Nepal: Gulab ko Kaada
Big Brother vs Big Bully
“The Pahadi elites have always created the notion of anti-India in Nepal which the people of Nepal needs to understand”. This is the summary of most Indian diplomats and media personals when they infer the recent political situation in Nepal. Or is it?
What Indian commentators should quintessentially understand is that Nepal hasn’t gone anti Indian but with the ghastly realization that Nepalese are ultra-dependent on India for almost everything, the people have chosen to go pro-Nepal. With a big help from the Modi government, which is treating SAARC like his own party, and Nepal as a buffer state of India, things are going really critical for him to handle. Well, at least pervious Indian governments with their own ingenuity and collective political greed of Nepalese politicians had the situation well under control. The Modi government has not only unified the people of this country but to our own amazement, even these so-called democrats, communists and ethnic leaders.
It’s a cliché in Nepal that it was not the politicians who brought about the new progressive constitution but the April Earthquake. And being fatalistic and intimate to nature as we are, the aftershocks have now gone political. The Modi government has managed to tarnish its image not only in Nepal but among SAARC and the United Nations where India is still lobbying for the permanent membership of the coveted Security Council. What more, the commentators in Nepal are arguing that Nepal also use the ‘sit and watch’ strategy calmly expecting the downfall of Narendra Modi who in a couple of years will likely be assassinated by either ISIS or domestic terrorism because of his adherence to Hindu extremism. However, immoral assumption it may seem, Modi hasn’t done much to reduce the chances. There is an anecdote in social media about how King Mahendra had an unconscious helping hand in the assassination of the then PM Indira Gandhi by her own bodyguard. When King Mahendra, intercepting the scheming intentions of Gandhi had ejected Indian military check-posts in northern Nepal, bordering with Tibet, PM Gandhi felt humiliated by this petty little county. (Of course, like Sikkim in 1975, she wanted to annex Nepal too but the guts and ingenuity of Mahendra was too much for her). A woman’s wrath fell upon Nepal, not for the first time though, so India announced its blockade. This 1969 blockade meant too little to Nepal, which then was firstly not dependent on India and secondly, much more affluent than now. So, when Mahendra decided to give a state visit to both China and India to maintain a balanced environment, he personally mocked Indira Gandhi for keeping the much feared Gurkhas as her bodyguard and sanctioning blockades in Nepal at the same time. This led to the change of guards and subsequently, a disgruntled Sikh guard assassinated her. The issue of Sikhs are still being raised in India and most recently, very publicly in New York, to the utter humiliation of Mr. Modi.
Now, the Nepal-India tensions go way back to the British Raj where Gurkha Regiment (Second Gurkha Rifles) was used to squelch the Indian mutiny of 1857. Nepal was then also an independent state and India being a colony of the British take this mutiny in high regards because it was one of those rare moments when the British were challenged. Nepal had already signed the Treaty of Sugauli back in 1816 and had lost one third of her lands to the East India Company which was won in wars in the last 25 years which also included active and successful resistance against the British until the Anglo Nepal War. This included Sikkim in the east, Kumaon and Garhwal Kingdoms in the west and Terai in the South. This suppression of Indian rebellion of 1857 impressed the British and the Terai lands were restored to Nepal in 1860 as a token of gratitude. The Nepal suppression by India has roots from this bravado that Gurkhas showed against them during this mutiny. Now, the Modi government has supported the almost-reasonable demands of Madheshi parties of this gifted Terai and sanctioned a blockade to Nepal which includes, blockade of third county goods as well.
Contemporary Tensions: Issue of Madhesh
The issue of Madhesh has turned out to be a grave one. Madhesh has been historically marginalized. To be honest, Nepal has 123 ethnic groups (CBS, 2011) and almost all of them have been historically suppressed through the derogatory caste practices and lack of political participation. The Brahmins (Hindu Priests) and Kshatriyas (Warriors and Kings) had managed to keep their stronghold in the past. But, suddenly after the promulgation of the constitution, the Madheshis parties started their agitation with the public manipulation from India. The Madheshis tend to share familial ties with Bihari’s of North India and with the Bihar election being one of the numerous factors, the Modi government has, with the support of agitating Madhesh parties dampened political environment of Nepal.
