Nationalism Under Threat
Dr. Narad Bharadwaj
As political crisis deepens in Nepal, a strange discourse has started in the country on nationalism, ultra-nationalism and internationalism. The intellectuals affiliated to the ruling parties and the Madhes-based forces are accusing the opposition parties, especially the CPN (UML) of espousing the ideology of ultra-nationalism discarding its traditional principle of proletarian internationalism. In this context it has become necessary to analyse who has espoused nationalism, ultra-nationalism and national capitulation.
The discourse on nationalism and ultra-nationalism has evolved around the issue of constitution amendment bill which has been tabled in the parliament and is waiting for discussions and eventual decision by voting. As the controversial bill gets stuck in uncertainty the proponents and opponents of the bill are pouncing at each other. Fortunately, however, the confrontation is taking place not at the physical level, but on the arena of ideology.
The CPN (UML) has been opposing the constitution amendment bill on the ground that it seeks to separate the territory of Terai from the hill which is injurious to national interest. The majority of the country’s population supports this view, and the people have registered their disagreement through massive mass protests in the mid-western region of the country. Though other parts of the country are peaceful so far, massive protests are most likely to erupt if the amendment bill endorsing separation of hills from the Terai is passed.
The majority of the people are opposing the demands of the Madhes-based forces seeing the possibility of Madhes provinces drifting away from the rest of the country after they are separated from the hill. Even now the Madhesi leaders are saying that Madhes deserves to be a separate province as it bears too distinctly different geography, languages and cultures to be a part of the hill. This is an ideology which weakens national unity, territorial integrity and cultural diversity.
Even if the demand of the Madhes-based forces is fulfilled, it will lead to the creation of provinces which will be unsustainably fragile opening floodgate for conflict for resources, transit facilities and host of other unforeseen issues. It will weaken territorial integration. Foreign powers will take advantage of strained inter-provincial relation to incite the people of Terai against the hill creating ground for communal and regional conflict. The separate Terai provinces may also fuel the communal instinct of different ethnicities to find safe sanctuary in separate ethnic fortresses destroying the foundation of nationalism.
As the plots of conspiracy and counter conspiracy fueled by external forces deepen, the question of nationalism is being raised attaching it with a distorted meaning. Nationalism has remained a complex notion throughout human history. It has three basis paradigms. One is primordial nationalism which is said to have existed from time even before the concept of nationalism was defined. The other is ethno-symbolic nationalism which tries to explain nationalism in terms of a nation’s ties to certain national symbols and the third is modern nationalism which stresses on the need of certain structural conditions to adapt with constantly changing values.
In Nepal’s context, the promulgation of the new constitution has created the structural conditions for consolidation of national unity among diverse cultural, linguistic and geographical entities. The principle of unity in diversity was a formulation which has remained the only valid principle to concretise national integration in the context of a vast diversity. The sentiment of alienation which is being whipped up in the Terai region under the rubric of dual nationalism is not only harmful for the country’s integrity, but also against the possibility of creating a dignified and prosperous life for the people living in the Terai.
At present, the rigid stance of the Madhes-based parties regarding the demarcation of federal borders has caused deep psychic chasm in inter-communal and inter-regional relations. Their insistence on creating provinces comprising only Terai land has conspicuously exposed a weak commitment of some present generation of Madhesi leaders. It has given space for external powers to attack on the value of diversity which has been the foundation rock of the Nepalese society.
Some marginal Madhes-based forces have already started to cash in on the fluid political situation to threaten that if the constitution is not amended to create separate Madhes provinces, they will not only foil the implementation of the constitution, but will also launch a separatist movement in the Terai. The Madhes-based forces appear bent on taking the nation onto the path of national disintegration by refusing to honour the historical continuity of diversity.
The most distressing feature of the present day politics is the attitude of appeasing external and extremist ambitions. Recently an extremist Madhesi leader CK Lal reportedly organised an open rally in Lahan demanding for an independent Terai State. In other countries, this would have constituted treason. In Nepal, however, the government remained mute like a dummy as the act of defying the national integrity was glorified by some Madhesi intellectuals.
The CPN (UML) and other opposition parties have opposed these activities as unpatriotic and anti-national. There is a widespread public outrage against the divisive mobilisation in the Terai by people like CK Lal. A government of a sovereign country cannot be expected to condone with such shameless anti-national acts of these people.
In fact, these people are espousing capitulationism by hiding their identity and by playing the victims of injustice and accusing true patriots of being ultra-nationalists. Ultra-nationalism is an extreme loyalty to and advocacy of one’s nation at the expense of hurting the interest of other nations. In Nepal’s case no forces have advocated extreme nationalism mixed with the hatred for another nation.
Some critiques have been even accusing the UML for discarding communist internationalism and embracing ultra-nationalism. This is an accusation which has been made to provide smoke screen to their weak sense of nationalism. All the communists of the world believe in proletarian internationalism. But it does not mean that the communists do not accept national borders and that they meekly accept the external interference. History is a witness that there are no other people as fiercely nationalist as the communists. Communist internationalism only means that the proletariats of the world are bound by common destiny and national borders cannot prevent them from forging solidarity in the struggle for class emancipation.
Whatever the content of the discourse, Nepal’s nationalism is under real threat today. International forces are inciting the regional and ethnic instincts of the people to create chaos and instability so that the value of diversity which this country has been nurturing for over two and a half centuries will be lost. External forces are exerting psychological pressure on the Nepalese nation to compel it to accept terms dictated by the parochial and ethno-centric forces.
The Nepalese people have carried historical legacy of nationalism and they are proud of being nationalists. All the Nepalese people whose ancestors have spilt their blood for the creation of the Nepalese Nation are intensely committed to the cause of national unity, preservation of diversity and protection of national integrity at all cost.
Those who are accusing the opponents of national disintegration as ultra-nationalists are in fact trying to cover up their own jingoism nourished by a consciousness of a fragmented existence. But the stream of consciousness of nationalism nurtured by compelling situation of interdependence among diverse values have become so strong that neither national capitulation nor ultra-nationalism will find any space for maneuver in the geopolitical reality of Nepal.