Nepali Times
State Of The State
Post-Maoist futures



JANAKPUR - There are Shiva temples here, but this is essentially a town of Vaishnavs where the main Hindu castes have their own kutis or cults that celebrate different aspects of the life of Sita and Ram.

Many of these cults are in decline as their landholdings have shrunk and pilgrims increasingly limit their visits to the more celebrated temples. But the diversity of faiths even within the Vaishnav sect has bred a culture of dissent and tolerance that has defined the way of life here for years.

Though Tulsi Giri hardly ever visits his hometown, locals still claim the hardcore royalist as one of their own. Ramraja Prasad Singh may have been born and bred in Rajbiraj, but when the avowed republican decided to fight an election in the 1990s, he came here to test the strength of his ideas. Whether it's TMDP strategist Hridayesh Tripathi or MJF ideologue Jayprakash Prasad Gupta, the titans of Madhesi politics feel that they are received more warmly in Janakpur than in their home constituencies. Despite the filth, crime and corruption, the one good thing about this town is that it has managed to maintain its composure. The soul of the settlement is alive even though the body of the town urgently needs some physical treatment.

Perhaps due to the diversity of its religious roots, Janakpur has prided itself on positing itself as the 'other' of the national 'self'. When post-colonial nation building was the main agenda, Ramnarayan Mishra challenged his own superiors in the Nepali Congress by stressing the need for a federal structure and inclusive polity. During the early years of the reign of King Mahendra, Kathmandu was monarchical and all that Biratnagar ever wished was to add the constitutional adjective to it. But it was Durgananda Jha who actually lobbed a bomb at the king in Janakpur, the only time in modern history a commoner attempted regicide. Saroj Koirala, too, thought that the monarchy had outlived its utility. Destiny may have had a hand in choosing his acolyte as the first head of state of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal.

Janakpur's political legacy doesn't end there. Almost a decade before the Maoist insurgency made forced disappearances routine, Dr Laxmi Narayan Jha was picked up from his clinic by law enforcement agencies, in June 1985. His remains are yet to be found. Surprisingly, even though Mahottary-Dhanusha has always been a NC stronghold, almost all prominent communist leaders have spent some time in this part of the country. Madhav Nepal stayed in Mahottary. Pushpa Kamal Dahal learned to handle guns in Dhanusha. Ishwar Pokharel honed his debating skills at the local college. And Gore Bahadur Khapangi practiced his pre-royalist demagoguery in the surrounding villages.

The Maoist leadership may congratulate itself on being the first to grant Madhesis their long-cherished self-rule, but once again Janakpur is a step ahead of the rest of the country. At teashops and newspaper stalls, people have begun to debate post-Maoist futures. A neo-con wave seems to be sweeping through the hinterland, where religion has once again become the main mobilising force. Temples are being built, mosques are coming up and churches have found place in the most innocuous of spaces - makeshift huts meant to shelter cattle.

For the first time, Janakpur has a direct stake in the political contestations of the capital city, but nobody seems too concerned about the fate of the first president of the country. There is a deep suspicion above the intentions of all the political leaders. The Maoist assessment that rightwing assertions will end up strengthening their political hold may be theoretically correct. But whenever pitted against religion, political ideologies invariably crumble.

1. Anonymus
Dear Sir, With all due respect, your article is an outrage. The terms such as "post-colonial nation building" were never required here. Post which colony are you talking about here. Furthermore, I take issue with the term "cult" being used for Kuti's. I understand you could swing the meaning to good, but the term is, more often than not, used negatively to describe devotion to a fad. I have been following this newspaper for the past four years and I know that you are aspiring to be recognised as a centre-left intellectual, as you probably are. But to use that term for the bhakti strain of the Hindu way of life and add "diversity of faiths even within the Vaishnav sect " is a bit of a stretch for us country bums. Of course, being a royalist I find a lot wrong with the way things are moving in this country and therefore people such as you, those who support the new criminal regime. Nevertheless, leaving religion aside would, in the least, be an act of kindness.

2. Sargam
Buck up @CK Lal. All old taboos must be thrown out the windows. Give them more adrenaline by evoking the hidden gargoyles of some well estabished families. Because they have all some family skeletons to hide in their cupboards.

3. tife
Maoists have contributed nothing positive to the country so far. All that has happened is 'cause no one has been bold enuf to give them a hard slap.

4. Julati
It is good to start thinking and planning for post-Maoist Nepal, i.e. when Maoists are pushed to more irrelevance, as they have been done in the land of Mao.

