Who Represents Who?
There are many political parties, their leaders and public intellectuals who loudly claim to represent their people based on demand for collective and continuous struggle for their community. And, right now politics of representing people belonging to particular social group, caste, creed, religion or ethnic group has become a kind of norm in Nepali politics, whether it’s political parties that are shouting for radical nationalism or regional based parties shouting for their autonomy. However, it is not clear how much a leader or an intellectual can truly represent his or her people.
After all, in reality, we see contradictions everywhere. In most of the examples we can see that lifestyle and socio-economic status of those people who claim to represent the struggles of their ethnic-group never seem to match-up with the least privileged people within their community. Hence, politics of representation is only based on assumed sense of homogeneity between the people belonging to same religion or ethnicity.
With obvious difference of class and gender, it is a gross mistake to make an argument that all people within a particular ethnic community have been oppressed and marginalised in various phases of history by one or two privileged ethnic-community within the country. This claim is utterly biased because even within so-called privileged community many people are poor, uneducated and with low economic status as compared to those few people who claim to represent their oppressed marginal community. Hence, the claim of true representation is utterly deceitful and historically dishonest.
Therefore, a text from George Orwell’s Animal Farm lucidly sums up identity based politics of representation taking place in Nepal, the line states, all animals are equal, however, some animals are always more equal than others.
Moreover, intellectuals and political leaders belonging to an ethnic community may share their names, a sense of belonging, memories and even bit of nostalgia with their community; however it is not necessary for them to share the lived experiences of marginalisation and oppressions experienced by majority of people they claim to represent.
Besides, so much of politics of representation in Nepal’s context reflects the deep structure of our society; it is a feudal privilege given to a few people to carry a burden of liberation for their obedient subjects because they can’t politically speak for themselves. Hence, it is a cycle of privilege against privilege for under-privilege.
This feudal character in identity politics is revealed in the fact that same old faces are continuously claiming to represent their people although these political leaders have outgrown their community in terms of their socio-economic status, power and privilege. Hence, sadly as Orwell has reminded us, unless people confront their leaders and intellectuals about how their identity politics is going to benefit the least privileged and most marginalised people in their community, it will always be a few animals are equal than all others. Deep rooted structure of feudal privilege continues.