The born identity

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Jun 10, 2016-

“What is this political turmoil about? What kind of exclusion are they referring to?” I overheard my fellow passengers saying in a micro bus in the Kathmandu Valley. As I looked outside the window, I subconsciously started noticing the lyrics to the song that was playing inside the micro bus, “Kalo topi Bhadgaule mero seerai ma dhalkeko... ma hu Nepali babu made in Nepal.” Everyone seemed to be humming the tune and enjoying the music. One of our favourite songs indeed! But little do we realise that such songs intentionally or unintentionally create an image of a so-called ideal ‘Nepali’ which leads to the exclusion of communities not adhering to this stereotype.

The term ‘Madhesi’ denotes various ethnic, linguistic and religious groups that dwell in the Tarai. One of the major problems faced by the Madhesis is identity and citizenship as their dress, language and culture are different from those in the hills. Discrimination and lack of representation have forced the Madhesi population to use violent means to bring attention to their plight. There has always been a wide gap between Madhesi and mainstream Nepali politics. This gap obviously exposes the vulnerable groups of our society to a wide array of social, economic and political exclusion and deprivation. A closer look at advertisements or mainstream Nepali media gives a clear picture of the stereotypes and prejudices associated with the Madhes. The mere representation of the Madhesis as panipuri sellers or people who are always chewing betel leaves reinforces this discrimination in a very subtle way. 

We all need to acknowledge that active political participation by every section of society in politics and civic life is an extremely essential aspect of a healthy democracy. However, what’s troubling is the transforming relationship between the Madhesi and Pahadi communities due to the demand for inclusive politics. The elements of individuality and vivid identity politics in the Tarai are seen as a threat to the nation, especially by the Kathmandu elite. It is important to appreciate the fact that this political aspiration among dissenting groups in the Tarai is leading us towards becoming a more inclusive society. Emphasis on broad participation is one of the catalysts leading to the empowerment of suppressed classes and a more participatory democracy. All of us need to develop a capability to listen and understand the opposing group’s perspective. Let’s acknowledge each other’s differences and accept the uniqueness of every community. Let’s debate and find solutions and understand that the government is what we make and not a power beyond us or above us. This democracy is a result of years of struggle, let us join our hands together to form a nation where every person is unique and appreciated for the same. 

SWASTI GAUTAM

Published: 10-06-2016 08:05

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