Enid Blyton’s erstwhile global legacy—teenage mystery solvers, ham sandwiches and lemonade and magical trees with pixies and moon-faced men—will now forever be etched, figuratively and literally, in our minds and on blue plaques (found all over the UK to link famous people to the buildings they lived in) for her “racism, xenophobia and lack of literary merit”. This posthumous demise of a widely-read author—the “cancelling” of Enid Blyton—is a warning: neither the dead nor the living will be spared the wrath of the woke internet.
Whether the cancel culture—a form of ostracisation from a global space due to offensive or problematic statements—is an uplifting, educative phenomenon or a toxic, vicious repudiation has been widely debated. That someone is ‘over’ after a wave of angry tweeting and retweeting is a matter of contention. However, lost in the steaming haystack of mass indignation is the pin of a simple motive: to hold people accountable for views that are offensive to a certain group of people.
That an author who has been dead for 50 years has been virtually lynched for her xenophobic accounts is a symbol of the times we live in. This posthumous lynching makes me draw parallel (in the sense that it is lacking) with the public figures of Nepal.
For decades now, the Madhesi community of Nepal has been tirelessly fighting for basic constitutional rights. This ethnic minority group of Nepal, in their fight for a ‘federal democracy’ with increased political representation, has been constantly overlooked: in 2007 Upendra Yadav burned the interim constitution of Nepal as a symbol of defiance. The discontent and frustration at the government’s disregard for a whopping 30 percent of the Nepali population is not a recent development. This ethnic prejudice stems from a history of Bahuns, Chettris and Newars ruling the land and dominating economic and political realms. Even now, a few groups dominate Nepali politics. However, politicians are trying (and failing) to advance an illusion of change.
While the issuance of an ordinance to amend the Nepali Citizenship Act—later stayed by the Supreme Court—was a step forward in the Madhesis fight for equality, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s attempt to delude the Nepali public into thinking he cares for ethnic minorities has failed. Oli’s sloppy sleight of hand was clearly seen for what it was: an attempt at political gain in light of his slipping support. The facts of the case are clear as day:
1. The bill had been “under discussion” for two years;
2. In order to retain his governing majority, this olive branch to the Mahantha Thakur-Rajendra Mahato faction of the Janata Samajbadi Party Nepal (JSPN) seemed the most logical step;
3. The ordinance, which was passed so hastily, clearly neglected other demands like equality between men and women in their ability to pass on citizenship rights.
Through this act of political opportunism, Oli attempted to temporarily appease the ethic minorities. However, this should not be mistaken for a sign of change. For lasting change, our elected rulers need to forgo all axes to grind. Nepali democracy has of late faced a crisis in the forms of a devastating earthquake, political inconsistencies, disastrous floods and other climate-induced disasters, and the ongoing vaccine poverty. In such unstable times, citizens look to their elected leaders for stability. Sadly, such responsible leaders have been missing in Nepal.
The derelict condition of the country is a direct result of lack of effective leadership. With laws neglecting women and ehtnic minorities and parliaments dissolving over internal disputes, the citizens get trampled in the circus of mayhem that is Nepali politics. The political leaders should be held strictly accountable for these selfish acts.
Our politicians’ adopted role of puppeteers needs to be dismantled: at the pull of a string we are asked to participate in elections in the midst of a pandemic, at the pull of another string we must accept the sudden inclusion of Madhesi demands after years of blatant disregard. When will this disrespect towards the country stop? Perhaps what Nepal needs is a figurative demise of dishonourable, untrustworthy, corrupt netas. That demise can only begin if the average Nepali decides to stop being a marionette, to cut the strings of political despotism. Perhaps a blue plaque of our own with all of Oli’s political mishaps needs to be etched for future accountability.
The author, a native of Dharan, is pursuing her Masters in Comparative Literature from SOAS University of London