August 2001

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If Culture is Dying Why Teach it to our Kids?

CANADA: The Best Country to Live in. For Whom?

A view on the Nepal Massacre article:

NEPAL MASSACRE: Family Feud or Conspiracy?

If Culture is Dying
Why Teach it to our Kids?

By Farah Rahemtula

I am proud to be a Canadian born Asian!  It took me many years of personal cultural rejection before I was able to say and mean it.  Today I can say it with out any problems, but if had you asked me 5 or 10 years ago I would have told you I was ashamed of my Asian decent. 

Youth today are bombarded with the newest American fashions, Hollywood stars and the latest music trends, so as a result learning about their culture is something that many fail to see as a priority in life.  The sad truth is growing up in this western world has allowed large numbers of youth to reject, and sometimes even hate their culture.  Any parent noticing this obsession with the western world and rejection of their own culture will begin to panic, but don’t!  Remember, it is important to begin to teach your children about the dynamics of their culture at a very young age.  Attend cultural festivities, read them books on your culture, use your mother tongue and allow them to participate in anything that will broaden their understanding of their heritage. 

I grew up rejecting my mother tongue; I also extended this stubbornness to cultural festivities, fashion, and traditions.  However, the irony of it is, that although it was the western world that pushed me away from my own culture, it was this same world that eventually pushed me towards it.  While idly watching celebrities and the latest fashions I began to notice that the newest emerging trends were descending from my very own culture.  I began to see super stars like Madonna take on Asian fashion.  I saw celebrities wearing bangles, bindi’s and sari’s.  And soon enough I even began to see my non-Asian friends with henna hands, bindi foreheads and colourful bangles.  It was with this trend towards the exotic Asian culture that I began to become interested in what my culture had to offer.  It was at this exact time that a lot of Asian youth began to embrace their culture because the western world was welcoming it.  Yet remarkably, when the Asian cultural trend died down, our passion for our own culture did not! 

Many youth realize later on in life that maintaining and experiencing the richness of what their culture has to offer is a feeling that can not be achieved by following the latest trends, of the western world.  Partaking in long-lived traditions and cultural festivities fills a void in every individual, a part that many look for when they are searching for their true self.  Not only are you discovering yourself in your heritage, you are discovering your parents, your grandparents, and your ancestors.  Knowing that I can now carry on the traditions and expectations of my culture creates in me a sense of pride, a feeling only my ancestors can give me.  If you have children who are rejecting their culture don’t lose hope, eventually they will understand the importance of it.  Never give up teaching them; one day they will look back and thank you! TOP

CANADA: The Best Country to Live in. For Whom?

 By Suresh Jaura

The United Nations has designated Canada as the best country to live in for the last five years.

This year it has fallen to No. 3 behind Norway and Australia.

“The facts and figures that have now come to light expose (the designation) as extremely misleading,” says Grace-Edward Galabuzi, releasing the 128-page study commissioned by Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), “While Canada may indeed be the best country to live in for its white population, the same can not be said for” all especially the non-white population.

Canada’s Creeping Economic Apartheid is the first comprehensive study in Canada documenting how racism shapes the way our non-white population lives and works in Canada. This report pulls together data from a wide range of sources, delivering an all-inclusive and disturbing picture of how racism is establishing a stranglehold on Canada’s economy and culture.

Using Statistics Canada, Employment Equity and Human Resources data, the Centre “has unearthed a disturbing picture: how Canada’s racialised groups consistently earn less than Canada’s white population, are ghettoized in low-paying jobs and segregated in low-cost urban housing area,” says CSJ Press Release.

‘Racialised groups’ is a term used in place of   the often used term ‘visible minorities’ and includes persons other than Aboriginal peoples who are non-Caucasian in race or non-white in colour, namely: Chinese, South Asian, Black, Arab/West Asian, South East Asian, Filipino, Latin American, Japanese, Korean and Pacific Islanders.

There is an increase in Canada’s reliance on immigration to address labour market shortages. Over the last 30 years, there has been a change in the demographics. An overwhelming majority of Canada’s immigrants come from racialised groups.

