TOPICS : Pursuit of identity in Nepal

Humans are social beings. This natural dispensation is manifest in their attachment to family, friends, associations, community, society, and ultimately, the country. This desire is crucial in establishing our collective and personal identities. In the absence of a collective unifying force, individuals are left to forge whatever personal and group identities they can establish.

In countries where democracy, justice, pluralism, nationalism and popular sovereignty serve more as state literature than everyday reality, a handful of influential individuals and groups tend to function above the masses. This results in a culture of oligarchy, nepotism and partisanship and ghettos of dissatisfied communities on the other.

The majority of Nepalis are looking for an identity. The educated, professional and intellectual classes tend to remain segregated from the masses. Meanwhile, the opportunists take advantage of this apparent moratorium of social consciousness. The ‘reactionaries’ too possess the deep-rooted prejudices that plague the elites. The post-1990 era was dominated by political parties that asserted their identity after Jana Andolan I, while the palace reinforced its identity in 2005, through the royal coup.

Similarly, the post-2006 era is dominated by eight parties. The alliance forged between the SPA and the Maoists for establishing a ‘New Nepal’ has been unable as yet to resolve crucial issues like securing a sure identity for the Nepalis, especially at a time when the proverbial ‘Monarchical Nepali unity’ is being phased out. This failure has given rise to mini-insurgencies, with some groups having legitimate reasons to rebel, while others capitalise on the opportune moment to perpetuate the practice of extortion, kidnapping and high-handedness.

The status quo is reminiscent of the days of insurgency. Is history repeating itself? Maybe the SPA prefers the status quo. Perhaps the Maoists, by instinct, disdain ideologies other than their own. Our political legacy is characterised by Machiavellian tactics in meeting political ends. The militants have been even more ‘passionate’ in their fight for identity. Brickbats and road pyrotechnics have of late given way to extortion, torture, kidnapping and high-handedness. The Machiavellian approach has led to politicisation of all sectors and everybody is in search of identity: Professionals, businessmen, intellectuals, ethnic, racial, religious communities, students and insurgents.

The future of Nepal depends on whether the Eight Party Alliance can address this identity crisis. The Interim Constitution is only a document and will prove meaningless unless it leads to stronger public institutions, well planned systems and competent delivery mechanisms. It remains to be seen if Nepal remains a common garden of multifarious ethnicities, religions and cultures working collectively to secure the nation’s stability, territorial integrity and religious tolerance. We cannot afford to see this nation disintegrate. For there is no guarantee that another Prithvi Narayan Shah will come to put it together again.