These are my notes from a lecture by Kanak Mani Dixit at Roja Muthiah Library, Taramani, Chennai on March 1, 2018. His talk was titled “Nepal turns a corner”
The priest of Pashupathinath temple is a Namboodiri. The soldiers in Nepal are called Telinga. The Karnataka people have a strong connection to Nepal. The Nepalis left to various parts of India and became Gorkhas in Indian and British armies.
The rath yathra of Katmandu makes the Puri rath yathra look staid in comparison. The murthi Matsyendranath is from Kamarupa, is also called by Bundeo and has another name associated with Vajrayana Buddhism.
Nepal is deeply connected to India, more so to the south than the Gangetic plain. There is very little trade now between India and Tibet via Kathmandu but it used to be high volume.
Jesuit priest Ludwig Steller in his book Silent Cry, listed the exploitation of Nepal by Katmandu government and resultant poverty. Ranas and British became richer, but people became poorer. But Nepal maintained autonomy as princely state.
Jang Bahadur in 1800 went to London, his portrait is central in the hall of Indian Potentates in the India Office library. He supported British in 1857 Sepoy Mutiny, but allowed refuge for Nana Sahib and Begum Hazrat (??) as a way of displaying his autonomy.
Koiralas fought with Indian freedom fighters, went to prison with Rajendra Prasad, hoping to overthrow the Ranas, which was only possible if British were overthrown. After 1947, Koirala had a chat with Nehru, when he realized he was no longer talking to a fellow freedom fighter but to a Prime Minister
First election in 1959. Nepal has altitudinal diversity which no other countries have. And this affects its polity. It has the ravines of Afghanistan and the forests of Vietnam.
Koirala had the most inclusive cabinet, but he was overthrown by king Mahendra in a coup supported by the army, then exiled.
In nineties, when the Maoists realized they were getting no support at the voting booth, they exploited the romantic delusions of the youth, and brought in physical violence never seen in Nepal’s history. Local government was killed off. Army was violent by day, Maoists by night. In earlier eras, murders were confined to the courts.
After the formation of republic, GP Koirala gave Maoists equal seats as formal communists UML. Maoists never picked up gun against monarchy, only against democratic government. They were more opportunists rather than fighters. The gora sahibs, western activists, entered under UN auspices, and turned every Nepali who could speak a few sentences in English into a consultant. The Maoists try to impose a North Korean style constitution for a while.
Maoists and Dalits were funded, so there was a functioning workshop and seminar economy for them, but the Madhesis were totally ignored. And they rose up against that neglect.
Nepal had not suffered partition and 1971 and such trauma as India or Bangladesh, but all of it telescoped from 1996-now. Insurgency, foreign intervention, Communal tension, blockades, economic hardship, earthquakes.
Largest community in Nepal is Hill Kshatris sixteen percent, next is hill Brahmins is twelve percent. All are micro communities, so no serious communal violence. Nepal has both castes and ethnic groups, and castes within the ethnic groups.
I think Nepal has turned a corner, but I have said that before, many times, and been wrong, so you can take it with a pinch of salt.
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