Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Lethal freefall

Lately, politicians have discovered a new mantra for building a "New Nepal." And that new mantra is, "negotiation." Be it mutiny within the security forces or an absurd demand like creating a single province to house heterogeneous populace, anything and everything is up for negotiation. Nepal could tip into "freefall" if a parameter for what is negotiable and what is not, is not set.

There is no method to the ongoing political madness. Politicians can do anything and everything and get away with it. There is no accountability whatsoever. We have a finance minister, who talks about fiscal responsibility and financial restraint, but runs finance ministry like a drunken sailor. He wants to exhibit his sense of entitlement on national coffer by disbursing 330 million to ex-members of the Legislature-Parliament. And, we have another great one -- Krishna Prasad Sitaula. Nobody has really been able to understand, who his real masters are.

Sitaula's job is to maintain law and order in the country and that is what precisely he has been unable to do for the last two years. The Young Communist Leaguers seem to be safer than ordinary citizens under his tenure as a home minister. Sitaula has his own unique way of uplifting the spirits of Nepal Police -- negotiate with mutineers. What a brilliant home minister we have, don't we? If you negotiate with mutineers, mutiny will never end. The only way to deal with it is, do what other countries do -- use brute force to bring it down so that it never happens again. If there are institutional problems like ill-treatment of the fellow servicemen and corruption in the security forces, which I am sure there are, initiate institutional reforms.

In a lawless society like ours, mutiny if negotiated, will shatter the required cohesiveness within the forces and destroy its ability to maintain law and order.

It is not only the Nepali Congress (NC) that houses "luminaries," Jhapali Naxalites too have their own set of geniuses that are relentlessly engaged in churning out innovative ideas. In order to fight widespread corruption and social injustices and counter youth brigade of brigands of Ropali revolutionaries (read YCL), Jhapali Naxalites have come up with a custom and unique solution -- create brigade of brigands of their own. Initially, we had one brigade of brigands to deal with, now, we have two. For ordinary citizens, it might be "political warlordism," but for our progressive leftists, it is an efficient use of wasted youth force. Can anyone argue against such a brilliant proposition?

In Nepali politics, politicians' past does not hold any importance. You can be from a Tharu community; marry a Pahari woman, serve pahari masters for decades and make fortune out of it, marry off your siblings to paharis, and overnight propose yourself as the biggest proponent of Madhesis' rights. Pahari-bashing is fine, you might have to do that to disassociate with past associations, but discrediting Tharus' revolution against one Madhes, one province proposal as UML's sponsored act is, totally outlandish. And, strangely, Madhesi friends with whom we grew up idolize such politicians and see us as colonizers. Where in the world will you find such a well- intentioned people other than in Nepal?

As an undergraduate student at the University of Delhi in the mid-nineties, I was surprised to see my Indian friends hate Pakistan. During the cricket matches between India and Pakistan, hostel's common room where we gathered to watch matches would be filled with curse words. It was surprising to see my friends whose parents might not have been born during the partition share such strong emotions against their neighbor. Pakistan-bashing politics practiced in India for the last fifty years is to be blamed for that. While India shirks its responsibility in establishing and supporting Mohajir Qaumi Movement in Pakistan, it blames Pakistan for every terrorist attack that takes place in Indian soil. In the process of finding a "scapegoat" for its security lapses, India has permanently vilified Pakistan in the hearts and minds of millions of Indians.

Like in India, where Indian politicians have been cashing in on anti-Pakistan rhetoric for more than half a century now, Madhesi politicians in Nepal are filling the hearts and mind of illiterate and semi-literate Madhesi populace with anti-Pahari propaganda. Every pahari living in Madhes is being painted as colonizer, which is far from reality. There are hundreds of thousands of Pahari like myself, whose family have been living in the tarai for more than eleven generations. We might have been in the Madhes well before the family of many Madhesi politicians, who now claim that the Madhes belonged to Yadavs, Thakurs, Mishras, Shahs, Shuklas, Tripathis, Mahatos, and Guptas and paharis colonized it.

I grew up with the first generation Madhesis. And, it didn't bother me a bit. So forget about, who came first and to whom Madhes belongs. Such debate will not lead us anywhere. Either by design or by default, we all are there now, and should try to prosper together. The Madhesi people should not get carried away by political slogans put out there by the politicians. Where were they when the late Gajendra Narayan Singh was fighting a lone battle against Pahari elites for Madhesis' rights and dignity?

The very same people, who blame the past rulers of forcing a national language upon Madhesis, are now giving speeches in Hindi rather than in Maithili. Politicians by nature are self-serving. It is, thus, important to remain vigilant about their motives.

It would be foolish to look upon India for emancipation of ethnic minorities in Nepal. The Bhutanese refugee imbroglio is a case in point, which clearly shows India's sensitivities towards ethnic rights of foreign nationals. For India, its national interest comes well before democratic rights or ethnic emancipation of foreign nationals. The Madhesi leaders should not be too influenced by the assurances of India's point man in Nepal. If they are really for ethnic rights of Janjatis and Madhesis in Nepal, where were they all these years? Why didn't ethnic minorities' issues come under their radar for so long?

Had India not supported King Mahendra's autocratic regime, we would have had democracy long ago. It is because of India's backing of Mahendra's rule, life of a visionary politician like B P Koirala got wasted. When India could not trust a person like BP Koirala, who had close ties with Indian leader like Jaya Prakash Narayan fully and force King Mahendra to bring down his autocratic regime, Madhesi leaders should reassess the assurances and promises made by the point man in Lainchaur durbar. Their unequivocal support for the Maoists, whom they had unilaterally branded as terrorists, in the changed political context shows how quickly they change sides. It might be worth joining hands with fellow pahari citizens in Madhesh and putting up a fight against the ruling elites for greater rights rather than be at the mercy of Indian benevolence.

One thing that I still remember what my Sri Lankan roommate of two years during my stay in Delhi University told -- there is no clear winner or loser in an ethnic conflict, we all lose equally and often wish we could undo the past. Pahari rulers should not hold the rights that Madhesis deserve and Madhesis should not stick to unreasonable demand like one Madhes, one province just because New Delhi's point man wants you all to stick to it. Sticking to unreasonable demand will make the conflict intractable and worsen the lives of not only paharis but also madhesis, whom Madhesi politicians want to see prosper.

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