Monday, March 28, 2016

        
Marginality in Contemporary Indian Nepali Writing

                                       Manprasad Subba

Marginality as a discourse in Indian Nepali writing is introduced relatively quite recently. Although pains and grief of being alienated and relegated to the fringe can be traced as far back as 50s and 60s of the preceding century in the writings of the writers and poets of the Darjeeling Hills, Assam and elsewhere in India, they largely exhibit indulgence in bitter nostalgia of their long past and romantic expression of their grief and sorrow, almost to the point of maudlin.

Tendency to escape the hard and tormenting reality and yearn for ‘a land at once strange and familiar where the heart finds itself at home’ is an element of romanticism. They sang melancholic songs ‘in shady haunts’ and cried in wilderness. They were still far from using the language of, to borrow bell hooks’ phrase, ‘talking back’, language of resistance and self-assertion in the larger context of the nation.  

Late seventies and eighties witnessed some poets much vocal and bold in giving vent to their resentment and protest against the calculated ignorance, apathy, manipulation and manoeuvring meted out by those belonging to the class far more advantaged and advanced. All the Nepali speaking Indians throughout India had felt a sharp smack when Morarjee Desai, the then Prime Minister, in 1977 had battered black and blue the whole Nepali speaking community in India with his strangely arrogant replies to the delegates of All India Nepali Bhasha Samity (AINBS).  He slammed shut the door of Eighth Schedule of Indian Constitution to Nepali language by pronouncing it a foreign language in spite of the fact that it was already enlisted as one of the major Indian languages by Sahitya Akademi, the highest National Academy of Letters in India; he even threatened to disband Gorkha Regiment from Indian Army. Our long cherished demand for the inclusion of Nepali language in the Constitution was thus so humiliatingly dashed to the brink by the Centre. This humiliation and insult at the hand of the most powerful seat at the centre shook the entire Nepali community of the land like never before.  And the poets poured out their anguish, playwrights took their agonized protest to the stage, short-story writers came up with the theme of cultural identity, musicians composed songs evoking the deep rooted feelings of Nepali ethnic culture and the young painters like Krishna Subba, Sonam Sherpa and Hemu Rai irresistibly drew people’s attention on their canvases come alive with bold strokes.

A few lines from a poem entitled ‘Backlash’ that was spurred by the anguished moments and published in ‘Haamro Bhasha’-1978, the AINBS’s mouthpiece, may be cited here to show the different tone and texture of Indian Nepali poetry in late seventies and eighties:  
        
         Before the crack of dawn
         Without any sign of rain
         Thunderbolt struck this pine tree
         While I was waiting for April to arrive.. 
         …        …      …
         I, as old as the Himalaya,
         But now a derelict
         In my own country!
         …         …      …
         Now is the time to be born of death’s womb
         O my Hills and mountains!
         Why are you still quiet with your arms crossed?
         Burst forth thunderously releasing the streams of lava all around
         Against this dark chasm…
-          Subba

A year later this poem was honoured with Diyalo Puraskar by Nepali Sahitya Sammelan, Darjeeling.

Mohan Thakuri, a well-known poet, also articulated in these words:

         I am here standing for ages
         Flowing with songs of rivers
         Echoing on the hills
         The soil of the land where I stand
         Speaks out the testimony of my being here…

-          Need of the Hour (1980)

And the language movement was re-energized. It was, of course, a serious question of identity crisis, and the then sixty lakh Nepali-speaking Indians fervently believed that the inclusion of Nepali language in the Constitution would solve this crisis, the primary cause of their decades-long suffering – physical as well as psychological. ‘Our language, our life’, ‘We sacrifice our lives but we will reach the goal’- slogans rent the sky of Darjeeling Hills and the Dooars and their echo could be heard in far flung regions like Manipur-Mizoram in the east and Dehradun-Bhaksu in the west. However, even the two successive governments after Morarjee only toyed with our sentiment. Agonised at being ignored and pushed off as an unwanted, a significant modern Indian Nepali poet like Khadgasingh Rai ‘Kaanda’ in his poem Patriotism in Me had to voice his grim discontent in a deliberate prosaic style –

       My Indianness
       Struggling in the midst of injustice and ignorance…
       I wish
       My speech could reach you –
       Of the right
       That enables me to be agile
        In sovereign India
        O my country! The right to love.   

Continuous apathy and hegemonic attitude on the part of the state-power towards the Nepali speaking community in the Darjeeling Hills and Dooars ultimately resulted in the eruption of the demand for separate state, first spell of which was seen in 1981with the emergence of Pranta Parishad led mostly by intellectuals and the second one with far wider mass support in 1986 when the whole Darjeeling hill region supported by the Doors violently thundered with the emotionally charged chorus of Gorkhaland. And the peaceful democratic movement of the language was pushed to the rear seat. The government resorted to its repressive measure to subdue the rapidly rising chorus of self-determination.

Scores of poetry appeared, songs were composed, short-stories woven in support of the common cause believed to be the highway connecting to the national mainstream. However, the concept of marginality as a discourse was yet to dawn upon our minds. In the meantime Nepali language, along with Manipuri and Konkani, finally found its way into the Constitution in August, 1992. But the mercury of euphoria pushed up by the constitutional recognition of the language started falling before long as it proved inadequate to make the Nepali-speaking Indian citizens stand on a par with mainstream Indians. Moreover, it has been deeply felt that Indian Nepali community has continuously been subjected to internal colonialism that began long before India freed herself from the colonial rule. But viewing things in postcolonial perspective was yet to set in Indian Nepali writings.  

