Diwakar Chettri

Like all festivals in whichever religion, Dasain probably has its origins in pre-historic harvest rituals. The rains are over, the sky is blue again, the terrace farms sway with the gold of ripening paddy. Our animist ancestors worshipped the sky, rivers and mountains and revered the passing of seasons. The myths of the triumph of good over evil and the killing of the water buffalo as an epitome of evil were added on later by insitutionalised religion.

This Dasain, it has got harder than ever before to differentiate between good and evil. There is so much fake news flying about that the lines between right and wrong are being blurred. Nothing is what it seems. The murder rape of Nirmala Panta has forced the government to act, but it acted by suspending two police officers for destroying evidence. But on whose orders were those two junior cops tampering with the crime scene?

Comrade Bamdev Gautam lost his Bardiya parliamentary seat in last year’s elections. But electoral defeat never deterred anyone in Nepal to remain in power. So, with a little bit of help from fellow-Communists in the ruling party he tried to convince MPs in Humla and Piuthan to give up their seat, but after they balked Gautam’s desperation began to show.

Finally, he got his party co-chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal to convince the MP from Kathmandu 7, Rambir Manandhar, to resign. If the resignation is approved by the party (Prime Minister Oli is said to be against it) by-elections for that seat will be held next month. Manandhar is not unhappy, though. He actually appears victorious because he says he has been promised a seat in the Upper House, a ministerial post and entry into the party’s central committee.

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We have come to expect such shenanigans from Nepal’s so-called Communists. There is precedent: when Dahal lost from his Kirtipur constituency in 2103, and was headed for sure defeat in Siraha, the powers across party lines reportedly leaned on the winning UML candidate to look the other way while the Election Commission changed the score card.

The way they justified it was that if the Supreme Commander of the Revolution lost, he may be so ticked off he may go back to war and there would be no new Constitution. For the sake of preserving the peace, they had to cheat.

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Last Dasain, unbeknownst to many, Oli and Dahal were deep in secret negotiations to forge an electoral alliance in parliamentary elections in November 2017. The two parties needed each other: the Maoists to launder their war crimes, and the UML to ensure that a weak coalition would not be toppled again by India. The plan worked brilliantly, and the alliance won a thumping majority. The two parties went on to merge a few months later after Oli and Dahal agreed to be co-chairs and take turns being PM.

Among the chief architects of the merger was none other than Bamdev Gautam. This Dasain, Gautam is back in the news, and trying to pull victory from the jaws of defeat. The united Communists are factionalised, and coalescing around Oli, Dahal and Madhav Kumar Nepal. A monolithic party with a historic majority has squandered most of its public support through feckless indecisiveness, threatening talk, unparalleled corruption and a debilitating inability to deliver.

Read also: The sacrifice of animal sacrifices, Aashish Mishra

This Dasain, we have to try to temporarily forget ugly truths like these that have kept this country back. We will press the pause button and contemplate all that is good in Nepali society, and remind ourselves about the things we can be proud of as a nation: the fortitude and strength of our people who are tolerant to a fault, the value we place on our hardwon freedoms, and that despite everything we have notched major progress in public health, environmental protection, and an empowered citizenry.

At a time when more than 15% of Nepal’s 29 million people live and work abroad, Dasain becomes an important time for the diaspora. Together with our shared history and the Nepali language, Dasain is what binds Nepal together. This is not just a Hindu festival, it is a Nepali one. Wherever in the world they are, whatever their creed or nationality, Nepalis come together at Dasain. The festival has transcended its religious antecedent to become a time for families and for the nation itself to unite in common celebration, and revive our collective hope for the future.

We have traditionally asked Pashupatinath, the patron deity, to set things right in this country. Maybe it is time to not leave everything to the Protector of Animals, but for all three levels of government, the opposition, federal Parliament, bureaucracy and all citizens to make a serious effort themselves.

Update on 12 October: Bamdev Gautam has decided not to contest the by-election from Kathmandu7.

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