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The Visionary Nepali Administrator in London

November 23, 2014 , by Jerusha Rai, 2 Comments
The Visionary Nepali Administrator in London » My Dreams Mag
At a time when immigrants from other South Asian nations are becoming influential political or administrative figures across the globe, Nepalese so far have been struggling for integration. Holding major posts in reputed organisations is no more a rare feat for Nepali immigrants. Bishnu B. Gurung, Deputy Mayor of London Borough of Hounslow, holds that peculiar achievement who as an immigrant has leapt higher as an administrator in the UK.


Nepali immigrants are swiftly becoming one of the growing ethnic minorities in the UK. There has been a sharp rise in Nepalese migration since settlement rights were granted to ex-British Gurkhas and their dependents in 2004. The Centre for Nepal Studies, UK (CNSUK) also reports a marked increase in the influx of Nepali students in 2009-10. Though Nepalis are still categorised under the ‘Other Asian’ classification, a strong presence of Nepalese are felt around certain areas of the UK. The natives are taking note of the Nepalese.

As the first generation of mass immigrants, the struggle for integration is ongoing. We are still behind in gaining political influence and identity, compared to other South Asian immigrant communities. Problematically, reports of clashes between Nepalese and local youth, language barriers for senior Nepalese, psychological stress in adjusting to a completely new country are some of the challenges Nepali immigrants have been facing.

In this climate of increasingly negative attitudes towards immigrants in general, it is very encouraging to see members of the Nepali community getting involved in local government. Bishnu B. Gurung is one such individual who has been elected as the Deputy Mayor of London Borough of Hounslow last May.

After 19 years in the Brigade of Gurkhas, Gurkha Signals regiment, Gurung retired as a Staff Seargent in 1997. Though he worked in the Gurkha Signals, his main qualification was in mechanical engineering. In this interview, he talks about the expectations Nepali and Asian communities have from him and how he aims to accomplish his responsibility.

As a Deputy Mayor of a London borough he needs to take into account all political perspectives in his locality. While acting as a Councillor, he represents the Labour Party under whose governance ex-British Gurkhas were allowed further settlement rights. Simultaneously, he has also taken the responsibility of a lead member in the Armed Forces Community Covenant (AFCC) and is also involved with Armed Forces Cadets.

 

Could you please explain us your current activities in your various roles?

As a Councillor, right now we are in preparation for the general elections coming year to select the MPs. So we are campaigning around the constituencies at the moment. I discuss the party’s pledges with the residents. At AFCC, we are currently recruiting reserve army as the government is cutting down the regular army. The reserve force cadets is a part time role that allows you to continue with other job or studies.

We are recruiting 35,000 reserve army for this year. It is a good opportunity for young people to learn teamwork and discipline while earning money. You have the chance for further employment in many different battalions and regiments in the army. You could go for logistics, air force or the navy.

You can also continue your studies with scholarships at the respective universities. I would like to welcome young Nepalis to make the best of this opportunity.
 
How did you first get interested in politics? What led you to your current position in the Council?

I think my interest in politics originated when I was quite young. My father used to be a VDC (Village Development Committee) chief and a teacher. It was through him I learnt about Nepali history and governance. When I arrived in the UK in 2005, we rarely saw other Nepalis around. There were only a few and we were scattered around the UK. There were several people trying to get the Nepali community together and work towards integration. This is how I initially started getting involved in political action. I was one of the coordinators trying to get the community active in council and local community matters. We wanted to give the Nepali community an access to the local governments and its specific needs.

It was through the various Nepali cultural programmes and gatherings, I came across to meet influential politicians that ultimately led me to the Council. We organise the Gurkha Bishwa Cup football tournament, celebrate Dashain, Teej and Nepali New Year. In this way, we have successfully introduced Nepali culture and people to key members of the local community.

Growing numbers of Nepalese are concentrated in certain areas around the UK and are beginning to hold a political influence. Local politicians pointed out the need for their representation, a reason why invited me to join the Council around 2009. In 2011, I decided to join the Labour Party whose policies seemed fair. I was especially impressed by the Labour government’s decision to allow all ex-armies to live in the UK, regardless of their retirement. I am grateful to Labour Party for taking this decision that has changed a lot of Nepali lives.

 

What are the changes you have seen in the Nepali diaspora since 2005?

