Wednesday, January 9, 2008

United we stand

Nepal suffers from selective analysis of the problems. From politicians to left-leaning civil society members, everyone in Nepal seems to analyze politics the way it suits them and their agenda. Political pundits are so bitterly divided that they don't see problems that can arise in future from the deal-based politics and constitutional adventurism. It is hard to find an academician that dares to say in public that elections are the bedrock of democracy and extension of the current government in the name of transition is jeopardizing the democratic consolidation.

Is it greed or intellectual demise, or the combination of both, that is propelling the best brains in the nation to engage in selective analysis? What will it take for our politicians, left-leaning civil society members, political pundits, and academicians crushed with political luggage to realize that mandates in politics are time-bound and are not valid for ever?

Again, it is not only the politicians, academicians, political pundits, or the civil society members that are engaged in selective analysis. The entire nation suffers from this dangerous political disease. If you are Paharis (from hills), there is a big probability that you see the demands put forward by the fellow Madhesis absolutely rubbish and Indian game plan to disintegrate Nepal. If you are a Madhesi, you see every single Pahari as a colonizer and keep silent even when Paharis living in the tarai are butchered by the secessionists, who are posing as liberators.

Before accusing anyone of being Indian pawn, the time has come to ask who is not an Indian pawn in Nepal? Paharis accuse Madhesi politicians of being pawns, but how come no Pahari dares to question Girija Prasad Koirala's nationalist credentials when he wants to open a liaison office of Nepali Congress (NC) in New Delhi? We too, like Biharis' Bihar Bhavan, Rajasthanis' Rajasthan Bhavan, and Telugus' Andhra Bhavan, will have our own little Bhavan -- NC Bhavan in Delhi if Koirala has his way. How patriotic is this gesture?

The nation is so fragmented that people fall into one category or the other by default. The probability of you getting called: Bahunist, Maoist, royalist, etc at some point or the other is really huge. Like me, if you are a Brahmin, you are already a Bahunist by default. It does not matter whether or not you have benefited from being a Brahmin from other members of your Varna that are in the corridors of power.

Is it my fault that I am born as a Brahmin? And, how have I, or for that mater, any other hard working Brahmin benefited from just being a Brahmin? Like any other Newar, or for that matter, Madhesi or Kirat, millions of Brahmins like me in Nepal worked hard in their life to get where they are now. Just because Girija Prasad Koirala, Madhav Nepal, Ram Chandra Poudel, and Puspa Kamal Dahal are dictating Nepali politics and their kith and kin are benefiting politically and financially, is it fair enough to blame and victimize all Brahmins for exclusion of minorities? It is the fault of these handfuls of Brahmins that are withholding the genuine rights of other ethnicities, not ours, who had no control over our Varna.

While Pahari brahmins in the corridors of power in Kathmandu are hesitant to hand over the genuine rights to the people of the tarai, Madhesi leaders of Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (MJF) and Tarai-Madhes Loktantrik Party (TMLP) are silent over displacement and killings of Paharis that have been living in the tarai for generations. Neither anyone from MJF, nor TMLP have come forward and condemned killings of innocent Paharis at the hands of secessionists.

A few things that Madhesi leaders of MJF and TMLP need to make clear is, whether or not tarai belongs to Paharis like me who were born there. They should also make clear about what they mean when they talk about rights and opportunity for the people of Madhes? Are they only seeking rights for Thakurs, Yadavs, Tripathi, Raya, Shukla, Lal, and Guptas or the entire population of Madhes? Is this fight only for rights of Madhesis or the people like me too, whose forefathers have been living in Madhes for almost ten generations and had no connection of any kind with hills?

In my view, Madhesi leaders should not narrow their reach and harden ethnic boundaries. Ethnic politics does not take one very far. Neither Bedananda Jha, nor Gajendra Narayan Singh could reach very far. Gore Bahadur Khapange proved to be a disaster. It might provide instant solace to some but there is very little one can get out of ethnic politics.

There are millions of Paharis born and brought up in Madhes and have no connection with hills. MJF and TMLP should try to earn their support too. They are by all measures not less Tarians than any Thakur, Yadav, Mishra, Jha, Mahoto or Gupta that reside in the tarai. And, they will not hesitate to throw their support behind Mahanth Thakur and Upendra Yadav if convinced.

The leaders of MJF and TMLP should try to learn a lesson from the recent success of Mayawati in Uttar Pradesh, India. She achieved what messiah of Dalits in India, Bhim Rao Ambedkar and her mentor Kanshi Ram, could not in their lifetime. However, it took her more than a decade to realize that in ethnically diverse societies, focusing only on certain castes or ethnicity does not take one very far. This realization made her make a complete U-turn from tilak, taraju aur talwar, maro unko jhoote char (beat up Brahmins, Vaishyas and Kshatriyas) to Haathi nahin Ganesh hain, Brahma Vishnu Mahesh hain (it is not elephant but Lord Ganesh, symbolizing all gods and communities).

The politics of inclusion clearly benefited Mayawati in Uttar Pradesh and will benefit Mahanth Thankur and Upendra Yadav in the tarai. Slogans and rhetoric alone cannot win elections. Especially in a region where approximately 40 percent of population is Pahari, you just have two options: either engage yourself in ethnic cleansing, which will erode your democratic credentials or ensure inclusion of those Paharis that, like you all have been ignored and undermined, by fellow Pahari Brahmins in the corridors of power. There are millions of Paharis residing in the tarai that have no problem having a Madhesi leader as a president or prime minister. All you got to do is, make them feel safer and secured.

Don't fall into the trap of secessionists. Secession by no means is an answer to oppression. Oppression and exclusion can be defeated from within. The partition of India has not made Muslims in Pakistan any better. Indian Muslims are experiencing far more political freedom than their counterpart in Pakistan. There is no end if we start running from the oppressors with our small share. We should learn to fight back and defeat them.

Neither all Paharis are oppressors, nor are all Madhesis oppressed. The tarai is eagerly waiting for someone like Mayawati who can ensure inclusion of not only Madhesis but also Paharis that have been bypassed by those in corridors of powers that have forgotten what they stand for.

1 comment:

insec said...

Thank you Haribansha ji,
In fact Nepal needs properly defined affirmative action plan. Communal ism takes no where. Racial discriminations are personal or group crime. Should be addressed through strongly applied law which comes parallel with peoples' awareness.
Thanks. I am delighted.
Subodh.