By Rup Pokharel, Pittsburgh, PA
Purna Dahal, an octogenarian became one of the center of attractions amid a crowd of hundreds at Market Square, Downtown Pittsburgh, during an event to observe the World Refugee Day on June 17, 2016.
The embroidered tag ‘Gross National Happiness’ on Purna’s cap and the banner ‘ Welcome to the World Refugee Day’ were the brazen spots where people repeatedly threw eyes at and passed by with eerie smiles.
Strolling with a cane on one hand and a bottle of water on the other, Dahal was busy adding smiles on the faces of his friends defying scorching sun narrating his days in Bhutan, Nepal and in the US.
“I was born in 1932 during the reign of the second King Jigme Wangchuck at Lamidara, Tsirang Bhutan. I lived in Lamidara for 40 years and moved to Gelephu, one of the populous cities in southern Bhutan. It was from Gelephu my family was ordered to leave the country in 1992”, narrates Dahal.
“Besides farming, my father contributed conscripted labor to open roads connecting many districts in Bhutan. My father passed away when I was 50. I seconded my father contributing mandated labor service in the nation building process. Farming, paying taxes and contributing on-demand labor services were the obligations for a citizen to comply the government rules in Bhutan. Besides being a farmer, I was also a priest in the village. Priests, Pundits, prominent individuals, businessmen, and village headmen became targeted for intimidation and arrest. And, once those people were made to leave the country or taken to jails, the aftermath resulted to added psychological harrasment on ordinary civilians to become the easy victims”, adds Dahal.
One of his relatives sent him the cap from Thimphu, Bhutan as a gift few months ago. He says, the piece of cap made in the country he was born is priceless. He is, nonetheless, quite not bothered, of the meaning of the words engraved on it.
“This is one greatness and humanitarian gestures of the US. By recognizing the problems and sufferings of the refugees the US has sown the seeds of hope, aspirations and happiness in the lives of neglected human beings”, said Upendra Dahal one of the first Bhutanese refugees to become US citizen two years ago.This year the office of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Pittsburgh branch decided to award the naturalization certificates during the same event to a group of those former refugees and immigrants who have successfully passed the norms and guidelines that the constitution of the United States has mentioned.
Eleven people took oath of allegiance with pride for being the citizen of the United States. Ten out of eleven were from Bhutan and one from Myanmar.
Speaking at the gathering, one of the recipients of the naturalization certificates Kalpana Chemoriya, a former refugee from Bhutan expressed her pride for relinquishing the ‘Refugee Tag’ bestowed upon her when she was two years old by the Royal Government of Bhutan.
Speaking to BNS, Kalpana said, “Starting today I became one proud citizen of the United States. The sufferings and the miseries is finally paid. I would like to thank the US government and the kindhearted and friendly people of the US for the generous humanitarian support.”
Refugees from different countries presented their cultural and folk dances-the rich culture they have come with.
Each year June 20 is observed as World Refugee Day. A Day to remember those unfortunate human beings who are forced to wear the refugee tag. Day to remember those you could not make to safe place to save their lives.