While the immigration to professionals is offered based on their qualifications and skills, many immigrants are unable to get comparable employment and compensation. This leads to some of them not to act on their immigrant visas, seek employment in the United States or else choose to split families, with spouse and children living here, and the other spouse continuing to practice their professions in the ‘home’ country.

“Immigration status has become a proxy for racial discrimination as employers insist on Canadian qualifications despite operating in an increasingly globalised economy. While European immigrants qualifications routinely go unchallenged, racialised Canadians often lose opportunities because of the perceived value of their qualifications. As a result, racialised group immigrants have a longer immigration lag than non-racialised immigrants,” says the study.

Unlike in the past, due to strict skill-based immigration policy requirements, the average educational attainment of immigrants has risen. Of the professional/skilled immigrants   selected in 1998, 72 per cent (or 56 per cent including dependants) had university degrees, which is four times that of Canadian-born households. However income and unemployment differentials persist between racialised immigrants and other Canadians.

An analysis of recently-published Human Resources Development Canada (HRDC) Employment Equity Data showed under-representation in more lucrative industries, motor vehicles industry (7.0 per cent), primary steel (4,2 per cent) and the federal government (5.6 per cent).

While some 11 per cent of the population is racialised group members, only 15 of the 1975 fire chiefs – a percentage of less than 0.8 per cent, 90 judges out of some 2,455 across Canada – less than 4 per cent, and 3 per cent of the police chiefs come from the group. Of the unionised workers, 7 per cent are from the group.

One of the findings based on the Centre’s analysis of special run data and existing studies and reports states: “The demands for labour market flexibility has disproportionately exposed racialised groups to contract, temporary, part-time, and shift work with no job security, poor and often unsafe working conditions, intensive labour, excessive hours, low wages, and no benefits. Many are employed on exploitative contracts by temporary agencies, with some assigning work based on racist stereotypes. Racialised women are particularly over-represented in Canada’s sweatshops – unregulated piecemeal homework. This labour is a subsidy for many employers at the expense of quality of life for these poorly paid workers.”

The report also reviews other indicators of socio-economic performance such as housing, health, education, contact with the criminal justice system, representation in the media, and political participation. 

Demographic data show tat with current mobility trends, racialised groups will soon form economically disadvantaged majorities in some of Canada’s major urban centres: Toronto, Montreal, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver.

“The racialisation of poverty is increasingly manifest in urban centres where racialised groups are concentrated, and in the emergence of racial enclaves and a growing racial underclass,” says the study. “In an increasingly segregated housing market, racialised groups are relegated to substandard, marginal, and often overpriced housing. The growing social inequalities act as social determinants of health and well-being.”

The implications of persistent income and employment inequality, economic and social segregation, and political marginalisation, are a looming crisis of social instability and political legitimacy for Canadian society. It may even lead to violence, as key institutions in society lose legitimacy among the affected communities, warns the author of the study.

Economic apartheid is alive and well in Canada and the reason is racism, says Grace-Edward Galabuzi. Government, industry and unions must immediately take swift, concentrated and coordinated action to turn this situation around and end inequality in our employment practices. When something like racism threatens our country, government must intervene before the crisis deepens.

Amidst a wide range of policy recommendations the study calls on the federal government to crate a national urban forum bringing all levels of government together to develop policies and legislation combating racism. TOP

A view on the Nepal Massacre article:


By Lincoln Sivasanmugam

The official report says: Dipendra did it.

The two-member commission led by the Chief Justice Keshab Prasad Upadhaya and the House Speaker Taranath Ranabhat presented the findings to King Gyanendra last Thursday evening.

The House Speaker, Ranabhat presented a summary of the findings live on television and radio at a press conference at the parliament secretariat. Rifles, magazines, cartridges and clothes were on display. Most details confirm early media reports about a drugged and drunk prince going berserk with automatic weapons, mowing down family members.

