Case Study – Crisis of Identity and Compulsions of Survival: Paradox of a Madhesi Youth
Crisis of Identity and Compulsions of Survival: Paradox of a Madhesi Youth
Nepalese Migrants in Delhi: Some Stories
– Govinda Neupane
I met a group of migrants from Dhanusha. They work as plumbers, electricians and house wall painters. Among them, some are quite bright and have knowledge of society. These youths of Madhesi nationality work hard and stay simple. I am going to talk about one of them – Pramod Yadav.
Pramod is informed, active, and energetic and functions as a leader of the group. He has completed secondary school education. He says, “due to unavailability of employment, I came here.” He learnt the painting skill after coming here. He is attached with a hardware shop, though neither he is getting any payment from the shop nor he works there. The arrangement is like this – the shop sells the materials and Pramod sells his service. Therefore, they compliment each other. This sounds a good arrangement as the customer gets one window service. Sometimes, he becomes extremely busy and some days he spends just waiting at the yard of the shop. They are a group, and he does not feel lonely. They talk, share, and help the shopkeeper as if they are also having great interest in the smooth functioning of the shop. On the day of merry making festival of Holi, many of the migrant workers and the Indian people in general were happy in playing with colors. That is some sort of a day for intoxication, by inhaling or drinking Bhang (raw marijuana) added mixture of yoghurt and water called Sarbat. Pramod was not that flying high as his friends. Nevertheless, yes, he was a bit under the influence of the magic drink. He told me that day how bitter he feels for the reasons not getting work in Nepal and the compulsions for coming here. He was in tears. Pramod has better understanding of the socio-political process of change in the society. He understands the discrimination the Nepalese state has meted against the Madhesi and other non-Khasa nationalities. Many of the fellow workers have a dream to go to Gulf countries as the better skilled ones had gone there in the past, who were working with them. However, Pramod has a different dream. He was more willing to go home back and get work there itself. Although, he did not say clearly, but his friend once told me that here they can do any thing. As long as money is there with them when they reach home, prestige is in abundance. However, people see educated youth working as wall painters at home, the prestige disappears immediately. So strange is the village reality in Nepalese rural area. Therefore, as an educated person, they have to be working at least as a clerk, forget about the meager salary they get. That is the obstacle not only in Pramod’s case, I found the same situation the others are. The first problem is that Nepalese job market is highly saturated. That is followed by the discrimination the non-Khasas suffer from. The Madhesis are subjected to several conditions of disadvantages. Primarily they are created by:
· Cultural hegemony (the state respects and enforces Khasa-Hindu cultural content including the ‘national’ dress code),
· Language of the state – Nepali (the Madhesis speak Maithili, Tharu, Avadhi or Bhojpuri as their mother tongue),
· Psychological and social domination (Hindu fatalistic superiority among Khasa as rulers and inferiority among Madhesi as subjects),
· Marginalization by denial (denying citizenship rights for many, questioning their national loyalty and baring them in employment such as in army considering them as cowardice), · Structure of the society adds misery to working class people (exploitation, absence of connection at higher level, injustices make the situation hopeless or alternatively rebellious). Pramod understands these realities but there is not much left for him doing anything substantial by being non-radical or succumbing to the Hindu philosophy of so-called fate. Every Madhesi youth is standing at the crossroad. The crossroad has three connecting roadways – rebellion, status quo or convergence. The first, they can do even as an individual. The second is the result of indecision and inaction, hence, temporary. The third needs empathy, sense of justice, acceptance of multiculturalism and inclusive polity. However, that has to be accomplished by the forces of change, forces of transformation encompassing a single nationality, a single class or a single social force. In the morning, when I used to see Pramod and his friends assembling at the yard of the hardware shop, I sensed that these youths were like other migrants in a more generic sense but unlike them in specifics. As a leader of these youths, Pramod could contribute constructively or destructively. The sons and daughters of Nepal, if put energy together can create synergy and bring results beyond imagination, but if the opportunity is denied, all hell might loom large. Now, Pramod and his friends face the crisis of identity in a sense of collective contribution of and place they deserve at as a nationality in the history, governance mechanism and over all roles to play in deciding the progress and destiny of Nepalese multicultural state. The resolution lies on a multidimensional as well as synergetic approaches to bring people of different nationalities and social section together within a governing framework of social convergence and economic justice when multiculturalism and equity can bridge the gap. The compulsions of survival may delay the active participation of these Madhesi youths, but the paradox is temporary. Seeing the intensity of thoughts and urgency of actions at Pramod’s face, the wise ones would not waste their time. They have to start the journey today itself to establish a polity that brings equity and justice. Empathetically and sympathetically, I am with them. DelhiNovember 22, 2004
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