It’s not the first time that a Nepali with completely eligible documents has been denied of a visa to the US and it certainly won’t be the last. But the reasons explained for the refusal are sometimes too irrelevant or invalid. Recently back from their successful Australian tour, one of the most reputed folk rock groups Nepathya had to go through the same over information the embassy claimed to be “derogatory”. First it was popular singer Rajesh Payal Rai and his troupe and now it’s the band whose concert date was already decided. To give you a detailed insight on it, here’s frontman Amrit Gurung’s account of the incident as published in Republica daily.
God bless America
In the two decades of my musical career, I have never been as humiliated. I take pride in what I do and I have always used my art to promote dignity, peace and unity of the Nepali nation.
Someone rightly said that being an artist is being emotive forever. We get affected by what others say or do. I am glad to remain affected if that is what being an artist demands. I am happy as long as I can make my audience happy, my community happy and make Nepal happy. My personal feeling remains with me and me alone.
Earlier this week, I got a call from my manager at nepa~laya that our application for US visas had been refused because the embassy in Kathmandu “found derogatory information on the petitioner who had sent an approved P3 petition for the band”.
According to the attending visa officer, a P3 petition is a process anyone in the US can apply by filling a form and paying a fee, which actually means that the US Department of Homeland Security gives away approvals for all applications based on the fee paid? If that is so, God save America.
We asked how we could verify if our organizer based in the US was genuine before applying for the visa. The man behind the thick glass counter told us to “Google them”.
After a month-long peace concert tour through Nepal during which we took the message of peace and social harmony, we have just returned from a resounding three-week Australia tour. From Melbourne to Sydney, Nepathya’s concert is being talked about as a historic show by any Nepali artists performing abroad.
Our organisers in the US were also very excited about our tour there and my technical and management teams had been planning for months. I can live with my own feelings, but imagine the disappointment of the organisers in the US and the tens of thousands of Nepali-Americans. Imagine the sense of humiliation of my musicians. The young team in Washington had put in so much work to do something memorable and entertaining for Nepalis living in the US.
Everyone has a job to do, I respect the judgment made by the person ‘investigating’ our files. However I felt a bit uncomfortable when our organizers in the States called after verifying the reason for visa refusal at the concerned department there. They must have felt humiliated to hear about the embassy having ‘derogatory information’ about them.
As per him the refusal note on the system says ‘clause 214-b’. When Googling 214-b, I found this clause does not talk about the petitioner but about the applicant not being able to show strong social, economic or professional ties to the country, meaning they would stay behind.
I do not want to debate on who is right, but either the US embassy in Kathmandu, or the person at the concerned Department in Washington does not have the correct information or approach.
Anyone has the rights within their definition to treat anyone as an alien and be completely uninformed about the applicant’s activities. But saying so without carrying out a proper investigation does not sound like justice.
My suggestion: the investigator should have simply Googled or You-tubed ‘Nepathya’, ‘Amrit Gurung’ or ‘nepa~laya’.
Anyway, I do not want to sound like a preacher as I believe every individual is qualified and competent to perform his/her job. So I do not want to step into anyone’s jurisdiction and comment on their job and their decision. But having said that, I think basing a decision on misinformation can never make that decision correct.
The United States may face security threats around the world, and there may be a reason for suspecting us of overstaying. I understand the visa officers’ mindset, especially because they are trained to treat all applicants as ‘guilty until proven innocent’. I do not blame them. I have heard about Nepali cultural troupes staying behind in the US en masse. With this record of Nepali artists, I along with the Nepali artist fraternity must be ready to face consequences and humiliation time and again. The blame lies with fellow artists who would rather flip burgers on an American sidewalk than perform with pride at home. For the sake of individual happiness of those people in my profession, I am willing to pay the price, through the pain and humiliation we face back home. I will not complain. Let go the material loss of the visa fee of Rs.180,000 my group paid for the application.
Nepathya was scheduled to perform at the Nepalese Summerfest in DC on the May 27, with a series of shows across the states to follow. I would like to apologise to our well wishers and say sorry on behalf of the organisers and my band. The reasons are beyond our and the organiser’s control.
If America is safer and better without me or Nepathya visiting and performing there, so be it. God bless America.
Photo: Courtesy Nepathya Facebook Page