Infrastructure Of Violence

November 7, 2010 at 5:09 pm Leave a comment

Infrastructure Of Violence

Measured with the ‘graveyard of dynasties’ yardstick, Simraungarh is settlement of historic import. Legends have it that Nanyadev, an itinerant warrior of Chalukya Dynasty, founded the Karnat House of Mithila with Simraungarh as its capital in the 11th century. Later, Muslim army from Bengal repeatedly ransacked the region between 1211-1226 but failed to annex it.

Shumshuddin Iliyas, formerly a vassal of Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq, declared himself independent of his overlord and sometime in 1345-46 finally conquered the entire Tirhut region, including the Karnat kingdom. Meanwhile, Harisimhadeva had already disappeared with his deities, queens, courtiers and concubines up into the mountains in the north in 1323 or so. Some of his descendents are believed to have ruled Kathmandu valley as Malla kings for four centuries when they finally fell one by one to the Gorkhali forces in late-18th century.

All that remains of nearly 400 years of imperial glory around present-day Simraungarh are a few earthen mounds, charcoal grains of rice said to have been burnt by invaders and huge ponds with the royal associations. Nearby Ranibas Bazaar does have a historic temple, but it was built by one of the consorts of Rana usurper Jangbahadur. Floodwaters of Bagmati and Lalbakaiya rivers have consumed even the ruins of the Karnat capital.

Some imperial legacies, however, are harder to shake off. The Gadhimai temple of Mother Goddess in nearby Bariyapur is reputedly the biggest sacrificial site in the world. Every five years, thousands of water buffaloes, pigs, goats, cows, chickens and pigeons are ritually killed to appease the celestial mother. Lawlessness is the defining feature of the blood-soaked earth of Bara district—woe betides the person who has the temerity of challenging any law-breaker in these parts. Withering away of the state is almost complete, but the resulting realm is that of bandit capitalism rather than a communist utopia.


The road from Kalaiya (the headquarters of the district administration) to Simraungarh passes through rice fields, mango orchards, fishponds and ramshackle hutments. Here and there, newly built concrete houses stand out as living monuments to remittance economy. However, there are few livestock to be seen on the way. That perhaps explains why teashops in Pathalaiya and Simra run out of milk by early afternoon—the supply is too low to fulfil even local demand. Wonder where Jitpur traders get all those goats and buffaloes to feed the ever-increasing requirement Kathmandu eateries for animal flesh? They probably buy their supplies from across the border in the vicinity of Ghorasahan Bazaar.

Relative absence of street dogs in these parts is even more striking. Locals believe that sanctified oxen, wild foxes and stray dogs were all hunted down by ration suppliers of Seema Sashatra Bal (SSB), the security force that stand guard on the Indian side of the 10-yard strip. Taste of some of their soldiers, particularly from the northeast, is believed to border on what is abhorrent to local Hindus and Muslims alike.

Canals crisscross the landscape, but beds of channels are either muddy or dry. The flow in them is dependent upon the decision of Indian authorities that control its main feeder according to the provisions of the Gandak Treaty. Alternative arrangements could have been made to keep these canals functional, but the priority of the government seems to be upon connectivity. Irrigation channels are in a state of disrepair, but their embankments that serve as rural roads are kept in passable condition. So what if the agriculture languishes? The trade must flourish.

A major chunk of commercial transactions, however, falls into the grey area. Illegal logging and timber trade is rampant. Cultivation of hemp and poppy is sometimes reported. Unauthorized import of raw materials for the Pathalaiya-Parwanipur commercial belt through earthen tracks connecting Indian border is a rule rather than the exception. All such activities have created organized gangs of adventurous entrepreneurs who operate with the connivance, if not outright cooperation, of law enforcement agencies.

A combination of religious fundamentalism, coercive apparatus of the state, easy means of cheap intoxication and instant gratification, and the ever-present encounter with disease and death without much hope for survival can transform even the most docile of population into militants.

In Simraungarh bazaar, shops are full of goods that most people do not need or cannot afford but essentials and agricultural inputs are perennially in short supply. The list of prominent landmarks of the settlement includes a multi-tiered pagoda style temple, a freshly whitewashed police post, a few arrack shops, cinema halls that screen Hindi movies, and the clinic of a quack that promises to treat almost all ailments. A combination of religious fundamentalism, coercive apparatus of the state, easy means of cheap intoxication and instant gratification, and the ever-present encounter with disease and death without much hope for survival can transform even the most docile of population into militants.

The prevailing ideology of individualism that emphasizes the creation of self-absorbed, self-indulgent and defiantly selfish consumers has resulted in disintegration of ties that bound people with each other. Decline of social norms is partly responsible for the lawlessness. However, the main culprit behind the statelessness is perhaps the increasing illegitimacy of the government. In that respect, Bara is like most other districts of Madhes and Pahad in Nepal.


Reflecting upon relationship between power and violence, political theorist Hannah Arendt once offered a powerful refutation to the dictum of Mao Tse-tung that power flowed out of the barrel of the gun. “Violence can always destroy power; out of the barrel of the gun grows the most effective command, resulting in most instant and perfect obedience,” conceded the theorist before proposing the clincher, “What can never grow out of it is power.” This is a lesson of history that the leader of the ruling coalition as well as the main opposition party seem to have missed in its entirety, groomed as most of them have been under the ideological shadow of the Great Helmsman.

A brief overview of Nepal’s own experiences is enough to show that the political influence of the Maoists grew exponentially during the period when CPN-UML and Nepali Congress took turns to shoulder the burden of governments led by stalwarts of Panchayat regime. Reversal in public opinion de-legitimized democratic order, empowered Maoists, and armed insurgency found widespread acceptability. But just as Arendt had argued, revolution was possible but not necessary when the power of the state under the direct control of an anachronistic monarchy had completely disintegrated. Nothing has yet emerged to fill the vacuum as the government attempts to rule purely on the strength of its coercive apparatus. Power is not a substitute of legitimate authority.

From the vantage point of an almost autonomous village deep in the countryside, antics of ministers in the anti-Maoist cabinet in distant Kathmandu look like bravado of puppet heroes fighting phantoms upon cardboard stages erected for them by those who control their reigns from somewhere else. Meanwhile, Maoists continue to gain economic and political strength.

It is not just the rural folks, even mill-owners of Simra and Kalaiya privately admit that allowing armed groups to grow to counter Maoists was a strategic mistake. With Maoists, the payer knows what to expect from the payee. That is hardly the case with either corrupt security officers or ideologically free armed-operators. No wonder, Maoists’ fund-raising capacity has increased without any extra effort on their part. Such an attitude, however, attracts more adventurers into politics of violence and makes existing challengers of Maoist hegemony even more brutal toward their victims. The gain for everyone is temporary while the social loss is enormous.

Nothing less than a prompt political settlement at the centre can stop the slide of the periphery into spiral of violence leading to complete anarchy, which would then engulf even those who began it all—the Maoists.



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