Nepali Times
State Of The State
Looking back, and beyond



A day is a long time in politics, a decade is an eon. Ever since the beginning of the modern era in Nepal, major political changes have occurred almost every ten years. Following the overthrow of the Ranas in the 1950s, a succession of defining events such as the royal-military coup of 1960, the centralisation of political power in the 1970s, the plebiscite in 1980 and the restoration of parliamentary democracy in 1990 prepared Nepalis to expect 'something big' every ten years. But noone expected the magnitude of change of the past decade.

It's difficult to pinpoint the principal force that accelerated the march of history. But fissures in the old regime came to the surface in September 2000 when the Maoists attacked the Dolpa district headquarters even as soldiers at the Dunai barracks watched. Home Minister Govinda Raj Joshi was subsequently forced to resign for criticising the Royal Nepal Army.

The Dunai fiasco showed that the army was indeed a 'state within a state', a characterisation made by Harka Gurung during a closed door meeting (Issue #10) at the residence of Krishna Prasad Bhattarai. The former prime minister had said that the king once told him in no uncertain terms that his title of Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the RNA was not just ceremonial.

In December 2000, communal riots were sparked off by a statement purportedly made by Hrithik Roshan. In a week of madness following the false report, first the capital burnt, then its flames sparked retaliatory fires in the Tarai plains. The seed of the Madhesi-Pahadi divide were sown in the psyche of an entire generation.

The beginning of the end of the Shah dynasty began with the Narayanhiti Massacre of 1 June, 2001. The declaration of a republic in May 2008 was a mere formalisation of the decision of 1 February, 2005, when Gyanendra opted to be the CEO of the country rather than its king.

We will have to wait for the publication of the former king's memoir to discover whether the RNA had any role in his resolution to take the country back to the stone ages, but after the putsch, he became a virtual prisoner of the force under his own command.

The challenges of building a new Nepal remain more or less the same as those enumerated in this column (#400): writing a constitution that institutionalises reform, builds an inclusive Nepali identity, lays the groundwork of a national consensus and consciousness, and initiates the process of economic transformation. The monarchy is gone for good, but the twin threats of militancy and militarism cannot be faced if the political centre crumbles under the weight of its own contradictions.

Former Indian Prime Minister IK Gujral once remarked that he had read about revolutions only in history books and was privileged to have seen one unfold in Nepal. Since those also serve who wait and watch, we all were participants in the making of history. Being a columnist, I had a ringside view and saw who was fighting who from up close.

In military-speak, the media is a force multiplier that forms the public perception of a war, which then becomes the reality. It was not homemade guns that made the Maoists the most powerful leftwing insurgents in the world, it was the media that helped them look larger than life and then become what they were presented to be. It is interesting to note that the most ardent supporters of the Maoists in the past are their severest critics today.

To the everlasting shame of some of us in the media, Nepali journalism was either shallow, lazy or openly partisan. It did rise up when its freedoms were threatened, like after the 1 February royal coup, but soon lapsed back into complacency. The media failed repeatedly to perform the most basic function of any profession, "do no harm". Ironically, journalism has become an even more hazardous profession in the four years of volatile political transition since the war ended.

After a decade of pontificating about politics in this State of the State column, I will now try to shift the focus of this space towards analysing the media. Citizens may not be interested in the inner workings of the media, but the media is interested in us. That is why it needs to be watched.

1. Naresh Neupane
Now the man got to contemplate upon self.Its like 'the path of mystery leads inwards'Yeah,media people are more politicians in Nepal than former.They are increasingly disillusioned to their words as accords of history.Look the very matter inside,their origin,background ,their funding and aspirations,their own parisionship and their ruth intellectual fiasco to capture supports of townpeople n their intentional immediacy to live by shortterm fame.If they d 've known their own moral strength,they d been'Soldiers of conscience'.But,they should know that hisory is an objective interpretation affected by subjective core of status .I m so pitipul to Nepal's most media house's moral strenth.They label,picture and speak so that what propoganda they are esiring for is clear.They may sell their papers and air their gesture to mass but unless they realize self,they are ,to say more bluntly,cheaters ,dalals ,byaparis and propagandists.

2. May
And that makes you what, Naresh? At least Mr Lal can express himself properly.

3. Lok Nath Bhusal
Is India Democratic and Spiritual in Nepal? -Lok Nath Bhusal Amidst the ongoing strong and strategic protests of the ballot-proof and bullet-proof Maoists on the one hand, and the hallucinated pro-rightist mainstream media supported strategically by Indian and domestic elites, on the other, it would be premature to conclude what is going to happen in Nepal. But a distinctive class-face has featured in Nepal's political landscape

4. jange
Come back Dr. Lal. All is forgiven.

5. Admirer
Do not chicken out Mr. Lal. The country needs your incisive political analysis. I disagree with you, but you are still one of the best political analysts in Nepal.