- The Madheshis who reside in Terai only constitute 30-32% of the population. The rest of the 15 million population (half of Nepal’s population) are Tharus, Paharis and Janjatis.
- The people who are leading the agitation are not popular leaders but and do not represent the majority of Madheshis. Upendra Yadav, Mahanta Thakur and Rajendra Mahato all lost the elections. They surely cannot be said to represent the Madheshi people they claim to. It has been evident that they are not just morally but apparently are openly being supported by Modi government. Out of 116 CA members from Terai, more than 100 voted for the constitution.
- Yes, there are flaws in the constitution of Nepal which will be up for amendment. With the recognition of ‘Positive Discrimination’ and ‘Proportional Representation’ as the short term system to Equity which acts as a tool to Equality, Nepal has cleared its intentions.
The Major Demands
- Recognition that Madheshis are Nepalese not Biharis: In the hilly areas of Nepal, notably Kathmandu, the Madheshis have been treated like outsiders and not like brothers and sisters of the same family. Madheshis feel discriminated through languages, expressions, delicate behaviors and unconscious efforts to Indianification. It is high time that the Padhadis really need to change their attitude towards Madhesh on a social level not merely political. Political Commentator, C.K LAL said ‘The demands of Madhesh are the demands of any citizens in the world’. Padhadis and Madheshis are the different sides of the same coin and one needs other to survive and prosper as a collective unit.
Since the initiation of the agitation more than a month ago, more than 40 Madheshis have died. This has been attributed to police brutality directed unconscionably at them in particular. In certes, there is an element of truth to it. When political parties (Padhadis) agitate and almost come to riot in Kathmandu, they are sprayed with water force whereas there has been excessive use of force against the Madheshis. This can also be attributed to the snowball effect of the ‘Kailali Incident’ and the police action rather being orderly has become psychological in aggression. However, what shouldn’t escape is that Madheshis are Nepalese and should not be negatively stereotyped.
- Citizenship Debate: The new constitution provides citizenship provisions which can be dichotomized into:
- A) Ascribed/By Birth
- B) Acquired/Naturalized.
Now, this is where the situation gets tricky and India comes in to support Madhesh. The constitution says that these two types of citizens shall be treated equally keeping in mind the provision of social justice. But, the citizens who are naturalized will not be equally treated pertaining to political rights, owing to the fact that they are not natural citizens of the country. The Madheshis agitators are against this and are supported by the Modi government. It is perfectly reasonable to inhibit political rights of these citizens. Do you think that the Syrian refuges will get access to political powers in Germany and other European nations straight away? Or does the Indian constitution itself support this claim they have made in another country? These citizens will be enjoying social and economic privileges and even the welfare based programs from federal provinces so, why would a nation who has provided such manifold privileges to them go beyond civil sense and adopt an insensible law which may not provide much goodwill to its own functioning.
Not so long ago, the nation which had such dubious reservations against Sonia Gandhi for Prime Minister of India because of the very fact that she was not of Indian descent speaks volumes of India’s hypocrisy in this matter. Mrs. Gandhi has been incumbent President of Indian National Congress since 1998. Subsequently, the more Indian of Indians, Manmohan Singh became the Prime Minister. Sushma Swaraj, from opposition party, BJP led-NDA (National Democratic Alliance) leader had threatened to shave her head and “sleep on the ground”, among other things, should Sonia become prime minister. Sushma Swaraj is now the Minister of External Affairs of India. The NDA also claimed that there were legal reasons that barred Sonia Gandhi from the Prime Minister’s post. They pointed, in particular, to Section 5 of the Indian Citizenship Act of 1955, which they claimed implied ‘reciprocity’. This was contested by others and eventually the suits were dismissed by the Supreme Court of India. A few days after the election, Gandhi recommended Manmohan Singh as her choice as prime minister, that the party leaders accepted.
For Madheshis, to claim such demands yields to their familial ties to Bihari people. It is an emotional plea to the ruling parties. Madheshi sons are married to Bihari daughters and vice versa. But, politics is always more pragmatic and less emotional. In Terai, thousands of such people carry dual citizenship and vote and even participate in elections in both Nepal and India. Now, India may support this but Nepal isn’t willing to. And if India poses that it is willing to, right now, it will regret it later because of the fact that such people who are involved in such politics cannot be held accountable to do better for either of the nations. Such persons can have only one reason and that is economic incentives from politics. It is perfectly reasonable for Nepal to apply its military power to suppress such an idea. Wouldn’t any nation in the world do so, to protect their integrity and sovereignty? Imagine a politician running for presidency for both US and Mexico. Bullocks isn’t it?