It was only towards the end of 2008 when Kinaraka Aawaajaharu (Voices from the Margin), co-authored by Manprasad Subba and Remika Thapa, was published, the terms like ‘margin’, ‘marginalization’, ‘marginality’, ‘marginal’ increasingly came into usage in Indian Nepali literature. Voices from the Margin is an anthology containing 32 poems, each author contributing 16 poems, with a Preface (penned by me) in which the concept of marginality, by way of introducing it in literary writing, has been discussed considerably at length. The fact that the first Nepali edition of the book (किनाराका आवाजहरू) published in November had all sold in just one month prompting its reprint in December of the same year, proves how warmly it was received by the readers. Its English version with the title mentioned above appeared in 2009 and that also was able to win the affection of the readers whose language is other than Nepali. It will not be, I hope, out of place if I put here an excerpt of the e-mail I received from a noted Irish-Australian poet Dr. Robyn Rowland. No, it will be rather convenient to me to carry forward this write-up with the points she has mentioned in the excerpt of her mail: “I have spent a lovely time on a very hot Sunday here reading your book Voices from the Margin. Thank you so much for giving it to me. I have learned so much about the issues around marginalization and also Nepali language about which I was ignorant. I will now look further to understanding more. I enjoyed your connecting that issue with the forms of poetry in your introductory prose piece. Very interesting. I particularly loved that paragraph 2 on page xii beginning ‘the culture of the oppressed.. .’ Beautifully written. It was interesting, your writing on free form. I agree with much of it. Your poetry likewise I enjoyed. Especially from page 43 to 55. I liked that stinking coat image and the poems around words and language.”
The paragraph referred to above runs in the Preface as follows: The culture of the oppressed group, kept all the time away from the national stage, is very often thought of little value. It is not given any space to show itself as a distinct colour in the band of rainbow of cultural mainstream. Each culture has its own distinctive flavor and beauty which could be truly felt by none other than the one from the same cultural group. Others may be incapable of seeing it in its right perspective or may not be able to feel its soul, its heart-beat. So, the other’s interpretation may only be intellectual (cerebral) rather than that felt with heart. As culture bears the identifying face of a race, hegemonic adopts many ways and means to deface it or to keep it aside under the murky shadow.
The point raised in this paragraph is that of space. To be marginalized is to be denied space and everything in it. Powerful, dominant and hegemonic forces take in central and prime spaces while rendering others as weak, poor and minor who are constantly made to remain on the fringe. And the distinct cultural values of those at the margin are left ignored, undervalued or even despised as everything is viewed from the perspective of mainstream cultural value system. It is in fact the power (political, economical, demographic and intellectual) that projects itself as mainstream and exercises, directly or indirectly, its power upon those kept away from the ‘mainstream’, distanced to be called ‘other’. Thus they are constantly made to be under the pressure of cultural hegemony. While putting up resistance and critiquing such hegemony the discourse of marginality turns the focus towards the other thickly shadowed or marginalized perspectives of value system which is what has been taken up as the driving force in the writings of marginality.
Celebrated American-black author, bell hooks, in her Marginality as Site of Resistance says, “Understanding marginality as position of resistance is crucial for oppressed, exploited, colonized people. If we only view the margin as sign, marking the condition of our pain and deprivation, then a certain hopelessness and despair, a deep nihilism penetrates in a destructive way the very ground of our being.” It is this ‘resistance’ that has boldly come to the fore in the contemporary writings of marginality. Unlike their romantic predecessors of the late fifties and sixties, the present day poets and writers who understand ‘marginality as site of resistance’ do not fall victims to ‘a certain hopelessness and despair’. They have intently listened to Bob Marley sing – ‘We refuse to be what you want us to be, we are what we are, and that’s the way it’s going to be.’ Similar feeling is reflected in the poem ‘Mainstream and Me’ at the end of Voices from the Margin
      
    Now
       I don’t want to sing what the
       Mainstream wants me to
       Until my own melody is not given
       A chord in the composition
       I won’t be mesmerized by its glittering words
       That usually come
       To benumb my own words.  

Remika Thapa in her poem ‘Watering with Blood’ has voiced these words straight away:
       I’m not in a state to accept
       your bouquet of paper-roses
       I can’t, at least, be a romantic
       of such lowest point.
Dr. Robyn Rowland in her mail to me quoted above has made a mention of ‘that stinking coat image and the poems around words and language’. Leaving aside the poems of words and language, I quote the poem ‘This Stinking Coat’:
       For how long should I be wearing this second-hand coat
       That lies so heavy on my shoulders for ages

       Thrown over me without asking for,
       It has stuck to my body so tightly

       Overpowering even the earthy smell of my body
       This coat stinks of rotten fish

       I’ve sprained my shoulders and back while striving to take it off
       But I’ve to rid of it even by scraping or tearing

       I will rather cover myself with bark or leaves
       And liberate the smell of my body.

The poem while presenting the grim situation of internal-colonialism, unhesitatingly expresses desperate attempts made from time to time and an undaunted will to be free from such subjection. After the fall of colonial empires, postcolonial era ushered. But almost in all parts of the world countless of ethnic groups, aboriginals, tribes and the likes have been under the gloomy pall of internal colonialism in their own countries. Many of them have been struggling for the right of their self-determination; some are striving hard to save their culture while many others have already succumbed to the pressure of the powerful.

Remika Thapa, in her inimitable style, has questioned in the poem ‘Those Who Live Treading the Soil – 2’:     

       In the resplendent biceps of the shade-showering bar-pipal,
       planted seven generations ago by the forebears of
       Ratnamaya Limbuni,
       who has but suddenly hung
       this large hoarding – “Masters’ Town”?

Internal colonialism that makes inroads into the distinctive culture and society of a community shows itself in different forms of marginalization. Both overtly and covertly, it thrusts its presence into the life of the targeted group or community ever subjecting them to deprivation and exploitation and rendering them even weaker. Very often they are denied representation, as if being told, again borrowing from bell hooks, “No need to hear your voice when I can talk about you better that you can speak about yourself. Only tell me about your pain. I want to know your story. And then I will tell it back to you in a new way. Tell it back to you in such a way that it has become mine, my own. Re-writing you I write myself anew. I am still author, authority…”        

 And thus history dances to the tune of ‘ruling class’ pushing to the oblivion the contributions and sacrifices made by those from the margin. “Torn by the claws of your lies/ my history’s back is bleeding”- My History (ByMPS). “Where am I / in the group photograph of the history?” screams a question from the margin.

The age of postcolonialism also marks with the development of neo-colonialism which has been expanding in the guise of globalization. Blowing from the West Europe and USA this wind of globalization has helped furthering the process of westernization that began with the imperial colonization of Asia and Africa. While multi-national corporations are at work to drive the country-culture off to the point of extinction, the western aesthetic sense has been continuing its invasion over the native and ethnic cultural values. This is a sort of socio-cultural marginalization coupled with economic-political one designed by the rich and powerful nations. This is also a subject of concern with marginality in the writing.         
      
