On April 10, 2008, Nepali is going to make a tryst with its destiny, to quote my favorite Nehru one liner. Nepal will choose, hopefully, the right set of people who can represent the country well through the newly structured Constituently Assembly. Nepali people hopefully will be able to find the freedom, democratic governance and rule of law that they seek, forget the dark days of the past civil conflict, and forge ahead seeking a democratic future that can lead to economic prosperity.
In context, I would like to recollect a small incident to the readers. My late uncle, Mr. C.K. Prasai, considered B.P’s chief ideologue and considered among the top five in the Nepali Congress until his death in 1989, once gave me a small book in 1982 written by him in dedication to B.P. Koirala’s ideology, Manle Je Manyo Tyo Satya, (What the Conscience Believes in, Is the Truth). C.K. Prasai was often described as B.P.’s ideological ‘body man’. This book on the future of Nepali democracy and NC’s possible leadership contributions, had a profound impact on me since I came to know later on that it also helped shape the basic NC philosophy on Nepali democracy and national reconciliation, which unfortunately has not entered maturity in the year, 2008. Although united under Girija babu, NC still remains divided in at least two to three different ideological folds from the pro-Monarchists to the pro-Republicans to the B.Pist pro-Liberals the one to which GPK identifies himself most. My uncle C.K., had also built a small ashram for B.P. in his spacious Birtamod farm house so that whenever he passed through the town on his way to Siliguri, he could spend a few days discussing future NC ideological meanderings. B.P. and C.K. both loved talking about the future of Nepali democracy, as do millions of younger generation Nepalis these days.
Like other Nepalis who fully believe in democracy, but grew up studying Panchayat system in school textbooks, I too believe, there is an element in truth that NC has gone through profound ideological changes recently, compared to what B.P. stated in December 30, 1976. Upon his return to Nepal then, he had propounded the famous policy of national reconciliation.
Fortunately, I still have a copy of that speech’s cutting clipped from the Hindustan Times, wrapped in a plastic cover, given to me by late guardian Professor Dr. Ishwore Baral, who was heading the South Asia Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University in the mid 1980s, and was someone with whom one could spend endless hours into the night discussing every topic under the sun from living the puritan Gandhian life on campus to Machiavelli’s daring role in shaping European and US diplomacy.
I would like to take the opportunity to share with the readers some of the direct quotes from that speech, and what it’s modern interpretation might be for the NC and other Nepali political parties as a whole. In stating so, I know that Girija Babu, as Nepal’s unanimously selected Jandolan -2 Prime Minister, has got many divergent party voices to contend with in the bigger NC umbrella. However, many believe that NC’s 32 page election manifesto must show the way by trying to mow down the differences and retain its original B.P. ideology of genuine Nepali freedom, democracy, ever abounding prosperity, happiness and progress for the Nepali people based on a relationship of trust. If Nepali people are to achieve total national reconciliation with respect to true democratic outlet through the CA Poll 2008, they must vote believing ‘Man le Je Manyo Tyo Satya’.
Here is the statement B.P. Koirala gave on return from foreign exile on December 30, 1976
After a pretty long period of exile, we are returning to our country. On this occasion, I would like to say a few words to the countrymen. Today, our country is in a national crisis. All have realized that this crisis is getting heightened since the last few years. As a result, the very national identity has been endangered. Others have also admitted this. All including the King have, from time to time, referred to the danger posed to national identity. (Interpretation: Nepal’s crisis of democracy must be overcome with the active involvement of the King, who at that time was Birendra, but the saying still holds true).
We are returning home after realizing this grave reality. We think that the lack of national unity is a major factor for such a national crisis as a result of which foreign elements have started to become successful in playing their dirty games and making Nepal a center of international conspiracy. (B.P. was commenting on the high level of international strategic focus on Nepal given its natural resources, including hydro electricity potential. Certainly, he might also have implied giving Nepal’s geo-strategic relations bent diplomacy a bigger concentration on the superpowers than India and China alone. The world was bi-polar then, the US and the USSR were deeply involved in an arms race.)
National unity can be achieved only through a collective campaign and efforts of all Nepali people. Such a collective campaign does also lay the grounds for the institutional base for the emotional duty of the Nepali people. If the sloganeering alone could do this, the national unity would not have suffered so much nor our country would have landed in such a miserable condition in the last sixteen years. Today, there is selfishness, communalism, individualistic practices and the tendency to have external-tilt is rampant in the country. In such circumstances, nationalism becomes the first casualty. (How prophetic! For the first time in Nepal’s modern history, we saw ourselves dividing after Jan Andolan-2 into different ethnic groups, castes and geographic origins, playing one force against another! B.P. was stressing moralistic political mainstreaming of Nepali democracy, through which national unity could be realized!)
