Nepali Times Asian Paints
CK LAL
State Of The State
Self-immolation


CK LAL


The traumatic events of last week triggered some introspection, but the Nepali intelligentsia is still in a state of denial. Instead of confronting real issues, we are trying to hide behind the wall of lies erected by the power elite to maintain the status quo.

Brought up with chauvinistic patriotism, Nepali opinion makers have a sense of victimisation hardwired into them. We refuse to take responsibility. Blaming Big Brother down south for every ill has always been a national past time.

There is a Russian saying that the past is quite unpredictable. Last week, there was a constant reference to the history of 700 years of religious tolerance in this country. While it is true that the Malla kings of the Valley weren't fundamentalists despite being ardent temple builders, all that changed once King Prithbi Narayan Shah made Kathmandu the capital of the Gorkha Empire. The Divine Counsel ordained that Nepal was the true land of Hindus, Asli Hindustan. Followers of all other faiths have so far survived by accepting subservience. The minorities understand any attempt to assert themselves will attract a backlash.

It is also seldom acknowledged that the emergence of Nepal as a political state is still work-in-progress. With the 1990 constitution we did begin to take faltering steps towards democracy, but it was stopped in its tracks by the violent Maoist insurgency. Since 4 October, 2002, we have regressed back to Sultanism, a system involving an administration and military force which are personal instruments of the master. No wonder it took so long for law enforcement agencies to respond even when parts of the city were already in flames. In Sultanism, the buck starts and stops at the door of the ruler's palace. It is pointless to blame poor Home Minister Purna Bahadur Khadka or even Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba. Unless the authority to act is devolved, the response time of the state machinery will be slack.

The political economy of popular disenchantment is even less understood. Governments formed after the political changes of 1990 failed to estimate the pitfalls of neo-liberalism thrust upon them by various donors and loaners. The state withered with the privatisation of the economy, which sapped the enthusiasm of civil servants who had lost the will to assert themselves during the times of crisis. And the conspicuous consumption of the neo-rich antagonised the masses.

International investors did come to Nepal, but they destroyed labour intensive technologies that could have created job opportunities for the poor in infrastructure. Result: a loss of faith in the government. Administrative reforms that the government is being forced to carry out through an ordinance under ADB pressure is the right medicine for the wrong ailment: downsizing of state machinery in Nepal needs to be aimed at the military service, not the civil service.

Middle-class squeamishness about popular politics too needs to change. Politicians may be 'corrup&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#'&#̵'216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;216;', 'incompetent', and 'irresponsible', but the challenge is to change them, not to get rid of them. Politics is the soul of a democratic state, and political parties various parts of its body. By constantly running down politicians, we have managed to weaken the very foundation of the state.

Criticism is desirable for the proper functioning of the political system, but incessant attacks end up questioning the very existence of political parties. When we damage the tree to its very roots, it's pointless to complain that it didn't bear fruit. After the crisis erupted on Black Wednesday, no political party had the strength left to confront it head on. Everyone blaming the parties for lack of initiative must pause to reflect: as a state, what has Nepal done to build credible political parties? As individuals, what hasn't the bourgeoisie done to weaken them?

Crisis is an opportunity of catharsis. We must learn to confront the evil within. A modern nation or state can't be built on the glorious legacy or good intentions of the ruler, howsoever benevolent. A framework of democratic institutions is a necessary condition for building a sustainable and modern state in a multi-cultural, multi-lingual, and multi-ethnic society like ours. There are no shortcuts.


LATEST ISSUE
638
(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)


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