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Nepal: From SIKKIM-isation to MODI-fication

by Anand Swaroop Verma, 10 December 2014

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[This article has been carried in Nepali daily ’Kantipur’ (Kathmandu) on December 3, 2014 with minor changes]

Editor ‘Samkaleen Teesari Duniya’

India’s neighbours are often skeptical about it. The merger of Sikkim in India way back in 1975 introduced a new term in political vocabulary of this subcontinent- ’Sikkim-isation’. Discomforted with the developments Nepal reoriented its foreign policy to assimilate its northern neighbour China into it. Its socio-cultural relations with the southern neighbour India were long and deep-rooted compared to the economic ties although the event named Sikkim-isation compelled it to look northwards. Now a new term is unfolding in Nepal’s context at this turn of 21st century- ’Modi-fication’.

Now India needs to do nothing overt as such that could attract allegations of it being expansionist trying to annex a neighbouring country or a part of the neighbouring territory. Neither it needs to send its troops and officials overnight as it did in Sikkim to arrest Chogyal. It does not even need a Lendup Dorji to run his country on its behalf. It is already capable of manufacturing an assembly of Dorjis’ within various political groups and sections of the people. It need not use weapons and troops as in past to fulfil its aims as this could now be achieved easily by a mix of suggestion and coercion, a smile sometimes and an askance at other. This the Sikkim-isation reincarnated. You may call it Modi-fication for all practical purposes.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first visit to Nepal was in August this year and going by how some Nepali leaders described it, he ’had won the hearts of Nepali people’. A grand speech in Nepali parliament, religious offerings in Pashupatinath temple and after committing a series of generous gifts to the Nepali people, he promised to oblige this nation in November again. It was a mere coincidence that SAARC Summit was already scheduled in November itself that too in Kathmandu, but this visit was to happen either way. Many incomplete deals were supposed to be clinched during the visit, which according to Modi ’were pending since last 20-30 years’. This visit saw Modi posing in a courteous arrogance, announcing fulfillment of the commitments made during his last visit ’merely within 100 days’. He was actually speaking truth. Upper Karnali Hydel Project deal is over; Arun-3 Hydel Project is through with its first phase; he has partially fulfilled his commitment of resuming "connectivity" between both countries by starting a bus service; and opening of a hospital and a trauma center, etc.

Why to blame Modi for things that remained undone! Actually Nepali people were aberrant in hindering his visit to Janakpur, Lumbini and Muktinath and they ought to pay for this ’sin’. Lowlanders (people of terai) were longing for Modiji’s entrance to Janakpur by road and his auspicious presence in Ram-Sita Vivaah at Jankidham that would have added spice to the bilateral friendship. Here in India many corporate-fed TV channels had geared up their camera teams for live telecast of the event to international viewers. Even a program titled Modi Chale Ram ke Sasuraal (Modi visits Ram’s in-laws) was aired on November 13, 2014 on Zee News. A public meeting was also planned in the Janki temple premises but according to a minister in the government of Nepal, Maoists and some Madhesis under their influence cocked it up. Some leaders of CPN (UML) had also raised objections on the head of another state holding public meeting in Nepal. They argued that was it possible to allow other leaders of SAARC countries like Pakistan, Sri Lanka or Bhutan to hold public meetings in Nepal. An apt politician like Modi who has headed a province like Gujarat for 15 long years must surely be aware of the protocol that does not allow events of this sort. Despite if he had planned a similar event, it would be interesting to know his psychology behind it. Does not he recognize Nepal as an autonomous nation? Does he treat Nepal as an extension of India? Alternatively, was it the case that dividing lines of autonomy got blurred just due to the fact that both nations have a Hindu majority population? If this is really so, it is extremely dangerous. If some politically motivated organisations of terai are of the view that Modi’s visit could have better helped him to understand their problems and resolve them, what is the real motive behind this statement? Who are those people who took out a procession against cancellation of Modi’s visit? Are they the members of Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, Seema Jagran Manch and Hindu Jagran Manch - branches of RSS in Nepal- who have infiltrated Madhesi Janadhikar Forum and similar organisations? Remember Ashok Singhal of Vishwa Hindu Parishad who while addressing a meeting of Hindu activists in Biratnagar in April 2014 had said that "if Narendra Modi becomes the Prime Minister of India, Nepal will again become a Hindu nation". Many other leaders of VHP and RSS have made similar claims in the past. They may be granted a concession on the ground that these organisations are officially apolitical but what about those BJP leaders who have spoken similar words? In March 2010, BJP president (then) Rajnath Singh who is now India’s Home Minister had gone to Kathmandu in the funeral ceremony of ex-PM Girija Prasad Koirala where he had given this statement: "We have always felt proud that Nepal was the only Hindu nation in the world. If Nepal could again become a Hindu nation it will be the happiest moment for me". Two other leaders of BJP namely Vijay Jolly and Bhagat Singh Koshyari had also lamented on Nepal no more being a Hindu nation during their respective visits. Now in power, Rajnath Singh including others are obliged to say that the question of Nepal becoming a Hindu nation again does not rest solely on their wishes rather depends on the wishes of Nepalese people.

