Infighting for Identity with Violence ?

B. K. Rana Email:

The 1998 Nobel Prize Winner Amartya Kumar Sen, a Harvard Economics Professor, writes in his book ‘Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny’ that his ‘first exposure to murder occurred when I was 11’ - that was in the year of 1944. In the book he argues that identity has offered an ample opportunity for violence in the world. He talks of Hutu and Tutsi of Rwanda also. He writes- ‘For a bewildered child the violence of identity was extraordinarily hard to grasp. It is not particularly easy even for a still bewildered elderly adult’. He saw certain Kadar Mia - a Muslim laborer knifed by Hindus. It had happened a few years before the collapse of British Empire in India and the period of widespread HinduMuslim violence. The poor Kadar’s wife had urged him ‘not to go into a hostile area of then-undivided Bengal. But he had to feed his starving family and he paid with his life’. The victim ‘profusely bleeding suddenly stumbled through the gate to our garden, asking for help and a little water.’ – writes the Nobel laureate. Sen's father had rushed the bleeding Mia to hospital where the victim was pronounced dead of the sustained injuries. More than 13 thousand Nepalese people also lost their precious lives during Maoist insurgency that began in the country in 1996. Many others also lost their lives during the Panchyat system. The recent Madheshi peoples’ protest was at most a movement against the state-denial of their identity or state of state non-recognition. The movement was reasonable. The demands are just. The movement has some bases. The Madheshi people still feel being unjustly treated as second-grade citizens of the country; most of whom have not obtained citizenship certificates or identity. The case of citizenship is another grave issue of Madhesh. After the promulgation of the Interim Constitution on January 15, 2007 the ever disgraced and disgruntled Madheshi people found an outlet to protest against the state for their fundamental rights – the right to identity. The sate being backed by radical force on the other hand apparently ignored what had been cooking inside the minds

2 of Madheshi people. Now, the Madheshi movement has fully demonstrated that they are different than the Maoist insurgents in the country. The Madheshi people, however suspended the protests, seem still not prepared to shun violence. Some of their leaders are reported to have sought assistance from Delhi Durbar by visiting New Delhi along with some leaders of ‘monarchial parties’ in the country. This movement also took at least 29 lives. The solitarist Nepal, for the sake of its ‘national unity’ which virtually has not been realized by all of the Nepalese peoples, at best stands for the ‘benefit and happiness’ of only those in the governance and always portrays itself monolithic as discussed in Samuel Huntington's much impressive paper ‘Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the World Order’[1996 ]. Kenji Yoshino, a professor at Yale University, School of Law and author of ‘Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights’ while commenting on the Nobel laureate Sen’s book in discussion writes ‘Its [ identity’s ] weakness lies in its failure to explain why, at critical junctures, we disown that knowledge. Is it because human cognition tends to trade in binaries? Is it because violence creates identity as much as identity creates violence ? Is it because human beings fear the choices or solitude a more cosmopolitan outlook would force them to face?’ The most human-rights or civil rights violated population collectively identified as Dalits1 [sic] who, altogether form a massive size, almost ¼ of the total population by 21.79%2 in the country, are conventionally offered dehumanizing identity for them as Pani Nachalne Shudras, literally ‘Water Untouchable Shudras’ – which also means – ‘mean by all accounts even water by their hands unacceptable’. This group of people, also seen as ‘Achhuts’ – untouchables - is suffering injustice throughout the history in South Asia - particularly both in Nepal and India. Whereas the indigenous group of people who, currently are best known as Aadibasi Janajatis, altogether have 37.38% of total population, also by convention looked down on as Pani Chalne Shudras – literally ‘mean by all accounts but water by their hands acceptable’. But this group of people is also tagged another unacceptable identity as ‘Tallo Jat’ [sic] – lower caste – a casteist supremacist and hence suppressive attitude to suppress others and stick to power. Currently, these two groups of peoples are in peaceful movement for respectful national identity. The movement
1 ‘Dalit’ itself is dehumanizing word. Some Dalit activists do not accept this nomenclature. This name is in much currency in India also. 2 National Population Census Report 2001

3 targets itself against the state enhanced casteist oppressive concept, in direct word if I may say, which once came under the ‘human-rights radar’ of President Jimmy Carter who had then to raise concerns over the persecutions committed against those converting themselves into Christian faith. In the meantime, the bitter truth is that the peaceful movement for social justice by both Aadibasi Janajatis and Dalits indeed lacks luster in that academics/thinker/leaders/activists from these groups either circle around or scattered among different political parties apparently for some political benefits. They have never been able to offer dashing shows in the national stage. Now, it is worth taking note here that the indigenous peoples or Aadibasi Janajatis and Dalits both of whom, also in a state of state non-recognition and second-graded or degraded as the Madheshi peoples, are adopting peaceful measures to expressing their differences which is always laudable3. Would not it be possible for the Madheshi people also to protest peacefully in case the government did not again address what they are making voices for? There has been lot more blood-shed in the country. The country needs peace for now.

February 12, 2007 Boston, USA.

3 Feb 11, 07 NFIN to sit for talks with government, continue protest

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