The author is a research scholar with a primary focus on Himalayan Studies, international relations, political economy, and Indigenism. He is affiliated with the Himalayan Strategic Institute.
Social media is currently abuzz with news that the Democratic Professors' Association of Nepal is gearing up for its 5th National Convention. However, the convention has been abruptly transformed into a special meeting at the eleventh hour. The Association has chosen Mr. Gagan Kumar Thapa, the General Secretary of the Nepali Congress, as the chief guest for the event. This selection of the chief guest, while not uncommon in a country where politics and profession are deeply intertwined, has sparked a debate about the increasingly blurred lines between politics and professions in Nepal.
The Democratic Professors' Association embodies a segment of the nation's academia that leans towards democratic ideology. This raises the question: Why should a professional organization, such as the Professors' Association, carry a political identity? Furthermore, the choice of chief guest, a political figure with no evident ties to academia or the teaching profession, who doesn't hold a position like Minister of Education, prompts queries about the justification behind his selection. It's crucial to clarify that this isn't a question aimed at a specific individual, but rather at a broader trend. In fact, politics has come to wield a pervasive influence across various sectors of Nepalese society. The extent of political interference in professional domains has given birth to a paradoxical situation in which individuals and groups publicly critique this intersection, yet actively participate in it.
The impact of this scenario on discourse is evident in everyday conversations. We often caution each other against discussing politics, yet we invariably drift towards it, knowingly or unknowingly drawing connections between our professions, which ideally should remain apolitical, and the political landscape. The critical question that needs to be addressed is whether politics is forcibly intruding into our professions or whether we are inviting it in. If we look closely, this relationship appears to be mutual. We tend to blame politics for infiltrating our professional and personal lives, yet we are the ones who are incorporating it into our daily activities and work.
This political intersection is clearly seen in diverse sectors. In the education sector, students are divided along party lines, with student unions proliferating under the banners of different political factions. Teachers, too, are increasingly aligned with political parties. The result is a student body and teaching staff more preoccupied with the agendas of their affiliated parties than academic priorities. The existence of teachers' associations and student unions that talk more about their respective political parties' agendas than their educational concerns is symptomatic of the deep-seated problem. It seems that the focus has shifted from collective advancement to securing political interests.
The situation is much the same in other sectors. Civil servants and ethnic community organizations are also divided along political lines. The divisive nature of politics seems to have seeped into every corner of Nepalese society, even those areas that traditionally remain separate from politics.
Youth, in particular, are caught in this political crossfire. Instead of fighting for their rights and interests, they are being co-opted as ground troops for political parties. As a result, the youth's potential to be change-makers is being redirected and diluted by the agendas of political factions. If we examine the situation critically, it becomes clear that we are more than complicit in this scenario. We are not merely passive recipients of political interference, but active facilitators, inviting politics into our professional spheres to advance our interests, however trivial they might seem.
This deep-seated politicization extends further into sectors such as labor and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Workers' unions, once bastions of labor rights and workers' interests, are increasingly politically affiliated. As a result, the focus is shifting from employee welfare to political alignment, which often leads to the neglect of workers' rights and the promotion of party interests. Similarly, NGOs, traditionally established to operate independently of governmental influence, are increasingly falling under the sway of political entities. As such, the once impartial efforts of these organizations risk becoming partisan, thereby diluting the effectiveness of their initiatives and muddying their primary objectives.
This raises a pressing question: Are we eligible to complain about politics infiltrating different areas when we are the ones inviting it in? It appears that it is not politics that is the problem, but our willingness to let it pervade our professional lives. One cannot help but question how sector-specific issues can be effectively addressed amidst such pervasive political divisions. These diverse groups, each representing a unique sector, should ideally focus on their own agendas and maintain a dialogue with the government, irrespective of the political party in power. However, the current scenario paints a different picture: organizations appear more concerned with aligning with specific political parties or leaders, often at the expense of their own sector-specific concerns.
This pattern is not unique to the Democratic Professors' Association, Nepal. The upcoming 5th National Convention and the selection of its chief guest are symptomatic of a broader trend observed across different professional sectors in Nepal. The intertwining of political affiliations with professional responsibilities has become all too common, often prioritizing political gains over professional growth and sector-specific objectives. Such practices tend to suppress the nuanced issues inherent to each professional sector, potentially overlooking critical problems that need addressing. The undue emphasis on political agendas not only obscures these sector-specific issues but also tends to create an environment where meaningful dialogue becomes challenging. When our professional associations are divided by politics, they might miss the opportunity to consolidate their strengths and negotiate with the government, regardless of their political composition, effectively.
In many ways, the upcoming 5th National Convention of the Democratic Professors' Association, Nepal symbolizes a larger conundrum faced by professional bodies across the nation. This intersection of politics and profession opens the door for introspection and an honest conversation about the direction our professional organizations are headed.
Ultimately, the onus is on us to ask hard questions and reflect on our roles within these spheres. Are we merely passively experiencing these changes, or are we actively contributing to them? Are we willing to continue to let politics pervade our professions, or can we imagine a different way forward? If we wish to ensure the health of our democracy, we must also protect the health of our professions. It's not merely about nurturing political competition; it's equally about strengthening apolitical spheres that can provide a counterbalance and foster a diverse, pluralistic society. These apolitical spheres, like academia, are essential for providing a counterbalance and maintaining a healthy, pluralistic society. By inviting politics into every corner of our lives, we risk undermining the very foundation of our democratic society.We must remember that the strength of a democracy lies not only in its politics but also in its capacity to separate the political from the non-political. By understanding and acknowledging the significant role of apolitical spheres in our society, we can strive to maintain the sanctity of our professions, even in the face of pervasive political influences. It is high time we reconsider our approach and strive to distinguish our professions from our political preferences. It's time to look beyond immediate political gains and towards the betterment of our professions, society, and the nation at large.
As we navigate this complex intersection of politics and professions, it is high time that we evaluate our actions and their impact on our professional environments. We must cultivate a conscious effort to promote the interests of our respective sectors over political allegiances, ensuring that our professions remain resilient bastions of knowledge, skill, and service. After all, the essence of any profession lies not in its alignment with political ideologies, but in its commitment to its unique and invaluable purpose. After all, the strength of a democracy lies not only in its politics but also in its capacity to separate the political from the non-political.