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Book Review : The East is East

image0011The East is East
Breaking Nepal
By Saurav, Sujit Mainali
Pub.Hami Publications
Price. Rs 699/-

image0031Na Lekhiyeko Itihas
(trans. Unwritten History)
By Radhakrishna Mainali
Pub. Alchemy Publications, Baneshwor, Kathmandu
Ed. Madhav Basnyet, Mana Bahadur Basnet

Reading the two books together is an invaluable exercise in unraveling contemporary Nepal. Radha Krishna Mainali’s autographical account of himself, his role in the communist movement becomes a veritable version of contemporary Nepali politics to date. It is also an insight into Nepali communism and where it stands. Coming as it does from among the founders of the original ‘Marxist-Leninist’ (read Jhapali or Naxalites) his version of the communist movement is perhaps the most authentic documentation as yet of  the organizational, strategic and policy parameters of what is now by far the predominant political mainstream in the country. The radicalism his movement spurred underground surfaced to absorb the original Nepal Communist Party which had to be partnered with by the Nepali Congress for the success of the 1990 restoration of a multi party system in the country and perhaps even spurred the neo-radicalism of the Maoists whose decade long ‘people’s war’ birthed the current dispensation. In the process, the writer served several terms as a UML minister, splintered into the ML and, after reunification, was dumped from the party altogether. He was minister in the cabinet chaired by king Gyanendra, joined the Maoists after their emergence in the mainstream, then rejoined his mother UML party and he laments of being sidelined currently. His account of subterranean radicalization to a decade and half jail incarceration to organization kingpin to shepherding the various shades of the Left towards partnering the Congress against the Panchayat and, then, negotiating on behalf of the Left with the Congress and the Palace and his much opinionated version of the events and people in the process adds to a reader’s thirst for substantial political material on Nepal. There is much to be gleaned from such biographical attempts a plethora of which have emerged of late recounting individual roles in contemporary events of political significance. One has of course to sift the chaff with caution though since most such undertakings are the individual’s version and need not imbibe the empiricism of academic exercise.
‘Breaking Nepal’, on the other hand, comes close to an academic exercise where Saurav’s ‘Prelude’ and Sujit Mainali’s ‘Preface’ are their sole contributions apart from  their choice of compilation of a glossary of what are essentially non-indigenous versions of Nepal and things Nepali. Perhaps empiricism here has been compromised in the choice of other people’s account on Nepal but, outside the preface and prelude, this compilation of what others have to say on this country is verily a unique exercise for those who seek the roots of the blunder that is politics in contemporary Nepal. This work has a non-empirical agenda no doubt, it is to empirically state that non-indigenous accounts on Nepal which unwittingly form the fundaments of Nepali academic thought on Nepal have a distinct ‘Western’ bias inimical to what is essentially Nepali. No wonder, then, is Nepal breaking, the book’s underlying argument goes. One has to read the book or have read the books from which the quotes have been compiled to conclude why educated Nepali politicians and their dependants in the Nepali intelligentsia are so virtually against themselves in the effort to modernize their country.
Here is the link between the two books covered in this piece. From Hodginson to Landon to Rose to Whelpton, the irony of Nepalis taught to concur to conclusions derived by them on Nepal is evidently lost on the Nepalis themselves. Since our politicians must imbibe a modern veneer, current political agenda have been engineered by a section of a client intelligentsia that by now is recognizably subservient to a political class suffering from early acculturation into organizations that seek to implant dogmas and doctrines alien to the country’s actuality.
One recalls a Western couple visibly recoil upon witnessing hammer and sickle flag wielding crowds in New Road during the reemergence of democracy in Nepal. Perhaps that Western couple will never know and people of the likes of minister Mainali would not like to pry into why Western NGO funds back the party so heartily. It is the Left which dogmatically sees the Nepali state as an instrument of exploitation and must do away with such exploitative trappings as religion and feudal history and must recreate a fresh state altogether. The socialist Nepali Congress (more Left than the Left according to the late Basu Risal) is very much a partner in the dismantling the old state that is Nepal. The logic is provided in western analyses of the Nepali system and our modernist Nepalis feel they are modernizing Nepal.
New Nepali ‘Brahmins’ that dictate the change today, one cannot but conclude, err by rote again in the absence of actual research and analyses on the truths of Western conclusions on Nepal. We emulate their modern analytical tools for research and utilize other parameters that exist in their growing volumes of social science studies and recognize that the values and beliefs that led to their conclusions need not necessarily be the same when judged in accordance to Nepali values and beliefs that are being asked to be discarded for sake of modernity. After all, Westernization need not be modernization. Believe it or not, the West, too, is a transitional society and it is also evolving or developing. The righteousness that branded every other civilization uncivilized served them well to colonize and decimate other cultures. The fact that Nepal remained is currently bearing the price for its very existence. One only wished that this book of Western conclusions on Nepal was available in Nepali for the newly aware to be aware also of the biases. This would expose the intellectual bankruptcy of the supposed Nepali intelligentsia which by now, as the bulk populace have been made to comprehend, is but an appendage of the political sector that must survive on occidental support for its very credentials. A question one must ask of the two books is for the readers to judge is whether it is Radhakrishna Mainali that is the modernist or Saurav and Sujit Mainali.

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