not my suggestion, it is my thought and hope.

Translated and Edited by: Chitra Raj Bhandari

Published Date: Wednesday, March 21st, 2012 | 11:44 AM

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