Print Edition - 2016-01-31  |  Free the Words

Comedy of political errors

  • Every drop of China’s ‘free oil’ will prove to be ‘doses of opium’ for tiny Nepal
- Atul K Thakur, Kathmandu

Jan 31, 2016-

In 1990, when the democratic movement gained strong momentum and Nepal finally entered a painfully long spell of transition from a monarchy to a fledgling democracy, it had the advantage of having at the helm some of the surviving leaders from the first generation of freedom fighters. They kept the idealism from their days of struggle intact to establish democracy under a popular feudal rule. They were the same people who had participated in India’s independence movement against cunning British colonialism. No longer are they around, and their counterparts in India too were not immortal. The passing away of that generation created a serious void, and that is haunting Nepal-India bilateral relations.

Not without serious lapses, Nepal turned out to be a hub of despair. It experimented with a constitution which proved to be a ‘partitioning document’, breaching people’s trust in the ‘idea of a nation’ and in their own existence. While the country remained in freefall, the political ranks were hell-bent on practicing a distorted version of ‘nationalism’ in their fiefdoms, which recently lost over 8,000 brethren and a sizeable materialistic hope from the cruellest earthquake in recent memory. The earth is still not at peace in this part of the world, as here is a political system that negates ‘reason’ and works under the influence of ‘abstract dogma’. Above all, Nepal currently has one prime minister, six deputy prime ministers and 

an expanding Cabinet amid incidences of frequent deaths by cold and starvation.

“Friendly” neighbours

The year 2015 was a year to reckon with for Nepalis when they could understand and feel what is tantamount to having a friendly nation next door in an unquiet state. A careful look at New Delhi’s present regime will reveal how India is lacking leadership at the higher levels that can carry on an amicable conventional approach in the neighbourhood. The trade blockade would have been unthinkable if India had stayed on the course of ‘normal diplomacy’ instead of ‘muscle-flexing’. In travelling the extra mile on a hostile pitch, it has prompted KP Oli and his cohorts to flirt with China, even though unsuccessfully, in a ploy to replace India’s natural closeness to Nepal.

Autocracy is still high in China, but certainly the ‘volume of trade’ matters much more for it than the homilies of lapsed comrades. It is unlikely that China would go too long and irk an aggressive India that has many cards to play to pursue its regional ambitions. Moreover, India has emerged as one of the major trade partners of that no-longer-sleeping giant with an active imperialistic quest. Oli’s emissary Kamal Thapa should believe in the popular saying ‘there is no free lunch’. And every drop of China’s ‘free oil’ will prove to be ‘doses of opium’ for the tiny country that is Nepal. 

If Oli continues to remain at the helm in Kathmandu, despite the fact people across the country hardly need a government that he represents, he should set the house in order without playing with the constitution and human rights of all Nepalis, including each and everyone from Madhes. On a lighter note, someone has written that ‘topi over dhoti will make Nepal inclusive’. Inadvertently though, it was quite a stellar statement.

Today, when every nook and corner of Nepal has been held hostage by the ‘black economy’, the KP Oli-led government is not in a position to falsely infuse another round of hope among the masses who have suffered inhumanely in the last few months. Before the mess took final shape, the Nepali Congress (NC) led by Sushil Koirala showed the sickness and other ineffective traits for which he would always be remembered. He allowed things to get messier, despite knowing the implications of the politicising 

of matters by the desperate Madhesi parties.

The new constitution created a new culture of activism in the Tarai where people were forced to become part of the uprising after their own security forces did not think twice before shooting more than 50 people. In the same way, and equally unfortunately, the people resorted to violence against the police. Amendments had to be made in the constitution, but for that matter, blocking trade and transit proved to be unhelpful.

Cloud of uncertaintyNow, when the supply situation has shown some improvement, and hopefully normalcy will be the order of day too, the real concern is when people will get their basic minimum supply. The perception is that the government has no command over the allocation of essential supplies, and other actors are instrumental in running a parallel market system that is black and immoral. In the Indian establishment, a matter of surprise is why the blockade did not have the expected effect. It is precisely because of the existence 

of many interest groups in Nepal which made large fortunes by paving the way for a shady trading atmosphere.

Besides the government, the onus was also on the Madhesi parties to take care of the basic needs of the masses, as they were not prepared to survive a long cycle of imposed disturbances. The earthquake sufferers would have shared the grief of the Madhesis more vigorously if the protests for their rights had been carried out through other means except blocking the transit routes. This was not fair, and absolutely as unfair as the act of Nepal’s three big parties of making the Constitution an instrument to let down every segment of Madhesis by curbing their citizenry rights.

The year 2015 was disastrous for Nepal with nature’s fury and manmade crises. Amid too much politics, there is too little talk about the economy, which is in a really bad shape now. Inequality is growing much wider now with a plunge in real incomes in the last eight months. But in this political circus of Kathmandu, the masses should raise questions without grouping themselves into blocks of Madhesis and Pahadis. They have endured enough trauma and made the rich richer to get back an uncertain present and future!

Thakur is a New Delhi-based journalist and writer

Published: 31-01-2016 09:30

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