Could it be because we, Kathmandu drivers, are so bad, hilarious and sad at driving, parking and honking that we are so terrible at driving issues, parking on sides of issues that matter to us and honking at those shirking their duties?
I have written about topics and issues that make people in Nepal uncomfortable, such as the lack of success of our girls and women, about the misogyny inherent in our our society driving our girls and women to choose death over life, about the caste system, about caste-based discrimination, about privilege and structural inequality etc. I write about them because the first step to finding a solution is to recognize the problem and to talk, to have a dialogue about the issues to overcome the discomfort and possibly work together to address the issue.
This post may again be unpalatable to some in Kathmandu, especially to the middle and upper class people in Kathmandu valley.
By all accounts, life in Kathmandu valley has now become really tough…for the middle and upper class people as well. There is severe shortage of fuel and other essential items; prices have skyrocketed; schools have shut down; businesses have also shuttered etc. — all because of the economic blockade imposed by India.
Don’t get me wrong, of course I feel for my fellow middle and upper class Kathmanduites’ daily struggles. I have always felt for the struggles and sufferings of all people of Nepal…always!
But, who is responsible for the blockade and the suffering of the middle and upper class (and others) in Kathmandu valley?
Based on what I have seen on Social Media — click here for an example — and other media reports coming out of Kathmandu, the Kathmanduits blame the “Madhesis” for the sufferings and for the violation of their basic rights — right to education, right to livelihood etc. (“Madhesis” is in quotes because the critics make no distinction between the average Madhesi and the Madhesi political party leaders etc.)
It’s true, if you analyze the problem and go back far enough, you get to the Madhes protests. BUT events that follow people’s action are NOT like a Rube Goldberg machine, which, when initiated, sets off a chain reaction none of which would have occurred had the first one not been activated! In a Rube Goldberg machine, the first action predicates every single reaction in the chain reaction until it completes its task.
In other words, it’s also true that the violations of the rights of many in Kathmandu valley were not a direct but an INDIRECT result of the protests by the Madhesis. The blockade, which DIRECTLY caused the plight of the Kathmanduites, was an action that followed the Madhesi protests.
BUT actions taken by other people or institutions or bodies (such as the blockade by the Government of India), subsequent to the protest, was not necessitated by the protest! The Indian Government had a choice in the matter.
Sadly however, as far as I can tell, those in Kathmandu are NOT able to make that distinction, or even if they do, they are too emotionally charged up, and still blame the Madhesis. Because of the disruptions to their peaceful and comfortable lives, they feel the need to find scapegoats, easy targets.
(That happens elsewhere too, like in the US and Europe where people blame the poor and the migrants — easy targets — for some or many of their social and economic woes.)
In likening human actions (Masheshis protesting) and the subsequent events it set off (such as the blockade) to a chain reaction in a Rube Goldberg machine, and arguing that the Madhesis have violated their rights, Kathmanduites display yet another lack of understanding, that of the following:
- Your rights end where someone else’s begin.
- The government is responsible for ensuring that everyone/anyone can exercise their rights and, if the rights of anyone/some in the country are violated, to provide redress.
- If indeed your rights are violated directly or indirectly following an action by an individual or a group of individuals or following an event, and you feel there has NOT been any redress, the government is to blame!
The Madhesis, in protesting, were exercising their rights; they did not pour into the streets to take away the rights of the middle and upper class in Kathmandu.
As for the blockade, governments of countries have diplomatic relationships, and any issue between countries must be resolved diplomatically (unless you are some country like the USA! 🙂 ). Regardless of why the blockade is there, it can only be resolved by the Governments of Nepal and India. No one in Madhes can do that.
But opportunistic and utterly corrupt leaders who only look after their own personal interests make up our government. They have proven again and again…and again…that they don’t care for the woes of the population — the woes of the Southerners who have been on the streets since August, the woes of the middle and upper class in Kathmandu (and others in the valley), the woes of the population in the hills suffering as a result of the earthquake of April 25…to name but just a few very recent ones!
It’s because of their history of neglect that we are where we are today — our problems and woes have been piling up over the years! (If you are interested in an account of neglect, of our leaders and the Kathmandu elite’s arrogant, self-righteous and patronizing attitude towards another marginalized group in our country, as they have been towards the Madhesis, click here.)
Furthermore — and here’s the insidious bit — the leaders are actively pitting the people of the country against one another, they are actively fomenting dissent among the people, dividing them to keep doing what they have been doing…namely nothing!
Rulers throughout the history of the world have used — and counted on — citizens fighting against each other to hold on to power and to rule. The strategy being referred to as “divide and conquer” or “divide and rule” depending on the context. Our rulers are also using smoke screens, diverting our attention from the main issues: India vis-à-vis the issues the Madhesis have raised, the drafting of the constitution instead of focusing on the earthquake victims soon after the calamity etc.
Our leaders and people in government are driving our nation backwards and “parking” our nation wherever they personally benefit from.
So, where do the people come into this?
We have a responsibility to hold the government accountable to us, to hold them responsible for the current woes we face, such as the woes middle and upper class Kathmanduites face now (as well as the woes other Nepalese face).
Instead of us driving our nation by holding our leaders and the government accountable and thus parking ourselves on the right side of the issues facing all of us, here we are arguing among ourselves, blaming one another for our woes, just as our leaders want us to, just as our leaders expect us to…for their benefit!
Having said that, there may just be some hope…there may just be something you can do…if something is what you want to do about it! I have just seen a Facebook event, a #WakeUpAndAct rally scheduled for November 10…I hope a peaceful rally! This may just be the beginning!
However, if you choose to continue to hold the Madhesis responsible for the blockade and your woes and all you continue to do is complain, being part of the problem instead of the solution, I can guarantee you, you’ll continue to suffer. The choice is yours, just as the choice to blockade Nepal was India’s (not the Madhesis’).
In closing, let it be known, however, that I do NOT espouse violence! I’ll say something I have said before:
Let there be no doubt, any change brought about through violence will not last. Violence only sows the seed for more violence in the future, in an unending cycle!
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Nov. 7 Update
Some more details about the #WakeUpAndRise Event. Click on the image to go to the event page.
To show that you are attending the rally or to show solidarity with the rally, you can create your own #HamiNepali Impact Image and share it on social media.
To do so, follow this link: http://haminepali.nepalxyz.com/.
Provide the information requested — including a photo — and the image will be downloaded into your ‘Download’ folder.
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Nov. 24 Update
Another rally. Click here or on the image to go to the event page.
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Middle Class Mirage. “Many in Kathmandu were not aware of the events in the Madhes until the blockade hit them.”
Facebook Post and exchange where those in Kathmandu who engaged with me basically blamed the Madhesis for their plight in the valley.