How many states were on the world map when Nepal emerged as a modern state? Not more than twenty-one. That was in the year 1768 A.D., the year when Kathmandu, the central city-state of the capital valley was integrated into this country as the foundation-stone of this State-Nation-in-making, starting the evolution of a nationhood that is still underway. At least, this is what history tells us. But history is also telling us that our country is about to complete a quarter millennium of its existence. Yet, if a survey is done about how many of Nepal citizens could say they know, one can be more or less sure that less than .003 percent of them would give a nod. For instance, a very quick survey of the top literati of Kathmandu city revealed recently that out of twenty-five people asked whether they know that the bicentenary of Nepali state was observed in the year 1968 AD (B.S. 2025), barely three said they know.
Such historic amnesia not only reflects how poorly we are being socialized, it also signals and signals in a very sad way that we are not really serious about our historic heritage. That our country stands in the top tenth position in the global comity of states today is certainly a matter we can be proud of. Apart from the fact that 2018 also marks the first centenary of Tri-Chandra College, a great milestone in the history of education in this country, it also completes the second centenary of the birth of Karl Marx, a humanitarian philosopher who scored highest (28% of the votes) when BBC did a survey in the year 2000 of the top 20 philosophers of the world.
Caption: The Growth in the Number of Sovereign States: Modern States Independent Before 1770
Isn't all this a matter to celebrate?
But why should we, if we decide to, celebrate, how, and what difference would it make?
Celebrating Quarter Millennium (Quarterlennium) will not only be a test of our symbolic capability. Nepal as a state has somehow weathered a whole series of conflicts, crises, and political turmoils in the course of its history, resisting the onslaught of imperial powers to retain its sovereignty and independence compared to many other states that appeared and disappeared over the past two millennia.
This certainly is something every Nepali can be proud of, although it is equally clear that we, as a nation-in-making, have a long long way to go.
Celebrating Quarterlennium is the need of the hour for another reason as well. The political transition from a monarchy to a republican culture demands a whole array of deliberation, dialogue, debate, discourse, and discussion at the mass level before a decision can be taken in a rational and legitimate way on the key issues and agendas of the just-born republic, constitution’s implementation, democracy, and development. This is what has never been done and cannot be left just to the political parties and government whose role in that regard suddenly cannot be ignored. At a time when the agenda happens to be of restructuring the state itself, such issues and agendas are too important to be left only to the government and the political parties, particularly in view of the stasis, corruption, crime, and paralysis that mark the mode of Nepal’s governance culture today. At a time when frantic calls are coming up for secession and when political consensus even on the key principles and agendas are hard to come by, the celebration can offer a unique opportunity for a large mass of the county’s populace to assemble and deliberate, not just to celebrate alone and send out the message in a robust manner that we work together, we stand together, and we will remain together.
Such celebration can bring together thousands of citizens at home and abroad in the towns and villages from the northern Himalayan region and hills to the plains of the south in a meeting of hearts and minds, probably for the first time.
Such congregation can organize events, set up fairs, mount exhibitions, and hold tournaments contests, conclaves, and symposia, even conferences, on a whole range of issues and agendas of concern to democracy and development at various levels - local, national as well as international. The conclusions that might follow the dialogues, debates, and discourses in the wake of the gala celebration could guide the course that our toddler republic takes in the days to come, generating a whole slew of policies, plans, and programs of immense value.
One way to set the ball rolling would be to spread out QUAM over the whole year, selecting 12 key sectors for the festival, focused separately on the twelve months of the year:
Art, Culture, History, and Heritage, Democracy, Development, Economy, Education, Environment Health, Religion, Science & Technology, Security, Sports, Transport
The advantage of the year-long distribution lies in offering the widest possible opportunity to the potential visitors who arrive in Nepal that year – both the NRNs and foreigners – from January to December and pick up the particular month and event of their choice.
Some possible highlights of the Quarterlennium could be:
● Inauguration of a regional center somewhere in the Saptakoshi corridor for study and research on social and political movements with the establishment of an archive and museum, and a monument commemorating martyrs who have fallen fighting for the cause of national independence, anti-colonial struggle, human rights and social development or democracy.
● An opening of a wildlife sanctuary.
● A video documentary on Nepal.
● A yearbook on tourism and education.
● Production of quarterlennium gift craft (souvenirs and memorabilia depicting the country’s culture, history, nature, and heritage).
● Special discounts on tourist tariff and facilities by sponsors, host agencies, and tourist organizations that can substantially boost up visitor flow-in through the scale of the economy it can augment.
● By way of conclusion, the Quarterlennium can hold an international conclave of intellectuals along with a commemoration evening to honor social icons, achievers, and persons who have served the country as aliens or citizens in some significant way and whose contribution we cannot forget.
The central leitmotif of the festival, of course, is to make it a Festival of Citizens, as the chance of a lifetime for every participant. Since the state in Nepal may have never attempted a celebration on the scale imagined here, ideas will have to be invited from home and abroad on the means and methods in an idea bank of sorts to streamline the event. All in all, the celebration could then turn out to be a rewarding moment for every participant.
To operationalize Quarterlenium, it seems sensible, indeed, necessary, to set up an Alliance for Quarter-Millennium with a Steering Committee as its core executive planning body. A high-level Trust, membered by celebrities of national and international eminence, may have to be formed to direct the flow of events, through consensus or a predominant majority vote of the Alliance set up for a fixed tenure of five to 10 years. Sponsors from professional agencies will have to be sought to fund the resource inputs and volunteers from a large range of schools, campuses, associations, and NGOs must come forward to man the event.