A MLK Style Death Awaits Me In Nepal
A MLK Style Death Awaits Me In Nepal
July 16, 2008
201 Varick St, NYC
I fear political assassination upon return to Nepal between now and the 2010 election because of (a) my ethnicity: I am a Madhesi, (b) my political beliefs: I have a firm commitment to democracy and social justice, (c) my political abilities and the intense visibility that will invite upon my return: Barack Obama, Howard Dean, Terry McAuliffe, David Pollak all know me, I have played a central role to the three mass movements in Nepal in April 2006, January-February 2007, and February 2008, and (d) my association with the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum, the organization that has best countered the Maoists politically.
My fear comes from (a) remnant elements of the old political order who lost much after the democracy movement of April 2006 that turned the poltical order upside down, (b) the Pahadi power brokers of the three largest parties in Nepal, the Maoists, the Nepali Congress, and the UML, (c) specifically the Maoists who might see me as an American agent, (d) elements of the Maoists who might still harbor their original dream of a one party communist republic, (e) elements of the Maoists who see the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum as their number one threat, (f) rivals from the Madhesi rights camp, (g) one or more of the armed Madhesi groups who might find I am not in tandem with their separate country agenda or their violent methods, and (g) mafia elements hired by any of the forces described above.
It is going to be very easy to finish me off. I am not going to have any security detail. A likely scenario is one person with a handgun who manages to flee. Or I might get poisoned. Or I might get killed in a choreographed road accident. That is how the life of the last charismatic Nepali leader ended: Madan Bhandari in the early 1990s. I am a MLK to the 13 million Madhesis on the planet. If I go to Nepal now, I die a MLK death.
America Needs Me: A Case For Political Asylum
June 24, 2008
I came to the United States on a student visa in August 1996. I was a student five years at Berea College in Kentucky. Berea is the number one liberal arts college in the South. Within six months of landing I got myself elected student body president at Berea, first time in the college's 150 plus year history a freshman had done such a thing, first and last.
In 1999 I was one of the founding members of a dot com company that went on to raise $25 million during its second round before it went down during what in the industry is known as the nuclear winter. I was also team member number two of another dot com that sought to challenge then industry leader AllAdvantage that paid people for watching ads while surfing the web. That company also closed shop once the nuclear winter set in and there was a massive dot com meltdown. The founder Paul went on to Duke.
You can work for a year after graduation. During that year my college sweetheart proposed to me and we got married. I got a green card. She was the smartest student at Berea. She had spent her first semester at Macalester, the Kofi Annan college in Minnesota.
It so happened that we ended up spending quite some time apart. There was travel involved on my part. She had a semester long internship in Australia, another subsequent semester long internship in Thailand. Somewhere along the way we fell out of love. I moved to New York City. I was a few months away from renewing my green card, something you do within two years. My ex still cared enough about me to suggest I renew the green card before we filed for divorce. I refused for emotional reasons. I passively let the deadline pass. As of winter 2005 my green card expired. Our separation paper said we had no children, no property to divvy up, and that she will get 5% of the income from my first published book. She had not asked for that 5%.
I have not worked any illegal job since. I have eaten into savings, swiped credit cards; recently I have borrowed money from my business partner. Adam Carson was a Vice President at Morgan Stanley before he quit and joined my team. The technology company I have founded has raised round one money, thanks to Adam, but I can't pay myself a salary because I am out of status. I was thinking I would grow the company a little more and then apply for a green card based on that. A friend of mine, a fellow Madhesi from Nepal, got his green card through his Seattle based software company. But now I am in a rather urgent situation, and I have decided to seek political asylum. I have an extremely strong case. If I show up in Nepal right now, I am dead meat.
The king of my country pulled a coup in February 2005 and took over. The country already had gone through a decade long civil war led by the Maoists in which 13,000 people died in active combat, twice that many committed suicide. The Maoists of Nepal had proven themselves to be the largest, deadliest ultra left group this planet saw since the end of the Cold War. At their peak they had 80% of the country.
In February 2005, three forces in Nepal were at loggerheads: the monarchists, the Maoists, and the democrats. Since February 2005 no Nepali outside of Nepal has put as much time into the democracy movement of Nepal as I have. Part of the reason I let my green card expire was because I was so busy thinking about the 27 million people in Nepal - days, nights, weekends, it was a zombie existence - I literally was not thinking about myself. There would be piles of unopened mail on my floor. The work I have put into Nepal's democracy and social justice movements is going to win me the Nobel Peace Prize. It could happen in 2008, 2009 or 2010 by the latest. If it happens in 2008 or 2009, I will have broken MLK's record.
