Losing the story in Nepal
“In this new world of transnational threats and the information age, it is not just whose army or muscle power wins, it’s whose story wins.” ..... This weekend’s events, with the temporary detention of 13 Seema Sashastra Bal personnel by Nepal’s Armed Police Force personnel and the Nepal government’s decision to take Indian channels off air, only drive the point home that Nepal is rejecting India’s power, both hard and soft. ..... The situation is made only more ridiculous by the decision of the Ministry of External Affairs this week to fly two batches of Indian journalists into Kathmandu to explain what the government calls the “Indian perspective”. Now reports indicate that the Nepal government is planning its own counter-propaganda offensive by taking Indian journalists to Madhes to see the effects of what Nepal calls a “blockade by India”. ....... officials in both Bhutan and Bangladesh say they are watching the situation closely, even as the SAARC Motor Vehicle Agreement awaits ratification. Sri Lanka’s closeness to the U.S. should send out alarm signs in Delhi as much as Beijing’s has in the past, however much the two sides claim to be on the same page.
I have been resigned to the fact that India is a democracy, and so the Indian political classes and the Indian media will take all possible sides in the ongoing conversation in India about Nepal and Madhesh. But it always amazes me how some sections of the Indian opposition and media fall for the line of the corrupt ruling elite in Kathmandu hook, line and sinker, an elite whose central organizing principle is Indophobia. The day they stop hating India, they become irrelevant, or so they think. This is not a playful situation. As a Madhesi who grew up in Nepal, I have not seen the kind of anti-black racism in the United States that can be compared to the anti-Madhesi racism in Nepal. Madhesis don't get hated for being Madhesi. Madhesis first get called out as Indians and then get hated, marginalized and subjugated. It is a well thought out structural subjugation. The entire state apparatus is involved.
I have the luxury to take sides in Indian politics. Modi and the BJP might be right on some issues, Nitish, Laloo and Rahul might carry the day on some other issues. No one can accuse me of being pro-apartheid if I take sides between Modi and Laloo. But Nepal is different. The Madhesis have been fighting what can, by all means, be called soft apartheid. They even get called "blackies." To the Madhesis India has been this sleeping giant. If India can't protect its own in a country that it has all along claimed to have excellent relations with, then what are the chances it might be able to project its power far and wide? The British have not completely left until the Madhesis of Nepal are liberated. Part of the Mughal Empire, the Madhesh was gifted to Kathmandu by the British.
Indian politicians and the Indian media need to stop pretending what is happening in Nepal is day to day politics. This is a moral fight. There is a right side and there is a wrong side. India's ruling alliance as well as the opposition needs to speak with one voice. The Indian media needs to wake up and see the black and white situation unfolding in Nepal. Blockade se pahle jo 50 Madhesi mare, wo kya Modi ke log the? Aap ko kya lagta hai? Sar par, sine pe goli lagi hai. South Africa mein 1980 mein aisa hota tha.
The Indian Century Begins In Madhesh
And, by the way, the Cold War narrative that India and China are competing in Nepal is tired and untrue. China is not competing with India, at least not right now. China feels the Madhesi quest is justified and is doing its best to stay neutral. Both India and China have been acting magnanimous. Both have been at pains to get the message across to Kathmandu that all both want in Nepal is peace, stability and prosperity. No power, not India, not China, not America, not Europe, stands with the fascist people in power in Nepal right now. Nobody, except some members of the Indian chattering classes.
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