Drawing much from the discourse of postcolonialism the marginalized writing in Indian Nepali literature has its own distinctive features evolved and developed in the socio-cultural-historical milieu of its own. Opposed to centralism, elitism and all forms of absolutism, it advocates all-inclusiveness and free movement or the open space with no divide so that there should be no static gap or distance in-between that constructs the adjectives like ‘us’ and ‘them’ or ‘other’. And it does not aspire, as some ideology does, to seize the central power and drive those seated at the centre out to the periphery. Inclusiveness, indeed, is the key word with the advocates of the Writings of Marginality. It strongly believes that since everything in existence is relative, one cannot but be inclusive. In its conceptual writing it includes all forms and types of marginalization. So, included with equal concern in the study of Marginality are the discourse of feminism developed from the resistance to the phallogocentric attitude that has, for ages, generally treated the woman as subservient or as ‘second sex’ and also eco-criticism that brings into its discourse the displacement of tribes, animals, birds and insects and destruction of natural habitats. Displacement is not just another form of marginalization but can be viewed as an extreme form of marginalization that has pushed into black hole of extinction countless of indigenous languages and cultures in the world. Standing opposed to such state of things urges the marginal writing to explore, to discover the aesthetics of those values hitherto oppressed, dumped and devalued, and make their presence felt in the world arena.     

Language employed in the writings of Marginality (especially poetry) is casual, informal, simple and direct that may be appealing to both the common and serious readers alike. It shuns the modernist language which often seems to be replete with strange and outlandish symbols and laboriously wrought imageries, logo-centric and elitist. It rather strives to combine local with global, thus going for the portmanteau term ‘glocal’ blurring the dividing oblique between them. And it freely brings into use with freshness the ethnic and native cultural terms the poets and readers are familiar with. Modernist and high modernist gave their voice to something deep, profound and absurd which are now replaced with momentariness or presentness. Play of moments is depicted today.

Breaking and forming the lines in a poem has also some definite purpose that suits to such writing. An instance from Remika’s ‘Those Who Live Treading the Soil-3’:

       In history
       orphans were called illicit embryos left by some bastards

Here the word ‘history’ (story of rulers and upper class) is placed above ‘orphans’ representing marginalized common people.  History has been made a high stage where the rulers and nobles play and those down below are seldom allowed to reach it. (The Marginal Writing has raised question to the history handed down to them by those in the mainstream; and history is now studied from the perspectives of the marginalized, or let us say that the history is rising with new voice from the fringe that was so far suppressed.)

There are some other reasons directing the lines in a poem to be arranged in a particular manner such as in some lines several words are made to run together in a single line in order to produce the effect of intensity and sharpness of the irony contained in them. There are some lines in the Voices… that give an impression of the caravan marching along the long road and also the ones creating visual image of the people being pushed to the edge in the process of marginalization. These are some attempts in response to the need we have felt to be free from the form of Free Verse which has now become conventional.      

During the last seven years after the publication of Kinaraka Aawajharoo (Voices from the Margin) a host of young poets have emerged in Darjeeling with their voices confident enough that have most of the features and characteristics relating to the Marginal Writings. Manoj Bogati’s Pasinako Chhala (Sweating Skin) and Ghauka Rangaharu (Various Shades of Wound), Karna Biraha’s Shabda Sammelan (Conference of Words), Lekhnath Chhetri’s Baauko Pasina (Dad’s Sweat), Sharan Muskan’s Mooldharatira (Towards Mainstream), Basudev Pulami’s Ujyaloka Aankha (The Eyes of Light), Neeraj Thapa’s Dharatalko Aayu (The Life of Earth) are some of the collections of poems that deserve mention in this context. Some more poets, who have made their distinct presence felt with the sharp tone of Marginality in their own individual styles, are Bhupendra Subba, Raja Puniyani, Teeka Bhai, Bhagiraj Subba, Gyanendra Yakso, Sharan Khaling et al.

‘Marginality in the Writings’ that consciously began in 2008 in Darjeeling and has drawn a large audience is said to have set a trend in contemporary Indian Nepali literature. Now the way of observing things has shifted from general perspective to the native and ethnic ones which had been so far ignored, undervalued or brushed to the brink; marginalized views have asserted themselves to be in the fore. Other aspects of aesthetic value which were so far hiding behind the murky curtain of reticence have been brought forward. A postmodern adage ‘Think globally, act locally’ has come into play in the contemporary Indian Nepali writings. Now the poets and short-fiction writers in contemporary Indian Nepali writing do not generally slip into shady resort of nostalgia and sentimentality, nor do they let themselves envelop in the modernistic ‘overwhelming question’ of existentialism and absurdity. But rather they seem to be strong-willed to grapple with day-to-day stark reality they face at every step, and for this they are armed with conviction, self-confidence and irony. 

Marginalized writing has also strengthened the belief that aesthetic value of poetry can be kept equally lively without the garb of imagery. In fact, this new writing has taken up as a challenge to create poetry with plainness and directness of language. Poetry is to be seen in its bare beauty.     
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manprasads@gmail.com  
Bijanbari, Darjeeling.


                           

     



     
          







                       

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Praying Mantis



Hey! You praying mantis,
what design do you conceal
in your greeting hands?
Why such humility?
I know your tricks.
Like a politician with politricks
you stand offering Namaste
to a tiny poor instinct
which , dumbstruck , forgets to move
and you gobble it up.
Even if your Namaste didn't work
you pounce upon it coercively.
You know how to get at a prey.

Camouflaged perfectly with new leaf green
from head to the end of tail,
you a leftward slanting handwritten small 'g',
the letter for green that harbours you
with all your tricks.

You Praying Mantis
like a wily seductive
always with some crafty purposes
hidden in praying hands
and simulating an innocent.

But Oh! you are a creature too,
like all others.

-------------------------------------

                                                     - 24 August, 1999



A Few Poems To A Friend


To A Friend


Friend.
go on talking and talking to me
of the love you win
from haves and haves-not
clever and idiots.
Talk of the beauty you see
in whatever grotesque and clumsy.
Talk of the faith you draw
out of the faithless wrecks
You who are at rest
while surrounded by restlessness
and restless while placed in restfulness.
Talk of the hearts you have conquered
in the war that goes with no end.
Talk of the joy you feel
in playing with rustic children
and the agony of parting with them.

Go on talking and talking
while I listen enraptured.
But what is it?
It's me who's talking,
talking trash
without letting you utter a word !

Untitled



You should not mind, my friend,
if I wanted to leave you
and walk alone
with my own rhythm
and my own music of footfall.

Do not expect me
to walk with you side by side
hand in hand.
No, never,
while traversing a distance.

I never count paces
or steps I walk up and down
I don't know the number-games.

Do not call me crazy, my friend.
Suddenly I wanted to part with
you. Don't expect that I'll join you
in some midway.

But...we will surely merge to be one
the moment we cross the horizon of time.

Until then...
I just want to be true to my journey.

--------------------------------------
                                                   11 March, 1999.

