Nepali Scholar, currently in US
Mr. Ramesh Pokharel at present is pursuing a PhD in Rhetoric at the University of Texas at El Paso, USA. He holds a MA and MPhil in English, and has already taught at the Tribhuvan University for several years in the past. His PhD dissertation revisits the notion of rhetorical situation, and proposes a theory that addresses the changing/changed notions of rhetorical situation given the impact of the advent of new technology and new vibrant media. Apart from hard core rhetorical theory, he is also interested in cross –cultural and ethnic rhetoric(s). He has presented working papers on the issues of rhetorical construction of ethnicity and indegeniousity. Recently his article titled “Politics and Problematic of the Definition and Categorization of Ethnicity in Nepal” got published in 'Bodhi: An Interdisciplinary Journal'.
Sujit Mainali for The Telegraph Weekly and its online edition telegraphnepal.com interviewed this bubbling young scholar through electronic mail on several facets of Nepal's society and politics. Below the excerpts of this exclusive interview: Chief Editor.
TQ1: After the dissident leaders of CPN-UML representing different ethnic communities quit the party, you have updated Face book status wherein you have expressed your fear that issue of ethnicity may become a prime agenda in the upcoming election. Mr. Pokharel, which factor(s) compelled you to make such a thrilling prophesy? Your convincing logic please?
Pokharel: As we all know, Nepal is a multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, and multi-cultural society and the general public has inherited sense of co-existence, cooperation, and respect to each other’s caste, ethnicity, religion, and culture, and so they have been living together from the time immemorial in harmony and fraternity. In this backdrop, the demand of single ethnic federal state (creation of federal unit(s) on the basis of single identity) has come up, which is simply impossible given the socio-cultural phenomena of our country. It’s not only CPN-UML or Nepali Congress, even the Maoists, who have spread the slogan of single ethnic federal state for cheap popularity, cannot fulfill their demand eventually.
Now we can see the ethnic leaders are disintegrating from their parties, and getting integrated along the line of ethnicity, but not political creed. I do believe if this process of disintegration from political beliefs and integration in terms of ethnicity continues, the ethnic leaders will quit the Maoist parties one day because as I mentioned above, the Maoists also cannot carry on the thought of single ethnic federal state for long. We can easily notice the departure from it in their rhetoric nowadays. When they quit the Maoist Parties, their demand of single ethnic federal state, which is hot only among some handful ethnic leaders so far, will up-surge among the ethnic people thereby ultimately disintegrating our society along the line of caste and ethnicity, which will break the very foundational dynamics of our society. It will be a very unfortunate situation because it will break the very social and cultural order of our society hence creating a mess therein. The neighbor who was once a very close friend would be his/her enemy. This is what had happened during the partition of India; the neighbors killed each others because they belonged to different religions.
TQ2: The Tharuhat Terai Party led by Laxman Tharu is very recently merged with the Madheshi Janadhikar Forum (Loktantrik) led by Bijaya Gachhedar. All the influential Madhesh based parties are now forging alliance with the ethnic based parties and groups of Nepal's hilly region. What is your opinion regarding such merger and alliances and its likely impact on country’s overall politics? Do you think it is good for the stability of our country with communal harmony remaining intact?
Pokharel: As I mentioned above, Laxman Tharu’s integration with Madhesi Janadhikar Forum is a part of the ongoing process of disintegration from political creed. The alliance of ethnic based parties and Madhesh based parties is based on the fear. The fear is that they cannot become national parties as they only talk about the issues of certain castes and region which is what has forced them to forge an alliance that hopefully represent all the people thereby giving it a national character. But still the alliance cannot represent all the people because their foundation is parochial, but not national. However, such merger and alliances are definitely likely to have excruciating impact to overall national politics thereby dividing the people again in terms of caste, ethnicity, and region.
TQ3: Notably, but the Madhesh based parties are reiterating that they will not confine themselves in a particular region and are on the way of forming national party. What’s your view on it?
Pokharel: The appearance and substance cannot be always the same. They might appear to be delivering speech that they are becoming a national party. But in substance they can never be a national party until they advocate parochial agenda, until they engage in the rhetoric of disintegration and see the people of other region and caste in wholesome as their inherent enemies.