- Debate of Demarcation:
The agitating Madheshis leaders argue that the Seven State Province Model concluded by the major political parties August/September isn’t in their interests. What is in their interest is the inclusion of Sunsari, Jhapa and Morang districts in their province (Province 2). Given that these districts are flatlands and called Terai, they have a veritable claim to themselves. Maybe, a referendum would suffice all parties here. Well, this would have been easier but after Kailali Indicent, snowballing its way in Madhesh Aandolan, Tharus got included in this complex situation. Now these election losers and minority rights leaders have the second largest ethnic group of Nepal in their left flank. They want two Madhesh Provices, one in the East of Narayani River (12 districts) and another in the West (10 districts) which they will be term as, Tharuhat-Madhesh Province. This pretty much sums up to their least discussed ‘Eek Madhesh, Eek Pradesh’, which used to be a slogan of Madhesh rising. This would create a 500 miles by 20 miles stretch of a province for Madhesh, all bordering India. What Madheshi leaders should understand is that the whole idea behind Federalism is to include all social groups of the nation in development through their active and meaningful participation and equal allocation of resources of the nation. This dreamy, long stretch doesn’t contain people of Madheshi origin and Tharu origin only. Immigrated Pahadis, Doms, Mushars, Chepangs among other social groups are reside and try to make a living here. Now, it doesn’t sound equal nor all-encompassing does it?
However, the ruling elite should heed Upendra Yadav’s criticism when he lividly asserted, “How will province two run? By selling paddy rice or from alms collected at Janaki Temple?”
Renouncing Ultra Dependency of Nepal
Citizens queue uncontrollably in a petrol pump at Kathmandu
What a common Nepali understands is that, without trade routes with India, Nepal will find it hard to adjust with life and if the dreaded China business booms then it may be a wee bit easier for us. What we need to understand is that China has its own interests and another vicious cycle of dependency will ensue. It isn’t short term that the government of Nepal should be planning but a long term, post-fuel era, sixty years from now. How will countries of the world suffice their energy consumption when the fuel goes extinct? Members of the human race have already been born who will witness this post-fuel era. Well, the environmental scientists are known to be a little more dramatic but it is a bleak reality which the next generation shall exasperatingly dealing with. Not just for the sake of going pro-Nepal should be apply the alternative sources of energy but it is a chance for Nepal to be a model country in the world for, the future of humanity will depend upon unitary and daunting implementation of ideas like these.
Not Anti-India but Pro Nepal
I) Small Scale Hydro-power plants can be built around the country without much investment and manpower with 1000 KW capacity. People in the communities can be all, investors, consumers and shareholders. There are six thousand rivers in Nepal! Imagine the possibilities if local plants are promoted pervasively.
Although medium to large-scale hydropower (above 1000 KW) remains the likely choice for meeting Nepal’s urban electricity demand, small hydropower is an attractive alternative to conventional power systems in rural and remote areas as a means of achieving rural electrification.
II) Solar energy is always the better, even better than hydropower’s. Copper or Aluminum can be easily imported to Nepal through North. Although it is an expensive venture than micro level hydropower. Nevertheless, there are more than a hundred aluminum manufacturing companies in Nepal.
III) It is already a known fact that we can drill up oil from some parts of Terai as researched by Italian and British Companies. But allegedly they had to leave their research due to Indian pressure. Anyways, the district of Morang is widely tipped to contain this “big deal” if it is really viable.
IV) And seriously, we have 40,000 MW of potential which can be utilized. The annual peak power demand of Integrated Nepal Power System (INPS) was 946.10 MW in 2011. See our consumption and potential ratio. If we can get it right with investors (local/regional/continental) we are in for a merry ride.
V) Why should we use fuel anyways! It is a common knowledge that we are going to run out of fuel in less than sixty years. Damn! A metalhead from Nepal discovered water on Mars. There are a million of capable of Nepalese manpower in the behest of Nepal right now.