Till yesterday, our struggle was confined to the attainment of the people’s democratic rights. That is why we emphasized more on the democratic side. Today, there is a new dimension added to it. A dual responsibility has befallen the Nepali Congress. This second responsibility is, safeguarding the national identity. We have visualized two-fold faces of today’s Nepal: Nationalism and Democracy. (This was in essence B.P’s. main thrust on Nepali democratic reconciliation, including with the King!)
It means the Nepali people should take the responsibility of restoring democracy as well as safeguarding the nation. If we talk of only one responsibility we will be following the wrong track by being one-sided. And, if we emphasized only on the restoration of democracy, we will not be contributing to addressing this national crisis. Moreover, we may even fall into the trap of the foreigners by such one-sided action. Similarly, if we talk of nationalism only, we will be repeating the same 16-years-old hollow slogans of nationalism, and will be siding with the authoritarianism. Such a hollow slogan of nationalism cannot generate an internal willpower in the countrymen to safeguard the nation. Therefore, we need now to understand that the national unity can be built on the foundation of democracy only. And the foundation of the democracy can be cemented by the economic development and the just economic system. Therefore, we fell that nationalism, democracy and economic development are interdependent on each other. (B.P. believed genuine nationalism came from within the Nepali people’s hearts. But it had to be converted into national economic willpower; he believed merely carrying the Nepali flag on one’s shoulders and saying ‘Jaya Nepal’ had little meaning. If the Nepali people were not ready to roll up their shoulders, make personal sacrifices and do some good for their country, nationalism would be a hollow word. B.P. also believed that democracy had to have total economic justice so that its fruits could be transplanted into people’s genuine freedom!)
It is well known that the Nepali Congress has taken historical and serious decisions from time to time in the national interest. The decision to wage the 1951 revolution and its executions are some examples. After finding that there was conspiracy to put off the elections forever, it took the leadership of national campaign for the holding of the elections. We received the cooperation from various parties in this campaign. Nepali Congress launched the resistance movement for democracy after the cruel and the fatal blow dealt to democracy in 1960. And today, we have taken this historic decision seeing the crisis the nation is facing. This is in accordance with the tradition of the Nepali Congress. (Here again, B.P. was referring to reinstating Nepali democracy. Coincidentally the first democratic exercise in Nepal was held by King Mahendra, though in 17 months he again took back the reins of power finding the political parties bickering among themselves. B.P. was imprisoned, but being the larger than life Nepali statesman, he was still offering suggestions to King Mahendra from Sundar Jail to return the rule of law to the people. )
In the history of every nation there comes such a moment when its people have to risk their lives to safeguard the national identity. We think, such a moment has come in Nepal today. Our well-wishers had advised us not to return Nepal seeing the dangers involved in it. We would like to tell them that we have to take this historical decision because the likely danger to our lives is nothing compared to the danger to the nation. The workers of Nepali Congress have also shown the example of unprecedented courage and love towards nation by returning to the motherland following the party directives. (Was this a prophecy on the Nepali civil conflict between 1996-2006 that claimed 13,600 lives. Certainly Nepal’s national identity was endangered in that period as Nepalis were busy fighting among themselves!)
In this hour of national crisis, all of us should get united by forgetting and ending the past unhealthy debates, experiences and differences. Our program should be directed by the feeling that we will no more exist in the absence of our nation. I do not know what fate awaits me after I return to the country. Through this statement, as the Chairman of Nepali Congress, I would like to appeal to the entire countrymen that let us all unanimously unite in the pious task of defending the nation, its progress, happiness and prosperity of the people. If I get an opportunity, I will put forth my feelings before His Majesty also. The responsibility to save the nation is the common responsibility of all. (Is this also not a procrastination of a sort? The current CA Poll, this time led headed by his younger brother, is no different then what B.P. foresaw in 1976. We still have unhealthy debates, experiences and differences’ which continue to tie down Nepali independence and happiness, while stating at the same time we are striving to secure a common democratic future!).
Jai Nepal (that is what we wish each other still, ironic isn’t it?)
Surely, B.P. was right in his views then, and he is still considered right in his thinking now.
To struggle for Nepali national reconciliation and realize democratic freedom of the Nepali people through the upcoming CA Poll, one has to think about the difficult political transition ahead, amidst national political kidnappings, threats, torture of political candidates, and unruly security still in many rural areas where people are apprehensive of voting. To think about B.P.’s noble message on what Nepalis ought to do – meaning doing the right thing – it needs some serious reflection among all Nepali leaders before they lead the people headlong into the CA Poll 2008 exercise without convincing the voters on what follows next, like B.P. did! Otherwise, we might end up back in Mangalman than appreciating Bir Ganeshman!
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