BY P. KHAREL
So the “loktanrtik” rulers finally bowed to public pressure last week to resume marking Prithvi Jayanti as national unity day after a shocking interruption of a full decade. That the very founder of the nation unified, who unified more than four dozen principalities into a single state several years before the War of American Independence, was made an object of hatred by a parochial section with the muscle to impose the horrendous ban on the Great King Prithvi Narayan laid bare the existing political culture run by riffraff bent on scuttling public opinion.
At a time when the British colonial power in the rest of South Asia and neighbourhood had created havoc through its policy of gross economic exploitation and brutal political suppression, 1769 marked the high point in Prithvi Narayan’s campaign whose fruits we in the present times, too, share as Nepalis. Sheer cruelty in trying to erase from memory the Great King’s glowing legacy spoke of the stuff those wielding power in the new dispensation were made of. Foreign forces, in the guise of diplomatic missions and INGOs, gauged the character and dubious preoccupation of Nepali leaders in power, and had a virtual say in setting the national agendas at micro level.
History will not treat kindly those who overrode the overwhelming public opinion against the mistreatment of the founder of the nation. The vast majority of Nepalis, who were for according due respect to Prithvi Narayan, were cowered to insulting silence for fear of being ostracised as anti-“loktanrtik”, reactionary and monarchists. The prevailing writ during the decade-long horror triggered a spiral of silence that was menacingly interpreted by the new rulers as public endorsement of “achievements” that were never the agendas of the 2005-6 movement.
WELLING-UP ANGER: Groups that boast of leading the events to the 2006 political changes have eroded public trust in the government under a culture of impunity and resultant free-for-all where political connections click and nothing else. The issue of Prithvi Narayan, however, was catching fast and furious against basically the groups that acted against the wishes of most Nepalis. Sensing the welling up mood of the Nepali masses, some sections became aware of their false step which, if not amended, would boomerang badly against their electoral prospects in the days ahead.
As it is said, a right decision at a late hour is better late than never. The coalition government headed by Sher Bahadur Deuba summoned enough courage to correct the course that went off the track, thanks to the role it played as a second fiddle to the Maoists who joined the national political mainstream a decade ago after several years that saw NC and UML, the two largest parties, terming them terrorists. Had Deuba lived up to the vow he made to hold general elections after recommending the dissolution of the House of Representatives under the 1990 Constitution, the resultant derailment of a smooth political course would not have occurred in the first place.
The Gordian Knot Deuba created led to the mess thereafter. NC and UML, which previously characterised the Maoists as terrorists and staked claim that they would deal with the insurgents if given an opportunity to head the government without holding fresh elections even if the House was democratically declared dissolved, changed course and sided with the Maoists when their demand went unaddressed.
Lack of integrity to the existing law and democratic norms, aggravated by political perfidy, gave way to denigrating institutions that made great contributions to the unity and values the Nepali people nursed down the centuries. Prithvi Narayan’s legacy was sought to be downgraded to the base. But truth ultimately prevails, as wise people have always been saying. History cannot be deleted. And Prithi Jayanti was marked this year, though the parties responsible for the decade-long interruption have not summoned the requisite backbone to confess they went wrong either by misjudgment or through the cowardice of silence in the face of militant riffraff groups.
PARTY OLIGARCHY: Party oligarchy has unfurled full force of impunity, generating the fury of the larger majority. If criminal elements get entrenched in politics corruption and unfair practices are propelled at the expense of the less organised but vast majority of people. Free speech without the risk of unfair consequences, prevalence of the rule of law and meritocracy contribute to a culture of equality. These are among the essential prerequisites for honouring human rights without compromising the other vital aspects, including the country’s security interests based on existing law, international practices and agreements that Nepal is committed to.
If a government is biased and discriminatory, democracy gets doomed. Partisanism and faction-fuelled functioning of political parties deprive independents as well as politically and economically marginalised of scarce opportunities, democratic participation and appropriate representation. It a shuddering experience to realise that we are governed by the lot that for a decade tried so hard to malign the Great King Prithvi, only to wilt under public pressure. This is only a first step. More can be expected in the pipeline.