A routine and medically-required evening walk of a Nepalese-speaking refugee from New York nearly cost him his dear life last Sunday night.
Khada Katel had apparently gone for an after-dinner walk as he regularly did to control his diabetes when two to three young men attacked him from behind. He was hit on the head, stabbed in the stomach and then put in a car in a semi-conscious state.
The 44 year old was discovered by his family two hours later, reports said, after he managed to stagger up to his apartment building. He was ‘left in the woods’ by the attackers, probably left for dead.
The incident occurred in Green Knolls Drive area of Rochester, New York.
“He’s the only person that works in the family and he’s supporting us family but he can’t work now and that’s going to be a real help for the family,” Time Warner Cable News quoted the victim’s nephew Shiva Katel as saying. The Kate family’s livelihood is now in limbo as the victim remains at the Strong Memorial Hospital in a stable condition. He reportedly has four children, wife and an elderly mother who depend on him as the bread earner of the family.
The southasia.com.au understands he is one of thousands of Nepalese-speaking Bhutanese refugees resettled in the USA; a GoFund campaign introduces Mr Katel as someone who “moved here from the refugee camps in Nepal”.
However, local media outlets in New York do not seem to mention ‘Bhutanese refugee’ in relation to Mr Katel.
“Many feel the attack was targeted toward the refugee community and are outraged,” TWC news said in the report. In 2014, Democrat and Chronicle carried a detailed report on the atrocities facing the Bhutanese refugee community living in some pockets of Rochester dominated by African Americans. According to the report which aimed to unite the Rochester communities, there have been hundreds of cases of attack on members of the community probably because they stand out from the local people. They also become soft and easy targets of street gangs because they do not fight back, the report suggested at the time.
Jit Mongar, another refugee father of seven children, was last year gunned outside a convenience store in the same city.
People have expressed dismay over the atrocity on social media. “I’m so sorry for how you’ve been unwelcomed into our community. Please know so many more of us are glad you are here and wish you the best. Speedy recovery and many blessings to your family,” says Michael Avery in response to the GoFund campaign put together to help Mr Katel’s family.
The campaign has already raised over US $3,000 since it was initiated by Durga Katel, who in her social media post said the victim was her ‘uncle’.
Deborah Gallant, another contributor and commenter on the GoFund website said refugees were the ‘future’ of her country and that she was angered by the attack, “I am outraged to hear of this attack. I have friends in the refugee community, and know them to BE the future of our nation.” She remarked that majority of the community ‘cherish him (Khada Katel) and his family’ and adding, “We are a nation of immigrants.”
Prior to their recent resettlement in western countries including in Australia, over 100 thousand Bhutanese refugees lived in eleven UN-sponsored camps in eastern Nepal. Their exodus out of Bhutan had followed a deeply racial policy of the Bhutanese monarchy. In the late 1980’s the Bhutanese government established the “One People, One Culture” policy or “Bhutanization” to reinforce Bhutan’s national identity. The policy triggered human rights violations such as imprisonment without trial, detention and torture.
By 1992, tensions between Buddhist and Hindu Bhutanese had peaked and resulted in the exodus of around 100,000 Lhotsampa to UN run refugee camps in the east of Nepal. Bhutan’s Buddhist King was weary of the growing population of Nepalese speaking Bhutanese who made up almost one sixth of the country’s population by the early 1990’s.
The government of Bhutan repeatedly declared that the refugees were not Bhutanese nationals, claiming they were voluntary migrants who surrendered their citizenship when they left Bhutan. The Nepalese and Bhutanese governments finally introduced a process for authenticating and classifying refugees in 2001. This process has attracted international disapproval for lack of transparency, excluding the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and failing to fairly consider refugees’ claims to Bhutanese citizenship.