Nepali Times
State Of The State
Jaded Jaleshwar


JALESHWAR-The district headquarters of Mahottari is divided into two distinct parts. The temple of Jaleshwarnath, dedicated to Shiva in his benevolent form as the supreme lord of water, is still the main attraction. Visitors from surrounding villages throng the shrine every Monday. The haat - a marketplace where barter used to be the dominant means of trade till quite recently - gathers twice a week on the banks of the holy tank close by. Here petty trade and idol worship coexist in harmony.

The eastern section of Jaleshwar is the seat of temporal authority. Almost all government offices are located along a north-south road that connects the army barracks with the CDO office. The district hospital and schools too are in this area for the convenience of the families of public servants. Increasingly, however, government officials are to be found in Janakpur, from where they commute everyday.

The bajar area links these two parts and is the belly of the town, almost literally, as it houses all the main eateries, mithai shops, beer bars and arrack outlets. This is where journalists gather in the evening, politicians hold court in front of paan shops and manpower agents try to lure unsuspecting villagers into low-paying jobs in Afghanistan and Iraq. But the Chowk no longer glitters. With the en masse departure of the Marwari shopkeepers, shopping is not the attraction it used to be.

There are economic reasons behind the out-migration of this vibrant business community. Janakpur has emerged as a bigger commercial centre and attracts traders from smaller towns in the vicinity. Enterprising traders have moved as far as Birganj and Lahan, and some have even moved to the capital to make their fortunes. But the most important factor behind the flight of Jaleshwar's Marwaris is psychological.

A half-dismantled shopping centre in the bajar (see box) stands as a monument to the humiliation of the most respected Marwari trader in town at the hands of an arriviste UML politico. Perhaps to remind locals of their complicity in the crime as bemused bystanders, the owners of the once-magnificent house have left the skeleton intact.

When it was built in the late eighties, Siriya Marwari's house looked too imposing to be in a town as sleepy as Jaleshwar. But the venerable Seth wanted to impress local government officers with his wealth, taste and power. Engineers and builders were brought in from Mujaffarpur and construction material was procured from Kathmandu and Patna. The top floor of the building was to house his family while businesses were to operate from shuttered fronts on the ground floor. For the first few years, it appeared as if the town finally had a commercial landmark. But jealousy is the evil twin of success.

After the political changes of 1990, the old Seth found it hard to learn new tricks to do business with the UML upstarts in town. Mayor Balkrishna Dhakal used his proximity to Khadga Oli and Madhav Nepal to push through demolition orders, ostensibly to widen a road where few buses ply even today. The building was defaced and rendered unusable. Unable to bear the humiliation, the most well-known Marwari family of Mahottari left Jaleshwar for good.

With the big businesses gone, the town wears a somewhat dehydrated look. Other than government vehicles, there are few cars to use the recently widened and freshly paved roads. Unsure of the variety and quality of locally available goods, shoppers prefer to go to Janakpur for bigger purchases. Local temples have few patrons and schools and colleges routinely fail to raise funds for additional infrastructure. The Maoists are the new UML around town, with former revolutionaries such as Mayor Dhakal settled into comfortable bourgeois life.

For politicians looking for cheap popularity, eminent domain (the right of the state to take private property for public use) is a useful tool, and one that makes the rich quaver. The right to property, however, is the sine qua non of economic development. Jaleshwar's sad story bears testament to a clash in which the state won the battle, but everyone lost the war.

1. Suman
Does anyone care about CK Lal's article. He used to be so megalomaniac.

2. Mahadev
Yes, I do, but only when he does political analysis. He should not write wishy-washy trash like this. His expertise is political commentary. He should stick to what he knows. He should not try to be Rabi Thapa. He is no creative writer.

3. Semi-dev
I care. While I find much of his writing consisting of a subjective slant to the south, I think it is important to have articles like this one that point out the idiocy prevalent in our nation. You don't have to be creative to report the truth- quite the opposite actually.

4. Krishna
Agree with Suman and Mahadev This is the worst article from CK for sometime. We know he is an intelligent madhesi but he doesnt need to bring these unrelated madhesi craps all the time. analyse politics, use your brain to make other good not to make other stooges

5. trish
This comment has been removed by the moderator.

6. Rodya,Pune
As if articles or intellectual exercises , howsoever flawed , have any meaning on the way things are run in this country. Like the commentators and readers here , Chandra Kishore is only responding to his psychological and monetary needs. I don't think he is that smart a fool to believe as if he is a more moral citizen of the depraved country only because he is a writer !! Rather , we do have on many occasions seen that writers and journalists are more corrupt , (and by my understandling) less moral , citizens than the common folks !!

if the goal of governence is ,among other things , prosperity, then CK lals article exposes a disturbing menace brought about by politico thuggery. more disturbing however is the lack of insight in the response to his article. Its as if the very people he is exposing are trying to berate his article.without moral integrity there is no individual security and definitely no national prosperity.

8. Rodya
My point is what if the so-called exposer himself needs to be exposed. Who is the arbiter ? Under what pretexts or virtues , do writers of our society assume a moral superiority to the rest of the folks and gullible gentry? Do we have any such social theorem ? Do not the writers also need to be accountable to what they espouse ?Any takers ?

9. Mahesh Jha
Looking to those comments, I can easily say the commentators are not speaking out of their heart, they are just expressing their ANTI-INDIAN feeling. I request you guys to read the article again by replacing JALESHWAR with JUMLA and MARWARI with MANANDHAR then I'm sure everyone will express you sympathy and appreciate CK Lal jee for putting light on crimes a going on it our society.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)