Why now?Now is not the time for the Nepal Communist Party to question the basics, but one for it to answer through fair action and administration.
A single question has been chasing me through the books, articles, plays and poems I’ve been reading through the prolonged quasi-lockdown: Why now? I ask this question whenever I confront psychologically the issues that we are facing in Nepal today. I want to put some of the inquisitions in simple terms. Though political rumination is not my cup of tea, I gravitate to that turf whenever I read cultural studies that cover politics, discrimination and hegemonised modes of the administrative and justice systems. That is why I am drawn by some important subjects that govern our lives, especially during difficult times.
To begin with, I’m intrigued by the crisis that the Nepal Communist Party is going through now. The first question that emanates from my rumination about the grand ruling party—formed by merging the CPN-UML and the Maoists—is why didn’t they discuss their differences before coming together, and, again, why now? The question that intrigues me the most after reading the tirades exchanged between the leaders of the higher echelons who represent the factions is, why didn’t they discuss these issues for such a long time if they were so valid, crucial, urgent, and disastrous in content?
What is this presentism that baffles those who want to take a historicist perspective of history? While discussing this subject in one seminar, I used one essay entitled ‘Presentism and persistence’ written by one scholar named Jiri Benovsky who says, ‘Typically, “presentists” are also “serious tensers” drawing an important distinction between saying that past objects once existed and future objects will exist but only current objects exist’. But the Marxists would say after Marx: History repeats, once as tragedy and again as farce. The present mode of history that the Nepali Marxists are grappling with can be a farce if they do not act with prudence.
The same applies to the grand old Nepali Congress. The issues they are discussing about leadership and those of democratic socialism now may be meaningful to the political analysts. But to people like us, they should be subject to politics with a human face, with the rights of the poor farmers, workers and the marginalised as their guiding principles. And the issues they are discussing are nowhere near that. They are discussing questions of organisation, membership distribution and consciousness-raising. But why now? Why didn't they address these questions in such a long time? It seems like we assess many issues that beguile us today by asking this question—why now? It has become a refrain of the present political narrative of Nepal. And there is no single answer to that.
Leaders like BP Koirala, Manmohan Adhikari, Puspalal and others addressed the questions and their theoretical orientations in their times of leadership in writings and speeches. Those issues they discussed were the basic principles of social justice, democracy, the socialist structure of the economy and corruption-free administration managed by political leaders who always considered their duty as the service of the people. After the great political change and transformation of a feudatory system into a democratic socialist republic, the questions that need to be addressed would be those that would be progressive and forward-looking in nature. But the issues that the political parties and their leaders are addressing appear to be obscurantist, not dynamic with the forward going thrust of nature.
In a long career as a teacher at the tertiary level, I saw students inspired by either communist or liberal ideologies. I listened to their ideas with respect and deep faith in their capacity to become either leaders or public intellectuals and teachers. They raised important issues about freedom, people’s rights and the actions of the governments during the Panchayat and after. Several of them aspired to be political leaders and active members of the political parties. Some of the leaders of the communist and other political parties today come from that very background. But what intrigues me today is what roles they are playing in Nepali political and social life today. What is their response to their factions asking each other questions about the so-called breach of trust, corruption, misuse of power and so on today? These questions are basic but important for the life of the country. So, why are they only asking these questions to each other today and not jointly solving them?
I don’t want to theorise that here. But what seems to me is that Nepal in history has not moved in a smooth and linear order. Then again, nowhere in the world today does history appear to be moving in smooth order. When I was editing the text of BP Koirala’s earliest diary entries of a period from 1951-1956 for the BP Koirala Memorial Trust and trying to explain them in the introduction during the lockdown, I was struck by the minuscule history of Nepal that is mirrored in them. There is a picture of the recalcitrant prince Mahendra who evinced all the qualities of a future dictator, political leaders who would face the challenge of being committed to their ideals of democratic principles, the farmers in Madhes who would face hardships in their struggle—in their remarkable kisan andolans that BP encouraged and supported—and the challenges that parliamentary democracy would have to surmount in all manners. In addition to this book that is coming out anytime now, I read the Selected Writings of Puspalal (2073 BS) sent to me by NOC leader Raghuji Pant, during that period. After reading Puspalal’s analyses—especially of the people’s uprising, the monarchical system and the need of careful historical analysis—my question is, why are the big and powerful once again asking the same basic questions that were asked and raised by these pioneers of the Nepali multiparty democratic system? And why now? Now is not the time of reiterating the basics but one of answering them through fair political actions by parties and the administration.
Before I hit my word limit for this article, I want to introduce one very urgent and disturbing subject that needs to be elaborated in a separate space. The people struggling with Covid-19, and running out of hope and the means to fight with it, are looking not only for help but also for psychological assurance, a sense of guardianship, and, to use the literary term, ‘compassion’ from no other than the government, which is everybody’s last hope. But, I should admit sadly, none of those questions that are being bandied about in party meetings address those needs and aspirations of the people!
What do you think?
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