Is nationalism, patriotism or loyalty a competitive sport? If you say no, you are wrong because Nepal is currently holding free for all round of us versus them shouting feast where the people compete against each other to prove their love for the country. Us is the establishment who believes (still..) that they hold the exclusive rights to being a patriotic Nepali, and them are the people in Madhesh and the indigenous community who happen to be bit too unique for their own good ( as per the establishment).
The language rukus following the Vice President taking oath in Hindi exposed the deep fissures in Nepali society.
There has to be some sort of recognition for Hindi because lets face it, the language is not exactly a “foreign” language in Nepal.Widely used in Terai, Hindi is heard in capital Kathmandu too- Bollywood movies, Hindi soap operas and students flocking to Indian universities for higher education-Hindi has become part of Nepal’s daily business. What is the harm in acknowledging the fact?
But no. The establishment would not accept Hindi, for them it is foreign; and then they used the row to cast doubt over nationalism and patriotism of entire Madhesh. The equation,according to them, was that since the Vice President took oath in Hindi he had to be more loyal to India; and anointed him the representative of entire Madhesh and by association, the Madhesis too had to be India leaning( some math!)
And the shameless season of holding a community hostage to satisfy whim of the few did not end there.Instances of usual political hyperbole by Madhesh based parties was used to discredit the entire community. All the while the Hills based establishment Lords were never questioned on their loyalty, even when they were pursuing goals tangential to national interest.
The fissures, deep and strong, strengthened by decades of deliberate sidelining of the Madhesh and the indigenous, are exposed once again.
During BBC Nepali’s Naya Nepal program, journalist Rabindra Mishra pressed a Madheshi politician on a question over identity, asking him whether he is a Nepali first or a Madhesi. That question is so condescending and discriminatory, it is a wonder that Mishra still has a job. Imagine a reporter here in the US asking an Italian-American (or from any other ethnic background) the same question about his/her loyalty! He would be chased out of town.
What followed was even more egregious.Instead of the media and the leaders standing up for Madhesh’ dignity, there was silence.The Press that constantly congratulates itself for being a pillar of Nepali society totally neglected this national shaming and name calling of Madhesh.
Fortunately Prashant Jha ( columnist at Kathmandu Post) took on double standard of the media and discussed the interview in his regular column ,
“At its core, it shows that suspicions about Madhesis and their commitment to the Nepali ‘nation’ remain widely prevalent. Never seen as equal citizens, and often projected as the fifth column whose primary loyalty is to India, Madhesis—like the Muslims of India, Tamils of Sri Lanka, religious minorities in Pakistan, Hindus of Bangladesh, and Nepali speakers in Bhutan—carry the burden of having to prove their nationalism day in and day out on terms set by others. “
Following his column, BBC was smart enough to arrange a follow-up and invited Jha to participate, along side Constitutional Expert Bipin Adhikari.
What you hear is just another chapter of the old guard defending its ways. Adhikari completely disappoints, acting as an apologist for the right wingers. Prashant Jha however keeps the hope alive for a more inclusive and open Nepal with his balanced and reasoned approach.
But how far can a person go to expose the double standard and fractures in our society. If silence and arrogance of the “mainstream” media, civil society and establishment is any indication, Nepal is still not serious about this.Is the establishment and self-appointed gate keepers of Nepali nationalism listening? I don’t hear a peep..o wait, they are too busy clapping at the circus put on by our dear leaders.