Prime Minister KP Oli finds himself surrounded by one controversy after another. His active involvement in the recent Asia Pacific Summit held in Kathmandu, which was organized by the controversial South Korea-based Universal Peace Federation, will be a lasting blot on his political career. I don’t think PM Oli intentionally invited all these controversies. I believe the mistakes he and his government have made are the result of either ignorance or lack of interest in understanding our social, cultural and historical realities. Nepal is a place steeped in social, cultural and historical values. Without understanding and respecting those values, no government cannot function well. KP Oli is the most powerful prime minister Nepal has had in the past three decades. But he is not powerful enough to undermine the cultural and historical heritage of Nepal. Let us thus hope he has learned something from the Asia Pacific Summit faux pas.
It is because of the failure of political class to understand and protect our rich past that this country has lost track
Nepal is a predominantly Hindu-Buddhist country. But Nepal is liberal and tolerant, too. Its over 3,000 years of multicultural history suggests the same. This liberal character has also made our social-cultural history one of the oldest living civilizations in the world. From this socio-cultural perspective, we are the first-world. It is unfortunate that rather than working to build our national image and boost the morale of our generation by capitalizing on our social-cultural treasures, PM Oli has even failed to touch on those issues.
Nepal is one of very few countries where citizens are not taught about their own culture, history, languages and religions. In western countries, it’s compulsory to have basic knowledge about your cultural and historical past. Even China has started to prioritize history as a part of its national education.
There is so much to learn from our past. For instance, our ancestors had developed languages more than 3,000 years ago. They had already developed brick making technology in the third century. In the fifth century, they had started building temples like Kasthamandap and Changu Narayan, which have survived for more than 1,500 years. In the sixth and seventh centuries, Licchavi kings used to mint coins not only for Nepal but for other South Asian neighbors as well. Though this country was ruled by different dynasties at different times, they were all keen on protecting and preserving Nepal’s diverse social-cultural heritage. We have been lucky to inherit that heritage.
Here, if a common citizen wants to understand Nepal’s past, the person does not even have access to the country’s comprehensive history in Nepali, and one which covers the country’s social-cultural journey of at least 3,000 years, the time for which there is some kind of a record. It does not mean nothing has been written on it. Late Dilli Raman Regmi’s series on Nepal’s history can be taken as major contribution. But most of what has been written is in English, and that too about specific periods, and not about Nepal’s history as a whole.
If he puts his mind to it, documenting the socio-cultural history of Nepal as part of a comprehensive history writing project could be one of the big achievements of Oli government, for which people will long remember him. It could be a landmark contribution that connects this and subsequent generations to our rich history. After all, it’s a constitutional duty of this government to preserve social-cultural history of Nepal.
To repeat, from social-cultural perspective, we are the first-world. It is because of the failure of political class to understand and protect our past that this country has lost track. PM Oli has high ambition for economic prosperity. He talks about railways, roads, electricity, jobs and overall development. All these are important but perhaps he does not realize that the foundation of this development has to be our social and cultural heritage.