Monday, Nov 28, 2022
Outlook.com
Nepal

Bleak House

It was all fullstops. The country is battling for its soul. It's been the most brutal year, by far, for Nepal's democracy.

Bleak House
Bikas Rauniar
Bleak House
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53

Anyone who harboured illusions of Nepal as a land of simple, goodhearted hill folk found out that it is just another subcontinental country trying, in pell-mell fashion, to overcome its failures of governance. The day after the massacre, Nepal's media shut down—ostensibly in mourning, but effectively in self-censorship. People watched Star News, Zee TV, CNN and BBC to learn what was happening outside their houses. What they saw was disturbing. The government was maintaining a strange silence on the massacre, or resorting to terse euphemisms ("the unfortunate incident", "the sudden firing"). This reticence only spawned doubt, and more rumours. Fatalists began speaking of ill star charts and long-ago predictions of the end of the dynasty. Romantics whispered of love gone awry. Conspiracy theorists speculated on court intrigues; even villagers were wondering what to make of their royalty.

Meanwhile, the country was subjected to a rash of royal funerals, the ascension of a comatose King Dipendra and his hasty funeral, conducted amidst a shoot-on-site curfew. With King Gyanendra's ascension, an inquiry commission was formed. (Nepalis still blush recalling the commission's spokesman toting a sub-machine gun before the international media). The panel's slapdash report satisfied few. Nevertheless, the government was keen to move on, and so, two weeks later, it performed the katto ceremonies to send the deceased souls onto other realms. Even this ended in a fiasco: recalcitrant katto priests staged a sit-in, accusing the government of denying them fair compensation. (After all, they'd sacrificed their good names by ingesting ritually polluted meat).

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