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BHU vs JNU in Nepal

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014
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Yubaraj Ghimire in Setopati.com

After India’s partition, there was no political entity that protected the interests of India’s Hindus. The Jan Sangh party was formed in 1950 to look after the interests of Hindu refugees from Pakistan, protect Hindu values and to change India from a secular to a Hindu state. Heading it was Shyam Prasad Mukherjee, who was a member of India’s Constituent Assembly, but the Jan Sangh’s entire organisation, platform and expansion was actually the responsibility of the Hindu Rastriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) which was formed in 1924.

In Nepal, the RSS invited King Mahendra to Nagpur for a Maghe Sankranti festival in 1965 but Indian ambassador Sriman Narayan conveyed to the king that it was a bad idea to go since the RSS was a communal Hindu organisation. The king was unhappy, but obeyed. Jawaharlal Nehru had described Mahendra’s coup in December 1960 as a “setback to democracy”, but the Jan Sangh’s Dindayal Upadhyay defended Mahendra by blocking a debate on Nepal in the Indian Upper House by saying it was the internal affair of another country. In 1961, when the Jan Sangh formed the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, it sent a person named Dr Garg to establish the Council’s presence in Nepal. He remained for 15 years.

At around the same time, Jogendra Jha also moved to Nepal from Bihar, and was a strong presence in Nepal’s state structure because of his proximity to Mahendra. According to one former BJP chairman, Jha and BJP’s former vice-chair Vijayaraje Scindia of Gwalior both acted as links between the Nepal palace and the Jan Sangh and later the BJP. The Jan Sangh’s pro-monarchy leanings were later shared by the BJP’s Lal Krishna Advani who always maintained that the Nepal monarchy represented unity in diversity, Nepal should remain a Hindu state, even after the 12- point agreement of November 2005 and the 2006 People’s Movement. Advani was supported by the VHP’s founder Ashok Singhal, but it was Atal Bihari Vajpayee who endorsed Nepal’s transformation into a secular, federal republic.

In 1980, the Jan Sangh became the BJP and it was led by Vajpayee. He came to Nepal in 1977 as foreign minister and privately urged King Birendra to send BP Koirala for medical treatment. And when India conceded Nepal’s demand to sign separate trade and transit treaties with Nepal in 1978, Vajpayee had opposed the move in parliament. Although he was considered to be more tolerant and pragmatic and less Hinduistic than his colleagues, Vajpayee did felicitate the BJP and VHP after the demolition of the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya in 1992. When Vajpayee came to Nepal as prime minister in 2001, he flatly denied that Nepali Maoists were sheltering in India, but it is now known that within a few months it was Vajpayee himself who allowed the Maoists to travel in and out of India, and for its leaders to base themselves there.

Vajpayee is now in poor health. His and Advani’s generation has now been replaced by Narendra Modi and Rajnath Singh. The historical links of Nepali politics with Banaras was broken. The BHU (Banaras Hindu University) culture in Nepali politics was replaced by the JNU (Jawaharlal Nehru University) culture. Even so, there are many RSS activists in Nepal in student, professional and educational institutions. They maintain that Christian proselytisation has increased after Nepal became secular.

It is too early to say if the new Narendra Modi government in India will make a difference in India’s foreign policy towards its neighbours, including Nepal. We will get a better sense after his advisers and ministers are named. But the BJP and RSS have their own networks in Nepal and a separate source of inputs, which will be more important than the information and recommendations of the embassy in Kathmandu. We will probably get indications of this in the next few weeks.

Full article in Nepali

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