Let us celebrate our own festivals

Tuesday 04 October, 2016   |   Views and Analysis

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Dr. Krishna Bahadur Bhattachan

Dr. Krishna Bahadur Bhattachan

Dhobighat, Lalitpur, Nepal

Let us celebrate our own festivals

Over the last 200 years of Nepal as a modern nation, Hindu religion, culture and values have always been protected and promoted by the state. Nepal was officially a Hindu kingdom until recently, and the state is still not treating all religions and cultures equally. This is what Bahunbad is, and I have always criticised it vociferously. Giving importance to Dashain at the cost of neglecting other festivals of diverse ethnic groups is just one form of Bahunbad. 

As many as 59 Indigenous Nationalities feature in the government list of Janajati groups. There are other indigenous communities who are yet to be listed. And there are other religious groups like Muslim, Sikh, Bangali and so on. In such a diverse country, only Hinus get a long holiday for their Dashain festival. The state expects all indigenous communities to celebrate Dashain, but does not help them celebrate their own festivals. 

In a secular nation, the state should not work for or against a particular religion. But the remnants of Hindu kingdom still exist. Some ethnic communities, not all, now get holidays to celebrate their festivals.

In a secular nation, the state should not work for or against a particular religion. But the remnants of Hindu kingdom still exist. Some ethnic communities, not all, now get holidays to celebrate their festivals. For example, Thakalis still do not get a holiday to celebrate their greatest festival, Toran-Lama. My children have to be in school or college on this day. If they stay home to celebrate the festival, they miss their classes. Is it not a discriminatory policy?
Janajati children are asked in their schools to write essays about Dashain. They have to explain why Dashain is the greatest of all Nepali festivals. My children cannot write essays about Toran-La instead of Dashain. Is it not unfair?

Whenever we press for holidays to celebrate all festivals, the Hindus argue that we already have too many holidays, and we should not declare more. It is definitely not a good idea to have too many holidays. But it is not fair to grant a community a long holiday to celebrate its festival, and not grant even a single day holiday for other communities. So we should distribute holidays in a just manner, giving Dashain holiday only for those who celebrate it. Other non-Hindu ethnic communities should be given holidays to celebrate their own festivals. For example, Rais can be given holidays on Ubhauli and Udhauli. Gurungs, Tamangs and Sherpas can be given holidays to celebrate their own Lhosar festivals.

Dashain was imposed on non-Hindu Nepalis. During the Rana regime, the state used to monitor if all Janajatis celebrated Dashain. Janajatis had to celebrate Dashain to avoid being persecuted by the state.

Dashain was imposed on non-Hindu Nepalis. During the Rana regime, the state used to monitor if all Janajatis celebrated Dashain. Janajatis had to celebrate Dashain to avoid being persecuted by the state. People could have been killed or sent into exile for refusing to celebrate Dashain. So why do we not criticise a festival that was imposed on us?

After the seventh day of Dashain festival, government offices shut down, market is closed and few public buses ply. So non-Hindus who do not want to celebrate Dashain have no options, but to stay home. Their daily life is crippled during this festival. So it looks like the whole nation is celebrating this festival, which is not true. 

Janajatis have boycotted Dashain. Some Janajatis do not want to use the word boycott. They say they are just indifferent to this festival. But they all want to celebrate their own festivals, and let the Hindus celebrate Dashain. 

(Unofficial translation of Sociologist Krishna Bhattachan's article on why Janajatis boycott Dashain)


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