Nepali Times Asian Paints
State Of The State
Sacrificing scapegoats


Powerful gods demand blood. To appease them, Sher Bahadur Deuba and his son Jayabir, solemnised the ritual sacrifice of an unblemished black goat before formally entering Baluwatar recently.

Deuba's party colleague, Bimalendra Nidhi, executed another goat while shifting residence to the largely empty ministers' quarters at Harihar Bhaban. But Nidhi was more gender sensitive and politically correct than his boss: he got his wife to join him in the traditionally male-dominated sacrifice ritual. We don't know what Prakash Man Singh did, but another poor animal could have also been sent to kingdom come.

Some day, when this country turns into a truly modern state, the practice of male officials sacrificing male goats to the gods will come to an end. Like the reformist movement in Bengal, perhaps we will graduate to sacrificing pumpkins and coconuts. For now, our leaders still prefer the blood of innocent animals.

It was the United Marxist-Leninist Prime Minister Man Mohan Adhikari who revived the tradition of blood sacrifice at Baluwatar. Nepali communists seem to be much more superstitious than their socialist comrades in the Nepali Congress. In fact, that was the charge that the Gorkha Dal levelled at the Kangresis.

In the aftermath of the Narayanhiti Massacre, Girija Prasad Koirala refused to shave his head to save his head from stone-pelting crowds. But his erstwhile acolyte, Deuba, has acquired the trappings of the Kathmandu ruling class and then extended it further by attracting a phalanx of astrologers, voodoo artistes and soothsayers who appropriate the services of the spirits.

The Ranas have kept their tradition of butchering dozens of animals on Buddha Purnima at the site of their family deity. Dressed in saffron, high-flying Ranas turn a small shrine in Thapathali into an annual abattoir. For the rest of the year, they remain the epitome of modernity in food, dress and speech. Deuba has taken up this lifestyle with the vengeance of an arriviste.

Deuba's fads aren't his personal failings. Respect for rituals, no matter how arcane, is an integral part of conservative politics. Authoritarianism is an expression of the same mindset that honours the dead at the cost of the present and future generations.

The ideology of 'postmodern conservatism' (poscon) is even more anachronistic. With postmodernists, poscons share a healthy scepticism for knowledge of the past, but harbour an unhealthy reverence for inherited ritualistic practices. Postmodern conservativism is an oxymoron, but it is dogmatic. When asked to explain himself, George W Bush once said to world leaders: "I know what I believe and I believe what I believe is right."

If neocons show off, poscons grovel. Within a month of his appointment, Deuba has created a repertoire of posconspeak: the "wide chest of the king", "justice of the Gorkhali ruler", the "greatness of the monarch". Deuba thinks his appointment had to do with chest measurement, arcane justice and the stature of the king.

The third-time prime minister sacrificed a goat, but can he prevent himself from being turned into a scapegoat?

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)