Thursday, June 19, 2008

The end of the Hindu Kingdom

Nepal's official--that is, nationalistic--identity has for decades been that of "the world's only Hindu kingdom." This has created a number of odd side effects: the deliberate undercount of Buddhists and animists in the national census, for instance, because to see them as part of Nepal would undercut the narrative, and would undercut the king's power.

Indeed, the idea of Nepal itself is a creation of this sort of nationalistic idea: Nepal is the historical name for the Kathmandu Valley, not for the reach of the Himalaya nor the rough area that now comprises the nation of Nepal. The songs about Nepal's beauty and glory that litter the radio and the music tv channels were likewise mostly created and promoted to unify Nepal culturally, from around the 1950s, though many Nepalis, especially from rural areas far from the Kathmandu Valley, will tell you that the songs are "very, very old." And the beneficiary of that sort of nationalism was the focus of it: the King, the incarnation of Visnu, for the idea was that people would give up their tribal allegiances for an allegiance to the king.

So the end of the monarchy here problematic for Hindu nationalists in India who have seen the end of one of their beacons of hope, the end of the only official Hindu state. Here I farm out that analysis to CounterCurrents, as Subhash Gatade can explain the geopolitical implications far better than I can:

Any close watcher of the Nepal situation would tell you that Jaswant Singh is not alone in having and expressing a negative opinion about the developments in the newest republic which has seen the end of 250 year old monarchy and the end of the 'model Hindu Rashtra' much espoused by the Sangh Parivar organisations. In one of his recent outbursts, Mr Ashok Singhal, the International President of Vishwa Hindu Parishad is reported to have compared Jihadists and Maoists who would together bring further calamity to the tiny country.... Perhaps one needs to ask oneself why does Mr Singh feels pertrubed over the end of a regime which concentrated all power in the hands of a small caucus centred around the King which denied basic human rights to a vast majority of Hindus and which condemned the followers of the other religions to a secondary status. Whether it has to do with emergence of NCP (Maoists) as the single largest party in the new republic which has humbled all the other parties or it has to do with the emergence of the most diverse and representative parliament in the world today. Independent observers have noted that the newly elected Nepalese parliament has more than one third of women and other one third representation is from the different ethnicities and oppressed castes.
The BJP is the right-wing Indian political party, and Jaswant Singh is the former prime minister of India. The rest of the article is here.

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