Nepal: an interview with the poet, journalist and communist militant Geelu Ratos

A very young Geelu in the People's War
On his documents he's Ganesh Kumar Rai. He's one of the most interesting person I met in my travels in Nepal and I have got a big respect for his life experience and for his work, as a journalist, a poet and a communist militant.
I asked him an interview and I'm honoured that he accepted but it took a long time for me to edit it. Some answers bring new questions and I would like to explore with him the intricate subject of 'identity and class' in Nepali society, that recently became especially important due to the implementation of the Federal Constitution. But he's a busy guy!
When I interviewed him Nepal had just voted in its first local elections and completed the crucial national elections under the new Consitutution. The leftist alliance - Marxist-Leninist and Maoist - had won, badly defeating the Nepali Congress...

Ilaria: The political situation in Nepal is quite complicated for people who are not acquainted with it. Can you explain it in short?
Geelu: As you have assumed, the political situation in Nepal is quite complicated. Nepalese people are facing a political transition [from monarchy to democracy including the maoist insurgency] since a long time. This is due to the fact that Nepal is moving downwards.  The most of the youths in Nepal are unemployed, consequently they are compelled to move to the Gulf countries in order to find a job and a better earning. That's because the political situation remains confused, Nepal is not yet in the path of prosperity. 
Ilaria: You are a communist militant: can you introduce your political Party explaining the main points on its program and its position regarding the present leftist alliance?
Geelu: The aim of the party I am involved in is to establish socialism in Nepal. Its main purpose is to bring the exploited class, marginalized groups, regional groups and even the gender based discriminated people into the political power. If the alliance between UML and MC is committed to meet this goal, then they can join to form a single party and they can even form a government as leftist alliance. If it happens to meet the goals, it is significant in all. The problem is that these two parties' programs are different. CPN Maoist Centre has new democracy of 21st century as its major program whereas the CPN UML has multi-party system in democracy as a major program. Along with this, the CPN Maoist Centre has opened the door of insurgency whereas the CPN UML has already closed the door of insurgency. If they reach a compromise, they can be unified, otherwise it is not possible. But the fact is the communists across the world are getting weakened, in this scenario the attempt of unification is note worthy. 
A very young Geelu mocking US President Bush
Ilaria: How would you describe the class composition of the Nepali society? Is it possible to apply here a classical marxist approach given the peculiarity of the Nepali working class? What are the social relationships in the rural areas?
Geelu:The composition of Nepali society is more complicated. The classes in Nepal are not like the class as it's described by Karl Marx. There are three classes, namely Lower, Middle and Upper.  The class is not only based on the economy, but also the ethnicity, where 59 indigenous nationalities are out of the mainstream. This is because of the unilateral power of the cast that occupied the main political roles, representing the Upper class.  
Radio commentator
Ilaria: You took part in the People's War, tell us something about this experience, by a political point of view and also as a personal experience. You were very young...
Geelu: When I was a young boy 13 years old and about to complete the Grade 5, I came into the contact of ACM (area committee member of Maoist Party) Janma Rai and his team.  
My aim of taking part in the People's war is very simple but interesting. When I was studying grade 3, two cadres of Khambuwan Rastriy Morcha (Khambuwan national forum) came to my house one evening. They used to talk about the politics of identity. They left the pamphlets in our house. I could recite those words but could not understand them. My elder brother pasted those pamphlets on the wall. The elder brother and my father were arrested by the police. They had to stay in custody about two weeks. During this time, the police threatened me showing their guns. Later I knew that they had 3nod 3rifles. Because of this I wanted to kill the police once an adult. Then I knew that only the Maoists could kill the police. This is how I moved to kill the police. Later I knew the Maoist ideology, and left the personal egoistic aim of killing the police for the radical change of the society. I am still involved in this party since then. 
Ilaria:  In your opinion what's the main problem for Nepal now, the one that is more urgent to address?
Image may contain: 5 people, people standing, crowd and outdoor
Celebrating Sakela (spring holiday)
Geelu: The main problem of Nepal is the political instability on one hand and not addressing the issues of identity on the other hand.  If these two problems will be addressed, many things will be solved.
Ilaria: What do you think about the complicated relationship between Nepal and its powerful neighbours, China and India?
Geelu: There are two neighboring countries of Nepal, India and China like a yam between two stones. Our former government said so. India still behaves as Nepal was a yam whereas China has in mind the land link. 
Ilaria: Talking about economics, what's the model your Party suggest ? In Europe we are facing the consequences of a productivist and consumeristic development and the concept of 'development' itself is a matter of disagreement. Do you think Nepal can find its own way to a sustainable development, socially equal and respectful of the environment?
Geelu: My party wants to implement the economy based on socialism. The development in Nepal is now entirely based on the capitalism and that's why there is an increment of pollution and natural disasters. According to BBC report, the sixth reason of death in Kathmandu nothing other than the pollution. The economy based on Socialism does not prioritize individual interest but  collectivity. Thus, the world economy must be guided by the economy based on socialism.
