Waiting for what?

By Abhi Subedi

Nepal has become a big waiting room where people allay their anxieties by making different performances and restlessly shifting their positions. Sometimes they read old newspapers and turn the pages of illustrated glossy magazines. Nothing happens. It is like an absurd drama where waiting itself becomes the goal. The grand anticipations are political in nature. They are the interim constitution and the constituent assembly elections.

Many other expectations are amorphous in nature. Young children who are turned into newspaper hawkers rush to car windows to push tabloids that predict this country’s false apocalypse or pralaya each day. These minor tabloid hawkers are like the indifferent court criers in the old times who announced the king’s programmes. They usually pronounce two names Girija Koirala and Prachanda. In these tabloid reports bizarre narratives are appended to these two names. They are presented as two leaders of two warring camps who fight and negotiate secretly. All the other politicians remain outside the pale in the tabloid reports. You can judge the impact of those tabloids from the drifts of political conversations going on in public places, buses and restaurants.

The country is in the grip of the politics of gossip. The metropolis has become a wailing wall of democracy where people come each day and scribble their grievances and listen to the echoes of their own slogans. The only way to put across one’s ideas and demands is to use the streets and demonstrate in groups of different sizes and shout in front of the Wailing Wall. Politicians have performed historical deals that have surprised the world. Though they have signed an interim constitution, they are caught in the maelstrom of niceties. Nay, perhaps they listen to the voice of the spirits of the post cold war era, the casual loitering spirits, the ancestral souls that descend on their privately kept planchet tables. Nepali politicians are famous for their fetish engagements. They act with the tantrics’ advice. Curiously, they are gathering moss.

A seventy-year old British Gurkha came for a “new recruitment” in the peacekeeping battalion of a historical order. He rose from the ashes of colonial history as it were and came to lend his hand in the peace process of his country. I was struck by the image of this hero whom I have brought to my play Mayadevika Sapana directed and performed by Nisha Sharma. My hero, an ex-Indian Gurkha, who has lost one arm in war, returns home to work for peace only to find the night-vision helicopters hovering above his head and youths killing each other. But this seventy-year old Gurkha came to work when the youths have laid down their guns and want to work for peace.

The first trickle of the UN arms supervisors who were shown on the TV walking like penguin birds with arms akimbo have arrived. Ian Martin is all set for the peace process to take its momentum. The images are worth watching on the TV screens. The juxtaposition of this readiness came with two other images. The CPN-Maoist leader Prachanda declared that they would call for a people’s movement if the constitution was not promulgated within twenty-five days. The chief election commissioner Bhojraj Pokharel told the press that they are stuck without the interim statute.

To delay the promulgation of the constitution can be in the interest of those who want to see it become an obsolete document by waiting. The postponement will completely derail the process of peace. The old power brokers who are active and slowly mustering their energy will influence the situation. What we can see clearly are the Maoist cantonments and what we cannot see clearly is the dark side of the moon. We do not know what the feudalists with their foreign and native advisors, their long arms trade connections and vast subterranean wealth have been doing at the moment.

The upper middleclass and urban based people find the age-old hegemony like a comfortable cocoon to hide inside. They do not want to change. The people who have suffered by the war of attrition can not sleep, can not eat and move with ease. The greatest hubris of the CPN-Maoist and other political parties is that they have long recklessly played with the psyche of the masses and wounded it.

The last minute hitch shown by the erstwhile parliamentarian parties to accept the Maoists into the main stream is ironical. The Nepali Congress has a long history of armed struggle for democracy. BP Koirala’s memoirs speak volumes about this legacy. If the Maoists choose to swap the occupied territories for the electoral districts, the Nepali Congress should be in the forefront to welcome them. Then why the big delay about the promulgation of the Interim Constitution?

I only know one answer. The waiting will make the process of political change a complicated and even an impossible process if new power groups use the period of interregnum to gather new energy that could even break this nation and invite greater disasters. Then who is delaying the promulgation of the Interim Constitution? The civil society wants to answer but the “jesting Pilate did not wait for the answer”, says the Bible. (Source: The Kathmandu Post, Jan 10, 2007)

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