In The News (12)
I refute nation. Traditional patriotism, in my opinion, is designed to keep the majority of a people in stupor, so that they look another way when those in power abuse the trust invested in them. ..... when I weigh that against why some other fellow citizens of mine find no reason for cheer, I find betrayal in the celebrations. I find betrayal in the document...... In 2010, I helped Suvash Darnal translate his book of interviews with Dalit members of the first Constituent Assembly. Through that acquaintance, and through other work I did for Suvash dai and for Jagaran Media, I came to a better understanding of the issues around Dalit existence and history in Nepal. Similarly, I came to an understanding of where I stand in Nepali history, in relation to all other groups........ Born in Abu Khaireni in Tanahun, son to landowning Adhikaris who, to this date, grow enough rice for the family even while practicing the adhiyā system of share-cropping, I am not: a woman; from a religious minority; a Dalit; someone whose mother tongue isn’t Nepali; a Madhesi; someone from a remote corner of the country; a janajāti. I carry no burden of the sort Jemima Diki Sherpa enumerates in The Invisible Doko. ...... the usurpation of the common good by a particular group: the Pahadi, upper-caste, landowning, Hindu male who speaks Nepali as his mother tongue...... My apparent self is the origin in the Cartesian graph of identities. All else is relative to this position. It is the navel; there is only deviation from this point: as a woman; as a Madhesi; as a Madhesi Dalit woman; as a Madhesi Dalit single mother; asThe Invisible Doko
a Madhesi Dalit single mother who owns no land and possesses no identification papers.Come, play at this game – stretch it to the extreme. Find where you are on the graph. But, know this without doubt – my apparent self is the original point of reference. ........ A couple of years ago, in a conversation about what is wrong here, Prashant Jha asked me to choose the most important issues. I said – landlessness among the agricultural poor, and the reality of Dalits in the hills and Tarai. Then, the issue of the Madhes wasn’t as primal to me, just like the issue of Nepali womanhood wasn’t on my mind. ...... Now we see clearly that the issues of the Madhes and #CitizenshipThroughMother are but two sides of the same coin. It became a lot more convenient for the Pahadi, male politicians to outright deny their mothers, sisters and daughters any notion of equality than to point to the people of the Madhes and say – You are our inferiors!
In order to maintain an attitude of racial supremacy over the people of the Tarai and Madhes, they reduced the women in their families to less than men, and therefore, less than human.It was always the same instinct to treat others as lesser than oneself that manifested itself as misogyny, racism and a fervent need to identify the state with one particular religion......... the issue of landlessness among rural farm labourers remains unaddressed. One out of every 8 Nepalis is a Dalit. Where is their federal state? Was there ever a debate on whether such a federal state would even be possible? A land of our own suggested the creation of a virtual federal state that would span the entire country, comprising individuals who identified as Dalits, who would elect Dalit representatives to federal and national legislatures. Why did we never make that idea part of the larger conversation? Sure, the cultures, languages and ethnicities of the hill Dalits and the plains Dalits differ greatly. But that is not what places them on the Cartesian graph of Nepali identities, vis-à-vis my apparent identity. It is the condition of Dalitness that defines their economic and social realities.
The average rural Dalit person is overwhelmingly a landless farm labourer, without equitable access to dignified labour.This constitution doesn’t do anything meaningful to address their specific reality. How can I celebrate such a document?....... My Janakpuria friend Bikram has two daughters: Khushi and Roshani. Their nanihāl is in India; if their family chooses to maintain cultural and familial ties within its community, it is quite likely that they will marry into families that follow similar traditions and speak the same language. Quite likely, they will marry into India. The manner in which the language in the constitution has been framed around the issue of passing on citizenship through the mother puts in jeopardy the identities of Khushi and Roshani........
And – fuck it – to strong, proud women who want the simple dignity of being identified as the mother to their children, without having to lean on any penial being? What if a woman just wants to be a mother, and not a wife?....... To insist that women must choose between being a wife and being a whore is to reduce a woman to an object of possession; it is to deny her autonomy.
To deny autonomy to an individual and insist that her identity derives from the position and privilege of another individual is to institute a form of slavery. This constitution does exactly that for the women in our families, in our society.I cannot accept that. Therefore, I reject this constitution. ...... Patriarchy is preoccupied with the vaginas of the women it possesses, or has enslaved. That is its primary characteristic. Then it worries about their wombs. That is the reason women have been denied equality in this constitution – and that is one of the many things you celebrate when you celebrate this constitution.
I have come across a few men who proudly say – ”We must guard our women.” They are assholes....... the Madhes: of those who are darker and speak languages different from the ones we know, those who eat different, sing different, and are, always, as outsiders, as aliens,
suspect, dangerous, malignant, cunning and beguiling, but simultaneously also incapable.What the Pahadi man means when he calls the Madhesi man a “dhoti” is that he mistrusts all other groups, all other aberrations of the original self at the centre of the nation. They do not love us like they love their blood kin, with whom they share the darkest, dimmest notion of a history, a common prehistory, an origin myth. Towards women and Madhes is the contempt felt towards an upstart: How dare they! How dare they imagine themselves an equal! How dare they demand when they ought to supplicate and accept what we throw their way! ........ This insistence that giving the Madhes the dignity and voice that is its due would result in catastrophic betrayal by the Madhesis –
Sikkim-isation! Fiji-isation!......... He cannot imagine friendship or love or camaraderie between himself and his Madhesi counterpart: he fails to imagine the possibility of any common bond. ....... I reject the placatory proposition that the constitution can always be amended and perfected. I reject the barely disguised malice it bears: its attempt to legislate morality; its clever undermining of articles that would otherwise empower the disenfranchised;
its blatant misogyny; its Fascist redefinition of what secularism means......... it has rejected my worldview, where the recognition of every individual as an equal is the precondition, not a derivative; where the laws arise out of the aspirations of the citizenry to better exercise the best aspects of themselves, and not
a set of rules designed to keep the bureaucracy afloat, fatten the rich, and inflate the ambitions of career politicians....... I reject this constitution because it affords me no dignity when I look my friends in the eye.
