Democracy had two versions during the Panchayat rule. The King had his democracy already. The Communist and Congress parties were fighting for democracy. It was a buzzword of the time, but few knew its actual meaning. One of my school teachers had a curious way of explaining it. He would first draw a line in the blackboard and ask us to ‘shorten it without touching’. When we failed, he would draw another line longer than the first and say, “Democracy is the spirit of competition in which you try to outdo others without touching them.”

It was a right illustration. Democracy is the respect for differences. Theoretically, existence of oppositional forces is accepted to be mandatory in such system if these forces adhere to the principle of inclusion. Exclusion of one opposition is a practical necessity if it does not adhere to such principle. This is where the debate of keeping or ousting the monarch got ground after April Revolution. But, besides the antagonism against the monarchy, the popular psyche in the Loktantrik system since then has been to look at every other person with skepticism and intolerance. There is meddling of lines; every competitor tries to touch the other.

There are reasons to be euphoric about having Loktantra. It has come as a beckon of hope for the widely envisaged New Nepal. Though a familiar system around the world, it is purely a new vocabulary for the Nepalese people. We are actually in the transitional phase with Lok-tantrism, a recent Nepali breed of Loktantra and equally a new means of identification. Its grandeur has overwhelmed us so much that a different opinion takes the appearance of a threat and a non-believer becomes an enemy. Lok-tantrism is imbued with two basic meanings of ‘tantra.’ The first is the same old reference to a system of governance. The second has to do with such ideas as identification with deities, attainment of divinity, performing secret rituals, chanting mantras and applying yantras (tricks – see the pun!). In case of Nepal now, the first meaning is only a theory which every conscious citizen knows should be practiced. The second is the widely ‘practical’ occurrence, which everyone knows is gaining ground appallingly.

The Lok-tantriks act in functional similarity with the traditional tantriks. They identify themselves with their ideological deities. They perform rituals to generate and sustain political fandom. The fans live in illusion of ideological fullness. The fullness is at times kindled into the frenzy of breaches and blockades. And the general public, the most docile of the human race, keep shrugging it off as the fruit of the ‘April Revolution’ yawning unawares in wait of a time when time will right all the wrongs. The Lok-tantriks are everywhere. They may bear a brand membership bestowed by a ‘Loktantrik’ party though they hardly have any time for the perusal of the party constitution and manifestos, or for roots and evolution of the party’s ideology itself. There is this magic of having a brand name that has offered overnight aggrandizement. There is activism that heads towards an opportunity – an immediate compensation for the ideological penury. The necessity of indoctrination is a far cry. And, if not your windows, Mr. X’s doors are always open for them.

Let us be a bit serious now. How do revolutions succeed? Is it the success of political brainwashing prior to or during the agitation? Partly yes; political mobility works as a stimulant to people’s latent desire for change. Mostly no; it is people’s desire and commitment for change that works. As the Algerian leader Frantz Fanon had asserted, it is the memory of a nightmarish past and optimism for a better future that bolsters people’s spirit for a change. People who go to the frontline of a revolution are those who have this spirit. And they are the people who get frustrated when their optimism is marred by power-mongering by the relatively more prosperous people, who hibernate during agitations but emerge to the forefront when physical danger subsides. When they emerge, they are helped by parties to cede their old skins or to change their colors. They become more revolutionary than the actual participants of revolution. This is why today’s Lok-tantriks are more visible than those who defied curfews and got crippled by boots, bullets and iron bars.

To be a Lok-tantrik you do not need to be a liberal democrat, nor a communist. You don’t need to explain anything. Just complain that things are not right here or there. Discipline and devotion do not go with this novel pursuit. You can just make yourself a self-aggrandized ideologue without a dependable ideology. You can have a holiday on Ganatantra/ Loktantra Day, go for a picnic and swim in Bhotekoshi to your heart’s content, while the whole country reverberates with the demands to buttress this new-found tantra. You need only sing a panegyric to this catchword and make the world believe that you are a worthy believer. It fills the void of your ideological bankruptcy.

Is Loktantra an ill-fitting shoe to an aimless trekker? The question has remained unanswered given the rise of Lok-tantriks in the recent times. Political competition has taken the form of elimination of dissenters; the line is touched, rubbed and distorted. The whole system rather seems to be in the maze of several ‘-doms’ representing several intervening lines. In the centre of the maze is the notion of kingdom opposed by ‘two hundred and thirty eight years old’ serfdom of poor people. All political activities stand in a supposedly common ground of ensuring freedom from exclusion, discrimination, oppression and poverty. Martyrdom of many in the past, and readiness of others for it at present and future, has put a constant pressure upon the country’s policy makers and wiseacres. In the same maze lurks the Lok-tantrik fandom. Most critical in the every day life has been the terror of wolfdom by criminal recurrences like communal violence, extortion and robbery, and abduction and killing of children.

And from the same maze comes an urgent call to the practitioners of actual Loktantra: O you saviors of this nation, give us optimism if not assurance, assurance if not readiness, readiness if not immediate action, action if not immediate achievement.

But, do the Lok-tantriks ever make this call or even listen to it?

The Kathmandu Post,  21 Nov. 2007

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By hkafle

I am a University teacher, with passion for literature and music.

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