About forty years ago, a Bangladeshi diplomat, newly posted in Nepal said to me, ‘Kathmandu is a city of walls’. My thoughts went immediately to Late Balakrishna Sama, who after the ushering in of Democracy in Nepal, perhaps wanted to bring about changes in this country of ours. To set about an example he reduced his ‘Shumsher Jang Bahadur Rana’ to just ‘Sama’ and cut down the size of his compound wall by half
As I recollect these words, my thoughts go to the Great Wall of China, said to have been constructed to prevent invaders from ravaging the country. Later in time came the walls of Jericho, built with the guidance of God, by Joshua for the liberated Jews from Egypt to make their new homes there.Next come the European City states surrounded by well-fortified walls to protect the inhabitants within.
Prior to the development of gun powder it was usual to hurl big boulders at the enemy, either soldiers or brigands, and thus prevent them from climbing up the ramparts.We in Nepal, built our habitations mainly at the top of hills e.g. Nagarkot, Sarankot, Nuwakot so that when invaders tried to climb up the hill, the people at the top could tumble big boulders or even hot water or oil from the top to thwart the invaders.
The culture of putting up walls to prevent infiltrators getting in goes on. The state of Arizona in USA has built a huge wall to prevent Mexicans coming in. Even some Nepalis trying to get into the USA this way were recently caught.A few years ago, India was considering putting up a well along its border with Bangladesh. It already has a fortified presence between Pakistan and itself as well as with China regarding the Askai Chin area.
We too have a natural Northern border with China. Movement, though not unrestricted is controlled. Many are advocating similar border stringency along the South too. Is it justified? Will it not be detrimental is the question we have to ask ourselves?
Another wall of world importance is of course the one surrounding the old city of Jerusalem, said to have been founded by King David. Four different communities viz. Armenians, Christians, Jews and Muslims live there in an atmosphere which varies in emotional intensity from time to time. It is here that the Jews, who did not recognise Christ as the Messiah the first time round are weeping and wailing, waiting for him to return.
We in Nepal are in a similar predicament. Democracy came our way in 1950 and we were promised a new constitution by King Tribhuvan. King Mahendra thought otherwise and the Panchayat constitution was brought in with the aid of the British Sir Ivor Jennings. Following Jana Andolan I the constitution of 1990, said to be the best the world was promulgated, to be replaced by the interim constitution of 2007.
Somehow the 601 stalwarts who we chose in 2007 did disappearing acts. The king is gone, the Hindu Rastra is gone and they themselves have fallen by the wayside.The national election in November is becoming a reality. Are we going to elect these same old leaders or see many new, young and energetic leaders? There is no way the women are going to be one third of the set up. Another reason for lack of new faces is that we have not had local elections for eleven years i.e. not since 2002. Having a referendum on the many issues plaguing is not going to happen soon.
What I am now proposing is a gathering at what used to be the Sanu and Thulo Tundikhels of Kathmandu. Sanu is of course the sports venue of the Nepali people so we will forget that. The lion share of the Tundikhel of course belongs to the army – their club and cafeteria and their kabaz ground. The army, the new lords have not only taken this Tundikhel but many other green spots all over the country. What is left to the public of the original Tundikhel is a tiny sixth, which has become an open air market and the old Ratna Park. What I am proposing now is that a wall should be built running East to West across this piece of land. Those advocating for our Northern neighbours stand on the Northern side of the wall and those who are pushing for our Southern neighbour stand on the south of this wall. One side accuses the other in turns. Such an exercise in front of our public will expose the reality of our lives in Nepal. RAW and BJP can stand on the South side and Mandarins on the North. We won’t need a Snowdon to tell us what misdeeds our government has been doing.
Whilst we are gestulating and shouting about what is going on in this land of ours can we hope that a new Jung Bahadur will rise from amongst us to pull us out of the rut in which our present day leaders have landed us in? Or do we Nepalis have to weep at the walls surrounding Singha Durbar?