I realized that lately we have been tinkering with the reckless use of the Nepali language in politics. Although media analysts have repeatedly warned against this phenomenon, no in-depth study on the use of the Nepali language by politicians has been carried out to my knowledge. No one can miss the stories of the language used by political leaders and cadres in Nepal, especially over a period that saw somersaults in politics and the occupation of power. The question of who holds the reins of power is a subject of interest. This means that the production of offensive, irresponsible, flippant and sometimes strange use of language by politicians and their executives is propelled by a struggle for power. Power is not an abstract phenomenon in such contests; it is palpable and predictable, made clear in the choice of idioms and rhetoric architected by party propaganda apparatuses for the same purpose.
A certain sense of avarice, which is a desire to seize the means of making money for the benefit of leaders and to create funds for the party to use in elections, seems to be at the root of the psyche going beyond norms and decency in the use of language. I see a darker side to such relentless, chaotic, irresponsible and bizarre use of language in our daily politics. I see that such use of language does not bode well for the future of democracy or loktantra in Nepal or anywhere else for that matter. I want to discuss this side of the story in the following lines.
Orwell and Koirala
I want to recall two very important observations of political significance made by two different writers with two completely different backgrounds. They are the British novelist and essayist of Indian origin George Orwell (1903-1950) and the Nepalese novelist and statesman Bishweshwar Prasad Koirala alias BP (1914-1982). Orwell wrote about the relationship between totalitarianism and the use of language. He wrote how a flippant but calculating use of language can herald a dictatorial system of government. His famous novel One thousand nine hundred and eighty four (1949) imagine a dictatorial system of government that uses language as the best tool for this. In his powerful and widely used essay “Politics and the English Language” (1946), Orwell laid the main foundation for this novel. This essay written after World War II shows how language is used to create a culture of control and totality. It shows how the use of a language that includes writing creates the basis for a state of dictatorial order. The rulers destroy the communicative form of the language in order to create a condition of regimented thought and thus undermine the creativity of the people. Such use of language is closer to what is manufactured by right-wing populist culture today.
The other observation on the use of language comes from none other than BP Koirala, the great architect of the culture of freedom and democracy in Nepal. He was a very powerful creative writer, novelist and memoir and diaries writer with great literary, political and ideological values. Like Orwell, BP knew how politicians could talk about the use of language. As he was a great statesman, a freedom fighter and one who worked closely with Mahatma Gandhi, he was fully aware of the power of language. He understood that those who wanted to create a rule of authoritarianism understood the power of language, ironically. As a politician, he defended the principles of freedom and liberty. Therefore, he was quite comfortable with the use of language in politics. The end of the century-old Rana oligarchy in 1951 opened up many things in Nepal; the free and productive use of language was one. His memoirs and diaries reveal these moments of liberation in Nepal after the political change. But the other side of the change remained unanswered for BP Koirala as well. It was the use of language by a politician like himself who was also a creative writer of a successful order.
My own theory is that BP was concerned that those engaged in politics—political leaders and those concerned with the complexities of language praxis—might abuse it. Who would understand this better than BP who was also a literary writer? As I have already written long speeches on this subject, I would only like to quote what BP has developed as a strategy which has enabled it to preserve the creative power of language and also to clarify the political use of language for your purpose, that either socialism or democracy. BP said, and I do a free translation of it, “I feel that I am two different people, one in politics and the other in literature. I think that two different creatures are working in me. These two creatures do not are not crossed. This is the reason why my literary writings do not smack of politics.” (Pooja, number 6). But he developed it elsewhere in these words: “I am a socialist in politics and an anarchist in literature. Art wants freedom and not security; he does not want to walk on the path that is already used. He wants to create his own path. (Arunodaya, 15:1-2). My theory is that BP had seen the dangers of misuse of language in politics. So, in order to keep the health of the language intact, BP created the binary of his literary work and his political practice, he wanted to practice them separately.
Considering the limited space and the broader meaning of the subject, I want to draw my conclusions by returning to the subject introduced at the beginning. The politicians of Nepal at this stage are flaunting the decent and creative use of language. They consciously or unconsciously create fertile ground for an autocratic culture in Nepalese politics, which arises when you break all decent norms of language use. George Orwell made this clear in his essay. BP Koirala also foresaw the danger of this.
My conclusion is that the current misnomer, especially from the politicians who will govern this country one way or another, does not bode well. Orwell and BP saw the future indicated by the misuse of language by those in positions of power. Such use of language is propelled by a certain hysterical craze for power that destroys a culture of speaking up, decency and understanding, and a sense of rush that urges you to seize power by completely undermining the existence of people who have different ideas. The culmination of this speed, if not curbed, will pave the way for the cultivation of a dictatorial culture in the country.