Tunnel vision nationalism and the necessity of mature diplomacy
Has Coronavirus (Covid-19) affected Nepal? This question may strike you as a crazy query from the writer. However, my question is serious. The state should concentrate on expediting the testing of its citizens to get the exact number of Covid-19 patients. Similarly, it would have to be the central priority of the state to provide proper treatment to the infected people. It would have to find out an alternative way out to replace the so-called lockdown. Opposition party Nepali Congress (NC) has been also vehemently raising the issue of failure of Oli government in the parliament. Ordinary people throughout the nation are also not satisfied with the government especially those who have been impacted badly due to the deadly coronavirus. But the government and politicians of Nepal have diverted their attention towards seasonal nationalism and arrogance.
If you witness the current politics of Nepal it has been polarized severely. First, an elected parliamentarian from Nepal Communist Party (NCP) Ganga Satgaunwa (Chaudhary) verbally attacked parliamentarian Sarita Giri from People’s Socialist Party (PSP) taking objection to Giri speaking Hindi language in the Parliament. Second, the issue of Limpiyadhura, Kalapani and Lipulekh (KLK) has boiled Nepal’s polity when India inaugurated the road way in Lipulekh area and Nepal by issuing its new political map and register the bill to amend the constitution to update its national emblem.
Because of the above mentioned issues the writer suspects whether coronavirus has really been rampant in Nepal. If so, the government would have prioritized the Covid-19 response and tried to mitigate its consequences.
Now, this article has been sectioned into two parts: Use of Hindi language in the parliament, and the blurry strategy of Oli government while handling with the issue of KLK.
Hindi and parliament
When any leaders speak Hindi in the parliament it shocks few people who think they are the sole patron of Nepali nationalism. They think that the individual Hindi speaker represent India in Nepal. In reality, this is the effect of typical and rustic nationalism imposed by late King Mahendra who had wrapped up the entire nation into one language, one dress and one culture. This myopic move of King Mahendra had entrenched discrimination against Madheshi community on the basis of language. Even during the Panchyat Era of King Mahendra, Madheshi politicians like Gajendra Narayan Singh used to speak up in Hindi in the parliament. Madheshi politicians had opposed the unequal policy of King Mahendra as his policy that sought to appease the innocent hill people to have firm grip at the helm.
While talking about the current issue of Sarita Giri, she stepped into politics joining Nepal Sadbhawna Party (NSP) which was founded by late Gajendra Narayan Singh. Obviously MP Giri got immersed in political schooling of Gajendra Narayan Singh who dared King Mahendra by speaking Hindi in the parliament. Question comes, why they came to use Hindi language? The answer is clear just one has not to allow its mind to be prejudiced with language. Indeed, first we must accept the reality how important Hindi language is in Madhesh for connecting people of different lingual origins. Hindi is the world’s second largest lingua franca.
Language is simply means to convey a message to the other in a comprehensive way. In the meantime, one should know about the essence of lingua franca in a linguistically diverse society. A lingua franca is used to make communication possible between people not sharing a first language, in particular when it’s a third language which is distinct from both speakers’ first languages. And in the plains of Nepal, Hindi is the major lingua franca which has been connecting people from a linguistic perspective. Not only the local people, but even political leaders whose mother tongue is Nepali speak in Hindi when talking to people in the Madhesh. This is so even though the 2011 census shows that only 0.47 percent of the Nepali people speak Hindi as a mother tongue.
If we forget the electoral democracy, Sarita Giri and her party represent the entire Madhesh and the agenda of Madhesh movement has not been addressed as yet. So, what the Madhesh-based political leaders are doing in the parliament must be shared with the people who have played historical role during the Madhesh uprisings. One reality is that the leaders who speak in Hindi get highly debated in rural Madhesh because people can comprehend it. I am not saying that all the madheshi leaders should speak up Hindi in the parliament, though. Alleging the leaders who speak Hindi as Indians is the outcome of the worst mindset. It can only deepen gap between Madheshis and non-Madheshis.
All the political parties have been firmly united on the issue of national borders. I watched the telecast of the parliament session and found that almost all the parliamentarians from ruling and opposition parties consolidating around the issue which was quite genuine as the issue is related to national interest. However, in such issue when thing is tangled tightly with our neighbour, we need to avoid emotionality and make the debate assertive and also suggest the government to use different channels to hold dialogue with the next party. In this case the focus must be given to start diplomatic dialogue with India. Last week Defence Minister of India Rajnath Singh clearly said that the issue of disputed border between Nepal and India would be resolved through bilateral talks. Singh is the most senior minister in Modi cabinet and the issue of border is mostly being handled by his ministry.
Yesterday, Nepal’s minister for External Affairs Pradeep Gyawali addressed the concerns of parliamentarians saying that India is reluctant for dialogue to resolve the issue. Looking at the situation, it seems Nepal-India relation comes to a critical standpoint. By issuing the updated map and taking the issue to the parliament Oli government may have cashed the sentiment of those Nepalis who bake their nationalism on anti-India flake. However, if the issue is not solved by holding clear dialogue there would be no meaning of amending the constitution. This situation will expose our leader’s diplomatic expertise.
The writer is a freelancer.
Published on 10 June 2020