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Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Nationality Crisis: The Way Out

Implications of The Oath Taking Controversy

The events in the aftermath of vice president’s swearing in in Hindi have invited a serious discussion on the issue of Nepali nationality. The magnitude of the protests was considerable as was the sentiment of those who did not reach the streets. I came across a good example of this during an incidental online conversation. A very close friend of mine proudly announced that he was in a mission to ‘save motherland’. Otherwise minimally interested in politics, he was so serious on the issue that I had to clarify why I was not agitated by the issue the way he was.
The debate on the foundation of Nepali nationality always existed in the past. But the magnitude of the debate has suddenly become so enormous that it is no longer possible to ignore it. This transition period from a unitary state with relatively active monarchy to a planned federal republic has thus now brought the crucial moment in the history when apparently small issues can have a lasting meaning.
The swearing on controversy, in the first place, was not an incidental one. It represented the intention of a Political Party with significant presence in the CA to challenge the conventional norm of equating the Nepali identity and nationality to the Nepali language. One step ahead, he avoided swearing in in Maithili as they have the vision of introducing Hindi as the language of communication among the mother tongues in the planned ‘One Madhesh’.
Though this particular incident drew the intense attention from everywhere, the real challenge to Nepali nationality has lasted long and it was the change in sociopolitical structure of Nepal after the people’s revolt of 2062-2063 that multiplied it. The cohesive force provided by the engagement of the people against the authoritarian nature of the monarchy and the resulting conflicts disappeared at the moment. The vacuum thus created was instantly filled by the groups seeking ‘maximum autonomy if not secession’ whose existence was supplemented by the influence during the Madhes movements.
The most decisive factor in determining the architecture of the future Nepal and thus the new Nepali nationality is the dynamics of relation among the ethnic groups whose bridges of harmony and reconciliation are threatened in the transitional period. The madhes issue is thus certain to last long, frequently playing decisive roles. The attitude of a significant proportion of the non-madhesis requires introspection at this point. In many places in Nepal, it is a common practice to divide people into ‘Nepali’ and ‘Madhesi’ especially after the Madhesh movements. As during the infamous Hrithik Roshan Scandal, equating the Madhesi people to the Indians has been another not uncommon practice, even among the educated ones. The racial sentiment with the self proclaimed superiority of the self has been the other important obstacle in maintaining harmony at the personal and community level.
All these at one hand, the geopolitical and economic realities about the Nepal-India relationship have an unpleasant story to tell. It may be possible to ignore them for a moment but in the long run, any regime in Nepal has to adapt to the realities. The regime of a impoverished and conflict-stricken Nepal can’t deal in a way the prosperous and relatively stable Nepal would do when it comes to the international issues. The anti-India sentiment now expressed in Nepali streets can’t thus meaningfully drive our train of patriotism so long as we are unable to mitigate our dependence on India. The warning of agitation against the potential move to scrap the recruitment of the Nepali youths in British and Indian armies by the to-be-borne government shows how deep-rooted our financial dependence is.
All this makes the Madhes issue far more complicated and tougher to resolve than to aggravate. At the least, it is not as easy as hanging or burning the effigies of the vice-president. So long as we insist on keeping Nepal a physically united state ignoring the emotional aspect of the nationhood, our nationality and the patriotic values are bound to suffer a worse fate in the future. Mutual respect and trust can be developed only through the constant process of meaningful introspection over a long span of time. The process may seem arduous and time consuming but its easy and fast alternatives are going to lead us to the most disfavored destination. The communal hatred spread in any form at any time is only going to devastate our future and make the evolving new Nepali nationality a fragile and vulnerable one under constant threat of disappearance. A wave of racial sentiment in the non-Madhesi people is certain to radicalize a new lot of Madhesi people and vice versa, especially the young ones , shaking the already weak bridge of harmony. This further justifies the combative attitude of the extremist elements on both the sides, leading to a confrontation and a potential civil war. And it is the war that we can afford the least after this long decade of conflict and unrest despised universally as the cause of misery of the millions of Nepalis.
When it comes to the use of Hindi language, I judge it to be the manifestation of the erosion in the foundation of conventional Nepali nationality. What terrorizes me is not the Hindi words pronounced by the vice president but the phenomenon behind it in which the elected political parties are gasping for power and post and are engaged in marathon quarrels weakening the national establishment. The list of tasks is open-ended, frustration in the people growing, chaos and anarchy prevailing everywhere. The increasing impotency of the political parties towards solving the problems eating away our existence has created a silent crisis and it deserves the utmost attention at the moment. The intractable friction during the election of the president, the vice president, and the formation of the new government shows that the evolution of the ‘new Nepal’ is going to be full of jerks and hiccups, many of which are capable of derailing the process.
Of course, I have no intention of blaming the people who felt odd the moment the vice-president was swearing in in Hindi and protested, for all the evils of the moment. But my concern is that the issues of qualitatively greater significance should not be drowned by such voices and we should act before it is too late to avoid the worst.
After all, this may be the last chance when we can interrupt the history of failures after the popular uprisings. Though full of decelerations, the process of the change in the last three years has been predominantly progressive and the early milestones in nation-building have been achieved with the successful holding of the CA polls. The challenge now is to consolidate the achievements of the past by writing a reasonably good constitution. A momentum of the positive changes is the only thing that will help us to overcome the friction on the way. This obviously involves the promotion of the communal harmony by changing ourselves to more tolerant and respectful of others.

1 comment:

dr sujan said...

1.ur view fails to analyse why he chose hindi ?ok nationality has to b redifined now but he was well aware that this step could b very provocative still he chose to do it,.on top of that his controversial history is not helping much.n recently a shiv sena represantative claim that chosing hindi was planned make it more suspicious..it would b nice to hear about what u think about the dirty game that last so long on chosing the prez n vice prez

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