Monday, October 12, 2015

A Friend's Arrival



With a heartful of warmth
and golden smile of Autumn
steps a friend into my hut.

And a flash of something long forgotten!

Throwing off abruptly
the blanket of gloom
my hut leaps into a new spirit
and is filled with
resounding ripples of universe
and then trickles poetry
drop
by
drop.

[Written on 15 Nov. 1997, while in Sadar Hospital, Darjeeling.]

Thursday, September 3, 2015

A lecture delivered at the Deptt. of Sociology in North Bengal University on 22 August 2015.  



Bhasha Diwas & Nepali Identity Politics
                                                                                 -Manprasad Subba
It is 23 years since Nepali language was finally enshrined in the eighth schedule of Indian constitution on the 20th of August 1992. It was the fruit of 36 years long struggle that started in 1956 when one Anand Singh Thapa from Dehradun wrote a letter to the then President of India in this regard. I think no other Indian language had to fight for such a long period and with so much trials and tribulations. Although Anand Singh Thapa’s letter to the President created not much stir in the Nepali speaking Indians then, it unquestionably planted a seed that in course of time sprouted in the minds of intellectuals in the Darjeeling Hills and elsewhere. But it was not visible in any form before 1972 when a dozen or so intellectuals and enthusiasts met to form Nepali Bhasha Samiti, a couple of years later renamed as Akhil Bharatiya Nepali Bhasha Samiti. Of course, 11 years prior to that, there was a Darjeeling Hill region language movement in 1961 under the leadership of two illustrious intellectuals – Indrabahadur Rai and Ganeshlal Subba. That movement was stirred by the then Bengal government’s faulty language policy that had tried to impose Bengali language even in the Darjeeling Hills. Massive protest rallies hit the streets of Darjeeling town; walls of government office-buildings were splashed with posters crying foul against the imposition. This agitation forced the state government to come to terms with the hill sentiment and a bill was introduced in the state assembly to recognize Nepali language as a state language in the three hill sub-divisions in the same year.
Until 1977 Akhil Bharatiya Nepali Bhasha Samiti’s activity was not beyond the confine of correspondence, leaflets, posters and occasional public speeches in the towns. It was only when Morarjee Desai, the first non-Congress Premier of India, gave a thunderous slap on the cheeks of the delegates of Bhasha Samiti, its exercise turned into a movement in a real sense of the term. It was the first time that none other than the then Prime Minister of the country had bluntly called Nepali language a foreign language and even threatened to disband the Gorkha regiment in the Indian Army. What greater insults and humiliation could there be!
This humiliation and insult at the hand of the most powerful person at the centre shook the entire Nepali community of the land like never before.  And the poets poured out their anguish, playwrights took their agonized protest to the stage, short-story writers came up with the theme of cultural identity, painters began to give revolutionary tone and texture to their paintings and musicians also composed songs evoking the deep rooted feelings of Nepali ethnic culture. A few lines from a poem entitled ‘Backlash’ that was spurred by the anguished moments and published first in ‘Haamro Bhasha’-1978, the Bhasha Samiti’s mouthpiece, may be cited here to show the different tone and texture of Indian Nepali poetry in late seventies and eighties: 
        
         At the very crack of dawn
         Without any sign of rainclouds
         This pine tree in my barren garden
         Was suddenly struck by a thunderbolt
         While I was looking forward to the advent of Spring 
         …        …      …
         I, as old as the Himalaya,
         But now a derelict
         In my own country!
         …         …      …
         Now is the time to be born of death’s womb
         O my Hills and mountains!
         Why are you still quiet with your arms crossed?
         Burst forth thunderously releasing the streams of lava all around
         Against this dark chasm…
                                                                                                     -Subba

Mohan Thakuri, a well-known poet, also articulated in these words:

         I am here standing for ages
         Flowing with songs of rivers
         Echoing on the hills
         The soil of the land where I stand
         Speaks out the testimony of my being here…

                                                                         -Need of the Hour (1980)

And the language movement, instead of being cowed down by the shabby treatment at the hand of Morarjee Desai, was re-energized with all the more vigour. It was, of course, a serious question of identity crisis, and the then sixty lakh Nepali-speaking Indians fervently believed that the inclusion of Nepali language in the Constitution would solve, once and for all, this crisis, the primary cause of their decades-long suffering – physical as well as psychological. ‘Our language, our life’, ‘We sacrifice our lives but we will reach the goal’- slogans rent the sky of the Darjeeling Hills and the Dooars and their echo could be heard in far flung regions like Manipur-Mizoram in the east and Dehradun-Bhaksu in the west.