What happened in Nepal in April 2006, January-February 2007, and February 2008 was magic. If Nepal can become a multi-party democracy of state funded parties and one where at least one third of the legislature is female by law, what happened in Nepal during those three mass movements will have been the French Revolution for this 21st century.
I went to the best school in Nepal. The number two guy in class went on to Harvard to Goldman. Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard, I never went to Harvard. When Bill Gates was 19, he launched a company. When I was 19, I launched a political party.
I am a Madhesi in Nepal. In Rwanda they got Hutu and Tutsi. In Nepal they got Pahadi and Madhesi. Jesus was a Jew. There are 13 million Jewish people on the planet. Buddha was a Madhesi. There are about 13 million Madhesis on the planet. That is how many black folks MLK had when he was doing what he was doing.
More than 40% of the people in Nepal are Madhesi. Of the 30,000 Nepalis in NYC, maybe 30 are Madhesi. That should tell you of the filters in Nepal that work against the Madhesis.
I am half Nepali, half Indian by birth. More than 99% of the Nepalis in America are not my ethnicity. More than 99% of the Indians in America are not my ethnicity. I need to point out the ethnic politics in countries like Nepal and India are way more complicated than the racial politics in countries like America. Barack did not have it tougher growing up.
Please check my Nepal blog for my work into Nepal: http://demrepubnepal.blogspot.com. Please check my Barackface blog for my work into Obama 2008: htp://democracyforum.blogspot.com. Barack knows me, as does Howard Dean. Terry McAuliffe knows me. I have a feeling the Clintons might be aware of my presence. All the top politicians in Nepal know me or of me.
There is a concrete mathematical theory called the butterfly effect. A butterfly flapping its wings in the Amazon forest could be the reason a cyclone hit Bangladesh. What happened in Nepal in April 2006, January-February 2007, and February 2008 were political cyclones. I was the butterfly flapping my wings in New York City. What I did I could not have done from Kathmandu.
In April 2006, over a period of 19 days, about eight million people out of the country's 27 million came out into the streets to shut the country down completely to force a dictator out. The Maoists wanted to take credit but they had been pushing for an armed uprising all along. The seven democratic parties kept pushing for a mass meeting here, a mass meeting there, a daylong shutdown here, and a daylong shutdown there. I am the father of the concept of continuous movement in the Nepalese context. I pushed the concept from the very beginning. If there is a tortoise sitting on the fence, chances are it did not randomly get there.
All the political actors and parties that took credit for April 2006 were fundamentally opposed to the Madhesi movement of January-February 2007 that was a more intense movement than April 2006. February 2008 was the second chapter of the Madhesi movement and the third chapter to the April 2006 revolution itself. I was the one constant to all three.
When Upendra Yadav, now leader of the largest Madhesi party and fourth largest party overall after the April 10, 2008 elections to the constituent assembly in Nepal, landed in Los Angeles in July 2007 for the annual conference of Nepalis in America, his first words were "Where is Paramendra Bhagat?" They took him to the hotel. He again asked, "Where is Paramendra Bhagat?" They had to fly him over to NYC to meet me.
I was at a Nepali event in Jackson Heights in Queens. Some MPs from Nepal were on stage. I was sitting in the front row. Hundreds were in attendance. In the middle of the program one MP got off stage to come sit one seat from me to get his picture taken with me. Then he got embarrassed and said he was trying to get the crowd into the background of the picture.
In February 2006 Madhav Nepal, then leader of the largest political party in the country, was put under house arrest by the royal regime. A month later he managed to come online wireless. His brother lived in the house next to his. The first person he contacted was me. We chatted on Google Talk. Madhav Nepal is a Pahadi.
The civil war in Nepal is officially over. Nepal had elections on April 10. Why would I feel unsafe in Nepal today? Me going to Nepal would not exactly be like Benazir Bhutto going back to Pakistan and getting killed. I have never been Prime Minister of Nepal, but I was thought of as a future Prime Minister when I was at high school back in 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, and 1992. Result? The Pahadi teachers and administrators destroyed my final three and a half years of high school experience. Besides I am not going to have Benazir's bulletproof car, her bodyguards, and her money. I guess you could say there were declared threats on her life. I don't have any known declared threats on me.
So why do I have safety concerns about going to Nepal? Do I know for sure that I will be in harm's way if I show up? No, I don't. But my instincts tell me I will not be safe. Why? There are a few different reasons.
Nobody in the Nepali diaspora put as much time, effort and talent into the democracy movement in Nepal as I did. The old regime is gone. A new set of people have come into power. A lot of peple who used to be very important are not important no more. They don't have their old prestige, but they still have money and resources to inflict damage. In a country like Nepal you can get killed and although there will be all sorts of rumors, no one will know for sure who did it. Not claiming responsibility is the best way to do it. I do fear the anger of those who have lost much with the onset of democracy in the country.
