CONGRESS politician and peace activist Mani Shankar Aiyer is being branded by Prime Minister Modi’s ruling cabal as an anti-India conspirator working with Pakistan to depose the BJP government in Gujarat, and to instal a Muslim chief minister there. It’s a poor man’s version of the Democratic allegation against Donald Trump whose presidency is supposed to have been won for him by Russia.
Cock and Bull used to be two rival coach inns on the way from London to Manchester. Drunken exaggerations and distilled tosh were their contribution to many areas of pseudo-expertise, hence cock-and-bull stories, akin to what Mr Modi’s Hindutva practitioners seem to revel in. If they had been keen observers of events in the neighbourhood, they would know better. It is the robust and resurgent Nepal they should fear, not an exhausted and internally haemorrhaging Pakistan. Let me explain why.
There was a time when India’s ascendant right-wing doctrine — a hodgepodge of Italian fascism mounted on garbled Hinduism — anchored its future in Nepal’s regressive monarchy. Successive monarchs were graded as Shri Teen and Shri Paanch, expressing the potency of divinity they claimed as the incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Over time, the rulers — prototypes for Hindutva visionaries in India — became better known for the loot and plunder of the impoverished people of their landlocked country. Now the Shahs and the Ranas are in the doghouse or in exile, even as some of their fellow claimants to divinity in India, the so-called god-men, are lodged in jail.
It was a pleasure to see secular ballot boxes being emptied at the self-assured counting centres of the new nation where a popular communist alliance of former rivals is headed for a landmark election victory. Like their Indian counterparts, Nepali communists and Maoists are misnomers for idealist romantics who are predominantly Hindu social democrats but of a staunchly secular persuasion. That’s how Nehruvian India used to be up to Indira Gandhi’s first term.
A paramount message is about how to stay independent when caught between two giant neighbours who happen to be rivals with nuclear capability.
Nepal’s results are presenting a huge contrast to the groaning and moaning that’s been going on in India, where tired and abused people and their clueless leaders have been hoping, mostly without a strategy, to figure out how to evict fatalism from their midst. Religious fatalism that once dogged the erstwhile Hindu kingdom shores up an abysmally mediaeval ruling mindset in India. Of course, Indians will get their chance in 2019 regardless of the outcome of the Gujarat elections currently under way in the BJP-ruled state.
Many among the worried Indians are focused on the questionable electronic voting machines, which are indeed a threat to representative democracy if reports of their hacking are true, which they probably are.
The results from cash-strapped Nepal offer a lesson about the importance of the old workhorse, the transparent ballot papers, a fairer if not always a flawless route to test popular will. There are, however, other important messages from Nepal to Indians. A paramount message is about how to stay independent when caught between two giant neighbours who happen to be rivals with nuclear capability.
Another message is a more direct appeal to the sectarian and querulous people of India, about how they too can win the battle for democracy against religious hypocrites, by channelling their energies together. It is evident also that what passes for communist ideology in Nepal is an improved variant of any robust democracy. There too, the example was set by Indian communists before they dissipated into small ineffective modules.
Above all, the message from Nepal reflects a palpable reality involving a people’s dream of creating a just and equitable society. The people have rejected packaged mythology that was doled out in a political format by Nepal’s erstwhile rulers. The mythology was purveyed by men who had projected themselves as Hindu godheads. Progressive Urdu poet Niaz Haider may have never visited Nepal, but he had a message that seems to have been heeded by its leftist idealists.
Qahron ke, jafaa’on ke mukhalif chaliye/ Haa’n tund hawaa’on ke mukhalif chaliye/ Kya faaida bando’n ke mukhalif chal kar/ Chaliye tou khudaao’n ke mukhalif chaliye. (Let’s march against adversity and betrayal/ Let’s march against the strong winds of oppression/ What joy is there in punishing an erring fellow human/ The victory will be complete when pretenders of divinity come crashing down to earth.)
Now Nepal’s deposed royals are hoping that the gold they siphoned away would help them crawl back somehow to disrupt the revolutionary changes taking place in their country.
The Left Alliance made a clean sweep in Nepal’s provincial and federal elections. It is understood that the chairman of the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist, KP Sharmal Oli, would lead the government and the chairman of the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist Centre, Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’, would be the chairman of the new Nepal Communist Party, formed after the merger of both. The election results also show that six out of the seven provinces would have a leftist government.
A message the Indian left can glean is that the communist victory in Nepal became certain when the two biggest left parties announced the formation of an alliance ahead of provincial and federal elections. Both parties were the second and third largest force in the parliament respectively. They also announced that they would work for their formal merger after the election. In India, it means the numerically weaker comrades have to seek out a common agenda with the secular opposition groups, including the Congress.
Allow me to believe that the Nepali message for Rahul Gandhi is firm and clear also. His Congress party habit of visiting temples or other religious places to woo electoral support is not the best strategy to pull his country out from officially fuelled ignorance saddled on the world’s highest corpus of illiterate adults. In a similar vein, Nepal’s message is just as clear for Pakistan’s woes with its own religious satraps.
The writer is Dawn’s correspondent in Delhi.
Published in Dawn, December 12th, 2017