In three years the Morarjee government was toppled and after a few tottering dispensations that followed in between, Indira Gandhi stormed back into power. Bhasha Samiti once again led a delegation to Delhi with a renewed hope but PM Mrs. Gandhi was reluctant to give any assurance. On the contrary, she later labeled the demand for constitutional recognition of Nepali language as “more an emotional than rational.” It was strange that she could not see the rationality in the demand for inclusion of Nepali language in the eighth schedule of the constitution. She was completely unaware that a globally renowned linguist Dr. Suniti Kumar Chatterjee, long ago, had enlisted Nepali language as one of the major Indian languages on the basis of which Sahitya Akademi, the highest National Academy of Letters in India had duly recognized it long back. To the Nepali speaking sentiments, the denial of constitutional recognition of the language was the denial of recognition of the community as Indian. Consequently, a kind of frustration was gripping Nepali speaking people in Darjeeling and other parts of the country. And this is when Nepali identity politics emerges in its unprecedented manifestation.  
In the early eighties of the preceding century, a historic seminar held at Sukeypokhari gives birth to a new organization named Pranta Parishad (Council for Separate State) steered by Indrabahadur Rai. As the name suggests, its solitary objective was to lead the movement with the theory of forming a separate state in India. Now the Nepali speaking people’s movement shifted from language to the demand for separate state. So to say, the movement of cultural identity starting from language was so violently shaken by Morarjee Desai’s hard slap and also by the subsequent government’s ignorance and apathy that Nepali-speaking Indians were made to think hard about their political identity in the country. The Pranta Parishad was of course born of the womb of the long-felt need for establishing the national identity in the country which Nepali speaking Indians call their motherland. In fact, question of articulating distinctive identity in the context of Indian nationality has ever been there as ‘Collective Consciousness’ in the minds of Indian Nepalis, and this consciousness has often found its expression in one way or the other. Here, it is pertinent to call to our mind that the hill community had demanded for the separate administrative arrangement forty years before the end of British colonial rule in India. That was in 1907, to be precise, when the Hillmen Association came up with such demand. So, the emergence of Pranta Parishad can be called a bigger manifestation of the same aspiration to exorcise the ghost of identity crisis deeply rooted in that Collective Consciousness. However, the Parishad’s activities could not go beyond the public speeches. It utterly lacked the organizational work at the grass-root level; its leaders’ intellectual talks from the high pulpit could have only limited impact upon the general mass.
And a year or two later, Subash Ghising, almost suddenly, emerged with a bang in the political scenario of the Hills. The self-styled leader roared the slogan of Gorkhaland, and the name of his organization “Gorkha National Liberation Front” sounded very much disturbing to the leaders in the state of West Bengal as well as at the Centre. He single-handedly attracted the greatest ever mass support towards him before he held the first public address in Darjeeling on the 13th of April 1986. While slogan of “Chhuttai Pranta” of the Parishad could not catch the fancy of common people at the grass-root, Ghising’s Gorkhaland, in no time, became extensively popular. It was undeniably Subash Ghising who popularized the nomenclature of Gorkha and Gorkhaland. He gave a clarion call to replace the word Nepali with Gorkha as the former, he argued, has ever landed us in identity confusion in our own country. Although questionable, his argument in this matter is not insubstantial. In this context, I would like to recall some of my experiences I have had on many occasions while attending national literary meets and seminars. My first such encounter was in 1979 at Chandigarh where I, along with other three poets from Darjeeling, was invited as a young promising poet to attend a week-long Poets’ Workshop. Poets and writers from other Indian languages would ask us where we were from and what language we wrote in. The moment they heard the names like Darjeeling and Nepali they would jump to conclude that we were from Nepal. I have had such experiences even as lately as 2012. At a function of Kolkata literary festival, a cabinet minister, the day’s chief guest, expressed his pleasure over the presence of a renowned poet from Nepal, and the poet he meant was none but me. A little later when it was my turn to speak I corrected him in a bit elaborate manner. Similarly, in the same year, a distinguished guest while concluding the two-day National Seminar on Translation mentioned me as from Nepal, and immediately after he finished, I asked permission of the chairperson of the session and reacted to what was said in the speech just concluded. However there is no such confusion with the languages like Bangla, Urdu, Punjabi or Sindhi. It’s unfortunate that only Nepali language and Nepali speaking people are pushed into confusion with the neighbouring country Nepal.
In order to get rid of this haunting confusion, Ghising and his few intellectual supporters insisted on the use of the word Gorkha. Despite the fact that at some point of history Gorkha was the name of a small hill kingdom to the west of Kathmandu and now a district of Nepal, during the process of ‘unification’ of Nepal the soldiers and officers coming from that part of the land used to be called Gorkha or Gorkhali. Even long after Nepal took the present shape the language that spread from that region used to be called Gorkha Bhasha. It had also some other names like Parvate or Khas. It was only much later that it was gradually replaced with Nepali. So, it clearly explains that the term Gorkha is as much intrinsically connected with Nepal as the term Nepali. But Ghising was doggedly bent to the use of Gorkha nomenclature and he went to that extent that he coined a slogan such as “Those demanding Nepali language must leave for Nepal”. He had even aired his extreme view that Bhanu Jayanti must not be observed by the Indian Gorkhas as he belonged to Nepal. And he officially started to celebrate every year the birth anniversary of the poet Agamsingh Giri whom he called true Gorkha poet who always gave expressions to the plight of Indian Nepalis in his highly romantic style. But ironically, Giri seldom used the word Gorkha; his poetry is replete with the word Nepali. But the saddest event of that period is that one early morning of Bhanu Jayanti people were shocked to find the statues of their most revered poet vandalized in all three hill sub-divisions simultaneously. It was a most ghastly act as Poet Bhanubhakta, for several decades, was and is revered more as the cultural icon of Indian Nepalis than a pioneering poet. 
When the language recognition bill was being placed and discussed in the parliament, Ghising was desperately using all his political might to replace the term Nepali with Gorkha. And when finally the language bill was passed in the parliament, there was no celebration in the Darjeeling Hills. What greater irony can there be than this? But we must view all these acts on the part of Ghising as his exercise towards finding a permanent solution to the identity crisis in the Indian context. It was the same intention that he, in the latter part of his being in power, raised the issue of Sixth Schedule which he believed could give distinct identity to the Gorkhas. But he failed to understand that the identity Sixth Schedule could give would be confined to the particular region or the state only. It cannot give us the national identity as a state or a lesser Union Territory does.   
Linguistically, culturally or politically, search for panacea to the identity crisis of Nepali speaking Indians has not yet come to a rest. Our great expectation that the inclusion of Nepali language in the eighth schedule of the constitution would be the final answer to the question of national identity evaporated before long. There is still a deep-rooted feeling of political insecurity in Indian Nepalis or Gorkhas. Whichever parts of the country they are in, they have been subjected to various types of physical as well as psychological sufferings. They bitterly feel marginalized in many ways; their selfless service and sacrifice for the cause of the nation have been utterly ignored in history. So, majority of Nepali speaking Indians are of the belief that only a separate political arrangement can help them live with their heads held high. People with this aspiration had supported the second leg of Gorkhaland movement started in 2007 under the leadership of Gorkha Janamukti Morcha. People from all walks of life and from other communities as well were attracted to its professed non-violent movement and as it grew in magnitude it also could not restrain itself from faltering. And it settled for Gorkhaland Territorial Administration. The only significant achievement of it is the name Gorkhaland which is but not a mean achievement. If the greatest Bard of the 16th century asks- “What’s in a name?...” we can say, for now, that name matters much. 
In conclusion, we can say that until and unless the Nepali speaking Indians are recognized as a distinct community in India this identity politics will continue. It can be hoped that a political solution, not like that of the present and preceding arrangements, will be found out in near future.                                 
               

                              

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Centre versus Periphery


 

 

 

Centre versus Periphery

 

Manprasad Subba

 

I

In conflict with each other are Centre and Margin from time immemorial. We hear the noises of such conflicts galore in history; we see them enacted in religious scriptures and mythologies. Gods and goddesses stand as the centre of power while demons and human beings are seen driven to the periphery and controlled and governed by the centre. An act of divine trick that deprived the demons of ambrosia of immortality churned out with the combined force of gods and demons is a symbolic example of exploitation and marginalization at the hands of those at the centre of power. Biting of the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge by Eve and Adam, (although incited by Satan), may be interpreted as a subconscious act of rebellion against the centralization of knowledge (power).

