Nepali politics has taken a new direction with many political changes showing up day by day. However, at least one aspect of politics remains stagnant: the use of highways in protests. The use may seem dynamic as it literally promotes political mobility and leads to changes in some sections of the system. Present developments owe directly to the nineteen days long blockade during the April Revolution, which forced king Gyanendra to reinstate the parliament. But, has the situation totally taken a new turn after that? The practice of using highways, preserved as one of the oppositional assets since the Panchayat era, remains even more effective revolutionizing measure today. In other words, it seems to continue without alternative.
Whether it is the people demanding the nation’s complete restructuring, or those seeking greater representation on the ground of region, race and ethnicity, or those demanding assurance and security of jobs, all have blocked, burnt and blood-smeared the highways in the course of making their causes strident. With this, Nepal has stepped into one of the very chaotic times. If we believe in the existence of a silver lining, there may be creativity in the chaos, especially because it helps make genuine causes audible and forces changes. There is only one way to optimism: we are naturally no lovers of a downfall, and all that we are doing is for transformation! But, isn’t this a proof of the lack of creativity in we politically imbued people, who are supposed to possess a vision for future? Can’t we devise other means of making demands audible so that there is least or no physical and psychological damage? The real narratives of the popular sufferings caused by regular blockades have been neglected as popular myths. The entire highway approach has begun to appear sadistic, showing the protestors, whoever they may be, unmindful of its long-term ramifications.
The recurrent blocking of highways has continually deprived people of their right to mobility. The present age, in general, is a fertile ground for those who maintain livelihood in alternative locations. For this, one requires to maintain a high degree of dynamism and mobility. But the real problem now is that we Nepalis are gradually shrinking, fidgeting from backwardness to stagnation, having been deprived of the emancipatory gift of dynamism. One of the principles of social development is that we become more independent if we feel belonging to a wider space. But, we are gradually lacking interaction with other peoples and places. What can be more regressive than this?
As the nation takes a new direction today, the upcoming Nepali history writing will get a new structure. The highway culture can be an important location to reinterpret the last two decades, and to record the political changes following the April Revolution. Though such proposition may sound queer, present Nepali historiography requires a closer inspection of the dichotomy between aforesaid dynamism and stagnation in view of the exploitation of highways in protests and revolutions.
Published in Kathmandu Post