The highlights of the report:

1.      Dipendra was intoxicated even before the family dinner and was carried up to his room where he smoked a joint with hashish and an unidentified black substance. He made several calls to Devyani Rana in a slurred voice.

2.      Dipendra’s orderly and governess found him on the floor, trying to take his shirt off, he went to the bathroom and vomited.

3.      Dipendra donned combat fatigues and, armed with a 9mm MP-5K, an M-16 and a 12-bore French shotgun went down to the billiard room. Two 9mm Glock pistols were also found at the site, one was used.

4.      He fired at the ceiling and the wall, then at his father, King Birendra.

5.      He left the billiard room, changed guns and returned to spray his father with his submachine gun, killing and wounding family members tending to King Birendra.

6.      He returned to spray the survivors once more, killing his sister Sruti.

7.      He then backed out into the garden while a woman in a red sari (Queen Aishwarya) and Prince Nirajan followed him.

8.      There were gunshots from the garden. Queen Aishwarya’s body was found on a landing, and Nirajan’s on the lawn, brain tissue, bits of bone and blood covered the area.

9.      Dipendra was found near the bridge, still alive and wheezing. Two weapons were found near his body.

10.  Most members of the royal family were declared dead on arrival at the Chhauni hospital at about 2115 on Friday night. Sruti died at 2155, Dhirendra and Dipendra two days later.

The 200-page report was the outcome of the commission’s extensive interviews with royal survivors in hospital and other eyewitnesses, examination of hospital records, lab analyses, and ballistic and forensic evidence. There were more than 60 specialists who helped in the seven-day investigation headquartered in the heavily guarded parliament secretariat.

To be sure, the report is shocking and the public disbelieves it and there are reasons to do that, perhaps. If Dipendra was “intoxicated and had to be carried upto his room, where he smoked a joint with hashish and an unidentified black substance”, he would have passed out immediately as is confirmed when his “orderly and governess found him on the floor”.

In such a state, for him to have “donned combat fatigues”, arming himself “with a 9mm MP-5K, an M-16 and a 12-bore French shotgun” and going “down to the billiard room” would not have been possible.

Dipendra is said to have “fired at the ceiling and the wall and then at his father, King Birendra”. His leaving the room, changing guns, killing and wounding and then going out to the garden and shooting – all this sounds like a fable to fit the official conclusion.

The matter of fact is either Dipendra was neither intoxicated nor did he take hashish and the black substance, and was just pretending to be to cover up what he was planning to do.

Or he really was down and out, and it was somebody else, who carried out the royal massacre, and then shot him to put the blame on him.

The truth may never be known and nobody can blame the Nepalis and the world for not believing the official report with all its exhibits. TOP

NEPAL MASSACRE: Family Feud or Conspiracy?

By Suresh Jaura

Nepal, the only Hindu monarchy in the world, has been mostly unknown to the world, except as heaven for the “hippies” in the last decade, and as the launching pad for expeditions to the world’s highest mountain, the Everest, for decades.

The carnage in “the top of the world” has shattered the “peace” in the Himalayan Kingdom that “traverses the high Himalayas, idyllic mountain valleys and crowded lowlands that meld seamlessly with India’s Gangetic plains”, as John Stackhouse has referred to Nepal.

It was the worst mass murder of Royals since the Bolsheviks, on the order of Vladimir Lenin, in 1918, executed the Romanovs.

The Nepal Times sums up the tragedy thus, “Friday night, faith died. Belief succumbed to the cruelty of history. Impregnable walls could not stop the flight of an age towards eternity. The king is dead, may his soul rest in peace. Long live the king, the symbol of Nepali unity and cultural identity. It is with this mixture of grief and hope that we are coming to terms with a tragedy too painful and complex to comprehend.”

It is said that in 1768, when King Prithvi Narayan Shah, founder of the Shah dynasty, ascended the throne, a prediction was made that his line would end after 11 generations. Some years back, another prediction said to have been made was that King Birendra Shah would not live beyond 55 years. He was 55 years when murdered.

