Eter­nal ‘Kaal­ra­tri’

People's Review - - LEADER - BY P. KHAREL

For the pro­po­nents of con­sti­tu­tional monar­chy and democ­racy, Rana oli­garchy was a “kaal­ra­tri” [dark pe­riod]; to the cham­pi­ons of multi-party polity, party­less Pan­chayat decades were a “kaal­ra­tri”; to the Maoists, the 1990-2005 years were a “kaal­ra­tri”; and to most Nepalis, to­day, the “lok­tantrik” decade has been a “kaal­ra­tri” for all practical pur­pose. For that mat­ter, some sec­tions, even if of minis­cule size, the post-uni­fi­ca­tion of the na­tion, whose solid foun­da­tion was laid down by Prithvi Narayan Shah the Great, sowed the seeds of “kaal­ra­tri”. The sum of it boils down to point­ing at the deep-seated dis­en­chant­ment fed to peo­ple these two and a half cen­turies. Not that there are no sec­tions that eval­u­ate his­tory with crit­i­cal lenses and come up con­clu­sions con­tra­dict­ing the anom­alies in the bi­ased as­sess­ments of our his­tory. How­ever, as­ser­tions made by Nepali politi­cians of al­most any pe­riod and ide­ol­ogy is not free from per­sonal prej­u­dices If Nepali cit­i­zens were to seethe in ran­cour against the heaps of po­lit­i­cal anom­alies en­gulf­ing their daily lives, their state of frus­tra­tion can eas­ily be un­der­stood. Ev­ery step is a painful prob­lem. Dis­ar­ray greets ev­ery­where. Some bo­gus claims might ser­monise peo­ple to be “pos­i­tive” in at­ti­tude and to think of “not what society can do to you but what you can do to society”. These gems of wis­dom flow from those liv­ing in the com­fort and con­ve­nience of po­lit­i­cal pa­tron­age to the pow­ers that be or from con­sid­er­able fi­nan­cial sta­tus to deal with daily prob­lems which an av­er­age Nepali sim­ply can­not af­ford to. CHARGES EX­CHANGE: Politi­cians play pranks with the public and is­sue cranky state­ments mak­ing atro­cious claims and promis­ing things never in­tended to be ful­filled. Ex­pe­di­ency of a given sit­u­a­tion re­sults in facts heav­ily coated with fic­tion in vain at­tempts at mask­ing their short­com­ings and ex­ag­ger­at­ing any in­ci­dent of suc­cess story. Those in the seat of power think they can call the shots when en­gaged in such fairy tales, lit­tle real­is­ing that the tac­tics won't work in the long run. But how many lead­ers are there in Nepal, with a se­ri­ous eye on his­tory? Read­ing un­al­loyed his­tory of their coun­try is really a rare lux­ury for Nepalis. What is claimed as his­tory is ei­ther over-glo­ri­fi­ca­tion of in­di­vid­u­als and in­sti­tu­tions or stac­cato con­dem­na­tion of any­one or any­thing that dis­agrees or de­fies with a set of ideas and be­liefs. We have cre­ated a society that is ob­sessed more with the im­me­di­ate than any­thing else to the ex­tent that large num­ber of its mem­bers is pre­pared to dis­miss the ul­ti­mate test of his­tory and go after false claims and ma­te­rial gains made by any means. More of­ten than not, his­tory sound and proper emerges after the fil­ter­ing ef­fect of time and re­fined ob­jec­tiv­ity. Those with axes to grind of their own can­not be ex­pected to record his­tory in its pro­fes­sional qual­ity and ex­pected in­tegrity. Ig­nor­ing any­one not within the direct line of a writer's ide­o­log­i­cal sight in scope and re­con­fir­ma­tion is both un­pro­fes­sional and out­right dis­hon­esty. Such ap­proach with blink­ers is far re­moved from keep­ing merit and fair deal, whereby com­pet­ing voices are not on the radar, in a dis­play of sick­en­ingly sec­tar­ian fash­ion. In the aftermath of the 1990 restora­tion of mul­ti­party sys­tem, the erst­while pan­chas who up­held party­less char­ac­ter in a po­lit­i­cal polity be­came tar­get for tar­get at­tacks for their op­po­nents in the 1991 gen­eral elec­tions. Sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion pre­vailed against those up­hold­ing con­sti­tu­tional monar­chy in the no­to­ri­ously un­demo­cratic elec­tion at­mos­phere in 2008. The “roy­al­ists” were smeared with soot and hounded out of their turf for hu­mil­i­a­tion and in­tim­i­da­tion. They were not al­lowed to cam­paign in a free man­ner, thor­oughly shad­owed and cease­lessly threat­ened as they were by self-styled “lok­tantra­baadis”. It was a pe­riod of “kaal­ra­tri” for the largely for­mer pan­chas in a coun­try where the 67 years have been wasted in blam­ing the past for the present ills. Yet, elec­tion ex­er­cises in Nepal get in­vari­ably de­clared “free and fair” by those shout­ing the loud­est at the helm of the state af­fairs. Iron­i­cally, one or the other ma­jor party in main­stream pol­i­tics has claimed that elec­tions were rigged. Elec­tion ob­servers, pock­et­ing hefty fees as “al­lowances” of­fered by INGOs, fronting for var­i­ous in­ter­est groups and agen­cies, are known for rou­tinely giv­ing their ver­dict on the polls: “Although there were some dis­crep­an­cies, they were not to the ex­tent of af­fect­ing the over­all out­come of the elec­tions.” MOOT POINT: There is no last word on democ­racy, what­so­ever the in­di­vid­ual cre­den­tials. In an ar­ti­cle car­ried by Be­jing Re­view in a June is­sue, Zhang Wei­wei made a point: “For a coun­try that once suf­fered for­eign in­va­sion and oc­cu­pa­tion for a cen­tury… China's mer­i­to­cratic sys­tem to­day is es­sen­tially a mech­a­nism of ‘se­lec­tion plus elec­tion', with the for­mer orig­i­nat­ing from its own tra­di­tions and the lat­ter im­ported from the West.” All said done, it may be noted, vi­brancy of a polity car­ries the credo: Dis­sent is the essence of democ­racy. This is some­thing yet to be cul­ti­vated in sin­cer­ity by po­lit­i­cal par­ties in Nepal. Amen.

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