A million mutinies

August 3, 2008 at 3:05 pm Leave a comment

A million mutinies

This past week of tyre-burning proved, if proof is still needed, just how volatile and unstable the political situation still is. The spark of the vice-president’s ill-advised decision to take his oath in the official language of a neighbouring country lit the brush fire. The lingering political deadlock fanned it.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. The entire point about the political transition of the past two years was to install stability so that the constitution-making process could go ahead without pressure groups rampaging in the streets. Any grandstanding on sensitive topics such as ethnicity-based federalism was supposed to happen on the floor of the house, not on the asphalt outside.

The lesson we haven’t learnt from past riots (Hrithik Roshan, September First) is that any political group that tries to orchestrate race-based street unrest will itself be consumed by it. Nepal’s socio-economic and political undergrowth is too dry to play with fire.

Nepal’s ethnicities, caste groups, the marginalised and downtrodden all have pent-up grievances that need urgent attention. Addressing the demand of one community invariably short-changes another. If it is not handled carefully, there can be a million mutinies. This is all the more reason for all sides to exhibit restraint and responsibility.

Restraint and responsibility were conspicuously absent on streets of the nation this week. Student unions directed by their parent parties (some of which are in government) were vandalising property. In their haste to capitalise on the Hindi issue they failed to foresee equal and opposite reaction in the Tarai.

Patriotism today means working for national unity, ethnic co-existence and racial harmony. The protests died down as suddenly as they started: proof that it was all deliberate brinkmanship by pseudo-nationalists and adverturists playing identity politics.

The damage has been done. Once more, the country has been taken to the edge of conflagration for short-term political gain. Nepal is surprisingly resilient, but it can’t take this kind of abuse and uncertainty for much longer.

Let’s face it, it’s not original anymore to fight just for the rights of one’s community. The way to build a new Nepal is for the Pahadis to also champion the cause of the Madhesis and to understand their historical sense of injustice.The people of the plains to understand the state’s neglect of the marginalised communities of the hills. Both Pahadis and Madhesis to make up for their past role in suppressing the Tharus.

We will know we are on the right track when Janjati groups speak not just for themselves, but for fellow-Nepalis who are downtrodden. When Bahun-Chhetri-Newars share positions of official privilege with the excluded not just out of tokenism, but because that is the only way to build a new tomorrow.



Entry filed under: Articles.

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