Even enlightened Pahadis judge a Madheshi by who he is rather than what he has to say. ..... the disconnect between the seemingly successful rise in Madheshi political representation since 2007 and the abject lack of progress on the goals and issues that propelled these Madheshi leaders upward in what might generously be termed our political ‘system’. ..... countering only the most crass indicators of power disparity, such as financial status or legally sanctioned mistreatment, does not erase the deep discriminations of an unequal society ...... simple checklist of privileges: “… an invisible package of unearned assets… like an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools and blank checks.” ..... “… I have often noticed men’s unwillingness to grant that they are overpriviliged, even though they may grant that women are disadvantaged… Denials that amount to taboos surround the subject of advantages that men gain from women’s disadvantages. These denials protect male privilege from being fully acknowledged, lessened, or ended.”...... a political environment where conservative commentators are mocking the “undefined adventurism of federalism” as having died a slow, painful and deserved death along with the Constituent Assembly, and at a time when even the federal model’s strongest supporters seem to have lost faith and momentum, the conversation appears to have shifted disturbingly from critically examining the efficacy of these specific attempts to build a more inclusive political Nepal to a broader dismissal of the very basis of making these attempts...... systemic domination has resulted in immense disparities in opportunity, representation and human dignity between those who have traditionally wielded power and those who have had power wielded over them in Nepal. The narrative where the CA and the proposed federal models are discredited wholesale goes a long way towards insidiously delegitimizing the underlying pleas to address this fundamental disparity. ........ the invisible doko – of khas privilege in Nepal
“… white privilege has turned out to be an elusive and fugitive subject. The pressure to avoid it is great, for in facing it I must give up the myth of meritocracy.” Unlike in McIntosh’s white America, the myth of a democratic meritocracy is a new one in Nepal, and one that only the most multiply privileged and deluded can even pretend to believe in. However, the myth that we can hope to someday become a meritocracy without explicitly addressing ethnic inequality is one that is widely embraced. ..... In our public discourse we often confuse knowing what should be for what is; our near-quarter century of democratic revolt has instilled deeply in our national psyche the admirable belief that ethnicity should not matter. Years of ‘awareness’ campaigns and parroted calls to eliminate ‘jaatiya bhedbhav’, along with rapid general social transformation, means that only the most regressive and reactionary individuals among the upper castes still truly think that discrimination against janajatis is justified. It is easy to make the mental leap to believing that this equality has become fact simply through knowledge of how desperately it is needed.........
- 1. I can enter any government office and be certain that I will find a member of my ethnic group.
- 2. I can send my children to school knowing that the language we speak at home will be encouraged and valued.
- 3. When I am told about our national history, there is ample recognition that people of my ethnic group played a role in shaping what it is today.
- 4. I can turn on the television or to the front page of a newspaper and see people of my ethnicity widely represented.
- 5. I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their ethnic group.
- 6. I can be certain that during their school years my children will encounter at least one teacher who shares their ethnic background and will be capable of dealing with any cultural issues that arise.
- 7. I can be sure that my religious and cultural holidays are recognised in a workplace.
- 8. Speaking in an accent common to my ethnic group is not seen as a sign of ignorance.
- 9. I can count on my ethnicity not to work against perceptions of my financial reliability.
- 10. I can succeed in my chosen field without being held up as proof of the progress my ethnic group has made.
- 11. I can remain oblivious to the language and customs of other ethnic groups without facing any penalty or disadvantage for doing so.
- 12. In the news, people of my ethnicity are routinely reported on in roles other than that of a victim.
- 13. I can be confident that in competing for a government job, I will not encounter individual or systemic discrimination due to my ethnicity.
- 14. My ethnicity does not result in difficulties obtaining paperwork to buy and sell land.
- 15. The traditional clothing of my ethnic group is respected as part of a living culture rather than treated as a costume in popular media.
- 16. If I am arrested or detained, I can be sure I have not been singled out due to prevailing stereotypes of my ethnic group.
- 17. My last name does not immediately lead to assumptions of poverty, illiteracy or poor social standing.
- 18. I can find a political representative that understands and is committed to working on common issues faced by my ethnic group.
- 19. I can go home from most official meetings or organisations not feeling as though I was isolated, out of place, unheard or discounted.
- 20. I can take a job with an affirmative action employer without assumptions being made or aspersions being cast about my competence (or lack thereof) based on my ethnicity.
- 21. If I live in an area where a high percentage of the population is of my ethnic group, I can be confident it will receive the same level of public services such as schools and hospitals as other areas in my district.
- 22. I can be sure that if I need legal or medical help my ethnicity will not work against me.
- 23. I can be confident my citizenship or patriotic values will not be called into question based on my appearance and ethnicity.
It appears many ethnically privileged people believe that because they embrace the ‘enlightened’ view that janajatis should not be discriminated against, it is no longer an issue that they have any role or stake in. It is this fallacy that is deeply detrimental both to janajatis’ everyday experiences and to Nepal’s hopes of forming a more just nation; this entitled conviction among our most educated, influential and socially progressive individuals from privileged ethnic backgrounds that their personal belief that a culture of ethnic disparity, disadvantage and discrimination should not exist is license to ignore the insistent voices telling them it still does.