Bandh now, forever….
It seems Nepal must now apply for the Guinness world record for the longest, most disturbing and unproductive bandh, the perennial strikes, that are organised by almost all the cities and towns of the country. Or, with the news spread far and wide and the historic world record Nepal is making, the Guinness record keeper himself could very well undertake this journey with the medal and whatever else goes with it.
The name of the game is bandh, strike, and luckily enough the competitor is Nepal, the lone player and demonstrator. In the last week’s issue of the The Rising Nepal, this scribe said in a desperate mood - Chhetris today and Bahuns tomorrow, Limbus yesterday, and Rai the day after. This political party the day after and the Tharus on the following day. The schedule has been already created, ‘approved’ and on the go. And experience tells us the bandh did go as expected.
And most unfortunately, one must say, it is not only here to stay, it will go far into the future. The result is, the nation, if it survives these unstoppable chain of strikes at all, stands at the verge of collapse. The economy has crumbled, the politics has been meddled and muddled, the people’s hopes shattered. As Jestha 14 (May 27) draws near, there is serious doubt not only about the promulgation of the constitution on the stipulated date, but also about peace and security in the country.
Whistle from the wrong side
This is so also because a high ranking Indian official stationed in the country has put more ghee to the already burning Terai fire. There are instances when silly and unfounded news about statements from outsiders have brought severe protests and lives have been sacrificed. The Rhitik Roshan scandal is still in the mind of the people for the turmoil and havoc it was able to create. But this time around, people were so much preoccupied with their bandh schedule that they did not read the deep meaning of the statement made by an Indian personnel deputed in Nepal.
The three major parties created a new map of federal Nepal, and one fine morning it appeared in the media and hit the headline news. More than anything else, it had recreated the districts and the Pradesh (provincial) borders. In doing so, it had given away chunks of districts such as Salyan, Bhojpur, among others, to the other side. the news did not name the geographer who had used his insight and degrees to ignore the natural borders such as the rivers like the Arun and/other permanent features and rather used a pencil to sketch the newly created borders. And the leadership did not say a word about the need to make this historic change in history, nature, politics and economy.
The whistling map, more..
The new map will also create commotion and ultimately conflict among ethnic forces in the east. The district of Bhojpur, for example, runs parallel with its neighboring district of Sankhuwasabha till Legua ghat and then touches Dhankuta down to Tribeni, followed by Sunsari at Barahakshetra. How could someone possibly ignore this physical reality and just ‘give away’ a large territory to the other side?
In such a case, a cow from Bhojpur could eat some grass of the neighboring province without knowing the reality and put her owners and the owners of the farm into trouble, even litigation. It is strange and awkward to realise how somebody has tried to play with nature and the disastrous effect such a naïve division of the territory could bring in the future.
More serious challenge to peace comes from the fact that there are still several armed groups stalking around to hit when they find time. They have no political agenda, demands or grievances of any sort. Those who have are now listed and invited to join talks with the government, and this is happening. But there is no easy way to locate the other most dangerous ones to persuade them to bring to talk. The Madhesi political parties are the ones who know better than the government about the possible and workable strategy to locate them and do the needful.
But the Madhesis are now up for something larger in size and viable for their prosperity - one Madhes from east to west. They have vowed they would not settle for anything less. And when a high ranking Indian embassy official is on their side, supporting the government to bring about lasting peace cannot be their agenda at least at the moment.
Armed groups all over
There are also armed groups in the hills - especially the eastern hills. But they are few and far between compared to the ones lining up along the southern border. It will not take long to settle with them through the political sources as their demands are political and not criminal. So, as far as the armed groups in the south are concerned, they will be the major liability for the provincial governments of the future. In any case, durable and sustainable peace is not what the current government will hand over to the new, elected government, as its legacy. There are challenges now and there will be challenges tomorrow.
This week’s bandh organised by the janajatis and their protest compatriots had several new features in support of the ‘no-peace-now-and-for-a-long-time’ theory. They hit at the media wherever they found and hit hard not showing minimum restraint and respect for the press. In many cases, they showed their grave concern over the government’s decision to declare Bahun-Chhetris, Dasnami Sanyasis and their colleagues-in-arms during the as adivasis of Nepal.
Finally, what is happening now in the name of bandh or other forms of protest is an indicator of what is in store for the New Nepal. New issues are being created and worked, new forms of inter-ethnic relation are also being devised and experimented and terms like harmony and respect are almost obsolete. Making and unmaking of alliances, twisting of muscles and arms has no meaning in today’s world. But the nation stands on the top of a volcano and only a careful move into the future can save the already heated and smoldering nation, once known as ‘the land of Peace’.