Ilaria: After the local elections held in June, Nepal is now busy with federal and political elections. The Right Alliance leaders flooded the media with allarmistic warning saying that a victory by the Leftist Alliance would be a danger for democracy. We know 'democracy' is a name for different things. What's the model of political representation your Party enforce ?
Geelu: In fact, it is a wrong analysis.  If the Right Alliance wins the elections, the king may come back as they are in the favour of monarchy. Since there is Rashtriya Prajatantra Party (National Democracy Party) in the Right Alliance, the major agenda are to restore the king and Hindu state.  If there is a king and exclusively one religion is allowed, how can that nation be a democratic country?  Besides, we want to institutionalise the Republic, an inclusive approach to religion and to move towards the scientific socialism. 
Ilaria: Cultural differences are an important component in Nepali society and you are involved in the preservation and valorisation of your ethnical traditional culture as a living and evolving part of daily life and national identity. Can you tell us something about it and about your activity?
Geelu: I am involved in writing about those cultural values in various national newspapers, namely Gorkhapatra, Annapurna Post, and on line. Also I have been documenting cultural pratices, myths and so on. I am editing a collection of Myths to be published by Nepal Academy very soon in collaboration with the poet Swapnil Srimiti. I am also involved as an editor of Kirati Soundary Shastra (Aesthetics of Kirati) published from National Foundation for Indigenous Nationalities in collaboration with Tara Mani Rai (PhD). I am writing about the cultural values, norms and the aesthetics through poems, songs and articles.
Ilaria: You are also a writer and especially a poet. Your poems have been not translated from Nepali yet so I had to ask my friends for a first rudimental understanding, nevertheless I found them absolutely beautiful and inspiring. I would like to translate them myself one day! How did you start writing and which are your references in the Nepali and international literature, if you have any?
Geelu: First of all. I would like to thank for your appreciation. I went through the news of Royal massacre in Kamana Magazine(National Monthly) in 2058 VS.  Later I joined it and worked for two years as a reporter since 2069 to 2071 VS. The news made me more emotional and then I began writing my feelings on a diary. I remember the poem we used to recite shaking among the People's army in Okhaldhunga. During the clandestinity and insurgency, I read fictions like "A Mother" by Maxim Gorky, "Agni Dikchha" by Nikolai Ostrovsky, "Chamkilo Rato Tara" by Lee Sin-Thyen, "Bal Sipahi" by Xui Kuang Yao,  "Yuvaharuko Geet" by Yang Mo, "Naya Ghar" by Aahuti, "Anido Pahadsangai" by Parijat and many short novels from China, Russia and Vietnam etc. 
Ilaria: Your art name is 'Geelu Ratos': what does it mean and why did you choose it?
Geelu: My original name is Geelu Ratos. I was named by my mother and it means 'lovely babe'. 'Ratos' is the clan name. Even now my family at home and friends from my village call me by this name. I prefer this name much. When I was admitted in school, the teachers from the Hindu religion rejected my name and renamed me as Ganesh Kumar.  The name Ganesh Kumar is on my official documents but I am not satisfied with this name. 
Ilaria: Your bio on facebook says you are Media Coordinator at Chindo Fashion and Creative Writer at Chindo Books. Tell us more about your job.
Geelu: I am founder member of these above mentioned two companies namely Chindo Fashion and Chindo Books. Apparently they seem to be profitable non-government organization, but they aim to preserve and promote the cultural identity of marginal groups. For example, the traditional attires are modified to suit the young generation style by Chindo Fashion. 
Ilaria: You are also a books reviews writer: list us five contemporary Nepali books everybody should read (translated or not).
Geelu: 1. "Bhuiya" by Yagesh (not translated).
2. "Mangena" by Yug Pathak (not translated).
3. "Nepalama varnavyavastha ra varga-sangharsha" by Aahuti (translate as "Varna System and Class Struggle in Nepal").
4. "Hetchchakuppa" by Rajan Mukarung (not translated).
5. "Aagole Janmotsav Maaudaina" by Bhupal Rai (translated as "The fire Cares Not Its Birth Anniversary").
Ilaria: You have been newsreader at Radio Nepal and still define yourself also as a journalist. How do you judge the situation of media and information in Nepal? In Europe media are often biased to be too linked to political power and big economical groups, so few free and few open to represent social fights and a critical point of view...
Geelu: Exactly, the media in Nepal are the same as in Europe. Very few media represent the social fights. To be exact the personal blogs have been advocating the voice of the grass root people and marginalized people. The big media companies raise the political issues but do not prioritize the issues to be addressed, i.e. the Madhesh issue and the identity one. Media in Nepal are not serious, they are not analytical but superficial. For instance, the emendament of the Constitution has been brought in the media but the analysis of why the Consitution needs to be emendated has been not.
Ilaria: In Italy we have not had a Communist Party in many years. Social movements have been badly defeated and political parties moved to moderate positions. Now some local organisations of workers, citizens commitees and communist intellectuals launched the project for a leftist alliance with the aim to take part in the next political election schedulated for March 2018. What a suggestion can you give to the new born organisation? What's the most important point for a Communist Party in your opinion, the one it can't miss?
Geelu: First of all, I wish the best for formulating a new organization based on leftist alliance to partake in the election to be held on March 2018. The step you have taken is the great and full of challenges. If you turn the organisation into a political party then it could be easier to address the your political issues.  As Marx states that the world need to be changed and I feel it's true, too.
Ilaria: Thank you very much for your time. I'll be glad to talk with you again about Nepali politics and your work.