5. Digital Subway
Historical briefs about prominent political leaders spending time in Dhanusha and Mahottari surprised me. I thought I knew quite a lot about my hometown. Thanks for the surprise. I see that use of the word 'cult' has been criticized but I think it is justified. Sai Baba is considered by many as incarnation of God who also performs on-camera stunts such as producing ashes by rubbing his hands. But for me, he represents cult. Use of post-colonial is inappropriate though. Also, I am unaware of churches in Janakpur which is not to say it does not exist.

6. Rahul Singh
I Personally think considering the current political climate and the Madhesh centered future politics- that Madhesh seriously needs a Leadership with a Voice of genuine Reform for madheshi community not just an apparatus for political leverage(as seen in past and now). Spiritualism with deep rooted influence in Madhesh needs to be galvanized for Madhesh greater interest. Madhesh seriously need to establish it's Madheshi Nationality....

7. Naresh Neupane
Riligion is,I feel the psychological rebound of people , mostly reflected in policies and politicsthat take their concerns,locally or globally.CK Lal's outstanding analysis has missed just a psychoanalytical version of his writing,else he has perfected the notion of divisision and unity that grows from identity recognition of mind. In a widely heralded essay of Sigmund Freud'Why War?',it has been asserted that violence is right. Our ego apparatus is instinctually manifolded by eros-defensive mechanism and thanatos-destructiveness,which are said to act perpetually .And war isn't so nasty because our instincts need outlets.So,women fight to be beautiful,warriors want to be victors and intellects fight by words and nations ,for culture,influence and dominance.But,it is more suggestible that those outlets turn so that it reigns upon our common grounds and exists in the least harmful way. First,its no surprise that everyone has got to be conscious of rights shattered by thakuri hagemon and its no bad that Madhesis or Sherpas..or any other are desiring their rights.Change is essential,continuous and seems to shake us.Just explaining current crises ,how could one annul the legacy of CA simply vindicating Mahendra's Bahunbadi nationalism.Lal has got the point.

8. suraj
BORING.....give Mr Lal a break...and get someone new.

9. Raja
It is a shame that Mr. Lal is writing less political analysis. A report like this anybody can write. But only Mr. Lal does best political analysis in Nepal. He should write that only.

10. Sargam
A writer functions exactly like a painter. At the same time there are publics of different tastes. Sometimes it entirely depends upon who regards the painting and from what angle does he regard it. A tableau of painting is the witness of a society at certain time; so why some folks cann't catch up the impression. And again are you more fond of impressionism, dadaism or surrealism? The taste and color we don't have the same. The impression you can have while observing the 'Guernica' of Picasso and 'Le Radeau de la Meduse' by GĂ©ricault are totally different because they narrate the human tragedy depicted by two genius of artists. So why at the first time when I attended a ballet in the Opera House I's cathartic.

11. Devendra Pant
No doubt Nepal is a rich country. There is plenty for every one to draw inspiration from the richness of cultural, religious, linguistic, and geographic diversity of our Great Nation. Whether from Lomanthang or Janakpur, we can dig into our rich past and learn from local history, specificity, sensibility or even vulnerability. I appreciate professor C. K. Lal for vividly portraying the religious, cultural, intellectual or even political significance of the southern city of Janakpur. It was an eye-opening moment to be cognizant of the fact that the early champions of 'voice of dissent from within' ("glasnost") and 'state restructuring' ("perestroika") emanated from this landscape. Let's look forward to be enlightened by the great Mithila culture. I agree with the professor that native place brings power and personality to ones 'self'. But I am also acutely aware that a Nation is like a breathing living and vibrant organism that is constituted of many different 'smaller' parts ("Federal state of cells"-as put by Virchow). The structural and functional unity of these parts are essential for the existential survival. I do wonder why our intellectuals shy away to highlight how each of these constituent parts are organically linked to each other and could contribute to maintaining internal homeostasis for the healthy relationship between the regions! The National 'Self' in essence is constituted of many 'selves'. An attempt to "see" 'otherness' in part of the holistic organism is alien to me. How can such twisted logic be explained-- Is it a symptom of pathological manifestation or poverty of dialectical understanding? Focusing narrowly on local "niche" could be useful for promoting profit making (which may not be a bad idea in the context of marketing). However, a search for a grand vision (strategic "Driving Force") to build a "learning" Nation needs composure at a much higher and grander level.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)