For Maoists, Deusi-Bhailo meant: 1) making their presence felt in the city, 2) Creating awareness about republic Nepal, and 3) Raising money!
By Dinesh Wagle
All pics by Wagle
Deusi- and Bhailo-wise speaking, Maoists were one of the major attractions in this year’s Tihar. Last year, traditional Bhailo and Deusi songs were replaced by anti-autocracy and pro-democracy messages where as this year people, especially the Maoists, ended their deusi-bhailo songs with this wish (sing in fast pace bhaili rhythm):
Aagau aaula, deusi gaula, sarangi retaula
Ganatantra Nepal ma pheri bhetula
[We will come next year to see you again in republic Nepal and sing deusi songs and play sarangi]
Dance, comrade dance, in the tunes of madala and deusi songs, not the guns.
A quick note on communist politics and religion. Traditionally, Nepal is a religious (but moderate) country so no communist party has tried to play with that sentiment of Nepali people. Even the Maoists say they will respect peoples’ right to celebrate festival. But Tihar is special for the comrades, especially the deusi and bhailo, too. Why? Not only because they were freely singing and dancing deusi-bhailo songs (well, just the tunes. Words were revolutionary, anti-king and pro-republicanism) in Kathmandu city for the first time after they started a bloody war in 1996 in a decade but because deusi-bhailo was one way of collecting money!
At a time when Maoists are severely criticized by the majority of the society for extortion, it appeared that the party had mobilized the cadres in a coordinated manner to raise the money in the name of deusi and bhailo as much as possible. Several groups in Kathmandu were playing deusi and bhailo for as long as three days. You don’t need to issue receipts of donations, forced donations, voluntary donations, tax when you go in a team to hotels, restaurants, organizations and sing and dance! That is why comrades love Tihar. After all, comrades know, Tihar is the festival of Laxmi, the Goddess of money.
I was ordering puri-tarkari in a vegetarian restaurant in New Baneshwor yesterday and Maoists came to play deusi. Naturally, people were curious too see comrades in actions. I also enjoyed the song and dance with a cup of tea (I cancelled the puri-tarkari. I wanted to take pictures.). I am sure other people in the restaurant appreciated Maoists singing and dancing better than fighting!
The most striking aspect of their participating was the t-shirt that all of them were wearing inside jackets. The buttons of the jackets were off and that was definitely on purpose. Everyone could see their revolutionary Chairman Prachanda raising hand. That image on the t-shirt gave the group a brand and united them under one man. Even without them screaming about their identity, people could easily know who they were. And that would mean everything. That image made the event political even in the nonpolitical environment. A man from the group entered inside the restaurant, notified the person in charge about their plan and went outside. His comrades were already starting singing and dancing. One of them was playing madal. Songs were about warning regressive elements, making peace talks a success, making Gyanendra unemployed and turning the country into a republican state.
Another attraction of this Tihar for me was a deusi-bhailo song being played in Nepal FM, a Kathmandu radio station that faced closure in the times of royal autocracy. The song of Anil Poudel sang by a group of Jana Sanskratik Pariwar was brilliant. Here are a few lines (read it in bhailo tune):
Bhailini aayen aagana
Desha ma shanty Magana….
Hey mera jana
Ganatantra bhana, bhaili
While listening to this song, being played in a radio station, I felt democracy in the country.
Sing these lines:
Baghlai ajhai chadne ki,
Khor ma thunne bhana na
Khorai dekhi phalera
Milkaidine bhana na
The deep anger against monarchy still persists among Nepalis and, I think, that will continue until we see the institution of monarchy still around. Nepali Congress leader Ram Chandra Poudel was saying the other day that the ruling party will not go against the popular wish (that wants to get rid of monarchy). He is right. The party will be collapsed if it goes to the election of constituent assembly with the agenda of saving monarchy. That just should be left for the party of Pashupati Shumsher Rana.
Other Images of Tihar
Nepalis celebrated Tihar in a fearless environment as the country is negotiating peace talks in democratic environment. The crowds in major hubs in Kathmandu were enthusiastic yesterday as I went around the city observing the faces of people and the pulse of market. Shopkeepers were elated and people were busy bargaining or selecting things for them.
Nepal Sambat rally
Newars in Kathmandu celebrated their New Year. This has become a delicate political issue as well: turning Nepal Era into the national sambat replacing Bikram Sambat. The Prime Minister directed Culture Minister Pradeep Gyawali to look into the matter. Many people are reluctant to accept Nepal Sambat as national sambat as it represents one ethnicity of the society. But who cares about that when the AD is being used so widely in the country. There were a few rallies celebrating the New Year in Kathmandu.
In New Road yesterday!