Geelu Ratos has got a blog  where you can also read some poems by him, unfortunately in Nepali only. I google translated some of them just to understand what they are about, and in spite of the poor translation I fell in love with Geelu's poems. I asked a Nepali friend of mine for a good translation and I think he did a wonderful job. You can read it here below: original Nepali and English translation by Badri Lamsal (owner of Spiritual Excursion by the way).

"के हो मेरो दशेको राष्ट्रिय रंग ?
निलो ?
पौडी खेल्दा निलो रंगसँग म सहवास गर्ने गर्छु
जो, किनाराकृत छ राष्ट्रिय झन्डाको किनारामा ।

कत्ति हो मेरो देशको राष्ट्रिय उचाइ ?
सरगमाथा जत्ति ?
त्यसकै शीरमा टेक्ने गर्छु आरोहण गर्दा
जो, किच्चिने गर्छ मेरो पाउमुनि ।

तिमीले भनेको राष्ट्रिय फूलको बोट
मेरी आमाले हरेक दिन ‘सिनो’ उसिन्ने कचेट हो
‘सिनो’ राष्ट्रिय जनावरको कुहिएको मासु
जो,‘पाङ्मुजे’  जाने बाटोको बिसौनीमा खाने गर्छु म

यसपछि ममाथि लाग्ने अभियोगहरु—
एक, बलात्कारी !
दुई, आतंककारी !
तीन, बनमारा !
चार, ज्यानमारा !

अभियोगअनुसारको सजाय र दण्ड
अभियोग नम्बर एक—
मेरै चुलाको मसो दलेर सजाय देऊ ।
अभियोग नम्बर दुई—
मेरै स्यालफुस्रेको धनुवाणले छेंड मेरो छाती ।
अभियोग नम्बर तीन—
मेरै भूमिको जंगलमा चितुवा बनाएर लखेट ।
अभियोग नम्बर चार—
मेरै घरको धुरीमा फाँसी दिएर झुन्ड्याऊ ।

त्यसपछि मूल फुटाएर रगतको
बागमति बगाऊ मेरो शरीरबाट
त्यसैमा डुबाएर निकाल कागजको रातो गुलाब
र मनाऊ प्रणय दिवस !

तर, ख्याल गर –
“स्यालफुस्रेको धनु तन्काउन
किन साह्रो पर्‍यो तिमीलाई ?”
(इसमताको 'कविता राजनीतिक बहस भाग-६' 14 February 2015 मा प्रकाशित ।)"

"What is my country's national colour?
I am deeply connected with blue while I am swimming, this blue colour is at the margin of my national flag.

What is the national height of my country?
equal to the height of Sagarmāthā ?
I step on its head while summiting, and it gets squeezed under my feet.

The national flower which you talk about is the pot on which my mother cooks dead animal's body everyday.
Oh!! That dead body is the rotten meat of national animal. I eat that rotten meat on the way to "Pangmuze".

After that I am accused of being-

Punishment according to accusations.
For first accusation-
 Punish me by putting black dust that comes from my stove.
Fot second accusation-
 Kill me by my "Shyalfushre's" arrow
For third accusation
 Chase me like a leopard in my country's forest.
For fourth accusation-
Give me death penalty on my house's rooftop.

Then flow bood's river from my body and pour my blood on the paper and create paper's red rose out of that and celebrate Valentine's Day.
 But, remember-
Why you found it difficult to stretch Shyalfushre's arrow towards me?"

I hope I'll translate more soon!

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