6. Raja
Hatterika, media watch! It can wait. Political analysis definitely very much more important now. Military rule possible, so this writer should guide political parties like before in Gyanedra dictatorship. Nepalese Media I also watch, not very good. Nothing new to watch in Nepalese media.

When we first started reading the NT quite some time ago, yours was the column that needed a dictionary and two reads - such was the richness of vocabulary and efforts required to parse the linguistic style. It made us proud to see that a Nepali could write in English with such flair coupled with a unique perspective into contemporary issues. Time went on and we grew with you. Even your partisan views have not hurt us. In fact, they have stimulated our thought process and made us question among the maze of Nepali media's mediocrity. We would like you to remain as spontaneous as ever and continue your work. Perhaps you don't know how many heads like us you have been able to silently invigorate and excite through these years of turmoil. Happy New Year Mr. Lal!

8. Devednra Pant
Mr. Laljee's new year pleadge to shift from professing politics to incising "the inner workings of the media" is a welcome sign. Eventhough, media could hardly be imagined of an objectively neutral and depoliticised arena. The implicit message -- 'Enough of punditing politics and let's start focusing on profession(?)" In a way, that too makes sense. Following the successful completion of the Velvet Revolution noted dissident intellectual and former Czech President Vaclav Havel urged all teachers and professors to quit streets and return to their places in universities. This might very well work in a fully functioning democracy. Countries such as ours where leadership is yet to mature and cultivate a new mind-set, the role of the intellectuals in nurturing the body politic will persist for many years to come. The national politics still needs microscopic surgey from the sharp pen of noted critiques such as Mr. Lal. Let's hope that the function will still be retained.

9. Sameer
I hope he would say a few things about the peril of the ethno-centric politics (that he relished in promoting for the Madhesis). A person like him also needs to see that there is nothing wrong being a Nepali first, and it will not diminish his Madhesiness. Look around CKJi, and be honest. So, media bashing alone will not exonerate your role in this mess you helped create. Gather up some guts and speak up.

10. bridohi
I welcome the change. Media in Nepal is very biased. Objectivity is foreign term in Nepali media generally speaking. One has to read in between the lines to get the truth. When newspapers are mouth pieces of political apparatus, truth gets muddled. Media is good at pointing out, but, a little soul searching will do the media some good. I hope this self-realization will lead to better emancipation which I know is wishful thinking--"Kaag ko hulma bakula!"

11. Sheetal
Thanks, CK Lal. We look forward to your bold and penetrating analyses of the media.

12. Sargam
"Since those also serve who wait and watch, we were participants in making of history." You hit there the bull's eye. We appreciate amply your frankspeak, that is. I hope nobody will dare accusing you of anything like having made mileage out of your rundown. In effect, when John Milton (1608-1674 AD) became blind he wrote the above mentioned sonata's last line, with a tad big difference signifying that with his disability also he has his place in the society. It was something like: "And post over land and ocean without rest; They also serve who only stand and wait." It's curious whenever I remember this last line it reminds me of those fervent devotees of Jainism. The less they move the less they've chance to crush an insect inadvertently, hence perfectly serve their cause. But who am I to rule the roost, instead I should be helping them tide through their bad times, entirely masochistic though. I for one am not the sort to put manners on anybody and at the same time to pit my wits against the fickle future, even then, truly appreciating well-said chronicle changes after every ten years of time as you have mentioned, I don't entirely endorse your comment on the role of the Army. Except some black sheep the Army as a whole should be taken for a proponent entity meant for protecting only the Democracy and its institutions as sentinel. And as such the Army is the guarantor of Democracy when the Constitution of a country is drafted and duly approved by the nation. Because it is always the bespoke Commander-in-Chief or the Head of the executive government who is responsible for giving orders for execution. In the recent history when Napoleon invaded Russia during the dead winter of 1812 AD and in his failed attempt to cross the Berezina river in present Belarus his one part of the 'Grande Armée' was decimated, I gather, it was entirely the fault of Napoleon neither that of the Army nor that of the Generals. And history is not tender toward him for his such an over-weening pride. We can't stay without going out on a limb. All experiences in life must help making us better not bitter.

13. Newar.Org
CK Lal ji, Your new signature picture is great. I hope to read more matured articles that resembles your new picture at Lets sail together in the same boat. It seems we are dautari not only in age perspective, but also in our overlapping ideas and the country. Your service to nation as writer is more than as an engineer. I read an article at about you, and that was a great recognition. In 2000, a professional friend of mine who was 10 years older than me. I asked him about his age, and found that he was 10 years old, and today, I am exactly the same as he was 10 years ago. At that time, he told me that you can not judge me simply looking at my face, hair, and age, because my feelings are as young as yours, and very vibrant. My feelings have not changed much. That statement is still very fresh and in last 10 years my feelings have not changed, but I have certainly changed my understanding about the world, life, and society. I wish you the same feelings. Therefore, your love to the country has not faded, but I believe it has reinforced much more , and you can present it in your writing so that we can reinforce ourselves through your articles. Good Luck, buddy. UnitedWeStand at WWW.Newar.Org

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)