Erle Frayne  Argonza

Nepal is going through a ‘late nationalist’ revolution. Just like those states that experienced the birth pangs of nationhood, Nepal is expected to pass through the same thorny road.

For a long time in their lives, the Nepalese were accustomed to regarding their King as the sovereign of the land. The King was the unifying symbol of all aspects of life in the Kingdom, and this was already a step ahead of its former state.

To recall, Nepal for a very long time was an adjunct of the Bharata Empire. Bharata, the ancient name for India, held sway in both southern and central Asia for probably 3-4 thousands of years, beginning with the Rama Empire of the halcyon days of ancient civilization.

The Bharata Empire broke up later into two (2) sections, the north that comprised of the Yellow-skinned peoples, and the south that comprised of the Dark-skinned ones. Civil war, of a scale probably larger than the USA’s own civil war, broke out there in antiquity, the narrative told us in the texts of the Mahabharata or Great Bharata.

Later on the southern portion, which was to be the  Bharata proper, saw the migration of Aryans who added their imprint to life there. On the northeastern section of the re-carved empire was the prinzep of Nepal, which was home to spiritual masters who embodied there.

The same Nepal was later very much transformed from prinzep to Kingdom, which was already a step higher in the ladder of political institutionalization. Amid its integration into the British India, it stood its ground as a political unit, the precursor of a future nation.

Long as the gestation for nationhood may seem, one must appreciate the painstaking efforts of the Nepalese for creating their reality drawn from out of their own experience. Nationhood was never an external imposition, as it resulted from the political dynamics of emerging political forces there in the last four (4) decades or so.

Today, there is the challenge of transferring loyalty from the King to Nation. This is no easy step at all. The King is a living reality, felt and seen, while the Nation is too abstract a cultural being. It will take time for the 50+ ethnic groups in Nepal to realize that they together, to go by the logic of the Enlightenment, comprise the Nation.

So drastic were the changes that happened in Nepal, so revolutionary in fact. Political innovations are being instituted though not without an interim phase. That interim phase was the constitutional monarchy. Unfortunately, the monarch squandered that chance—for being a constitutive part of the modern nation—in the eyes of the modern political forces or parties and constituencies.

Having lost that chance, the monarch had to go, while the parties have to draft a new constitution and plan the economic development agenda of the nation. Note that all of the parties are socialist-leaning, an indication that Nepal is very impatient to try the secular path of political order by voting political leaders whose agenda seem to represent the audacity and will to go that way.

Nation-building takes a very long time to gestate. Nepalese and outside observers should expect maelstroms to burst forth during the next 100 years of the nation’s unfolding history. In the case of the USA, a clear 100 years from its birthing, the south seceded and a catastrophic continental war ensued to decide whether the Union should proceed to exist. The denouement was for the Union to stay.

In my own country, the Philippines, we’re still within our first 100 years after independence was gained in 1946. Look at all the political turbulence we’re going through as part of the dynamics of nationhood. We’re still well located in the context that breeds civil wars and rebellions.  

So let the discourse hold true for Nepal. The new nation must be given the chance to grow, the Nepalese handle their affairs and gain experiences and mature along the way.

[Writ 02 June 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila.]

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