Pending a hearing in the Supreme Court, Vice President Parmananda Jha has clarified that when he chose to take oath of office in Hindi, it was not his intention to hurt anybody’s feelings. He pointed out that he signed the Nepali hardcopy of his pledge. The explanation seems to have doused the street fires for now.
But the question a Madhesi has to face at any social gathering these days is: “Which side are the President or the VP on?” You are expected to reaffirm your faith in unity, integrity and sovereignty of Nepal by eulogising the chief and denouncing the veep. You are required to rejoice that both posts went to Madhesis and be apologetic about the MJF’s choice of candidate.
If you happen to admire Jha’s chutzpah, the onus of proving your loyalty to the nation now lies on you. All over again, every Madhesi is a non-Nepali until he proves himself to be someone like Ram Baran Yadav.
Other questions follow. “Wasn’t Jha a judge implicated in releasing a notorious drug-dealer? Hadn’t he spoken Nepali all his life as a government employee? When did he discard daura-suruwal?” UML sympathisers ignore that their party wasn’t unaware of Jha’s antecedents. NC cadres make it sound as if they had propped up Jha without knowing his politics. Suddenly, everyone loves to hate the person that the majority of constituent assembly voted for.
President Yadav fits the mould of an ideal kangresi, never hiding his distaste for identity politics and claiming that he was a Nepali first and Madhesi second, as if the distinction was necessary. Ironically, he now owes his exalted position to a hyphenated identity. Were he not a Madhesi, it was unlikely that the anti-Maoist coalition would have fielded him against Ram Raja Prasad Singh Upendra Yadav has apparently chosen to forget and forgive, but others remember that the then secretary general of NC Yadav was on the other side of the barricades throughout the Madhes Uprising. He often denounced those protesting in the streets, insinuating that the protestors were either “regressive forces” or “outsiders”.
Yet, most Madhesis are genuinely happy that one of them had made it to the top. To expect them to be grateful as well would perhaps be rubbing it in. For Yadav, nationalism means fealty to the Koiralas and loyalty to the NC. Naturally, the rest of Nepal is prouder of President Yadav than most Madhesis.
With the possibility of a prolonged transition, President Yadav will probably have a greater role than granted to him by the interim constitution. By contrast, VP Jha will have a tough time keeping himself awake in Bahadur Bhaban. His most glorious moments were when his effigies were burnt in the streets of Kathmandu.
Gajendra Narayan Singh tried all his life to establish Hindi as an alternate language in Nepal. He failed because few considered his agenda important enough to resist. With the legitimacy of opposition, VP Jha has planted Hindi in the minds of those Madhesis who earlier championed their own languages.
Despite disruptive demonstrations over dhoti-suruwal or Nepali-Hindi, the street protests weren’t as damaging as they were made out to be. But , they proved that the conceptualisation of Nepal as a nation-state is inherently faulty? it labels over one-third of country’s population as the ‘other’. President Yadav’s attempt to become a Nepali is admirable, but many more Madhesis would prefer to be known as Nepalis for what they are rather than what they have to become to be recognised as such.
Jha’s deviance probably contributes more to the making of Nepal as a state-nation than Yadav’s conformism. They are so different and yet so much alike. We need them both, warts and all.