Monday, October 10, 2011

In The Name Of The Father

In death, Muktiram Dahal was deprived of that ultimate privilege a father of his generation would ordinarily expect. Although his eldest son, Pushpa Kamal, did light the funeral pyre, he chose not to perform the full rites traditionally deemed necessary to ensure that the departed soul attained ultimate salvation.
Yet Muktiram was fortunate in knowing ahead of time that he might not be destined for full adherence to tradition from his first offspring. Mother Bhawani Devi, who died in 1994, was deprived of Pushpa Kamal’s participation in her final journey altogether. The funeral rites were performed by the younger son, Ganga Ram, as the underground revolutionary had barely evaded arrest at the hospital where his mother was being treated.
In his tribute, Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai described Muktiram Dahal as a leading figure of Nepal’s agricultural revolution. “The Maoists have lost a guardian,” Dr. Bhattarai continued as cadres draped the corpse in the party flag.
While this posthumous revelation must have been the first time many Nepalis heard of the extent of Muktiram Dahal’s links to the party his son created and led, the country will not know how he viewed Pushpa Kamal’s trials, tribulations and triumphs.
It could not have been easy being father of someone blamed for over 12,000 deaths, billions in devastation and immeasurable fraying of the national fabric. Or perhaps Muktiram shared the feeling that civil war, as a nation’s collective tragedy, is incapable of apportioning blame to one side or individual.  But, again, it must have been hard for a father to recognize that he was central to the radicalization of his son.
On several occasions, Pushpa Kamal has credited his revolutionary fervor to the injustices meted out to his father right in front of him by feudals and reactionaries. As that personal injury morphed into ideological inferno in his son, Muktiram Dahal must have struggled to reconcile his role in it all. Early on, Muktiram tried to dissuade his son from politics, arguing it was not something for the poor. But Pushpa Kamal was adamant and the father simply stepped aside.
During the height of the insurgency, Muktiram had urged his son to abandon violence and join peaceful politics. Pushpa Kamal did so several years later in radically altered political conditions. Muktiram knew his son would go far in life, he told a reporter in August 2008, but not as high as the premiership.
The fact that most Nepalis were prepared to put the decade-long spree of death and destruction in the interest of a new beginning must have eased Muktiram’s dilemma. When traditional political shenanigans returned to eviscerate the national spirit, the father could not have remained unaffected. The fact that the Maoists would be mired in the same malaise they had mocked in the other major parties must have exacerbated Muktiram’s anguish.
Describing his father as an honest man, Pushpa Kamal pledged to continue to work toward fulfilling his dreams. There is no way of knowing how the Maoist chairman feels about his father’s overall sentiments towards his political methods. During many moments of reflection, Pushpa Kamal must have grappled with the question valiantly. Lingering doubts – if indeed there are any – should not distract him from the task ahead. The virtuousness of Muktiram Dahal’s hopes and aspirations for the nation he left behind is powerful enough to guide his eldest son.