Blood of Yadukuha’s martyrs
Blood of Yadukuha’s martyrs
C K LAL
Mahottari is at the bottom of the list of districts in terms Human Development Index. Neighboring Dhanusha is a better performer, though barely so. In any case, averages hide a lot of disparities. Despite its lower status, Mahottari boasts of small towns like Bardibas, Gaushala and Matihani that may not measure up to district capital Jaleshwar, but are bazaars of distinction in their own right. However, Janakpur has overshadowed every other settlement in the district. Even Yadukuha, a sprawling settlement bang at the center of Dhanusha barely gets attention in political, social, cultural, religious or commercial discourse these days.
It takes over an hour to cover a distance of barely 16 kilometers through the earthen road that connects Yadukuha to the district headquarters. Few government officials or NGO-entrepreneurs grace the place with their visit. Donors and INGOs prefer settlements along the highway or villages near the airport during their field visits. It is such a pity because Yadukuha is not just a place but also the name of an ideal that has somehow begun to lose its potency.
For an entire generation of students in the 1970s, Yadukuha was a codeword for fierce resistance, ceaseless struggle and spirit of sacrifice. There were several reasons behind its popularity. The village is known as Shahid Nagar (Martyr Town) for warriors that laid down their lives for the cause of democracy, socialism and nationality.
During the first parliamentary elections in the country, BP Koirala had proposed to field a Yadav from this constituency. The chosen one declined on the ground that such a selection smacked of communalism. It was a Yadav-dominated constituency and the idealist politico wanted to ensure the victory of his idol Saroj Koirala to prove that the support base of Nepali Congress went beyond exigencies of caste calculations. No NC leader showed the moral and political strength to respond in a similar manner and field a Kurmi or a Koeri from Sindhuli or Okhaldhunga.
Saroj Koirala won hands down; mesmerized the Parliament with his political skills; inspired a whole generation of youngsters in the region into joining oppositional politics after the royal-military coup of 1960; and went into self-exile to keep the lamp of democratic struggle burning. He was murdered on Indian soil, allegedly on the orders of the then Anchaladhis (Zonal Commissioner) by Nepali security personnel in mufti. Whether Indian officials were complicit in the crime or not is still unknown.
In the early 1970s, security personnel killed two school students—known jointly as Kameshwar-Kusheshwar now—for their political beliefs. After Durganand Jha, these two teens became martyrs to the cause of democracy in the long-drawn fight against Panchayat for freedom. Few remember their names anymore, but they sacrificed their lives for the freedom of every Nepali. Public memory is phenomenally short, but forgetting the martyrdom of Kameshwar-Kusheswar borders on national ungratefulness.
During the People’s Movement of 1990, three rural women and two men from Yadukuha once again embraced death and succeeded in firing the imagination of every freedom-loving Nepali in the country and abroad. The People’s Movement had begun to lose momentum—the blood of martyrs from Yadukuha rekindled embers of liberty that finally spread like wildfire and consumed the autocratic Panchayat system. Perhaps there is some truth in the Christian dictum that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church. The cathedral that was built in 1990 was called a multiparty democracy.
At the height of the Maoist insurgency, 11 policemen lost their lives in the vicinity of Yadukuha. Their sacrifice too did not go in vain. It created tremendous pressure upon political parties, the Maoists, the international community and the civil society to look for a peaceful settlement to the decade-long armed conflict. These security personnel were killed on line of duty and are worthy of respect for exemplary devotion to their profession.
There must be something in the earth, water, and air of Yadukuha that makes it produce persons of extraordinary courage, conviction and commitment to democracy and social justice. The state and society, however, has been less than generous in acknowledging the contributions of this village to the national life. The reason may lie in the socio-cultural degeneration brought about by the “I, me, my” ideology. Rather than martyrdom, “martyr syndrome” and “martyr complex” are prevailing ideas of our times.
A martyr is a person who is put to death, or endures great suffering on behalf of any belief, principle, or cause. A martyr to the cause of democracy, human rights, or social justice is a later addition. The idea of martyrdom is not natural to Hinduism where an act of sacrifice implies balidan—donation of someone else’s life, be that of a goat, a rooster, a buffalo, a pig, a duck, or any such living being. Human sacrifice (narbali) has passed into history. Breaking of coconut is perhaps a symbolic ritual that memorializes the archaic practice. In South Asia, valiant Sikhs borrowed the idea of martyrdom from Islam and took it to great heights. The trend got further fillip during anti-British struggles. The idea of struggle and sacrifice for liberty, equality and fraternity came to Nepal via India.
Terminology may be different, but martyr syndrome is a manipulative tactic that must have been around for ages. Some people use their self-sacrifice, real or imagined, to manipulate people around them. They expect a reward, often far in excess of their suffering, as they want to milk the misery of their past for present and future personal benefits. Politicos who keep harping about their time in jail, exile or underground and expect to be nominated to some office of profit are dime a dozen in Kathmandu. The UML is particularly rich in cadres with martyr syndrome.
Martyr complex, sometimes associated with the term victim complex, is a strange sort of psychological state that makes a person choose a life of suffering, prosecution and possible death. Their goals may or may not be clear, but such people willingly endure hardships of all kinds. The Maoist leadership has skillfully identified, trained and manipulated the burning desire of being a martyr for his/her own among a section of disillusioned youngsters.
The martyrs of the past have enriched us all—they died to ensure a better life for generations to come. Struggles of the future, however, would have to be peaceful for more impact. The hadith (narrative) said to have originated from the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) that “the ink of a scholar is more holy than the blood of a martyr” will then become even more relevant. The ideas that martyrs held dear would nevertheless continue to inspire people for generations to come.
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