Now the ball has been put to rest in the court of Nepali people. It all requires inculcating the ’wish’ in them. It requires building a consensus. According to Noam Chomsky, media manufactures consent. Narendra Modi and his likes have manipulated the Indian media much to their wishes and it is doing the same. The Nepali media is used to imitate Indian media in everything, so why should it lag behind in this very case!

Narendra Modi is well aware that things are unfolding in his favour because besides Kamal Thapa who is the leader of pro-monarchy Rashtriya Prajatantrik Party, many a leaders of Nepali Congress and CPN (UML) are openly advocating the cause of Hindu nation. On November 7th, just 20 days before Modi’s visit, a conference titled "Hindu Rashtra Ki Punarsthapna ke liye Maha Abhiyaan" ( ‘Mega Campaign for Reinstating Hindu Nation with Religious Freedom’) was organised in Nepal and the chief organiser was none from any Hindu organisation rather it was Khum Bahadur Khadka, a leader of Nepali Congress. Reporting on the campaign, a website hinduexistence.org said, "The repeated visit of a Hard-liner Hindu Prime Minister of Bharat, Narendra Modi in Nepal is also significant in the advancement of Nepal again in a Hindu state". These were the same people and organisations who had protested with huge banners in terai to propel the message that only Modi’s visit could save this country. According to a news report published in The Indian Express dated April 7, 2014, the RSS branch of Nepal Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh was planning to open around seven thousand ekal vidyalaya (school units) in terai to foil the bid against Hindu nation. Citing Modi’s election campaign, report tells how he has culturally organised the Hindus by embarking a solidarity between Somnath (Gujarat), Vishwanath (Varanasi) and Pashupatinath (Nepal). In this quest, Modi has always emphasized on ’development’ buzzword whereas other organisations have consistently tried to strengthen the campaign for reinstating a Hindu nation. This report quotes Ashok Singhal as saying that Nepal needs a Modi today.

As per his program schedule, Narendra Modi was supposed to distribute 3000 bicycles among students during Janakpur visit, which attracted sharp criticism from UCPN (Maoist) leader Giriraj Mani Pokhrel and CPN (UML) vice-president Yuvraj Gyawali. They asked if Modi was on an election campaign in a constituency that he will distribute bicycles? Was it possible to allow the PM of another nation for this? These objections created such cacophony that he was compelled to cancel the visit. Modi’s supporters however say that the programme has been ’postponed’, not cancelled.

Narendra Modi was here officially to take part in SAARC summit but his focus was completely on manipulating the Nepali politics as per his wishes. He met with leaders of various parties and what he said to them in private was reiterated by him publicly, that they need to complete the constitution within stipulated deadline of January 22, 2015 or else...! One TV channel termed this as an advice by the Big Brother and another termed this as a "hard instruction". As per reports published in Indian and Nepali dailies, Modi had actually instructed the leaders and said that he (Modi) would expect each one of them to call him on January 22 and inform that the constitution is complete. What should we infer of this arrogance? Does Narendra Modi treats Nepal as one of his provinces? Does he see Nepal as a place in future that will act according to his dictates? If this is so, he has unleashed a dangerous ploy, whose consequences for the politics of this sub-continent rest in the hands of an unseen future. Meanwhile it needs to be emphasized that this is certainly a new avatar of Sikkim-isation in the garb of Modi-fication, for sure!