Crown Prince Dipendra, 29-year old, is rumoured to have “secretly married” Devyani Rana, the 22-year old daughter of a former Nepali Foreign Minister and a member of the powerful Rana dynasty, which had ruled Nepal by seizing power in the mid-19th century until 1951, when the Shah dynasty returned to power.

According to one report, at the dinner table, Dipendra, who appeared to have been drinking, is said to have asked his parents to accept Devyani Rana and declare their “engagement”. The King and Queen did not accept this. Having been rebuffed, Dipendra opened fire with an automatic rifle killing at least 10 people before he shot himself in the head with a pistol. He all but wiped out a dynasty and fulfilled the 233-year old prophecy.

While in coma at the hospital, he was proclaimed King. Later he died. King Dipendra, the 12th generation Shah ruler, “became perhaps the only monarch in the world who passed his entire reign in a coma”.

From his coronation platform, in 1971, King Birendra called for Nepal to be declared a Zone of Peace. It is a paradox of history that he himself was destined to fall prey to an act of violence.

King Birendra will go down in history as the sovereign who made his subjects sovereign, and transformed them into citizens of his own accord. He was, in that sense, the very personification of history. Not many rulers of the world can lay claim to have guided the journey of a nation from autocracy to democracy with relatively few setbacks along the way. If there was a price to pay, he ultimately paid it with his own life and the lives of his immediate family members.

The Aftermath

The massacre and the events that followed it have destabilised the palace, which was perceived to be a solid and monolithic structure for more than 250 years. This last week has pushed the nation into an unprecedented dilemma and crisis. The Nepali nation is bewildered and alarmed.

King Gyanendra ascended the throne after it was officially announced that King Dipendra “left for his heavenly abode”.  This is the second time for him. In 1950, the last Rana Prime Minister, Mohan Sumshere, crowned him king. People refused to recognise the infant-king, as the then King Tribhuvan and Crown Prince Mahendra were both alive and well, though in a self-imposed exile in India after China occupied Tibet. This time it is different. After the decimation of King Birendra’s family, King Gyanendra is the legal heir to the throne sanctioned by the customs and traditions of Nepal.

Prince Paras Shah, his son and future heir, is the least popular royal, having been involved in three hit and run accidents, and in an accident last year that killed a popular singer. There are rumours that King Gyanendra (indirectly as he was out of town) and Prince Paras were involved in the massacre. Binod Bhattarai writes in the Nepal Times, “There are slight discrepancies in the exact sequence of events: where precisely were the members of the royal family during the first and second bursts of automatic weapon fire, where were the wounds on the bodies, where were the ADCs, where exactly was Queen Aishwarya, did Paras leave the room? But on the question of who was involved, what emerges from extensive interviews is confirmation of a family quarrel gone horribly wrong”. What exactly transpired will never be known and any reports that follow an inquiry will always be considered a cover up.

The Inquiry

King Gyanendra, in his first proclamation, set up an inquiry commission. He announced the formation of a three-member probe consisting of the Chief Justice, the House Speaker and the leader of the main opposition party. The inclusion of UML general secretary, Madhav Kumar Nepal, was unanimously hailed as a very astute move—the devastated royal palace had taken the unprecedented step to open up.

However, Madhav Nepal decided to pull out of the inquiry commission citing “a procedural lapse” in the formation of the probe. The party says that in keeping with the constitution, a committee should have been formed by Singha Darbar, and not by the palace.

The UML seemed once more to be putting its politics before the national need to avert deep crisis. “They are haggling over legal niceties when the important thing is to have a commission with credibility that the people will accept,” said a leading leftist from within the party.

The UML appears to have been pressured by two members of its alliance (the Nepal Workers’ and Peasants’ Party, and the Popular Front), which had decided that the royal crisis was the right time to activate the long-pending strategy to oust Prime Minister Koirala. “We didn’t like this being done by royal decree, the government should have proposed the committee and we would have assigned a member instead of the king naming an appointee,” was what a party official told us. “This was a typical ploy by the king, a conspiracy, to get us bogged down with a possibly predetermined outcome to the inquiry,” said another UML parliamentarian.

