Ram-Janaki Vivah Panchami. The greatest festival of the Mithila region. The then Ayodhya might have had its own interests associated with the marriage but I will discuss that pre-historic event some other day. For now the events of the last two years are enough.
Last year during this festival, SAARC (which now exists only in name) summit was held in Kathmandu. The Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has been adorned as an ardent Hindu, had planned to come to Kathmandu via Ayodhya and Janakpur. Later, showing security concerns, he flew directly from Delhi. Whatever happened, happened for good. How could Nepalese, who can not secure their border, guarantee the security of the One and Only of India and the one who has placed himself among the most influential in the world? I had expected the people would be against him for changing the route, but they came up against their own government. They took down the gates that had been set up around Janakpur, even shut the city down. (There in Ayodhya, people seemed to have been angry with their PM. His loss in the elections proved their annoyance!) I had written twice on this in a Facebook page.
It would have been alright even if hadn’t mentioned the event last year, but I feel it has some relation with what happened this year. What do I have to say about this year’s event in Janakpur? So embarrassing! President Bidya Devi Bhandari was welcomed with the ‘rare petrol’ bomb. What the protesters did after that is clear to all that have access to TV and internet. I can’t probably explain in words here. But the President was blamed for whatever happened. Many said that she should never have gone because of the ongoing Madhes strike. I thought, ‘Might be true! President’s visit surfaced up the security challenges there. Until she went, there was a false consolation of security.’
Based on the above two incidents, I had commented on a facebook page that the nationality of those who closed Janakpur while the Indian PM did not visit but protested the visit of Nepali President was doubtful. But I had felt that the core of the protest was something else. The news on the Nagarik proved it.
Before I heard of the attack on President Bidya Devi Bhandari, I was watching a Colors TV soap opera ‘Ishq ka rang safed’ (Readers might scold me for talking about nationality and watching a foreign channel. But what should I do if the government buys them and says to watch them. Also, one does not become anti-national by watching programmes on foreign languages. If someone says so, they are narrow-minded to me.) Focusing the story of widow marriage, the serial shows the problems faced by the widows in the society. The initial episodes included scenes of widows being prohibited from entering the temples. The scenes of purification of temple had also come up. Problems thus created have carried on the story until now. Here, the Janaki temple was ‘purified’ for being worshipped by the President!
As a widow of Late Madan Bhandari, the struggles of Bidya Devi Bhandari will probably make up a novel. Some even say that she was involved in the death(murder) of her husband. But such baseless accusations should not mask her struggles in this society. Isn’t the ‘purification’ of Janaki Mandir a chapter in the pain the society that has been giving to her as a widow? Don’t accusations of ‘woman’s brain’ and ‘purifications’ represent the narrow thoughts in our society?
If our society can undermine a woman who is on the highest seat of the nation, we can imagine the pain it gives to poor women. Women who have been accused of being witches and have been abused are still asking for justice. Alas, women themselves are involved in such accusations! Will the society ever understand their pains and problems? I don’t think it will ever be able to do so.
Conclusion? After a long discussion, I have been able to conclude nothing at all. Would appreciate readers’ contributions on drawing conclusions.
(Note: While I shared the news on Facebook, I had said that the narrow thoughts of Madhesi people had come forward. Such thoughts might have prevailed all over Nepal but I had wanted to indicate that those who see narrow-mindedness of Pahades are also not open-minded at all.
Also, I remember the essays of Nagendra (Nagendra Raj Sharma?) ‘Did the narrow minded people come from Kashi?’ He has asked several times. He gives examples of indigenous communities that accept widow marriage. The tradition of Bel Vivah among the Newars, which guarantees a life long ‘saubhagya’, the best of all should be our pride, he says. The aforementioned soap opera is based on Kashi. That is enough to provoke my thoughts over Nagendra’s questions.)