I think if we keep up our efforts to integrate in the British community, the Nepali diaspora will prosper. We have the capability and potential to benefit from the opportunities this country has to offer. The only thing is Nepalese themselves need to be pro-active in the society. Currently, we tend to stay as an exclusive community, segregated from our localities. Yes, we need to be together to continue our cultural traditions and fight for our rights, but this can only happen with greater involvement in every sector of the British society.

What makes me really sad is that we are not even united among ourselves, but fragmented along caste lines. I have my reservations about the various exclusive Nepali organizations that are based on caste. But I hope that we can get through from there. We are just the first generation of Nepali immigrants and I have better hope for the upcoming generations.

“IF WE KEEP UP OUR EFFORTS TO INTEGRATE IN THE BRITISH COMMUNITY, THE NEPALI DIASPORA WILL PROSPER. WE HAVE THE CAPABILITY AND POTENTIAL TO BENEFIT FROM THE OPPORTUNITIES THIS COUNTRY HAS TO OFFER. THE ONLY THING IS NEPALESE THEMSELVES NEED TO BECOME MORE ACTIVE IN SOCIETY.”
 
"IF WE COULD DO IT, THEN SURELY THE YOUNGER GENERATION, WITH STRONGER ACADEMIC BACKGROUNDS AND GREATER FAMILIARITY WITH BRITISH WAYS, CAN HOLD EVEN BETTER POSITIONS IN GOVERNMENT."
 

Do you think young people are involved enough in politics?

Young Nepalese here lack political education and direct involvement on what goes around here. However, there are quite a few who are actively interested; I’ve met several promising students of law and humanities who come to me for advice. There is also a lack of role models, with only a handful of Nepalese in political positions in the UK. I hope those of us in office now can influence the younger generation to get more involved. If we could do it, then surely the younger generation with stronger academic backgrounds and greater familiarity with British ways can hold even better positions in government. I also want to remind them that they have a right to do so and must exercise it.

 

Do you think an expatriate feeling could distance us from greater involvement?

We really need to understand tha opportunities here are not just offered to the White British. The Council holds many apprenticeships for young people. It makes me sad to see that there are no Nepalese youth among this diverse group. Other immigrant communities have solidified their cause by getting themselves involved and grabbing opportunities.

Nepali immigrants also need to understand that we can’t expect anybody to simply hand over a good job or career prospects. We must look for such opportunities, do research and stay up to date with current affairs, and establish network with people outside our own community.

"I WANT TO REMIND YOUNG PEOPLE THAT THEY HAVE A RIGHT TO POLITICAL INVOLVEMENT, AND THAT THEY MUST EXERCISE THEIR RIGHTS."
 

What are your future ambitions?

I am hoping to continue my political role. As a Nepali acting as a Councillor and Deputy Mayor in a London borough, I am very aware of the expectations that people have from me. Not just from Nepalese but other Asian communities have taken note of my current position. I have been able to speak to several Asian newspapers. These communities seem proud to have someone representing them in the office. I take my job as an asset to Nepalese, Gurkhas and other Asian communities and aim to fulfill the responsibility that comes with a position of power.

 

What message would you like to give our young readers?

I would like to thank Dreams magazine for this interview and a chance to address the youth in the Nepali diaspora.

I hope that, through this conversation, young people would become aware of the possibility of a career in UK politics. Other Nepali politicians and I have merely just opened the way.

I am quite aged and I doubt that I can climb up to a more influential position. But I would like to invite younger generations to exercise their right to political involvement and remind them that I am more than happy to provide any support and guidance they would need in the process. The future can be bright for them.

In conversation with Jerusha Rai.
Follow Jerusha on Twitter
@rjrusha

"NEPALI IMMIGRANTS ALSO NEED TO UNDERSTAND THAT WE CAN’T EXPECT ANYBODY TO SIMPLY HAND OVER A GOOD JOB OR CAREER PROSPECTS. WE MUST GO LOOKING FOR SUCH OPPORTUNITIES."

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Categorised in: Immigration, Interviews

2 comments on “The Visionary Nepali Administrator in London

  1. Gun Gurung says:

    I am delighted to hear what councillor has to say and pretty much interested to read his encouragement to the youngster.

  2. jyoti k sunwar says:

    No doubt, he is an inspirational and leading example of our community, not only that but for the future generation of the Gurkhas/Nepalese too.

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