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Eternal ‘Kaalratri’

By P. Kharel

pkharel1For the proponents of constitutional monarchy and democracy, Rana oligarchy was a “kaalratri” [dark period]; to the champions of multi-party polity, partyless Panchayat decades were a “kaalratri”; to the Maoists, the 1990-2005 years were a “kaalratri”; and to most Nepalis, today, the “loktantrik” decade has been a “kaalratri” for all practical purpose. For that matter, some sections, even if of miniscule size, the post-unification of the nation, whose solid foundation was laid down by Prithvi Narayan Shah the Great, sowed the seeds of “kaalratri”.

The sum of it boils down to pointing at the deep-seated disenchantment fed to people these two and a half centuries. Not that there are no sections that evaluate history with critical lenses and come up conclusions contradicting the anomalies in the biased assessments of our history. However, assertions made by Nepali politicians of almost any period and ideology is not free from personal prejudices

If Nepali citizens were to seethe in rancour against the heaps of political anomalies engulfing their daily lives, their state of frustration can easily be understood. Every step is a painful problem. Disarray greets everywhere.

Some bogus claims might sermonise people to be “positive” in attitude and to think of “not what society can do to you but what you can do to society”. These gems of wisdom flow from those living in the comfort and convenience of political patronage to the powers that be or from considerable financial status to deal with daily problems which an average Nepali simply cannot afford to.

CHARGES EXCHANGE: Politicians play pranks with the public and issue cranky statements making atrocious claims and promising things never intended to be fulfilled. Expediency of a given situation results in facts heavily coated with fiction in vain attempts at masking their shortcomings and exaggerating any incident of success story.

Those in the seat of power think they can call the shots when engaged in such fairy tales, little realising that the tactics won’t work in the long run. But how many leaders are there in Nepal, with a serious eye on history? Reading unalloyed history of their country is really a rare luxury for Nepalis. What is claimed as history is either over-glorification of individuals and institutions or staccato condemnation of anyone or anything that disagrees or defies with a set of ideas and beliefs.

We have created a society that is obsessed more with the immediate than anything else to the extent that large number of its members is prepared to dismiss the ultimate test of history and go after false claims and material gains made by any means.

More often than not, history sound and proper emerges after the filtering effect of time and refined objectivity. Those with axes to grind of their own cannot be expected to record history in its professional quality and expected integrity.

Ignoring anyone not within the direct line of a writer’s ideological sight in scope and reconfirmation is both unprofessional and outright dishonesty. Such approach with blinkers is far removed from keeping merit and fair deal, whereby competing voices are not on the radar, in a display of sickeningly sectarian fashion.

In the aftermath of the 1990 restoration of multiparty system, the erstwhile panchas who upheld partyless character in a political polity became target for target attacks for their opponents in the 1991 general elections. Similar situation prevailed against those upholding constitutional monarchy in the notoriously undemocratic election atmosphere in 2008.

The “royalists” were smeared with soot and hounded out of their turf for humiliation and intimidation. They were not allowed to campaign in a free manner, thoroughly shadowed and ceaselessly threatened as they were by self-styled “loktantrabaadis”. It was a period of “kaalratri” for the largely former panchas in a country where the 67 years have been wasted in blaming the past for the present ills.

Yet, election exercises in Nepal get invariably declared “free and fair” by those shouting the loudest at the helm of the state affairs. Ironically, one or the other major party in mainstream politics has claimed that elections were rigged. Election observers, pocketing hefty fees as “allowances” offered by INGOs, fronting for various interest groups and agencies, are known for routinely giving their verdict on the polls: “Although there were some discrepancies, they were not to the extent of affecting the overall outcome of the elections.”

MOOT POINT: There is no last word on democracy, whatsoever the individual credentials. In an article carried by Bejing Review in a June issue, Zhang Weiwei made a point: “For a country that once suffered foreign invasion and occupation for a century… China’s meritocratic system today is essentially a mechanism of ‘selection plus election’, with the former originating from its own traditions and the latter imported from the West.”

All said done, it may be noted, vibrancy of a polity carries the credo: Dissent is the essence of democracy. This is something yet to be cultivated in sincerity by political parties in Nepal. Amen.

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