Politicisation Of Professions: A History of Democratic Destruction in Nepal

Among the many things that went astray after the restoration of democracy in the country in 1990 for lack of a decent political and democratic culture is the nation’s politics due to the politicisation or, if you like, the over-politicisation of the professions. While there is no denying that “Man is by nature a political being”, as the great Greek philosopher Aristotle put it, we in Nepal went quite overboard in the wild euphoria of the Jana Andolan and invited politics to be the sine qua non even in areas where politics has no business. As they say, too much of everything is bad, Nepal became a classic case of a society hyper-charged with politics. In a way, politics found its way into everything, superseding even the senses.

Unbridled politics

But events in the succeeding years show how much harm unbridled politics could cause to the body politic itself. During those tumultuous years, everything from the individual to the universe was politicised. Due to lack of a clear road map to proceed ahead with, the main protagonists of the Jana Andolan were a confused lot. The only thing they knew was power and how to grab it. They forgot that people are the basis of political power.

The rulers during that time were like wild and untamed horses. They should have presented a clear road map to the people and guided the society as per the Nepali ethos, incorporating in them the positive aspects of the Westminster-style democracy. Unfortunately, that was not the case. National plans were formulated in a hotchpotch manner. And in this process, an important aspect – that of managing the society after the success of the people’s movement – was given a damn.

The harm had been done. Politics, instead of becoming the adhesive agent in the society, became the vehicle for destroying the social harmony that existed before. Everything was seen through the political lens. Even the cattle were labelled either as belonging to one political party or the other. To take a case in point, back in my village in Mugu district in the mid-1990s, the situation was so much politically charged that the Congressis would not carry the dead of the CPN-UML cadres for cremation and vice-versa. The entire village was divided vertically on the basis of the political ideology one professed.

This reminds me of one interesting yet unpleasant incident. What happened was that a wayward ox of a UML supporter sneaked into the fenced wheat field of a Nepali Congress worker. This minor incident of a brute animal sneaking into the wheat field of a fellow villager turned out into a big political controversy that took the village by storm. It became the talk of the town. The political climate was such that battlelines were drawn between the so-called Congress supporters and the UML supporters. They were not even on speaking terms. And, there was not a single Neta (political party leader) from either side who had enough wisdom to settle the issue there and then.

This single incident was to turn out to be the battle royale between the Nepali Congress and CPN-UML in the local elections three years later. A large mass of the UML cadres carrying axes, spades and crowbars marched towards the village known to be a Nepali Congress bastion. This village is located on a hillock, and one has to walk uphill to reach there. The Nepali Congress cadres on their part started rolling down large boulders from the hilltop and even fired gunshots in the air, which prevented the frenzied UML cadres from marching to the village and wreaking havoc!

By referring to this incident, I do not mean to say that the entire scenario in the country was like this. Nor is it my intention to fall into the trap of taking the part for the whole. What I mean to say is that whether we like it or not, almost every sector in the country was politicised after the restoration of democracy. The political parties are to blame for this. Being the main agents of social mobilisation, it was the responsibility of the political parties to impart some degree of civic and political sense among the populace instead of just cramming the people with political and mundane ideological rhetoric. And, the picture is no different at present also. It is a pity that our political leaders never learn from their past mistakes.

At a time when the country is reeling under a very, very difficult situation owing to the Maoist violence and terrorism, and the state is prepared to hold the municipal elections, president of the Nepali Congress G.P. Koirala has tried to woo the civil servants towards the agenda of the seven agitating political parties. On Saturday, he issued an appeal addressed to the civil servants, asking them to actively boycott the upcoming municipal elections and cooperate with the people?s movement launched by the seven-party alliance.

This appeal coming from a politician of Koirala’s stature, who has become the Prime Minister of the country four times, is politically motivated and is aimed at turning the civil servants into the puppets of the political parties. By calling on the civil servants to support the agitation of the seven political parties, Koirala is trying to incite the civil servants against the present government. This is a highly irresponsible act on the part of the Nepali Congress boss. To try and use the civil servants as a political tool might backfire in the long run.

“You have become civil servants not due to anybody’s grace but due to your own qualification and skill”, he is quoted as saying in the appeal. “As an honest servant of the nation, you have your responsibility not to an individual but to the nation”, Koirala further said in the appeal. Well, well, Mr. Koirala, neither have the civil servants become ones due to your grace. As you rightly said in your appeal, Mr. Koirala, as the servants of the nation, the civil servants do not have their responsibility towards an individual and by the same token to you as well. In his appeal, Mr. Koirala also urged the civil servants not to remain passive onlookers and witness the destruction of the nation. What a wise vision! But full of selfishness. By calling on the civil servants not to cooperate with the government, Koirala, who has been leading a protracted agitation at the cost of the people, is trying to rope in the civil servants into his never-ending goalless political agitation.

Responsibility to nation

What will honourable Girijababu say, for example, if someone incites the bureaucracy into agitation and tries to deviate this permanent government from its responsibilities to the nation if he by quirk of fate becomes the Prime Minister of this country again? Leaders of Koirala’s stature should learn to be responsible to the nation and the people, rather than using college students, journalists, bureaucrats, lawyers and human rights activists as the tool to achieve their political ends. This is the need of the hour.