Nepal: National Polity, Ethnicity, and Impunity

Bijay Kumar Rauniyar

Way back in  late May or early June 1893, Mohandas Karamchand (MK) Gandhi (born October 2, 1869), a young Indian barrister to South Africa, was thrashed out by British officers or Goras from his first class compartment on the grounds that he was an Asian (Indian), colored, and colonized.  It was a WHITES ONLY compartment.  On return (1914), he turned a freedom fighter under the deified name of Mahatma Gandhi (a title conferred upon him by the great Indian-Bengali poet Ravindranath Tagore alias Kavi Ravi) and made British Government (popularly known as East India Company) quit India through non-violent means.  It got independence at the cost of the division of a predominantly Muslim country, Pakistan, on August 14, 1947 which further split in a predominantly Bengali Muslim country, Bangladesh in 1971.  In the midnight of that very day (August 15), India celebrated its own independence along with the pang of separation.  That was not enough!  A fanatic (!) Hindu, Nathuram Godse gorged bullets in Bapu’s frail chest only after five months that is on January 30, 1948, on the grounds that he was instrumental in partition.  All he uttered was “Hey Ram” (Oh God) and lay in peace.  But the volcano of violence erupted soon after.  India reeled with communal riots.  Brethrens were picked and hacked brutally.  Godse and his aide, Narayan Apte, were hanged.  India suffered racial riot once again after the assassination of Indira Nehru Gandhi (title endowed on her by Mahatma Gandhi for her active role as a child during Freedom Movement) by her Sikh aide. 

Martin Luther King, Jr. followed Gandhian philosophy of non-violence against racial discrimination in America and got rights for the African Americans.  He, too, was assassinated.  So did Nelson Mandela in South Africa and has been living as a legend of ethnic tolerance and political magnanimity.  So did Hitler during the Second World War for the supremacy of the Germans (Aryans) only but the Führer lost causing a great devastation to the entire universe.  The air of ethnic strife, however, continues to hang in the air in India, US, South Africa, and Germany (even after the breaking of the Berlin Wall).

In fact, the color of ethnicity, in all versions of polities all over the world, is inerasable.  Its carriers, like albinos, bear the scar all their life.  So they do bear the ill feelings of caste-ism, racism, and communalism.  Daggers draw fast at the pettiest dialog (kurabhanda chhura chhito) from both sides—high, low, or middle ethnic groups or castes.  Words of abuse and calumny pour for each other, and the government connives the crimes of whichever ethnicity holds hegemony in the State.  Whites against blacks (better non-Whites, colored ones, others), Aryans against non-Aryans, upper castes against lower castes, people of one region or state against another, and vice versa constantly collide with each other with hatred and hostility.  Often they turn into organized aggression or offense.  Combined with legal and social impunity, this ethnic malady mars the entire social harmony.  Not that those who get an upper hand also get any peace.  But they love to scratch the itch till it bleeds profusely.

Nepal is a multiethnic country.  It is on the threshold of federalism that is it is delineating different states (pradesh) or provinces (prant) through a new Constitution.  Its drafting, nevertheless, is being delayed by an unstable and incomplete government, dwindling consensus on peace process and integration of former Maoist combatants living in dilapidated conditions in cantonments, and many other debates raised by various parties and ethnic groups and nationalities.  The latter seem to have been over articulate about their right to access over natural resources, and preservation of their languages, cultures, rituals, and religions.  Doubtless, they should be protected, promoted, and preserved.  But so should be national, regional, social, and interpersonal harmony.  One’s right should not encroach upon others’.  Here I am reminded of an anecdote.  A person went abroad for the first time.  As he stepped out of the airport, he walked down alone, flinging his hands wildly.  Suddenly, he hit a native’s nose.  “Hey man, what are you doing?  Don’t you see where you are going, you alien?” cursed the White local.  The fresh foreigner said, “Why, I am in a free land and I am free to do whatever I like.”  “Well, your freedom ends where my nose starts,” rejoined the robust man, a little louder.  The immigrant shied away soon.

In Nepalese context, the sense and concept of bonhomie seems to be missing.  The neighbors, the friends, and even the relatives seem to be torn in many political and ethnic ideologies.  Personally, I hail from a place which is not only upcoming in economic terms in recent times but which also held up social harmony during and after the turbulent Madhesh Movement following the much-hyped People’s Movement.  People of all ethnicities and all regions and religions live there with good sense of synchronization, though often personal enmity surfaces and sours the entire ambience.  Still it is a nice place to be.  I and my family have grown up in such a milieu and inherited this sense of medley entities living peacefully together.  Language, caste, ethnicity, sex and gender, region and religion never penetrated our life.  Still, it often pricks when people from both hills and plains try to disrupt our integrity.

All I have to say is that we should not forget one thing: Any state or region, let us say Terai, is a part of Nepal; Tharuwat is a part of Terai; Maithil, Bhojpura, Awadh, and others are all in Madhesh (if the term is agreed upon).  But it agonizes one to read, realize, and listen that you are still a Mad(h)ise, Pahade, Pakhe, Nyar or Jyapu, Dhoti, Bhaiya, Bhate, Bhote, Thepche, Bhadur, Bahun, Kumain, Kale, Kuire, Purbeli, Paschimeli, and so on.  Without gender discrimination, you are a Mad(h)isni, etc.  We should not also forget that calling names to one or another person or ethnicity is calling names to your own mother and motherland as they are all born in the same soil and out of same womb.  Any state, any statute, and any statesperson (I regret to say that I have not come across any so far in Nepal) should accommodate this element that alone will keep the Center and federal state and local authority (if they are ever made as projected) intact.  Once the seam of ethnicity is unwounded, and once the beast of impunity is let astray, no national polity will be able to stop the spilling of blood and brains.  Yes, no new brand of nationalism or national system, howsoever promising, will be able to uphold the unity of diverse people inhabiting in this Himalayan terrain along the serpentine hills of north and plains of south.  Happily, bordering Biharis (a term used derogatorily so far but now one of pride) have improved in many aspects.  Will we at least maintain our own ethnic diversity and integrity, and social security, and remove all kinds of ethnic abhorrence and impunity through stringent actions taken by law? 

Painfully, politics is another blot.  It is inescapable; it is equally incorrigible.  It sucks like bed bugs.  No dose of democracy, nationalism, federalism, republicanism, people’s rule is going to cure it.  The only way is—resist it; keep away from it as far and as long as possible.

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I agree


  • Posted on - 2011-03-30    by     sabi, sydney
  • very nice write up,good review of history with full importance of non- violence strategy followed by great souls for's already proven violence and bloodshed never give you back longterm peaceful solution.oneday.blood ask blood and violence ask violence. About us,the reality of stretching seperation between Madhes and Pahad is painful and violence to each other is a big wound.As you said,the core thing is we all are nepalese and all himal,pahad ,madhes are Nepal. " Nepal nai narahey nepali kaha rahanchha ra".SO,this ongoing hatred and violence to each other must be stop before we torn apart our country and ourself.