• Friday 20th September 2019

What’s sauce for the goose…

  • Published on: September 11, 2019

  • By Maila Baje

    It’s taken more than a couple of days, but we’ve finally woken up to the ‘fact’ that the much-ballyhooed expose by that retired Indian gumshoe might not have been so unvarnished.
    To be fair, Amar Bhushan has clearly labeled his latest thriller Inside Nepal/The Walk-In as a work inspired by true events. Based on the novel’s assertion that Indian intelligence agents plotted the emaciation and eventual elimination of Nepal’s monarchy, Rastriya Prajatantra Party President Kamal Thapa went to the extent of demanding a parliamentary probe.
    Let’s be honest, here. Those mocking how easily Nepali reporters, editors and analysts could be taken for a ride, too, were no less stunned for the first few days after a reputable Indian newspaper published a story based on Bhushan’s book.
    Not that there aren’t other curiosities galore. When the book, originally released in June, went out for early reviews, the title was The Walk-In, one of the two stories in the volume. By the time Daily News and Analysis wrote up a story conveying the impression that the book was a memoir by a former special director of India’s external intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), the title had changed to Inside Nepal, the other story.
    The three-month lag time, the turnaround of the title and the relative respectability of the newspaper are enough to convey the subplot. And from the perspective of those who wanted the story out in this way at this time, the mission was accomplished.
    With enough plausible deniability, RAW has helped enough Nepalis believe what they have always wanted to about their recent history, i.e., that the abolition of the monarchy was not an indigenous undertaking.
    When something is said to have been inspired by true events, what proportion of fact and fiction are we talking about? Any Hollywood scriptwriter taking a best-selling book to screen can tell you that he or she would feel comfortable with retaining about a quarter to a third of the original. These days, the proviso is invoked mostly to ward off ruinous lawsuits.
    It’s hard to believe that someone with Bhushan’s rank and experience in his field could have come out with the book without a thorough vetting process from his former employers. Still, who’s to say that Bhushan hasn’t used the based-on-true-events stipulation to shield himself from the consequences of revealing the truth RAW originally intended to? After all, he was active on the ground when a trade-and-transit embargo not-too-furtively turned into an uprising against the palace-led partyless polity in 1990.
    In the old days, truth was the best defense when it came to libel, slander and the like. Would it be misplaced to surmise that RAW has decided to send a deeper message to its local cohorts. When the Nepali monarchy was eventually abolished in 2008, the prime external instigators surely considered it a done deal. If the institution is inching closer to restoration these past months, according to the RAW’s line of thinking, it is must be because of the local collaborationists’ incompetence.
    Clearly, Comrade Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ and his erstwhile Maoists are under pressure here. Instead of sharing the spoils of the parliamentary mainstream they once derided, maybe the ‘people’s warriors’ should have worked harder to ensure that the monarchy remained lifeless. What must have additionally sensitized RAW is the fact that the monarchy’s support is growing among people who were once steady republicans or had reconciled themselves to the change.
    If the monarchy were to be restored, the Nepali Congress would have the easiest way out. It can blame Girija Prasad Koirala for putting personal vengeance above national viability without the grand old man available to respond. Those Congress leaders like Krishna Prasad Sitaula and Bimalendra Nidhi anxious to defend Koirala would be doing so at their own peril.
    The erstwhile Unified Marxist-Leninists can all rally behind Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Oli and resurrect his you-can’t-go-to-the-moon-on-a-bullock-cart refrain. Dahal seems to have gotten the memo, at least considering his avowal to deploy his full might against those opposing Nepal’s momentous changes.
    As for those of us LOLing at how easily some of us swallowed the fiction-as-fact ruse, maybe we should take a deep breath. Didn’t we lap up every detail about a supposedly seedy and scandalous palace when the guy who brought out Blood Pond or whatever it was called had described his book as a work of fiction? And what about the short-lived Bhandaphor series after the 1990 political change? Just because White Tiger remains a bestseller after all these decades doesn’t mean that it’s the last word on what Jang Bahadur Rana was or wasn’t.


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