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Nationalism vs. Patriotism: What will save Nepal?

Prabhash Devkota Wednesday, Apr 26, 2017 2505 reads

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Nowadays ‘Nationalism’, ‘Nationhood’, ‘Nationality’ has been the buzz word among common people to political parties. Time and again history reveals about the instances of ‘Nationality’ lead political and social movements in Nepal, which signifies that the issue of ‘Nationality’ can lead better political movements as the basement of nationality is sentiment and heart. Normally, the status of belonging to a particular nation, whether by birth or a naturalization, the relationship with property, holdings etc to a particular nation or to one or more of its members, or people and existences as a distinct nation, national independence, nationalism; a national quality or character.


The issue of nationalism in the current context keeps a close connection with ‘a national quality or character’. The debate and discourse around it have been an old subject but changing paradigm shifts manifest it in different shape size, feature, and character. Ever since Nepal moved on the path of modernization following the 1950 change this issue has been a hot cake and a pure agenda for political parties. Nevertheless ‘Patriotism’ ‘Nationalism’ are two distinct aspects and late King Prithvi Narayan Shaha is the legendary nationalist who foresaw the Nepalese kingdom and its future and advocated ‘yam between two big stones’. Time and again cross-border movements of people between India-Nepal make the issue more complex.


As the local elections are approaching near and all the political parties and politicians have tried their level best to symbolize and identify the ‘big and large sized nationalist’. In this political transition when for the last time India stopped supplying fuel from India to Nepal, it was highly vocally. While the cross-border activity of Indian army killing a Nepali youth in Dhangadhi ignites it more. Within ‘nationalism’ there are ethnic nationalism, Madhesi nationalism and moreover, there will be subaltern nationalism too.


One is trying to be nationalist by wearing ‘Daura Suruwal’ another is trying to be nationalist by putting ‘gamcha’ on the neck, wearing traditional dresses and articulating nationalism in a different context has been a solid social practice in Nepal in later days.


Nationalism should be developed and cultivated into ‘Patrotism’, if not done so it will be ever been political and it is so vulnerable by nature that can be ‘politicized’ very easily. In the depth and core of the human heart each one of us gets connected with the development he/she defines, makes, develops bonds and relationships can not go long but a few bonds and relationships human takes of memory and gets connected with it. Thus, they are different, though having some common characteristics of one another to one another.


For a moment let us talk about Nepalese society Prof. Dr. Chaitanya Mishra in an informal talk with me mentions, “I am always uncomfortable with the discourse on Nepal being ‘Closed’-whether before Junga Bahadur Rana or before 2007. I think for the world’s historical period that it was, a lament for not being colonized”. Keeping the same perspective I want to admit here that today’s doctrine of ‘Nationalism’ is the by-product of the then contemporary society, culture, lifestyle that experienced a serious threat to their political identity in the colonized period.


As going to India as the seasoned labor and Gurkhas participating in the protest and against of the then power structures develops a different feeling of loneliness, isolated, as if exiled because of poverty and searching better opportunities. This segmented population is the root that evolves and develops ‘patriotism’ and ‘nationalism’ within Nepali society.


The fear psychology of being far from the homeland, fighting for and working for others, no guarantee of safety and domination of different layers of power structures developed a ‘we feeling’ among the population and they started expressing it via folk songs. Therefore, folk songs are the originator of it. Besides this, the then contemporary literature, poetry, novel have portrayed the clear picture of Nepalese Nationalism. Among different relationship, the bond with the birth place creates your identity and has very close connections to conscious, sub-conscious and unconscious level. It makes you being human of a particular geographic territory with the specialized culture, language, rituals, religion, practices and moreover your political identity as the Nepalese, Indian, Japanese.


In this development of time period, one is fully influenced, guided, comforted, identified with remarkable small things that connect you with your soil. In a broader sense, if I am not wrong the mass desire of Nepalese is of ‘this I, we feeling with the soil’. The soil gave you identity, the soil gave you shelter, food, your infrastructure, development then if you are a moral and ethical person who has got the values as systematic practices of lifestyle then he/she also has got some responsibility to love it, protect it, nourish it and safeguard it. The universal we feeling of human being is ‘nationalism’ that keeps a close connection with the ‘patriotism’. In this context, sometimes ‘nationalism’ overlaps with ‘patriotism’ creating more patriots in the land when ‘patriotism’ gets overlapped by ‘nationalism; and it becomes political.


Time and again the history has realized this sense of being Nepalese challenged by different power structures, one thing is true that when power gets transformed then also it does not loses its essence characteristic of being centralized. Nationality draws you to be at the center so far ‘patriotism’ is more about ‘equity’.

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