Though some old records state that an enclave captured in Africa as early as 1251 was known as Liberia it is more generally accepted that the American Colonisation Society of that time encouraged and initiated the repatriation of freed or liberated American blacks from around 1820 to an enclave in Africa that subsequently became an independent country with the name of Liberia. The country thus embodied the concept of liberty.
The French Revolution, lasting from 1789-99 may be said to be the ‘Father or Mother’ of all Revolutions. The cry of “Liberty, Equality and Fraternity” first given out then, generated a new concept that has continued to periodically reverberate and echo in many parts of the world. After a gap of a hundred years, at the centennial celebrations of independence of the United States in 1876, the French presented to the Americans a massive statue of a woman who had a torch in one hand and a book in the other. This epitome of freedom, the desire of which was expressed so long ago, has yet to be attained in many parts of the world. The attainment of women’s rights has still a long way to go.
Sierra Leone, in the same area of West Africa was also an enclave for freed former slaves. This country and another of the same region namely Gabon, under French governance, subsequently named their capital cities Freetown and Libreville respectively. The hope perhaps was that this would make the inhabitants proud. At home in our setting, Chandra Shumsher after he abolished slavery sent the emancipated Nepalis to two areas in the Terai that were then named Amlekhganj and Chandranigapur. Our names were in contrast – one depicting freedom and the other the other the largesse or the benevolence of the ruler.
It was about three years ago when the then PM BRB’s government cancelled the Democracy Day holiday and held no functions. The following year the holiday was resituated but there was some doubt about the participation of many sections of our society. Some schools did not give a holiday and their buses ferried students to and fro on somewhat empty streets. This year (2071), it was celebrated in a half-hearted manner as it fell on the same day as the Sherpa Gyalpo Losar. Was the reason for less enthusiasm the fact that the holidays total for this year was now one day short? The reason, I like to think may be due to the prevailing confusion of terminology!
Americans celebrate the 4th of July as Independence Day and the French, across the Channel refer to the 14th of July, when they terminated their rulers with the guillotine as Bastille Day. India, on getting their freedom from the British, referred to the 15th August as Independence Day just as the Americans had done 172 years before. Sadly, the British, the rulers of the Empire where once, ‘the sun never set’ don’t have the luxury of an independence day!
We in Nepal have:
Prajatantra Divas - Democracy Day - Falgun 7th
Loktantra Divas - - Baisakh 11th
Ganatantra Divas – Republic Day - Jestha 15th
Will the new Sambhidan now come out appropriately on Ganatantra Divas, as some sections of the press have stated, or is it just wishful thinking?
Aditya Adhikari in his book “The Bullet and the Ballot Box” has drawn attention to the ‘variation of the word democracy’ and stated that it has significant political connotations in Nepal. This is an important observation. His feeling is that interpretation of the two words ‘prajatantra’ and ‘loktantra’ in the usual Nepali setting is as ‘rule by subjects’ and ‘rule by the people’. My feeling is also that, as ‘praja’ means subjects and as we Nepalis are no longer being ruled by a king, it would be more appropriate to rename it as ‘Swatantrata Divas’. This is just food for thought.
A historical aspect in the annals of world events is a speech that the US President Franklin D Roosevelt gave in 1941, about a year before his country joined the World War II. He advocated for four and listed them as ‘Freedom from 1. Speech 2. Worship 3.Want and 4. Fear.’ The first two freedoms had already been enshrined in the constitution of his country. What is disheartening is that a country as rich and as developed as the United States has still not been able to achieve an objective which a former president had enunciated and struggled for about 75 years ago.
The hard fact is that conditions existing in the developing, least developed and land locked countries of the world are far worse and bleak. It is a reality of life that many of the presently developed countries have got to where they are by riding ‘piggy back’ on those who were more backward and poorer than them some centuries ago. These unexplored and far off areas of the world existed in an environment of ignorance of what lay around for picking. Thus the developed countries siphoned off a major share of the minerals, ores and oil from these places to better themselves.
Perhaps the rich and developed countries now feel a sense of guilt for their actions of the past that is motivating them now to give some aid to the countries from which they had derived tremendous benefits in the past? Is it guilty conscience that is at play here? Or is it all show and there is still the matter of a hidden agenda regarding what the true intentions are?
The author writes fiction under the pen-name Mani Dixit. Website: www.hdixit.org.np Twitter: manidixithd