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Politics and circularity

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VS Naipaul's novel A Bend in the River (1979) struck me more than any other novels that I had read in the eighties. I still feel its reverberations. The novel is set in Zaire in Africa. It hovers round the theme of history and the hero of that novel is the 'big man' Mobutu, the dictatorial ruler of the land though he is not named directly. The novel shows how history takes circular course in a country such as Zaire when it was in the process of transformation from Belgian Congo. But that nation is only a metaphor that ironically succeeds in galvanizing power, rebellion and reversals in a spectacularly successful way.

The moral is that in the country political developments rise and subside like cyclones. Changes appear to be radical but in essence they are cosmetic in nature. Politicians make tall claims, float ideologies and claim their superiority over the others. People brace themselves for complete changes, powerful people's assemblies and new waves of history are created in that process. But the reality is that history takes a circular turn in that country. Things uprooted and displaced fall back in place. The same dictator assumes power, people rub their eyes and accept the changes as dreams. No complaints are heard. People who have raised hell against the dictator glibly develop arguments in favour of the status quo and the legitimacy and need of the ruler as a force of stability. He and his army elites continue their atrocity.


My hairs stand on end to think of the spectre of Zaire as read in the novel now haunting my own history. Only a thin veneer separates fiction from reality in Naipaul's novel . Our novelists represent our imaginary of our forward-looking psyche. We tend to view events as forward-looking and history as the name of a series of processes in that order. A novel that treats our perception of history in that fashion is Govindaraj Bhattarai's novel Sukaratka Pailaharu or ''Socrates' footsteps'' (2006) in which he uses history as fiction and fiction as history.


Bhattarai's novel represents the forward looking dimension of the Nepali people's aspirations through a technique of shadow reference. As an academic with county origin and one who has kept up hope for the good future of the country like Sukarat of this novel injecting hope into the minds of students caught in the cleft-stick of the times, I feel a great empathy with the protagonist. And that shadow reference represents the fabulation process of the novel.


Naipul's A Bend in the River represents the major changes till the circle takes a turn which is subtle but it is there. But Govinda Bhattarai's novel seeks to give ethical and progressive dimension to the mess. And we all do that.


I have kept tracks of arguments and developments of a month or so in an unplanned manner. The Dasain occasion gave me greater opportunity to meet people of different areas and interest groups. But my closest observations naturally come from people whose interest in politics is casual and whose acceptance of the April/06 change was total and unquestioned. At least I did not know of any caveats that they had nurtured about the changes then. But now the same people are glibly changing their logic. They are becoming more articulate about the virtue of maintaining status quo-ism in the politics of the country.


An unplanned circularity is in order. People have developed very quaint equations like republicanism is synonymous with the politics of the Maoists whose 'cadres have been going berserk' and its 'leaders have withdrawn their earlier commitment to the Constituent Assembly elections.' Even senior Nepali Congress leaders have said that publicly. That leaves the political discourse in a limbo. What is yours then if republicanism is the Maoists' cup of tea? Are you -- I address those mavericks whose changing responses I have mentioned above and the party leaders - then saying that to challenge the republican politics you support the institution of monarchy? Speak clearly what you want. But if you do not have any concrete reference you are contributing to the confusions more by speaking without any plan. If you have a politics in your mind, with King Gyanendra ruling and exercising power put it for discussions. But you do not want to do it because you know you do not want to see that either.


So I see that a confusing reference -- less political thinking has occupied the minds of many people in Nepal now. As narrated by Salim, the Indian ethnic Muslim narrator of Naipaul's novel, we see the history taking a circular turn in a country where the people and parties fail to lead the people successfully. A circular mess in politics and a selfish tinkering with history has plunged some countries, our good friendly countries Pakistan and Bangladesh for example, into serious troubles.


But the creators of the circularity and confusions are the Nepali political parties and their childish and what Ian Martin, the UN Secretary General's representative who has come to oversee and help the Nepali transition to democracy and stability, calls the mutual mistrust of the Nepali political leaders.


This is yet one more call of a Sukarat who continues to see some light somewhere.




Posted on: 2007-10-30 19:45:03 (Server Time

Source : Ekantipur

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