All eyes were glued to the television on July 23, 2008 when the first-ever appointed President and Vice President took the oath of office and secrecy. It was a new beginning--the country was on for a fresh new start. Things turned bitter after Vice-President (VP) Parmananda Jha took his oath of office in Hindi language (a language widely spoken by people in the plains, understood by majority of the Nepalese, and the national language of India), against Interim Constitution’s prescription of taking the oath in Nepali (the national language of Nepal). What followed after continues till date—the language war in the country. A bad start!
Jha’s oath-taking in Hindi resulted in widespread protests across the country with people burning his effigies and protesting against his breach of constitution and demanding his immediate resignation. The VP would not budge, even after the Supreme Court ordered him to retake his oath in Nepali. Finally, after the VP failed to show up at the oath ceremony on August 31, 2009, he was dismissed from the office, and all the powers and privileges vested on him were taken away.
People say this entire hoopla over the language is an issue of identity, while some say it is an issue of nationality. There are still some who consider the issue a political one. Well, I think this is an issue of cross-border relationships. Nepalese realize that Hindi has a power that far surpasses that of other languages of Nepal—a power that arouses great fear among those whose first language is Nepali and who are accustomed to its preeminent status in the Nepali state. The war against Parmananda Jha is nothing but a war against our neighbor India, where majority of its people speak and understand Hindi.
Nepal and India have always enjoyed close ties but still we opine that hatred between these two countries is obvious. I really don’t understand the reasons why we Nepalese hate our closest neighbor to the extent of blaming them for anything wrong in the country. I myself come from the league who was once an “Anti-Indian.” I don’t really know the reason—maybe that’s what I saw, and that’s I was told. But as I do some soul-searching today, I realize that we hate India simply because it is bigger, and more powerful than us, because we would be nothing without India, and because India, which was neck-to-neck with Nepal some years back is literally touching the skies, and making a name for itself in the world economy, while we are in the same spot, looking at India with “awe” and “hatred”.
Nepal and India has so much similarity, and we Nepalese are fond of so many things “Indian.” We love their movies, dance at their tunes, ogle at their models/actresses, marvel at their fashion scene, and make bets on their cricket team. But it is strange that and we still hate them. We should bring an end to this blind chauvinism, and think straight. I understand that majority of the Nepalese feel that we got a raw deal in the 1950 Treaty of Peace and Friendship between India and Nepal. For instance, many villages and agricultural lands of Nepal have submerged due to building of high dams near the Indian border. Similarly, there is the issue of trade and economy which has paralyzed Nepalese economy. The border encroachment near the Susta village of Nawalparasi is of major concern as well.
However, we must also not forget that India has extended its support to Nepal in many ways from providing aids to building schools and hospitals to sending in goods and supplies, and not to forget, pegging our currency to theirs. We should soon realize that our open border with India is our strength which we should capitalize on.
We need to remember that there is an eye for an eye. If we can call them “dhoti” (a derogatory word used for Indians), we need not be offended when they call us “chinki” (an ethnic slur). If we hurl epithets on them, we should be prepared to be insulted as well. But, I believe that this bitterness will do no good to people of either country. The realization that futures of Nepal and India are intertwined should come soon. We Nepalese should look for ways to take advantage of India’s vastness rather than working ourselves up into an insecure frenzy about it, and India must realize that 27 million potential consumers from Nepal is in its own self interest.
It is rightly said that borders are arbitrary. We create them. We need to come out of the hegemony, the hatred, and imprudent nationalism. It is completely upon us to move beyond the borders because that is the only right thing to do.
This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future, which is providing rigorous web 2.0 and new media training for 31 emerging women leaders. We are speaking out for social change from some of the most forgotten corners of the world. Meet Us.Voices of Our Future Assignment: Op-eds