 

There was a time in history of our country when the so-called upper-most caste of the Brahmin had absolute control over the scriptures such as the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Ramayana, the Mahabharata and the like. These Scriptures, if touched by the so-called untouchables, used to be said to have become ‘defiled’. Thus, for centuries, the knowledge and wisdom contained in these scriptures remained exclusively centralized with some privileged class. Similarly, the art of war and statesmanship were also made to be the exclusive domain of none other than the Kshatriya caste. The story of Eklavya, a young enthusiastic forest dweller with no class of distinction, who, when approaching Guru Drona for himself to be initiated as his disciple, was scoffed at and rejected by the latter and years later when Eklavya, placing an image of Drona in his forest shrine to draw inspiration from, attained the great art of bow-and-arrow, how he was guilefully robbed of his hard-earned mastery of shooting by the elitist Drona, is a story that never loses its relevance.

 

By confining the knowledge -- a main source of power -- and wielding it as a unique weapon, a play of driving others to the fringe used to be openly played earlier while the same play is executed today in some covert manner.

 

II

Against the centuries old marginalization in the name of religion and caste, those trampled under the feet of superstitious tradition came up with ‘Dalit Panther Movement’ in Maharashtra in 1972. It may be said that the Movement was inspired by the Afro-American ‘Black Panther Party’ that emerged in the 60s of the last century. However, the Dalit Panther Movement was developed with its own typical concepts in the Indian context. Now the word Dalit, literally meaning oppressed, began to be interpreted to denote not only those placed at the lowest rung of the Vedic caste-system or the indigenous tribal and aboriginals who are outside the caste system, but suggested entire sections of the people being oppressed, deprived and marginalized. Dalit Panther Movement gave them a formidable theoretical ground to stand on protesting consciously and courageously dismissing the belief in gods and goddesses, previous birth and re-birth, Holy Scriptures, fate and heaven and hell for these beliefs and concepts, for ages, did nothing to the oppressed but devalued and dehumanized their lives, tortured them with never-ending deprivation and humiliation. Out of such bold conceptual ideas emerged the Dalit literary theory. It is quite likely that it was influenced by and drew inspiration from American Black literature of the 60s. Martin Luther King who stood tall against the marginalization of the coloured people in the USA and legendary Nelson Mandela who fought for decades against the draconian apartheid policy in South Africa also might have been the symbolic source of inspiration to Dalit creative writings.

 

III

Man yearns to be in the centre of power on various levels – individual, social, gender-based, ethnic, national, global. The power centering round the individual in a family may go expanding towards the social institutions and further towards the nation. And from there roars the autocracy whose centralized power may create a wide periphery and the consequential wide chasms to which autocracy’s vision may turn completely myopic.

 

Power-centralization in a society is often seen with those who are hard-core traditionalist or so-called moralists. There was a time when lepers were driven out of the human settlements. Segregated far away from the societies, they were believed to have been inflicted with divine curse. Discriminating dark traditional customs created by the so-called upper-lower caste system has not been, even today, fully eradicated in the Indian sub-continent. We are still not free from the haunts of evil spirits of heartless judgments meted out by the likes of ‘moralist’ Khap-panchayats in the north-west parts of the country.

 

Such a traditional moral-policing power in a society or a community plays a static role of resistance to the moves that ask questions to the former. They want the society (community) to remain tightly tied under their ‘moral’ dominance. However, along the peripheral line the accusing questions keep growing with their heads held high. By standing fearlessly against the blind centralist force the periphery draws sustenance of life.

 

IV

Almost in every society or community we see the male hegemony established. As the male folks gave themselves place higher than their female counterparts in the families and in the societies, practice of gender-based marginalization started, history of which is as old as human civilization. Stories of female voice choked by male-dominant societies are ample in the religious scriptures and histories. Mythological stories such as innocent Sita’s exile by God-incarnate Ram, Draupadi’s compulsion of accepting all five brothers (Pandava) as her husbands, her physical existence being gambled away as a bet and Duhshashana’s attempt of stripping her in the royal assemblage that witnessed the scene of outrage absolutely mutely, are a sort of the base of male hegemony over the Indian women. More than that, worshipping of Lord Shiva’s Phallus may also be taken as a symbol of mystified and spiritualized foundation of male dominance. At one side of the famous Pashupatinath temple complex in Kathmandu there is a life-size metal image of Bhairava with a male genital organ in full erection which is believed to have the divine power making barren women pregnant if they lean their belly on it. This act may also be considered as Hindu women’s psychological submission to the male supremacy.

 

On the basis of domineeringly gender bias, men have projected themselves as active, strong, intelligent, bold and creative while women are commonly introduced as coward, weak, sentimental, receptive and conventional. In the context of his mother, Prince Hamlet putting forward the human quality of frailty as synonymous with the whole of women community, cried, “Frailty, thy name is woman!”

 

In Oriental mythologies woman is presented as very ideal, utmost loyal to her husband, extremely tolerant, helpless and dependent; or, above human being such as goddesses (Durga, Laxmi, Saraswati, Parvati, Kaali), fairy ( Menaka, Urvasi) or demoniac characters like Suparnakha , Holika etc. In Occidental mythologies too female character is often seen as idealized, submissive and helpless or the source of evil elements in the forms of Eve and Pandora and also as negative characters of Circe and Delilah. Poet Bhanubhakta Acharya, father of Nepali literature, his colossal contribution apart, advised Hindu Nepali women- “Drink water that has washed your husband’s feet” and warned women who merrily laughed- “Refrain from laugh, for only prostitute laughs.” Not content with that he translated from Sanskrit the verses of Prashnottarmala (Catechism) a couple of lines of which run thus: “Which is the main door to Hell? Woman / Who charms and leads to Hell.” Proverbs like ‘To be born as girl is to lose one’s destiny’ and ‘Girls are but to wash other’s wall’ used to be heard in Nepali-speaking societies for a long period. When a woman put forth an intelligent argument, male ego would sarcastically comment: ‘Hen crowing!’ There is a devotional song in Hindi that says ‘Barren woman be blessed with a baby-boy’ which the God-fearing Hindu women listen to with great devotion. All these are the expressions of patriarchal tradition. It is quite common that woman, after marriage, loses her surname and has to adopt her husband’s family name; the baby born of them is given its father’s surname in spite of the fact that husband and wife both have equal roles to play in bringing the baby into its physical existence. Moreover, mother has played greater role since it is she who conceives and develops it in her womb for nine long months and gives birth to it. Should she not have greater right to the baby? But the culture built up in patriarchal line has shorn the women of their fundamental right. Will they ever be able to retrieve this right?