VII) Besides, as our popular social media slogans go, ‘We are not begging, we are in business with India’. If they don’t want to do business with us then we have one less unfriendly nation to deal with.
I am sure there are ample of ideas and techniques that we can come up with and apply. Every crisis brings ample opportunities, and the choice is ours. To be an opportunist, be an optimist, be a romantic or be a reasonable person and let this vicious cycle of dependency go on and on. In every country a generation has sacrificed their blood and sweat to turn their nation towards progress. Are we gonna be that generation or are we gonna let this pass to our younger generation who like our generation will merely curse their older generation and pass on these predicaments. We need to be united in sustaining ourselves.
What Nepal has Learned:
- The International community doesn’t give a rat’s ass about Nepal. We are still viewed from the eyes of Indian diplomacy. PM Modi has violated 8 major international treaties and laws according to Nepali Times and can be presented in front of International Court of Justice for crimes against humanity. So, which International rights group wants to volunteer to present a strong case? Nobody!
There is only one option: let’s leave the North and South block out of it and let’s develop Nepal for ourselves. One cynic may say, ‘easier said than done’ but have we ever tried it?
- In the end, Modi turned up to be a mere politician. Such Modi personalities has been pervasive in Nepali politics since 1951. Well, what can one expect from a head of the state who sent more media personals than humanitarian workers to Nepal in the name of aid after the April Earthquakes.
Zuckerberg expected go with ‘Sideline’ button instead of ‘Dislike’ button after this grave disaster
- Our dependency on another nation is our own doing. No, one cannot blame the politicians from the past or present. While they were transparently selling Nepal to its neighbors, we stood at the helm and turned our blind side to such tragedies. If one wants to play the blame game then every citizen of Nepal is responsible to this predicament.
“The world is a dangerous place to live. Not because of the people who are evil; but because of the people who don’t do anything about it” – Albert Einstein
- SAARC is a big, fat joke. What SAFTA (South Asian Free Trade Agreement) and Regional Development are we talking about when such unethical trade embargoes have been applied in Nepal by its largest benefactor. It goes against SAFTA and SAARC! To be honest, each SAARC countries has India as its nemesis and like a Bollywood movie, right in the middle of it, they sit with their arms folded, moustache oiled, delivering a one liner or two, ready to thrash the stupid antagonists circling him peevishly, out of their misery. Nepal is one such an imbecile in the group. We should leave SAARC, for why be a part of what is dormant and unyielding. Out of top twenty countries that Nepal exports and imports goods with, there isn’t a single SAARC nation except India. It’s a farce.
- The constitution has garnered a lot of plaudits (local/international) and we should continue as we deem it fit in the spirit of liberty, brotherhood and justice. New PM Oli and this team has been given a green signal by the people of Nepal to go ahead with alternative trade routes and he should do so in with the future generation in mind by creating an opportunity of self sufficiency.
What India Should Learn:
1. Nepal isn’t the same miserable, brat of a country that was fifty years ago. Nepal has become unbelievably progressive not merely in legislations but in the social structure and mass thinking as well.
2.Narendra Modi has gone nuts! Why in the world does he pick Nepal to bully out of all the exotic neighbors India borders with? What in the hell can Nepal do to India? I mean seriously. Even if we suddenly develop then we are going to have a very insignificant economy in relation to the world economy, to begin with. Militarily, India fearing that Nepal will conquer it like the Gurkhas campaigns in the past is being much more than paranoid. Now, this is a turning into a rather funny international story. What greatness could India possibly attain from inhibiting Nepal and asserting its dominance? It should be shameful for Indians to have a crack for a Prime Minister. Well, we stand heart to heart with you Indian people at this grave moment. We’ve had our share of cracks as well.
3.Whether RAW tries to manipulate the Nepalese politics with a Yadav or an Oli or a Koirala or a Thapa, or a Sherpa; in the end, we are all Nepali and will leave all ties for another greener pastures. It’s a common Nepali trait- Be where the profit is! Don’t want to believe that Nepalese are such a clever bunch? Well, just look at the foreign (and Indian) loans, aids, grants, credit lines and donations that has been made to Nepal since 1955. Why develop when being underdeveloped can make us rich!