• Sunday 23rd February 2020

Spice of Life

  • Published on: March 13, 2019

  • By P. Kharel
    Why shy?
    Ram Baran, in Annapurna Post’s pullout “Ankoor” last fortnight, said he was recommended for MD study to the Indian city of Chandigarh after serving as BP’s Koirala’s physician. He told the children’s section of the broadsheet daily that Indian leader Chandra Shekhar had come to meet the ailing Koirala who recommended Yadav’s name for further study.
    Nepalese politicians having no qualms about peddling their influence for obtaining scholarships for their wards and favoured ones is nothing rare. Even Shital Niwas is said to have made a phone call to the Indian embassy at Lazipat in connection with an oral recommendation made by the presiding deity of the vaunted residence-cum-office.
    According to a source who keeps close tabs on such issues, Yadav deliberately or otherwise overlooked mentioning that his MBBS seat was credited to the quota allocated for Rani Jagadamba, of the Madan Trust note. Was it Yadav’s forgetfulness or something politically sensitive that made him skip the fact?
    Talking of foreign scholarships, particularly governments in the now-defunct Soviet Union, China and India distributed prized scholarships for the study of medicine, engineering and other disciplines to Nepalese communist leaders and those considered India-friendly. This holds true to this day in the case of Beijing and especially New Delhi.
    These ‘democrats’
    Against the background of politicians crying hoarse about their commitment to free speech, there are many cases that deny them the privilege of big credentials in this regard. One of the numerous cases in the series may be recalled. Tara Nath Sharma, as editor-in-chief of The Rising Nepal in the mid-1990s, with no experience in active journalism, stood unsupported and unsympathised, let alone empathised, by his own editorial staff members.
    It was Sharma, who on May 1, 1960, published a critique on King Mahendra’s “Usaiko Lagi”, and created electrific news. He had dared to declare that MBB Shah [“Ma Bee Bee Shah”]’s was heavily inspired by the works of other literary figures. MBB Shah was King Mahendra’s pen name.
    The local administration booked him for questioning. The detention lasted 70 days until his friends, at a meeting with King Mahendra rued that their literary friend was languishing in jail unjustifiably. The king was quoted saying: “I do not like professors being jailed.” Within hours, Sharma, who was lecturer in English literature, was released.
    The episode made Sharma an instant literary hero. There was no looking back for him. He found Laxmi Prasad Devkota and Balkrishna Sama resorting to a higher degree of plagiarism than that committed by MBB Shah. The same critic was rudely throttled during the multiparty democracy in the 1990s when he was appointed editor-in-chief of The Rising Nepal during Girija Prasad Koirala’s first of the six tenures as prime minister. Within months after he took charge of the country’s first broadsheet English newspaper, he was under duress to issue an unqualified apology for his opinion piece (“A word or two, Mr Speaker Sir”) for the English daily’s September 3, 1993 edition.
    Sharma had expressly disagreed with the Speaker of the House, Daman Nath Dhungana, and opposition MPs. The core part of his write-up read: “Mr Speaker sir, if the superiority of the minority is to be established in Nepal as some popular representatives emphasise it should, it could be autocracy, oligarchy, aristocracy, tyranny, despotism, Nazism, fascism or democracy…Mr Speaker sir, we are afraid some of our popular representatives with your moral support could happily queue up behind the historically condemned hordes.”
    The editor did not receive any support from the press, including those who had eagerly served government media institutions. Consequently, a Joint Committee of the House of Representatives and National Assembly summoned him. Headed by Nepali Congress leader Lila Koirala, a joint panel investigated. Facing the Joint Parliamentary Committee, Sharma pleaded his intention was to draw attention towards “possible dangers to parliamentary democracy”.
    Facing a stern and unimpressed House panel, Sharma eventually wilted and recanted, as did the great Galileo who in the 17th century faced irate Italian Inquisition that held outdated views.
    Those present during the inquiry included chairman of the National Assembly Beni Bahadur Karki, Minister for Information and Communications Bijay Gachchhedar, Rangabir Shahi, Hiranya Lal Shrestha, Padma Ratna Tuladhar, Pradip Nepal, Suresh Malla, Amik Sherchan, Narahari Acharya, Lila Mani Pokharel, Dr. Prakash Chandra Lohani, Pashupati Shumsher J.B. Rana, Bharat Mohan Adhikari, Narayan Man Bijukchhe, Bhim Bahadur Shrestha and Tarani Dutta Chataut.
    Committee chairperson Lila Koirala announced at the House: “The committee accepted the apology by the author.” The ruling said it was an historic event that the author apologised for the article.
    Contrast this to at least one particular incident in India’s Rajya Sabha, when its members unanimously condemned its former member and widely read newspaper columnist Khushwant Singh who dismissed the Nobel Prize winner for literature, Rabindra Nath Tagore, as a bad writer. The House, however, passed only a stricture against Singh’s comments without summoning him for questioning and explanation.
    In a continuation of the practice, fresh regulations curtailing free expression are on the anvil in loktantrik Nepal this year.
    Without comment
    Khem Raj Pariyar, in Annapurna Post: “Cursing at Prithvi Narayan will not keep the nation united.”


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