EXCLUSIVE: US company hammers on right to religion of refugees


By Kazi Gautam
Syracuse, NY, Sept 16: A Bhutanese refugee resettled in New York in USA has disclosed that a local textile company in Syracuse has told him to change his attire and wipe tika from the forehead in order to get a job.     

Chandra Kanta Pokharel, 34, a refugee from Bhutan being resettled here in Syracuse had to face serious discrimination on his traditional practices.   

The incident occurred few days back when he faced an interview at Coyne Textile Services (CTS), a local textile company in Syracuse.

“Every thing went smoothly until Merci Magari, the interviewer picked on me about my religious practices”, said Pokhrel, adding- “In order to be suitable for the position, I was told to change my attire and wipe Tika, a red pigment worn on my forehead.”

He further said that he was really upset to hear about such mal practices going on in the country where people around the globe come thinking that they will be allowed to exercise their right to religion.  

Talking to BNS, Mary Kane, job developer at the Refugee Assistance Program (RAP) run by Syracuse City School District showed “surprise” about the incident.

“In fact, I was there as I took Chandra for the interview at CTS. I was taken aback by the interviewer’s approach which I immediately protested”, said Mary, adding that she has never heard of such incident.

“Although the companies have their own policies, there are also laws in our country that protect people. There should not be any discrimination on the basis of one’s religion,” added Mary.    

Hari Bangaley, one of the case managers at the Catholic Charities that resettles the refugees from around the world seems very hostile to the act of the interviewer.

“I strongly condemn it as I don’t see any reason why employers come up with such inappropriate questions which do not have any relation with the kind of work people are supposed to perform,” said Bangaley, adding that the lady at the company should clarify her stance.

Despite several attempts, the interviewer could not be immediately available for comments. 

There are over 700 Bhutanese refugees being resettled in Syracuse, among whom only half of the population have been employed so far.

Interfaith Works, another refugee resettlement agency operating in Syracuse, Catholic Charities and RAP assist refugees seek employment.

Pokharel, a Hindu priest while in camp, arrived in USA under resettlement on March 24, 2009. According to Hindu religion, putting tika on forehead is one of the traditional practices. A vast majority of Nepali-origin refugees from Bhutan practice this trend since years.   

UNHCR and International Organisation for Migration often assure refugees of having their right to religion safeguarded in USA before they board the flights from temporary camps in Nepal.

This is the first time that a resettled refugee has complained of attempts for encroachment on right to religion.


  1. Why that bahun need to go with TIKA and Proballly Dhoti to ask job in America.
    Our people need to change the mind set they have ….I see fault of person who goes in with such dress….It is America and you should learn to leave with them.

  2. This should not be an issue. Hari Bangley made such a cheap comment and tried to act in over-smart manner. Putting a tika is a custom and differs among the different clans. This is not mandatory however ardent the person may be.
    I don’t understand why Chandra Kanta Pokhrel (CKP) wanted to put tika and go for searching the employment. There are certain security issues in which the weaker and vulnerable ones are made the target. We heard news in others name and CKP cannot be exception if he continues to be a jackal in the herd of wolves.
    Kazi Goutam initially got much appreciation in his contribution in his search, write ups and opinions but this very news seems weightless and somewhat directionless both in depth and presentation. There are certain arenas that are relatively sensitive and the way they are presented makes the difference. To my understanding, the already established person in presentation at media coverage should double check the subjective as well as the objective part of the news.
    Personal getup and costume plays significant role during the interview or other appointments. One has to pay attention on the minor details, be it the hairstyle or way of interaction.
    With tika on forehead might not have looked the person in a smart way. And there is nothing wrong on saying or commenting on the person’s tika. Please don’t politicize this type of propaganda instead teach CKP and other punditbajays how to get the jobs and face the interview. Looking at tika nobody is going to offer the job.

  3. It really surprises me to read this. Why had he had to smear his forehead if he was attending the interview? If one can attire or behave him / her as per the whims and fancies, what is the use of interview ethics? The scientists, authors and writers who are trying hard to bring all the possible help and guides for the interviewees should burn all their books. Hello,You guys are in the US! At least try to adjust with some simple harmless ways that are practiced there and do not try to take your cause in the name of religion / culture to every one’s noses. It sucks, really. I am sure no one has forced you or will compel you to change your religion, your culture or tradition and what is this preposterous, unkempt sound and fury.
    If I was the interviewer of a company and come upon such a funny reddish, scruffy face, I will not even let him in. Hari Bangaley has not yet changed! It is a pity, dear

  4. Is this an exclusive news? How dare you can say that this is the first case within USA. There are 100 others who felt just as simple as not getting the job due to incompentency and low level of spoken English. Others felt useless to make the propaganda.
    Grasping whatever is infront will take to pitfall. Mr.Pokherel might not have gone for puja or religious purpose. He went for seeking the job and prepared to face the interview.
    If I’m prepared to work as a doctor than i should prepare to put on white apron. This is what it means. In a textile factory they have their own dress code and safety issues. Tika chemical gives pigmentation in contact to the hue sensitive text and spoil them. Work professionalism is what they want in US not the tika and untidy dhotis.
    Might be Pokhrel have thought that he will be considered as great saint and someone will offer him with high value job. Things won’t go that way.

  5. He guys! I read the news and also all the comments. It is always good to see the people commenting on the write ups. I want to comment on the comments written so far.

    1. CKP deserves right to practice his religion and culture, no matter wherever he goes.
    2. He definitely looks equally smart on tika and dhaka topi ( as someone said above that he doesn’t). I believe smartness cannot be solely judged from someone’s outer appearance.
    3. I am pretty sure those who commented above are Bhutanese. Now, if you say he got to give up his practices, how can we keep our identity? Truly, some bad practices should be thrown away.
    4. Finally, I praise the news writer for his courage to bring out such a sensitive issue.

  6. KanchiKakiji, And the employer has the right to reject CKP due to his get-up. Your smartness as per your definitation is not related to fashion show, it is for getting the job. Be logical not emotional, come on yar! CKP is at USA not at Nepal. Yes, it is Bhutanese who commented and they’ve the concern. Your theory of practice could be logical there at camp, but one has to learn to be Roman when one is at Rome. In the mercy of identity one cannot survive in the US cities without giving priority to jobs. Nothing is free at US. People come to US to work and have a dignified life of self-esteem. No begging for a bowl of rice. Your praising the writer for raising the issue seems logical, but the matter is about failure of fanatic Bahun to seek job due to bad get up. Do you think this will touch the sentiments of larger community? I personally think, this is too bias and unethical practice. I think this is too cheap.