Friday, July 25, 2008

Nepal Vice President's Oath in Hindi whips up outcry

Nepal's new vice president Pramanand Jha took oath of office in Hindi on July 24. It is possible Jha was oblivious to the fact that his such move could unleash a tide of protests, condemnations and even slapping of a writ against him in the Nepalese Supreme Court to declare his election null and void on the ground that he had taken oath in Hindi, a foreign/Indian language.

But we should not forget that Jha is not so naive that he would do something without weighing its pros and cons. Jha might be very much aware that his such move would offer an excuse to Maoists and their various subordinate organizations to raise a hue and cry against him dubbing him even a traitor. Actually, this is what is happening in Nepal.

Yet wonderfully, the Nepalese vice president did so ruffling the hackles of the Maoists and their sympathizers. The question is why he should not have done so? Actually, his elevation to the august office despite his party Madhesi Janadhikar Manch being numerically peripheral in the current Constituent Assembly has given him a god send opportunity to assert his Madhesi identity. His taking oath in Hindi is indeed purported to vindicate his Madhesi identity which hardcore hegemonic minded Pahadi people can't swallow. This is why such turmoil is being witnessed in the country on such a tiny issue. The hegemonic minded Pahadi leaders/groups, not the entire Pahadi fraternity, is after the blood of Jha. Otherwise they could have easily ignored it.

But such hegemonic penchant of some of the Pahadi groups is bound to hurt Madhesi sentiments. The turmoil lovers should not forget that Madhesi implicitly means part of the larger Indian cultural matrix which has nothing to do with Indian territorial/political identity. Same scenario prevails even in the context of the Hindi language which is not at all an Indian state language alone, but a language of the people belonging to the larger Indian cultural ethos or rather the Terai region which comprises southern Nepal and Gangetic India. Even in the Indian belt of West Bengal's northern region Nepali is the language of a million people. It does not mean that they are Nepalese citizens. Similarly, by taking oath in Hindi Jha does not become an Indian. So the ongoing uproar on the issue is totally frivolous. This actually tends to strengthen the notion that Maoists are resorting to such gimmicks only to conceal their defeat as a result of the genuine patriotic alliance among the NC, CPN (UML) and MJM.

Their such protests and breasts beating only show their ethnic chauvinism which, if not bridled, would end up in retaliation from the Madhesi groups further deepening the crisis in the country. It is better that Maoists and other Pahadi leaders relinquish their old hegemonic hankerings and reconcile to the ground reality. The ground reality is that Hindi should not be treated as a pariah, but rather should be roped in to foster an authentic pluralistic linguistic culture in the country. Other regional and major ethnic languages must be also accorded dignified place in the country.
PC Dubey

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