Last week, The Himalayan Times started off a piece with the statement, “Nepali Congress has gone republican following the wishes of the people….” The Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) uses terms like “People’s Liberation Army” and justifies all its actions in the name of the People. The PEOPLE – who exactly are these people? Do I not belong to the people? Does not each and every one of us Nepali comprise the people? Are our political leaders speaking on our behalf, but without our knowledge or consent? The haphazard use of the term “People” by demagogues across the political spectrum has gone on for long enough. It is time for We, the People, to speak up and tell these power-crazed maniacs that WE are the people and do not be so condescending as to presume to speak on our behalf!
Let’s get down to the basics. At the risk of sounding condescending myself, let me quote the definition(s) of “Democracy”:
1. Government by the people, exercised either directly or through elected representatives.
2. A political or social unit that has such a government.
3. The common people, considered as the primary source of political power.
4. Majority rule.
5. The principles of social equality and respect for the individual within a community.
So today in Nepal, we have a government not elected by the people. The common people – We – are certainly not the source of political power. There is no majority rule, and social equality and respect for the individual is flaunted by everyone from our autocratic political leaders to the taxi drivers blocking traffic in efforts to create yet another of our infamous “bandhs”. Jana Andolan I of 1990 and Jana Andolan II of 2006 are supposed to have delivered Democracy to the people of Nepal. Yet, here we are towards the end of 2007, living in a country falling apart from chronic shortages of essentials, chronic bickering within the oligarchic Eight Party coalition and now chronic inter-ethnic and inter-religious conflict. This must be a peculiar Nepali version of democracy indeed!
This situation makes one hearken back to Plato’s assertion that a democratic government holds out the promise of equality for all of its citizens but delivers only the anarchy of an unruly mob, each of whose members is interested only in the pursuit of private interests. This 5th century Greek gadfly further postulated that a democratic person is someone who is utterly controlled by desires, acknowledging no bounds of taste or virtue in the perpetual effort to achieve the momentary satisfaction that pleasure provides. Does this remind us of anyone in the current political landscape? It reminds me of a lot of people.
We do not live in a democracy in present-day Nepal. Let us not fool ourselves. Our voice has been silenced by intimidation and political trickery. It has been taken away from us for others to use as they please. No one speaks for the People of Nepal today. We are the Silent Majority (yes that term again) who must remain silent no more. Let us speak up for our individual rights as Nepalis who deserve and want to work for a better future. Let them not hang over us the mirage of a “New Nepal”. Nothing is new, only the honeyed words of irresponsible politicians seeking to waylay us while they pursue their dreams of power and grandeur. Their dreams are not our dreams. They must be made to realize this.
The new National Anthem speaks of 100 flowers in one garland signifying Nepal and Nepalis. Some of those flowers are more wilted than others. Sixty percent of those flowers are unable to produce enough food to meet basic needs. Fifty percent of those flowers are illiterate. One can produce many more statistics on these flowers; suffice it to say that we are a poor country with serious development problems. Further, those who need it most have the weakest voice. These voices cannot be forced to rise at the barrel of a gun or by baseless demagoguery. They are also the People. They have been fooled for long enough.
This commentator makes no apology for the angry tone of this piece. We are known as a peace-loving people. We tend to accept authority with almost closed eyes. But let us not forget that we also have a martial tradition. Our country was created by the blood of our ancestors. The fighting prowess of Nepalis in the two World Wars and in the Gurkha regiments of India and U.K. is stuff of legends. To fight for our right, to make our voice heard, is not an option anymore. It is the duty of We, the People.
What is to be Done?
Nepal's Constituent Assembly Elections - It's not Just a Matter of Security
Social Capital, Law and Democracy