The Valley of Halla

From Nepali Times, ISSUE #46 (07 JUNE 2001 – 14 JUNE 2001)

only hearsay and rumours would be heaped up there
that’s why this is a country of hearsay and rumour
this is a country standing on hearsay and rumour
this is a country founded on hearsay and rumour
this is a country of hearsay and rumour

Rumour has its origin in the absence of information and in intellectual mediocrity which disallows creativity and kills empathy. There has been an absolute and continuing dearth of information about what happened on the fateful Friday night within Narayanhiti Royal Palace, and it is not hard to understand why rumour-halla- is flying. The public is in the dark, and the intelligentsia too busy manufacturing rumours and conspiracy theories.

Why is no information being provided? The Narayanhiti Royal Palace has always controlled access, and in the midst of this horrific crisis it would have been impossible for Singha Darbar to step in to fill the information gap. Decimated at the top, the Royal Palace itself was hardly in a position to provide information even if it was inclined to do so. With the tragic progression of dying kings and other royals throughout the weekend, there was no one to instruct palace underlings-miserly with information at the best of times-to open up. The events of last weeks also made clear that the structure of Nepali society has remained essentially feudal, with even the topmost political classes having nil access to the palace and therefore believing wholeheartedly in hearsay.

With no explanation available, the public would be forgiven for thinking the worst of the successors to the throne, former Prince Gyanendra. All the survivors of the shooting were royal relations. The only people they shared the story with were close family and friends, and that is where the truth remains locked. While a section of the public will continue to think conspiracy no matter what, the country may be able to pick up the pieces and move on if and when this group to witness begins to speak up. Even the supposedly alert and aware fell for political or successional conspiracy as the most plausible explanation for the massacre. With Paras Shah have the history he does, and the new king himself with the reputation of a royal hardliner, it was convenient leap to think the worst of them. As the curfew too effect and idle minds were forced to stay indoors, the rumours entered other, wilder dimensions: poisoning of the water mains or milk supply, the supposed death of the queen mother or Krishna Prasad Bhattarai by heart attack, and the murder of the surgeon who attended to the stricken royals. Hadthe government no pulled the plug on satellite television, the producers and the avid consumers of all this halla may well have been happy watching Hindi soaps.

But paucity of information hardly explains everything, It is the gullibility that comes with a lack of intellectual curiosity that makes Kathmandu succumb so easily to rumour raj. Vacant minds easily ingest rumour, and this is the case of the Kathmandu intelligentsia, whose members have so little self-respect that they are willing to impute their won worst motives to others. Their tendency is always to be certain of a conspiracy when a simpler explanation may suffice. To stick to a straightforward explanation would require too much rationality.

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