Prem Singh Basnyat is Brigadier General (Retired) of Nepal Army. PhD in military history, he has authored several books on military and political history of Nepal, besides being a visiting lecturer to universities in Nepal and abroad. He is also the Chairman of Nepal Museum Association.
Prithvi Narayan Shah was projected as the worst of the worst thief and King Mahendra was portrayed in the same negative light.
Two incidents led me to write this article. I had been invited recently to Nepal Army Training Center, Kharipati to deliver a lesson to officer cadets on post-unification, political and military history. The areas covered in my presentation surprised the cadets. This was not unexpected for political parties who emerge out of rebellion tend to paint a bleak picture of history and culture and youths tend to believe in such narrative. They distort the facts in order to tempt people into false dreams.
Then there was this Facebook status that emitted fire against Brahmins and Chhetris by one Sudhir Chintan. It read: “You Brahmins/Chhetris! Mind that Nepal is not your ancestral piece of land and that you can say anything and others will just believe in it.
Listen to learn that all those who now call themselves Nepalis came from India into the land of Buddha when the Muslims attacked them, and therefore take them back to India because they littered Nepal with all their filth. And you non-Hindus! Listen carefully that German Chancellor Adolf Hitler killed the Israeli Jews in six hundred millions, twice the population of Nepal now, in Gas Chamber Gestapo in the World War II just because they had penetrated into several countries of Europe with intention to reign supreme over the region. Therefore, all the non-Hindu indigenous people (Bahuns and Chhetris) should collectively finish them off the way Hitler did in Germany.”
This was shocking. We need to explore who instilled such false sense of understanding among our youths and find ways to correct it.
I don’t blame Sudhir Chintan for writing hate statements on Facebook. The political parties, Maoists in particular, who promoted and spread such false narratives are to be blamed. They have instilled in youth hate against racial and regional harmony. This is detrimental to country’s future.
During the insurgency and even until the recent past, Maoist adopted the policy to obliterate country’s past. History highlights unity, glorifies existence of the nation and pays tribute to the warriors who fight for territorial integrity. This instills in people patriotic feeling. It is unfortunate that attempts are being made to discredit country’s history, religion and culture and this has become the hallmark of “New Nepal.” Some of the leaders had even proposed changing country’s national flag and even name.
The upshot is there for all of us to see: Brahmins and Chhetris are projected as enemies of Janajatis, those living in the hills as enemies of people living in Tarai plains.
Those who sold out ‘New Nepal’ dream promised a state with the right to self-determination to virtually every ethnic community. Innocent people were brainwashed into believing that the history so far is the history of feudal and the elites. The campaigner of unification of Nepal Prithvi Narayan Shah was projected as the worst of the worst thief and King Mahendra was portrayed in the same negative light. Instead, European political and religious leaders were portrayed as much better than architects of this nation. This must have pleased the westerners who provided funding to Nepali actors to promote this false narrative.
Some seasonal historians taking pride in country’s history, civil society members, experts and even academicians fell into the temptation of foreign money. They began to interpret pre-1996 history of Nepal as a history of autocrats and the uncivilized. Today Nepal is struggling to preserve its history from those who are bent on obliterating it.
This false sense of history has created division among various communities. Seed of conflict has been sown between Janajatis and Chhetri/Brahmin, Pahades and Madhesis and men and women. It has instilled a sense of hatred among the people who lived in good terms for centuries. The people of one community, race, sex and region now tend to see the other as their enemy. Space is being created for conflict. The hate that is manifested on the walls of social media has percolated right down to the ground.
Go to the plains and the Himalayas, you will find similar kind of enmity and contention. Even scholars from home and abroad have teamed up to spread false information: Prithvi Narayan Shah slit noses of locals of Kirtipur in his frenzy for victory, and king Mahendra’s nationalism dealt a blow to the country, so on and so forth.
It is not hard to understand who those promoting such history are working for. Christian missionaries have been constantly demonizing King Prithvi Narayan and India has always found fault with King Mahendra.
The spate of attack on Nepal by foreign sponsored scholars has weakened the country. Some of them are even campaigning for Madhesh as a separate country. CK Raut is at the front. Many pseudo intellectuals are behind the scene.
Every story has its ending. Maoists launched destabilizing movement called ‘People’s War’. They became successful in instilling anti-Nepal feelings in youths.
Now we need to debunk this wrong history by teaching real history and culture to students from school to the university. The government must make history teaching compulsory. It should assign scholars like poet laureate Madhav Prasad Ghimire, culture expert Satya Mohan Joshi, history experts Tualsi Ram Vaidya, Triratna Manandhar, Prof Jagaman Gurung, Bairagi Kahila, Veena Poudyal and Chaitanya Mishra and others to write fair history for the future generation to read and feel proud of.
We cannot afford to leave Nepal in the lurch. If we allow the current spate of hate among communities, this will finally land us into 17th century situation of princely states. We cannot obliterate history. Let us all collectively contribute to retaining our history. Let us not falter.
The author is Guest Professor at the Leshan Normal University, China and Ex Brigadier
General of the Nepal Army