Treacherous trail to LipulekhModification of Nepal’s political map is just the beginning of an arduous political, administrative and diplomatic journey.
In the full display of his characteristic combativeness and outrageous bluster, Supremo KP Oli thundered in Parliament that Kalapani, Lipulekh and Limpiyadhura will be taken back from India. As if the severe pledge wasn’t enough, he went on to add that he wanted to see whether the piety of ‘truth shall prevail’ will triumph over the power of the lion—they together form the national emblem of the largest democracy in the world.
The Supremo didn’t stop there. In a declaration dipped in poison, he delivered what the French call coup de grâce: ‘Indian virus looks more lethal than Chinese, Italian’. The Indian media was predictably riled by the allegation and its talk-show performers went into a chauvinistic paroxysm of the meanest kind.
Even by Oliological standards (‘arguments that are neither logical nor illogical; but are doggedly obdurate, stubbornly bigoted, spiritedly jingoistic, determinedly prejudiced, indomitably chauvinistic, and unswervingly xenophobic in tone, tenor and intent’), the accusation was despicable. The flock of Indophobes, however, cheered the outburst of their herdsman. Somewhat similar to the prevalence of Indophobia in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, anti-Indian posturing is hugely popular among jingoists in Nepal.
Some Indophiles, which in Nepal refers mainly to the proponents of Hindutva politics and Hindu society, were slightly taken aback and denounced the statement in private conversations. But none of them seem to have had the moral courage to publicly question the harshness of the contemptuous allegations.
A few commentators thought that the Supremo began to stray from the prepared speech and said things that were better not said in public. The misconduct was attributed to the emotional instability brought about by the enormity of the pandemic challenge. Nothing could have been farther from the truth.
The ethnonational chieftain of ABCD—an acronym for the constitutional category of Aryan, Bahun, Chhetri and Dashnami—Nepalis is a past master of wordplay. A lot of preparation goes into his apparent extemporariness. The linguistic licence he takes to pour scorn over Madheshis or ridicule Janajatis come from convictions of a Jhapali convict who has served a long jail term for manslaughter in the most notorious prison of the country.
Love him or hate him, the Supremo has reached where he sits because of what he is: an acid-tongued Bahun schooled in the virulent variety of Maoism called the Jhapali Naxals. With a smirk permanently plastered on his face, he practices demagogic populism with remarkable ease. Jhapalis described themselves as ‘nationalist’ first and prioritised brahminical dominance of monarchical culture over class interests intrinsic to the Marxist tradition.
Proclamations of the Supremo stand in the records of Parliament and shall remain the guiding principle of the present government. Since the promulgation of the controversial constitution, Nepali Congress has ceased to have an independent identity and meekly follows in the footsteps of the ethnonational chieftain. Bipartisan consensus between the two dominant parties implies that Nepal will continue to pursue a confrontationist foreign policy towards India for a considerable time to come.
A constitutional amendment proposal has already been put forward to correct the official map. The Indian response has been predictably censorious. Modification of the map, however, is just the beginning of an arduous political, administrative and diplomatic journey.
Banknotes that contain the existing map will have to be demonetised. Coins minted with the old boundary shall have to be taken out of circulation and melted. Textbooks shall have to be reprinted and sketchbooks for schoolchildren suitably modified. Many postage stamps, including those with collectors here and abroad, will have to be cancelled with statutory orders.
Cartographic corrections in the international arena are even more complex. Unless a country has ceased to exist or been created afresh, multilateral organisations are loath to change the status quo. It will require tremendous effort to convince various UN agencies, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the ICRC and several secretariats such as that of the SAARC or BIMSTEC that Nepal has unilaterally altered its international boundary on the basis of historic records.
The Mahakali Treaty, which recognises the river as a boundary ‘on major stretches between the two countries’ will need to be revised in line with the present position of the government. Article 8 of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship, 1950 ‘cancels all previous treaties, agreements, and engagements entered into on behalf of India between the British Government and the Government of Nepal’.
Since the treaty of 1950 can’t be amended, it will have to be cancelled in its entirety and a new compact negotiated between parties that are engaged in verbal duels. Whatever be the final settlement, the Ximians (homophonous and synonymous with simian behaviour of Oliars) in Kathmandu and the Bhakts (sometimes parodied as Modiots) of New Delhi will lose no time in tearing it apart.
Supremo Oli’s performance hasn’t been all that encouraging so far. Governance, check G -. Economy, check E -. Handling of returnees in the wake of a pandemic scare, check R -. In the test for chauvinism, however, it comes out with an unmistakable C +. In a needless confrontation with New Delhi, things will only get worse before, well, it gets even worse.
There have been some sensible and a few nonsensical pieces, but by and large, the Godi (lapdog) media in India is markedly rash and repulsive in comparison to even the palanquin press of Nepal. The cartographic blame game is likely to escalate into propaganda conflict drawing the externalised Madheshis and marginalised Janajatis into the vortex.
In a popular story, emperor Akbar asks his courtiers about the punishment that should be meted out to the character who had dared pull his moustache. The imperial court immediately explodes into a fit of collective rage. Everyone agrees that the perpetrator should be given capital punishment of the harshest order.
With a disarming smile, Birbal pleads that the offender be rewarded with a sweet, for nobody other than the emperor’s grandson would dare do such a thing.
The relationship between the babudom in New Delhi and the PEON in Kathmandu is somewhat similar where the former lets the latter play awhile and then gives it the lollipop to keep its mouth shut. That hasn’t changed at least since the 1950s when the Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru began to address king Tribhuvan as his friend.
Madheshis, non-Gorkha Janajatis and all Dalits need to refrain from competitive jingoism on the domestic front and abstain from supporting the Hindutva diplomacy of New Delhi. It’s a ‘lose-lose game’ best given a walkover to save one’s energy for worthwhile causes such as inter-community solidarity and cross-border camaraderie in the times of crisis.
Let Supremo Oli and Sher Bahadur Deuba exchange namastes and make up with their fellow Kumaoni caste-mates in the Indian establishment such as the super-sleuth Ajit Doval and the Chief of the Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat of the Gorkha Rifles. Going by the ‘address’ on May 25, where he took too long to say nothing new, it seems Oli too has realised that he can’t rely upon his apologists alone to push the diplomatic wheelchair up the cliff of Lipulekh.
It’s time to begin preparing for the post-pandemic era by questioning intentions of the Marxist-Leninist, Maoist and Monarchist factions alike and start strengthening cross-border communities all along the frontier.
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