April 2006 saw the democracy movement, but January-February 2007 and February 2008 saw the Madhesi Movement. I am a Madhesi. This was like our own civil rights movement. Upendra Yadav has been the face of that movement in Nepal. Until March 2008 Upendra Yadav did not move around like a free man but rather an underground political worker. He would always have 12-15 people with him. Very few people knew where he spent his nights. He did nonviolent political work but he moved around the country like there was a price on his head. I got to meet Yadav in New York City for a few days in July 2007 when he flew over, his airfare paid for by a Madhesi entrepreneur in Russia who recently became Russia's Manager Of The Year.
Why would someone want to shoot and kill a Martin Luther King? Why would some random person want to do that? I am a MLK to the 13 million Madhesis on the planet. Of the six biggest parties in Nepal, three are Madhesi. The top leaders of those three parties are practically my fans. The top leaders of two of those parties used to be on the central committee of the party to which I was Vice General Secretary before I flew to America in 1996. Both have been cabinet members, one a few different times.
What might work in the favor of my safety though is that although all the top politicians in Nepal know me, I am not exactly a household name. I have mattered fundamentally to the peace process, the democracy movement, the Madhesi movement, but my work has been primarily to suggest tactics, strategy, and moves. In that I have almost been like a political consultant to the peace process. Also, my ways have always been nonviolent. So I don't exactly have people waiting to get "even" with me. But all it would take is one bad apple, one sick mind, one twisted heart.
And there is always jealousy. People like me who fight for equality for Madhesis and nonwhites sometimes lose sight of the fact that our own peoples can harbor our worst enemies. Bob Marley made it big in America and Europe. He went back to Jamaica and was shot at.
Talk of physical harm, it has already happened. My youngest sister lives in the city. She is married to Bisun, a Madhesi who went to the same high school in Kathmandu as me, was a few years junior, he went to Harvard, now works at Columbia Medical Center where Bill Clinton got his heart surgery.
Bisun's father was brutally murdered about a year ago. His body was chopped into pieces like a butcher's meat. The police said at least five individuals must have been involved. To this day no one knows for sure who did it. There were all sorts of rumors. Two of the largest rival armed Madhesi groups blamed each other. 700 armed cadres of one left the group and joined the other as if in protest. Some people blamed the Maoists. Others blamed some low caste groups in the village. Some blamed some Muslim youths in the village who a few days later fled. The largest armed Madhesi group blamed the Prime Minister of the country - Nepal has never had a Madhesi Prime Minister - and retaliated by murdering a close relative of the Prime Minister. If you are going to kill a Paramendra Bhagat relative, we are going to kill one of yours. That was the thinking. In a case of internalized rage, Bisun ended up blaming his own brother and his wife.
I want to make it absolutely clear that I have never had any contact with any armed Madhesi group ever and there have been a dozen of them. But their thinking highly of me should tell you how much I have mattered to the Madhesi movement.
But the worst happened a few weeks later. The story about the Muslim youths caught fire. My family lives in the eastern plains of Nepal. In the western plains a prominent Muslim from the Prime Minister's party was murdered by two gunmen on a motorbike who managed to flee. Many suspect one of the two largest armed Madhesi groups might have been involved. That murder sparked riots that engulfed a few different districts. The riots were Pahadi-Madhesi, Hindu-Muslim. The riots lasted two weeks and were so bad the police and the army were not able to penetrate hundreds of square miles for those weeks. There was much damage to lives and property. It is very possible there is leftover anger. Do you think there are at least some people who don't believe I have had nothing to do with any of the armed Madhesi groups?
Dawood ran - runs - the Mumbai underworld from Dubai, Karachi. Mirja was Dawood's top guy in Nepal. I was never mafia, but I was very good friends with some people he was very good friends with. We knew of each other, met a few times. He was a wildly popular politician. At one point he was a cabinet minister. I guess they don't do FBI background checks back there in Nepal. A few months after I came to America, they pushed 42 bullets into Mirza's body. They could not afford the news that he was "still alive." Dawood retaliated. His rival Chhota Rajan ran his business from Bangkok. There was an attempt on Chhota Rajan's life in Bangkok.
I came to America in 1996. I never left.
Safety is my number one personal reason to press for asylum, but I would also like to press the special talent narrative. A Nepali music entrepreneur I know and several Nepali movie stars and artists got their green cards in the special talent category. I am a very special talent. America needs me, and America needs me in New York City. Sending me even to Kentucky is going to feel like deportation.
