Politics In Terai Fighting Fallacies And False Consciousness
Ritu Raj Subedi
The divisive identity politics has taken a heavy toll on the nation’s integrity and social harmony. Its campaigners are egregiously engaged in developing ‘false consciousness’ about their agendas. They have been constantly invoking the spectre of Goebbels to justify their unreasonable demands. Hitler’s propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels had created a toxic line: A lie told once remains a lie but a lie told a thousand times becomes the truth. Now some Madhesi and janajati parties, and their supporters have been regurgitating this saying a la Goebbels. Demonising ‘Khas-Aryan’ and builders of Nepal is their primary task. They have concocted a myth of ‘internal colonisation of Madhesis’ and their guided mission has gratified some westerners, who loathed Prithvi Narayan Shah for the latter thwarted their mercenary drive to control Nepal and carry out their colonial business in Tibet via Kathmandu. They have incubated ‘false consciousness’ about Nepal’s unifier PN Shah. And pro-identity crusaders are propagating it to clobber the Nepali state to the point of its geographical disruption.
‘False consciousness’ is a Marxist term that characterizes the ideology of capitalism. Friedrich Engels used it to refer to ‘the systematic misrepresentation of dominant social relations in the consciousness of subordinate classes – workers, peasants, serfs’. Dictionary.com defines it ‘as a theory that people are unable to see things, especially exploitation, oppression, and social relations, as they really are’. It precludes the ordinary beings from comprehending the ‘true nature of a situation’. Akin to this concept is the theory of ‘cultural hegemony’ propounded by another prominent Marxist thinker Antonio Gramsci. He said that in order to maintain its status quo, capitalism develops a hegemonic culture to promote its own values and interests in a way that they become ‘common sense’ values of all.
Madhes-based parties, masquerading as the messiah of Madhesi people, have been planting ‘false consciousness’ into the ordinary Madhesis to promote their own parochial politics. Though it is an idea to describe the mental makeup of working class in the industrial society, it is here mot juste to explain cynical strategy of Madhes-based parties. They are fostering ‘false consciousness’ by blowing ethno-centric identity politics, which attempts to perpetuate the feudal social relations and tribalise the Madhesi society. It glosses over the real problems facing the Terai people for centuries. They are entrenched economic exploitation, unemployment, abject poverty, social inequality, casteism, untouchability, dowry system, violence against women and witchcraft. The Madhesi parties have no interest in addressing them within the broader democratic and constitutional framework. By resorting to the heresies, propaganda and meaningless agitation, they intend to retain their grip on the populace.
Immediately after the promulgation of the new constitution, they circulated a rumour that the new constitution has curtailed the citizenship right of the Terai people and deprived them of standing in the election of parliament. The Madhesi people were misled by another fabricated rumour that the national charter has not allowed any Madhesi to be a prime minister of Nepal. These deceptive canards sentimentalised the Madhesi people into joining their stir. These were the blatant lies as the statute has even granted the right to the foreign women to get naturalised citizenship immediately after she gives up her the citizenship of her native nation. Over 4,000 foreign women, especially Indians, have already obtained the naturalised citizenship since the promulgation of the new statute.
The Madhes-based parties are hell-bent on spreading ‘false consciousness’ about electing the naturalised citizens to the highest public posts, fixing the electoral constituencies on the basis of population and creating ‘two nations,’ within the country. These dangerous ideas have been experimented on Nepali soil at the behest of foreign power players. India, which has been an inspirer and mentor to the Madhesi parties, has univocally rejected these three things in its constitution but attempts to apply it here. It is common sense that nowhere in the world are naturalised citizens allowed to hold the high public office. India is not an exception. It has also paid due attention to the geography while fixing the number of parliamentary seats. Making population as the single basis to determine the electoral constituencies means turning Nepal’s vast swath of hilly land into wasteland because fewer number of constituencies deprive it of necessary budget. Its lion’s share will go to the densely-populated Terai under the new arrangement.
The concept of ‘two nations’ has been the most dangerous ‘false consciousness’ being inculcated in the mind of Terai people. It seeks to play on the ethnic and cultural differences between the people of Terai and the hill. It undermines the social, cultural, economic and ecological bond the two regions have been sharing for time immemorial. The Madhesi parties have stretched the concept of ‘two nations’ to a point territorial secession.
This is exactly what happened at a meeting between Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda and Madhesi leaders at Baluwatar last Tuesday. Terai-Madhes Loktantrik Party chairman Mahantha Thakur had warned Pranchada of division of Terai in case the three major parties refused to address their demands. A former Nepali Congress leader, Thakur is considered to be a gentle and honest leader compared to other Madhesi politicos. But, now the ‘gentleman’ Madhesi leader is at the forefront to justify the notion of ‘two nations.’ Talking to Pahilonews.com, Thakur has said that two nations already exist in the country. “The hill has its own life style, art, culture and tradition while Madhes has different one. It will not be unnatural if a new state is born when the centralised power fails to work for the benefits of all.” This assertion emasculates the commonly held notion that Nepal’s diversity is an asset, not liability. It is a myopic view to go for segregation just because the people hold divergent ethnic and cultural values. This is highly pernicious ‘false consciousness’ that must be overcome through active citizenship, constitutional enlightenment and civic education.