Diplomats question Prithvi Narayan's role in nation-building

Published On: November 21, 2016 01:00 AM NPT

KATHMANDU, Nov 21: A section of Kathmandu-based diplomats have raised questions about the contribution of Prithvi Narayan Shah in Nepal's nation-building process, leaving politicians, former diplomats and others to construe this as an attempt to dictate and destroy Nepal's 'national narrative'. 

Some Western participants at the Nepal Transition to Peace Institute (NTTPI)-organized International Peace Conference in Kathmandu last week objected to the reference to King Prithvi Narayan and his contribution in Nepal's state-building and nation-building process. 

Executive director of NTTPI Sumit Sharma Sameer had made the reference to the founder of modern-day Nepal in his vote of thanks at the inaugural session of the conference organized to mark a decade since the Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA) that opened a way for the resolution of the decade-long Maoist insurection. Sameer maintained that the state-building process initiated by the late king and the 'nation-building' process initiated through the CPA cannot be regarded as mutually contradictory.

Arguing that the CPA promised to introduce various revolutionary measures to help contribute towards the ongoing nation-building process, Sameer said that the successful conclusion of the ongoing peace process will be the latest milestone in the nation-building process initiated by Prithivi Narayan. “Therefore, anyone supporting the  peace process today cannot rest without thanking the late king,” he said.

Some representatives of the international community had objected to Sameer's repeated reference to Prithvi Narayan, although without elaborating the reasons for their displeasure. According to sources familiar with the argument, Sameer clarified that his intention was to acknowledge the contribution of the founder of modern-day Nepal just as other countries around the world do so with regard to their own founding leaders.

Politicians and diplomats have termed such objections on the part of the international community an attempt to dictate Nepal's 'national narrative' and pose a threat to the nation's stability by creating unnecessary controversy about the country's founding leader.

“Such attempts are aimed not only at dictating our national narrative, but also at the disintegration of the country by discrediting Nepal's glorious history,” said a former Nepali ambassador who asked not to be named.  

The former diplomat also questioned the intentions of the international community as well as a section of people in Nepal behind the vilifying of Prithivi Narayan. “If we study our history, there was not even a single casualty when Prithivi Narayan Shah conquered Kathmandu in 1768. The fact that he decided to receive Tika from the living goddess Kumari and co-opted Newar culture after his victory suggests that his contribution was not only towards state-building, but also towards Nepal's nation-building process,” he further said. 

Former foreign minister Ramesh Nath Pandey said it is unfortunate that controversies are being created from various quarters about the contributions of Prithivi Narayan. “There is no point creating controversy over our glorious history, and we must be able to hand over intact the history we inherited from our ancestors  to posterity,” Pandey added.

Despite differences on the part of from international community, the international peace conference stressed the narrative that the successful implementation of the CPA would complement the nation-building process. Those speaking on this theme during different sessions of the conference  included Nepali Congress (NC) leaders Krishna Prasad Sitaula and Arjun Narasingh KC and CPN-UML leaders Bhim Rawal and Yogesh Bhattarai. The speakers opined that the ongoing peace process is a continuation of the process started by King Prithvi Narayn Shah in the 18th century. 

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