I am the un-Bin Laden. I mean no disrespect to Christianity and Christ and if I use this metaphor it is because it is such a vivid one. Bin Laden is the anti-Christ, I am Christ. If 9/11 has been the modern day Pearl Harbor, the first major revolution of the 21st century happened in Nepal. Between eight years of a Barack-Hillary presidency, a possible Mayor of NYC who will get behind my idea of a new definition for voting rights in this city to engulf everyone who lives inside the city boundaries, and my tech company that will work to get hundreds of millions of new people online, I think you are looking at a total spread of democracy by 2020. The day all Arab countries have been turned into democracies is the day the War On Terror ends. There are two aspects to that war. There is the part about killing mosquitoes. The US military, law enforcement and intelligence agencies working with their counterparts in other countries get to kill mosquitoes: that is not my area of expertise. Someone like me helps drain the swamp. Everybody you need to spread democracy everywhere on earth lives right here in New York City. America needs me, and America needs me to be in New York City.
China is also going to be a multi-party democracy. But likely it will become a multi-party democracy of state funded parties, and the Chinese Communist Party will continue in power for a few more decades. Taiwan and Tibet will be states in a federal China.
My company is the best thing I could do for my country and countries like mine. Not everyone has to come to America like I did. The Internet is what will bridge the gap between the First World and the Third World, between the west and the rest. I could not work on my company in Nepal. I have to be in New York City to grow my company. I am going to list my company on NASDAQ. I am going to turn this into a Silicon City. I am going to be the reason the center of gravity of the tech industry shifts from California to New York. My very young company alone might be reason enough to give me legal status.
I would like to share a story. In ancient Greece there was this mathematician, I forget the name. One day he was out in his yard, drawing lines in the sand, deep in thought. That very day his country got conquered. He was famous enough that the conquering emperor sent a soldier to fetch him for a private audience. The mathematician told the soldier he was in the middle of solving a theorem and waved him off. The soldier got angry and hacked him to death. Over the past few weeks at times it has felt to me like I am that mathematician. I have been doing cutting edge work in politics and business. Don't hack me.
Warren Buffett once said he could not be CEO of General Electric. My management and leadership style by now places a heavy emphasis on Web 2.0 and a heavy consumption and production of mind food. The worlds of academia, media, politics and business are seamless. I might have more in common with a theoretical physicist than your stereotypical MBA.
I am not someone who wants to stay back in America for the good life. I am someone who decided staying back is how I could make the greatest positive impact on the country I grew up in, the country that I left, and other countries like that one. Although I don't mind the good life.
America is a concept, America is an idea, that concept, that idea is democracy, it is the market mechanism. When was the last time an immigrant into America played a larger role for democracy and social justice in his country of origin and intends to play a similar role for all countries that are not yet democracies? The medium is not the message, but my role would not have been possible before the advent of the Internet. I am a new breed revolutionary intending to wage wars with communications technology. I am a digital democrat. I am the un-Bin Laden. Neither of us seem to need states or standing armies. He is for violence. I am for nonviolent militancy, the kind where you shut a country down completely for three weeks to bring a dictator to his knees.
Burma did not have a Paramendra Bhagat or Burma too would have succeeded. Tibet did not have a Paramendra Bhagat or Tibet too would have succeeded.
My next court appearance for the two charges of harassment and violation of court order are on August 13. I intend to fight both charges and come clean. I am on a $2 bail and an immigration hold. I want the immigration office on Varick St to start my political asylum process right away. Let me pay my $2 bail and get out. Give me a state appointed attorney for the asylum procedures. I am not someone trying to run. I am not someone trying to hide. I expect to list my tech company on NASDAQ in seven years or less. Someone like that intends to play by the rules, function in the system.You can make me show up at your Varick St office once a week if you want until a final decision is made on my request for asylum one way or the other. If you end up deciding my case lacks oomph, deport me. Tell me when and where to surrender, and I will surrender. But don't keep me locked up. If you do, a country 10,000 miles away suffers. The work of mainstreaming the Maoists in Nepal is not over yet. I am still very much needed on a near daily basis to monitor the situation and to suggest political moves. And while I am at it I am also going to be useful to the Obama-Clinton ticket. Barack knows me. He has taken advice from me a few times. My young tech company also needs me on a near daily basis.
When you are doing cutting edge work, by definition you will not have much in the name of company. The money also seems to wait. At one point Einstein said, "Through my work I have put a clock in every corner of the universe, but I don't have enough money to put a clock on my own wall." I happen to need state appointed attorneys right now.
I expect to be proven not guilty on charges of harassment and court order violation. I expect the two charges to be dismissed or dropped. I expect to be given work authorization papers immediately, and ultimately I expect to be granted political asylum. And after I win the Nobel I expect President Obama to give me an honorary US citizenship.
For now give me back my personal freedom right away.
(statement prepared for the immigration services people on Varick St)