 

Mythical story of Krishna and hundreds of Gopinis, if put under the feministic view point, may also be seen as a form with centre (Krishna) and periphery (Gopinis).

 

Despite the publication of a few books of women’s movement claiming equal rights in the West in the 19th century, feminism as a discourse made its strong presence felt in literature only in the ’70s of the last century. Since then the reality as to how women have incessantly been treated as ‘other’ or as ‘objects’ in relation to men for ages, began to be seriously studied. Defying the male presence at the centre, the social and cultural relevance of gender discrimination began to be questioned. Celebrated feminist writer Simone de Beauvoir said, “One is not born but rather becomes, a woman… It is civilization as a whole that produces this creature… which is described as feminine.” In other words, one, be it son or daughter, is born a human being, but later a number of customs, manners and taboos are thrust on the basis of gender. And robbed of her humanity she becomes a woman who is considered as a subordinate to a man or a supplementary to man’s desire. This is how her place in the society is rendered marginal. Standing against this marginality the Feminism resists every form of gender bias.

 

On theoretical level several aspects of feminist concept have been developed. Some of the feminist critics have put forth the subtle studies of marginalization of woman even linguistically. They have drawn their attention to the masculine words like ‘man’ or ‘mankind’ used for human beings; similarly for the words like God, inventor, creator which are above gender, are denoted with the masculine pronouns like ‘He’, ‘His’. They point out that all the languages in the West are male-centric and male-dominated. ‘Phallogocentric’ is what Jacques Lucan has called such pattern of language. Nepali language, too, is not free from being a male-centric. So, today’s feminists, with all their subtlety and sensibility, are looking deep into every perspective of the reality of their being marginalized.

 

 

 

V

There are the stories of racial / communal marginalization of minority and underdeveloped community by the majority / developed / power-wielding race / community. There are the communities struggling hard on the margin to save themselves from the constant onslaught of powerful and advanced communities who tend to oppress and push the former into deprivation. Uyghur community in the north-east of China has long been struggling to win back a free space for itself from the oppression of the powerful and privileged Han. Down south of the same country Tibetans have long been confronting the political-cultural marginalization. Bhutanese of Nepali origin were forced out of Bhutan by the ruling community two decades ago. There are countless of ethnic groups or communities who, in their own respective countries, face identity crisis, their respective language and culture being pushed to the brink of extinction, being subjected to various discriminations. These are the acts or designs of internal colonization or cultural marginalization. We hear at times the groins of agony coming across from the western province of Baluchistan suffering from internal colonization.

 

Movement for identity vis-à-vis Nepali speaking Indians, too, erupts from time to time from such feeling of being marginalized. In some parts of its own region this politically crippled community has lost its numerical significance falling prey to some cunning play of demographic liquidation just like hundreds of tribal groups have been rendered critically insignificant in their regions. The ethnic groups or communities thus pushed to the fringes by the centrality of internal colonialism, when at some point of time they become aware of their plight, cry protest and arise to assert themselves. Their movements may yield good results or succumb to the state repression or some sort of appeasements. Even if the movements fail, their protest, their demur will remain in their psyche like a dormant volcano which, in future, may suddenly become active and start spewing smoke and vapor, if not burst.

 

VI

Internal colonialism may be defined as a developed form of domineering nature that grows like thorns out of the basic beastly nature inherent in man and the international shape of the same is called colonialism which may be explained as an expression of unrestrained ambitiousness growing out of the hegemonic nationalism. The competitive scramble to establish unchallenged power by colonizing other countries had not been seen so much as in the 18th and 19th centuries. And no other countries played so extensively the role of such colonization than the European countries. By the end of the First World War, 85% of this planet Earth was colonized by Europeans, says Edward Said.

 

The natives, once fallen into colonial system, become alienated in their own land like the house-cockroach flushed out by the wild cockroach. In a colonized country the colonizer stands at the centre clutching all the power while the colonized are placed at the circumference. However, the circumference while moving round strives towards the centre to redeem what is lost and the centre, using all the force at its disposal, keeps thwarting every attempt made from the fringe.

 

Well-thought out plans and programmes are executed to strengthen the process of colonial centralization. Constant efforts are made to sufficiently influence and affect native ideas and concepts by penetrating into not only the military and economic strength but equally the educational and cultural foundations. This is how the socio-cultural values of a colonized nation become unstable and endangered. “Indian in blood and colour, but English in tastes, in opinions, in morals and in intellect”- was Lord Macaulay’s colonial tip to British Empire. They used to idealize their colonial campaign as “white man’s burden”. The Europeans, who established colonial rule in America in the sixteenth century and over Africa and Asia in the 18th century, regarded themselves as the only civilized and supreme beings on earth. The civilizations and cultures other than theirs were ‘barbarism’ to them and they called their successful campaigns of colonization a ‘triumph of civilization over barbarism’. In this manner many cultures were destroyed in North America, Africa and Asia. Some rose to resist, a few have attempted to revive from the state of near extinction. American aboriginals lost not only their cultures but their very land. The way of life and cultural values of their one-time colonizers became the mainstream culture and the former natives have become ‘other’.

 

Although decades of sustained struggle for ‘the right of uncontrolled self-determination’ brought down the curtain to colonial rule in many countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America after the World War II ended, there began another long struggle to be free from the colonial legacy of western values and systems that has prevailed so formidably. In the psyche of all the previously colonized nations of Africa and Asia the European (White) socio-cultural value system was so well rooted that it caused not only the marginalization of indigenous or ethnic value-system but the former colonized people’s changed viewpoint had begun to look down upon their own traditional/ cultural values and this mindset still persists to some extent. There were, and still are, occidental spectacles on oriental eyes to look at everything. Due to the fact that human beauty, since the cultural invasion carried out in colonial period, is usually defined by white-skinned European looks, cosmetic products like ‘Fair & Lovely’ cream are doing very good business in Indian sub-continent. By that standard all the Africans and Asians with black and brown complexions are categorized as ugly! It is not long ago that any agricultural / livestock product big in size, strong and smooth used to be called ‘Bilayati’ (English) in Hindi and Nepali. The same name was commonly used for cement as well. And everything small, feeble, rough and unattractive was called ‘Deshi’ (native). In the widespread preference of colonizer’s life-style and attires, the native way of life and apparels have been put into the showcase to be displayed only on some special occasions.