Despite Madhav Nepal’s withdrawal from the inquiry commission, ruling party sources say that the panel will continue its work even if the third member does not join. The respect enjoyed by the Chief Justice, it is thought, provides the commission with enough credibility to proceed. The panel is expected to take at least until the weekend to present its preliminary report, and sources say that rather than immediately point fingers or name the perpetrator, the commission is likely to suggest guidelines for a thorough investigation.

Conspiracy Theories

There is great sadness at the death of an enlightened monarch in King Birendra. There are accusations of a conspiracy behind the killings not only against King Gyanendra and his son Prince Paras but also against India.

The conspiracy theory is to the fore in the Pakistani press. Islamabad’s The News quoted the former head of the secret service, Lieut -General Javed Nasir, as saying “India is the main conspirator behind the Nepalese royal family massacre as it had warned the family not to get too close to Pakistan and China”.

Rawalpindi’s Urdu-language Nawa-i-Waqt carried a report accusing India’s premier intelligence service of being behind the killings.

“With the massacre of King Birendra and the royal family, not only has Pakistan lost a good friendly ruler in South Asia, but also the leadership that protected the politics of Nepal from Indian interference has passed away. Behind this gruesome massacre, one cannot overlook the role of RAW [India’s Research and Analysis Wing],” a correspondent said. King Birendra had sought to stop India and the American CIA putting pressure on the Kathmandu government to support them in a regional power struggle with China.

The banned Nepalese Communist Party, whose Maoist insurgency has resulted in over 1500 deaths in the past five years, also shares the conspiracy theory. A statement published in Nepal’s Kathmandu Post said the “patriotic and liberal” king was unhappy about Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala’s plan to mobilize the army to fight the rebels. Koirala, and the Indian capitalist, hegemonist rulers and other national and international fundamental reactionists were not tolerating the late King Birendra’s liberal thoughts,” the statement said. “This pre-planned massacre will have long-term effects on the future of Nepal.”


In India, the Hindustan Times said ““Official circles here are alarmed by the turn of events in Nepal. Kathmandu-watchers feel Gyanendra not only has an anti-India mind-set but is also believed to have patronised elements having close links with Pakistan in the none-too-distant past.”

However, the Hindustan Times also quoted former Indian ambassador to Nepal Bimal Prasad as saying: “I did not find any indication of hostility towards India in my interaction with Gyanendra.”

Writing in The Times of India, Dubby Bhagat concurred. “Gyanendra... is the pragmatist visionary to his brother’s unfettered idealism... if anyone can rise above intrigue, and weld together the warring factions of Nepal’s new found democracy, Prince Gyanendra can.

“His detractors have labelled him anti-Indian. He is assuredly not. He will listen to anyone who he sees as having resonance and cerebral worth. It is for India to provide such a person to manage the fragile relationship between the two countries.”

 “Other countries in its neighbourhood may wonder how tragedy seems to stalk the ruling families in this region,” The Times of India said, pointing to similar experiences in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.”

The Times of India described King Birendra as “a lofty figure of continuity who transcended the murky world of parliamentary politics”.

“In Nepal’s hour of grief, the tragedy should awaken the politicians - who have fouled the democratic pitch - to their mandated responsibilities,” the Times argued. “The Maoist insurgency could only be tackled by raising living standards. There is no reason for such unmitigated poverty in Nepal with its rich abundance of natural resources and hard-working people.”


The future holds no promise. “The future of Nepal’s politics as well as the monarchy hangs in the balance,” said former Judge Bhubaneshwore P Daibagya. “The new King will have to win the love, confidence and support of the Nepalese people. But it will be difficult.”

Hari Roka, an independent leftist activist, said, “The circumstances demand that those who call themselves political powers or even responsible citizens learn from their past weaknesses and become serious if the country is to be saved. If the nation does not survive this crisis, neither will we and our various selfish ambitions”. TOP

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