Ambivalence Denied or Unrecognized? A Preliminary Study on Some Governmental Brochures in the Early Panchayat Period
The Japan-Nepal Society Collection, now owned by the Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia, the University of Tokyo, includes hundreds of books, periodicals and brochures obtained in Nepal between 1960 and 1965 by Mr. Tatsu Kambara, who was then affiliated with Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This sub-collection includes various brochures, both in Nepali and in English, published by various sections of His Majesty’s Government of Nepal in early and mid 1960s to propagate King Mahendra and his new policies. Photographs and/ or illustrations are skilfully utilized in some of them to visually represent the history, status quo, and future of the Kingdom of Nepal during the early Panchayat period, as were understood or imagined, and selected to be propagated by the bureaucrats at that time.
A 24-page color brochure titled hāmrā rājā śrī 5 mahendra (Our King His Majesty Mahendra), for instance, depicts not only the early life of the King and his activities in the 1950s both within and outside the country but also how and why the king introduced the new Panchayat system, using not only explanations by words but also by cartoons and photographs. In this brochure, the “autocratic” Rana regime is represented by one image of torture, while the evil of party politics is portrayed as three demons haunting people: bhraṣṭācār (corruption), sāmpradāyiktā (communalism) and arāstrīyatā (anti-nationalism). On the other hand, Nepali subjects joining the Panchayat Raj were depicted in a much simpler and more straightforward manner than the pictures discussed in Stacy Pigg’s modern classic “Inventing Social Categories Through Place” (1992). No ambivalence (cf. Onta 1996) seems to exist within this brochure, though for the eyes of more than fifty years later these visions might look almost utopian, due to the gap between what is depicted there and what His Magesty’s Government of Nepal confronted then.
This paper is a preliminary re-investigation of these brochures which justify the Panchayat regime against two regimes in the past: the Rana regime and the short-lived multi-party democracy under the 1959 Constitution. Basically relied on methods widely used in linguistic anthropology and critical discourse analysis, I analyse the rhetoric they employed to criticize the Rana regime, (“caste”-based) 1854 (Muluki) Ain, and multi-party democracy, and show what they tacitly presupposed and what they hid, most probably intentionally. I argue that their attempts to deny ambivalence in the official discourse of the [then] new Nepal, together with their implicit and sometimes insubstantial premises on Nepal and Nepali subjects, created various unintended connotations within their texts and pictures. I also point out several subtle differences between discourse in English and Nepali brochures.