Friday, November 15, 2013

The Hindu Republic of Nepal?


“Upcoming elections in Nepal. The rule of law for a democratic and peaceful process”: on 13 November 2013, the Brussels-based European Institute for Asian Studies held a conference to prepare us for the second elections for a Constituent Assembly in Nepal. In 2008, the Nepalese people had already elected a first Constituent Assembly, but it did not succeed in working out a Constitution acceptable to the required majority of its members. After five years, the Supreme Court demanded its dissolution and subjection to a renewed popular vote. So, on 19 November, the citizenry of Nepal gets another shot at creating a successful Constituent Assembly.

The conference was chaired by the EIAS’s vice-chairman Dick Gupwell, and featured a number of human rights-minded Eurocrats. However, all eyes were on Ms. Mandira Sharma of the Advocacy Forum (AF) of Nepal, who has worked for democracy in Nepal for decades, and should at last be approaching her goal. She described the political situation in her country, dominated by two major political parties, the Maoists and the Congress. A fringe group splintered off from the Maoists calls on the voters to boycott the upcoming elections and even promised to sabotage them by using violence.

In 1959, Parliamentary democracy was briefly tried, but called off after a year. Instead came Panchayati Raj, rule by the village councils. This sounded like a good indigenous alternative to “Western” democracy, but in fact it had the same flaws as the Parliamentary system. The village councils elected a single person to the district council, which then elected a single person to the national level, so contact with the grassroots was lost, and effectively, the autocratic king could do as he pleased. However, the aura of the king Birendra as a supposed incarnation of Vishnu was shattered when his son Dipendra killed the whole royal family during a dinner party in 2001. His brother Gyanendra tried to revive autocratic rule, but untimately had to hand over power to the politicians including the Maoists.

The major problem, according to the Nepalese people, is not famines or defective infrastructure. It is not any problem that can be solved by a policy, but is the lack of trustworthy and competent politicians. The incapability of reaching a consensus about a Constitution is but symptomatic for the fissiparous mentality among the political class. Then there is the corruption, a familiar problem to Indians, with convicted criminals as election candidates. The AF lays a special stress on cleaning the election process by eliminating these rotten apples. Specific for the Nepalese situation are the veterans of the guerrilla struggle with a record of human rights violations. The Maoists want immunity for them, i.e. impunity for the crimes they have committed in the service of the “people’s war”.

Maoist leader and former Prime Minister Prachanda (Pushpa Kamal Dahal, r.2008-09) declared during the armed struggle: “I hate revisionists”, i.e. non-revolutionary Marxists, who have “strayed” from the revolutionary path. Yet it seems that he has no qualms with having become a revisionist himself. He agrees that multi-party elections are the only viable way for Nepal.

 None of the speakers at the conference mentioned religion, eventhough this had been a central issue during the political take-over. Until 2008, Nepal welcomed visitors to “the only Hindu Kingdom in the world”. The Hindu state religion was abolished along with the monarchy.

When I enquired about religion, I was told that it is not much of an issue anymore. It may seem like that to campaigners focused on corruption and democratic institutions. Or those who engineered the removal of Hinduism from its official position may have had an interest in making uninformed Westerners believe that it was no longer an issue. At any rate, for the powers behind this conference, it seemed to be very important, as there is more here than meets the eye. Of the 8 organizing NGO’s in the Nepal Dialogue Forum for Peace and Human Rights, 3 are already recognizable as missionary outfits by their very name, while two others may have the same agenda and at any rate have names that knowledgeable people will immediately recognize as anti-Hindu. Thus, “Adivasi Coordination Germany” contains the tell-tale word Adivasi, “Aboriginal”. This term was coined in the British colonial period as a pseudo-indigenous term conveying that the tribal populations are “aboriginal” – and hence the non-tribals are not. This is an utterly dishonest projection of the American situation, with Amerindian “natives” and European settlers, onto South Asia; and much beloved of Maoists and missionaries. The dreamy people attracted to human rights campaigns wouldn’t know the real agenda of those who smuggle such words into the discourse, and can safely be employed as useful idiots. Another word the anti-Hindu forces like to propagate, and that is not so innocent in their mouths, is that they want Nepal to be a “secular” democracy.

According to a poll in 2011, 63% of the Nepalese people were in favour of a “Hindu democracy”, 34% wanted a “secular democracy”. (Insights South Asia. Nepal Survey 2011 Results, SADP/Gallup, presented by one of the speakers) That is a very clear majority in favour of a Hindu democracy. If Nepal is going to be a democracy, the first test will be whether it will get its democratically desired Hindu state.

I bet it won’t, because the Nepali Hindus are not organized as such, while their enemies are. And if at all the Hindu opposition proves insurmountable, it will be bought off with a token concession, since its leaders (if they come forward at all) do not know the difference between mere words and tangible power. For decades they have sleepwalked into this situation, and there is no sign that they have awoken yet. Ms. Sharma informed us that one political party “wants the King back”. The monarchy cannot and should not be saved; it was all along a big mistake to tie Hinduism to the person of the King, and even to venerate him as an incarnation of Vishnu. There was no movement thinking through a viable Hindu alternative to this feudal hold-over, and there still isn’t one.

Like in the case of the California textbooks case (2005-09), I will get some hate-mail from Hindu activists for daring to state the fact of the massive Hindu defeat in Nepal. They insist on fooling themselves that they are going from victory to victory, when in fact they have been stumbling from defeat to ignominious defeat. If ever you hope to score a victory, the first  thing to do is to acknowledge your shortcomings, the defects on which you have to improve.

The one consolation is that Hinduism is still present within the dominant parties. Also, a religion promoted by the state will become weak, as witnessed by the state of Hinduism after centuries of royal patronage. So, it may revive its inner strength during the coming long years of non-Hindu rule. 

(14 November 2013, published in Centre Right India and in Hindu Human Rights)


Gururaj BN said...

Under Nehru's rule, christian missionaries became active. Th British had kept them in check, as they did not want religious issues to complicate the matters. But, the Hindu-hating Nehru gave them free reins. Thus, we had missionaries like Michael Scott, sow the seed of cession in the North East. This is now a major problem India is facing against its territorial and cultural integrity. If Nepali Hindus don't wake up to the machinations of the foreign NGOs, Nepal society will go the same way as India, which now suffers from pseudo sickularism and fissiparous movement. I wonder whether dumbness is an inbuilt characteristic of Hindu psyche!

ysv_rao said...

Question for Dr Elst:

Seeing how only there are about 3 countries in the world with whom a religion is tied to a homeland and an ethnic group
India for Hindus
Israel for Jews
Japan for Shintos

Does it then follow that a Hindu is expected to be more patriotic to India than a Muslim or Chritian?
In the case of other two countries-things are more clear cut-Israel is Jewish state and rather religious and the Arab minority is held in suspicion
Japan though not religious is overwhelmingly homogenous and Shinto rituals are quite important in a ritual prone country like Japan
Should Nepal lead the way since its less encumbered by political correctness
Also why is it that Indias neighbors which follow dharmic religions such as Nepal and Sri Lanka are more aggressive in dealing with troublesome minorities than the mother country?

Koenraad Elst said...

@ysv_rao: Questions of patriotism don't really interest me, they are misdirected energy. Indian Muslims and Christians should not become more patriotic, they should become Hindu.

Krishna Vatsa said...
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