 

Indigenous value to determine the beauty of an object rendered crippled under the pressure of western hegemony and the efforts to revive the lost value along with the re-discovery of indigenous / native value by demolishing the western concept of oriental countries are found to have been studied in the discourse of postcolonialism. This kind of study was developed in its theoretical shape by Edward Said in his Orientalism (1978).The conceptual system of study of oriental life and world by the prejudicial western hegemony is what Said named Orientalism.

 

East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet

Till earth and Sky stand presently at God’s Great judgement Seat.

-        Rudyard Kipling

Such prejudicial non-inclusive minds, by creating binary opposition between East and West, have, in a calculated manner, marginalized the oriental traditions and culture, ideas and systems. This is what is exposed in postcolonial literature which is further supported by deconstructionist as well as postmodern concepts. Defying the power fed on western value system the marginalized groups today are determined to assert their own respective cultural identities and they want their history to be written by themselves and not by mainstream historians who have always ignored them.

 

While discussing marginality under the study of postcolonialism, the subaltern discussion also naturally comes up. ‘Subaltern’, an army officer below the rank of captain in military term, has now acquired more than one meaning having been used in different disciplines like sociology, politics, literature etc. However, Gayatri Chakraborty Spivak confines it to a special meaning. According to her Subaltern is not ‘just a classy word for oppressed…In postcolonial terms, everything that has limited or no access to the cultural imperialism is subaltern…The working class is oppressed. It’s not subaltern’.

 

With the question “Can Subaltern speak?” Spivak raised a discussion on subaltern’s being able or unable to speak and emphatically announced that subaltern cannot speak. Yet Ranajit Guha, Dipesh Chakraborty et al of Subaltern Studies Group, bringing all sorts of marginalized into the term subaltern, said that subaltern can speak for themselves.

 

Subject of subalternity demands a separate essay. Here we have only a passing reference of it.

 

VII

Placing all the formerly colonized and other poor nations under the single umbrella of the ‘Third World’ the former colonizer and the rich countries gave themselves a collective as well as superlative name such as the First World and they, executing in a hegemonic manner their economic, political and military power, started the shadow play of neo-colonialism over the Third World countries soon after the latter, one after another, attained the independence. Today this shadow seems to have grown even darker and more expanding. Such exploited nations always find themselves on the margin of global arena. Various forms of neo-colonialism such as establishing dominance and virtually imposing decisions over the weaker nations by a powerful nation or a group of nations are often witnessed on the global scenario. The First World or the developed nations now incarnated as multinational corporate, rest taut on the head of the Third World countries with the heavy load of neo-colonialism.

 

A nation or a group of nations that has posed itself as a centre of power, at times, makes some policies in favour of its own interpretations relating not only to the political and economical matters but even to the scientific theories, research and inventions and carries out all sorts of campaigns for the global acceptance of its desired interpretations. The First World, while looking down on the heterogeneity of the Third World, campaigns for the uniformity or homogeneity for its own purpose. Even a right statement made by a nation standing on the margin becomes a cry in wilderness. Because of the fact that many nations in Africa and Asia find the United Nations Organisation usually influenced by the western nations, regional associations like Arab League, Pan-Africanism, SAARC, ASEAN have come up to protect their respective regional interests. To put up resistance to the European-American control over oil, the eleven oil-producing nations having come together formed OPEC. Despite the concerted efforts of such organizations to check the overriding monopoly of developed nations and help decentralize and deconstruct the power centralized by the latter, the polluting smoke has not stopped bellowing through the chimneys of neo-colonialism (neo-imperialism). And flushed out of their safe dwelling by this smoke, many have been forced to languish on the fringe of marginality.

 

 

 

VIII

Now, a few words on environmental marginalization. In the name of development, set-up of huge projects have, many a time, become the causes of displacement of countless of villages and villagers. Many living traditions and cultures perfectly co-existing with the Nature were, and are being, forced to disappear. Civilized and most intelligent being called man, driven by his insatiable selfishness, has been heartlessly looting the nature. As a consequence of the widespread occidental belief that everything and all the lesser beings on earth and the Earth itself are for the use and utility of man, a strong possibility of an environmental apocalypse has grown even dangerously stronger. It is rather the traditions and cultures of those animist tribal living as one with the nature that teach us to feel what nature really is. Beyond the story of marginalization of man by man, the punishment for the crime committed by man towards plant-life, animals and birds and insects may, at some point of time, be pronounced by the nature herself.

 

IX

Occurrence of conflict between centre and periphery in human society is not unusual. But in recent time the study of this conflict from the perspective of marginality has developed with the postmodern concept. It may also be said that the perspective of study has shifted from centre toward periphery. Postmodern interpretation has rather changed the meaning of the word ‘centre’. Today it has lost its traditional meaning that projected ‘centre’ as protector and guardian, all-knowing Guru and source of numerous things. ‘Centre’ is now interpreted in negative words such as oppressor, non-inclusive, hegemonic, unprogressive, anti-liberal, cause of hindrance etc. And those forced to be on the periphery have been openly throwing challenge against such negative forces. Those conscious and aware of their being unjustly marginalized are speaking aloud against every type of centralism.

 

Centralization of anything gives rise to the binary opposition – privileged / deprived; proud / humiliated; male / female; civilized / savage; occidental / oriental etc. The more the former moves ahead, the more the latter is pushed behind to the edge. But today is the time when the sign of slash between the binary opposition is breaking and falling. All-inclusiveness is trampling the dividing line. No one wants to be confined in the cell of solitary meaning thrust by close-ended centralism. Just as the search for last particle has been proved to be ever illusive in a particle collider lab, so is the last meaning in a text, and resultantly only the meanings of a meaning are discovered.  And from here emerges the note of interrogation that stands boldly in front of the close-ended centralist interpretation.

 

There was a time when religious scriptures used to be interpreted by some authoritative institutions. Any attempt to liberal interpretation of the scriptures was to invite the wrath of religious authority. Such liberal minds were denounced and made subject to punishment that could be stretched to any extent. In some religious organizations there is still such extreme type of centralism.

 

Today’s readers and audience do not like to remain stuck to an interpretation that claims to be final. They have rather conscious courage to put forth their own viewpoints and arguments. In earlier times liberal and individual views and opinions used to be brushed aside, even punished, by the orthodox centralist. But time has changed and the static distance between the centre and margin seems to be freely moving to and fro and this movement has helped bridging the wide gap.

 

Now the footfalls of this movement are to be listened to and looked at in the words of creativity and in the expressions of arts.

 

 

 

E-mail: manprasads@gmail.com

Bijanbari, Darjeeling – 734201.

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