TQ4: The CPN-Maoist led by Mr. Mohan Baidya 'Kiran' has unilaterally banned the screening of Bollywood movies in Nepal's theatres. Do you think the move of the Maoists could be taken as a rational one? Or is it just a calculated drama staged against India as the communists do such acts, as and when they desire so, in order to enjoy the Indian support ultimately as we witnessed in the days of People’s war? What say you?
Pokharel: I think Baidya’s party is suffering from schizophrenia, and crisis of identity. They are frantically trying to identify themselves as different party from Prachanda’s. But they are the same fundamentally. Their recent decision to ban foreign movies in Nepal’s theatre is a part of the process of their frantic attempt to create a distinct identity. The idea of creating environment for the development of Nepali movies is good in itself; but the means they’ve devised to achieve the ends are not practical given the impact of globalization, and Nepal’s cultural and diplomatic relation with other countries. I think banning foreign movies is not a smart way of solving the problem of Nepali film industry. As you say, it is also a characteristic of communist parties of Nepal: they make big talks of nationality when they are not in the government, and when they are in, they forget everything.
TQ5: Nepal's political landscape is further deteriorating. Which national institution(s) do you think can manage the safe landing of this deteriorated politics? Who could be the ultimate savior of this almost sinking nation?
Pokharel: At the present situation, I don’t see any national institution alone could be the ultimate savior of the nation. All the political parties have lost people’s faith in them. It seems to me that all of them are thinking about their parties and the next election, but not about the welfare of the nation. This fact is very obvious in their rhetorical ploy to lead the government at any cost and go for election under their prime ministership. At this juncture, the government led and formed by unbiased, clean and patriotic independent people until the new government is formed after the election could hopefully help safe landing of the nation. The problem of our nation is not the problem of political creed, ethnicity, the question of federalism, or any other external thing out there; it’s emotional problem: the problem of greed and corruption, the lack of clean heart and sense of fraternity, which has been exacerbated by impunity. The nation cannot prosper with any political system until we harbor these problems within ourselves.
TQ6: Let's change the topic. How sensitive the Nepali community Diaspora is towards the events unfolding in their own motherland?
Pokharel: Nepali community in Diaspora is very sensitive and sorry for all the events unfolding in motherland. I have a feeling that a Nepali tends to be more patriotic when s/he leaves the country. The system and progress of the countries they are living in, and the type of problems they are facing in the strange land as an alien increase the longing for prosperity, peace, and fraternity more in their motherland.
TQ7: But Nepali Diaspora is often accused for not being sensitive towards the concerns of their own motherland. For example, Tibetan and Buddhist communities in US lambasted over the marking of Buddha's image in the shoes by a California based company in a formal manner, yet Nepali Diaspora did not utter even a single word against it. Mr. Pokharel! Why this detachment towards the authentic dignified persona of Nepal? Notably, the Nepali Diaspora is seeking double citizenship certificates. Given this dismal loyalty, do they possess the right to make such demands from mother Nepal?
Pokharel: This is a very intriguing question, and is difficult to answer as well. While I don’t agree with the general accusation to Nepali community Diaspora not being sensitive toward the concerns of their own motherland, you might be right, to some extent, about the particular case of Buddha’s image imprinted on shoes by a US company. I would not say they didn’t utter a single word against it. They did some and maybe that was not loud. I think Nepali community in Diaspora does not have strong voice because they have much more limitations, perhaps more than Tibetan and Buddhist communities, and so their relatively low voice in alien land because of their precariousness cannot or should not justify lack of their right to desire and demand for progress in their motherland. It’s obvious that Nepali Diaspora is not only demanding these things, but actually involving, investing, and engaging in the development of Nepal.
TQ8: Nepali society is becoming fragmented on the lines of ethnicity. Have you witnessed its spillover effect amongst the members of Nepali community Diaspora in and around the place wherein you yourselves live?
Pokharel: I’ve heard and read that some leaders have been trying to pollute Nepali Diaspora as well with their petit interests. But I’ve found Nepali community in Diaspora more resistant to, more critical of, and more analytic of any epistemology. They don’t easily succumb to the effect of fragmentation, and have formed a habit of critical acceptance. Personally I’ve not experienced such spillover effect in the Nepali community Diaspora I live in. I’m constantly in touch with some people from different ethnic groups in Nepal, and I’ve found them very considerate about the deteriorating situation caused by the fragmentation along the lines of ethnicity.
Exclusive for telegraphnepal.com/Telegraph Weekly