By P. Kharel
Even as Permanent Residency and Diversity Visa are becoming the name of a new anthem attracting Nepalis for greener pastures overseas, a slow and steady development is that a “nationalist” tag is no longer a derogatory description but a badge of honour. Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal, even prior to its unification with RPP, used to drop hints of such stand; and CPN (UML) started trumpeting it with renewed vigour after the Maoist Centre parted company in the Khadga Prasad Oli-led coalition cabinet last year.
Is the slogan a vote-pulling ploy or a course pursued by conviction? Much damage has been caused, as the country suffered setbacks normally not recorded by any proud and independent nation. Of late, nationalism does not represent a dirty word any more. Deputy Prime Minister Kamal Thapa and Minister Deepak Bohara, both in the current government, used to be termed “mandaleys”, meaning “hooligans”.
EXPEDIENCY: Previously, “national interest” was treated with derision especially by proactive champion of “friendly India” who defined criticism of India as chanting by “mandaleys”. During the India-imposed 14-month long economic blockade in 1989-90, the Nepali Congress stalwarts of the day did not raise a word of protest. Leftist forces in the lower order issued cutting comments but only until the top leadership joined forces with the Congress to launch their movement for restoration of multiparty polity.
During the latest spell of economic blockade, too, political groups were divided, with one group accusing New Delhi of treating Nepal like an “enemy state” for asserting its right to issue its own Constitution, and the other group claiming that the “friendly neighbour” had nothing to do with the virtual closure of goods through the Indian customs offices along the border with Nepal.
Making Madhes a plank for partisan politics at the cost of harmony and social appreciation is the name of an expedient game for those not sharing the spoils of office. When not in office, the same forces were responsible for sowing the first seeds of unwarranted dissension and downgrading as “extremist” any quarter warning of events against “national interest”.
Anyone or any party pursuing the cause of national interest was derided as following “Mahendra Path”, alluding that what King Mahendra said and did in connection with protecting the national interest during those crucial times when East Pakistan emerged as independent Bangladesh in 1971 and Sikkim was absorbed in the Indian union barely four years later. King Mahendra’s decision to allow Mao’s China to construct the first highway linking Nepal and Tibet was praised by most communist groups as timely and welcome, while Congress and its fronts chose to maintain a stony silence all along.
But then these are not seasons sound for reasons but occasions for hate-filled passions, as the 11 years persisted with. History is distorted, national symbols denigrated, national treasure appropriated by a few, and the country’s identity in varied manifests dented deeper by the day.
“Extremist” is darted at those who take an assertive stand on Nepal’s sovereign right. On April 2, 2017 at Banepa programme, Oli invited Congress workers inspired by “Popular leader BP Koirala, supreme leader Ganesh Man Singh and Sage leader Krishna Prasad Bhattarai” to join UML in deference to his new assessment of the trio’s “nationalist line”. That UML, like other leftist forces, never tired of the long decades when the Congress was singled out for the Koshi and Gandak “betrayal” is another matter.
RISK-RIDDEN: Any individual Nepali taking up the cause of national interest is consigned to the pit of a black hole as far as visibility and audibility are concerned. If a full-fledged political party were to do so, it would risk severe cracks within its organisation. When the so-called “nationalist” parties cannot even press firm and strong for recognising the nation’s founder Prithvi Narayan as a symbol of unity, they credibility automatically faces a big question mark.
Sloganeering as “nationalist” when in the opposition and being termed “anti-nationalist” when in power is a ploy Nepalis have too frequently and too long have borne with disgust. Now and then we hear that when the crunch comes, no individual with the potential to stave off anti-national moves can live long to inspire and activise too many.
According to the veteran communist leader Radha Krishna Mainali, [“Alikhit Itihas” or Unwritten History, UML leader Madan Bhandari was killed in a conspiracy. Mainali, who spent some 14 years in jail during the Panchayat years, says that, if delved into political events, individuals with nationalist orientation are either isolated or meet their end in accidents. Patriots like Tanka Prasad and Dilli Raman Regmi were sidelined and made irrelevant. Selfless leaders with qualities of personal integrity and patriotism do not last long. B.P. Koirala, K.P. Bhattarai, Manmohan Adhikary, Madan Bhandari, Marich Man Singh Shrestha “are such examples” cited by UML leader Mainali.
The lesson for Nepali is that naming and shaming the culprits who work for foreign forces against national interests exacts consistent courage and conviction.
Return To Nationalism
By P. Kharel