By Govinda Neupane
Center for Development Studies, Nepal
First Internet Edition – August 2012
1. Nepal inside Dark Tunnel: Anarchy of Elitist Oligarchy
2. Seeds of Realignment of Social and Political Forces in Nepal
3. History Repeats Itself: Launching a New Mass Movement in Nepal
4. Adivasi and Janajati: Indigenous People and Nationalities in Nepal
5. Federalism in Nepal: Why and What Type?
6. Nepal: Disparately Waiting for the End of Darkness
7. Nepal in Transition: Short Euphoria, Long Journey
8. A Cursory Look on Political Developments in Nepal
9. Tenure of the Constituent Assembly: Extension, Extension……
10. New Political Masters Enthroned: Hopelessness and Upheavals Continue
11. Nepal: Hopelessness to Vibrancy
12. Nepal in Crisis: Long Live Nepal!
1. Nepal inside Dark Tunnel: Anarchy of Elitist Oligarchy
Where to start from? This is a very difficult task. Anyway, there should be a beginning and that could be the signing date of the second Delhi Agreement of 2006, generally called as 12-point agreement. The first Delhi Agreement was signed in 1951. Strangely, both times, the domestic Nepali political forces went to Delhi to conclude agreements between them seeking guidance, direction and mediation from India, a regional hegemonic power.
There was some sort of euphoria both the times. However, the euphoria, generated both the times, evaporated immediately, leaving space for hopelessness and frustration. Several people have already analyzed the factors that made the revolutionary zeal and fervor evaporating in no time in 1951. The agreement failed to make democracy functioning. As a result, we suffered for decades under the anarchic or authoritarian regimes till 1990. Even from 1990 to 2006, either there was another anarchic parliamentary regime or a totalitarian regime for a brief period of Gyanendra’s rule. That is all history now. However, we need to look deeper into the scenario that has been continuously unfolding since 2006.
We have been living in a situation of full blown political anarchy. We have no constitution, no polity, no constitutional government and no fully functional democratic institution. We have all-round corruption of unprecedented nature, scale and intensity. There is competition in pocketing state resources among different vested interest groups including the political actors at the high offices. We have no guardian. We are trapped in a politico-economic and social mess. Powerlessness, anger and frustration have become the governing feelings of millions of ordinary Nepali people. Really, we are somewhere deep inside a long, dark and narrow tunnel. I believe that independent analysts, political actors without colored vision, thoughtful professionals active in different fields and ordinary people surviving in a very hostile environment will agree with this depiction of the reality.
Either the Unified Maoist or the seven party alliance partners or both of them together have been at the helm of the state power since 2006. They are ‘powerful’ rulers. However, in practice, not the parties but a few leaders snatched power from their respective parties and established an oligarchic regime. In the ‘august galaxy’ of this oligarchy, there are twelve persons. Among them, four are from Unified Maoist, four from Nepali Congress, three from CPN (UML) and one from Madhesi front. All of them are of Khas origin (eight Bahuns and two Chhetris) except two (a Newar and a Tharu). All of them are male. All of them are new super-rich except one (a Koirala). Hence, this is the oligarchy of new super rich-Khas-male elites. This oligarchy made the party system dysfunctional. They made the Constituent Assembly non-functional and irrelevant and finally finished its existence. In de facto term, they snatched power from the polity in the name of political consensus.
The oligarchic regime continued with support of and blessings from the council of foreign ambassadors. It is interesting to note that the regime got legitimacy by executing wishes of the Indian, American and European ambassadors.
The United Nations, in case of Nepal, played quite dubious role. Its mission, from the very beginning, was governed by the American agenda – finish Maoism as an ideology, finish Maoist party as an instrument of communist upsurge and demobilize and disintegrate Maoist army as a fighting force.
The council of ambassadors actively provided political support to the UN mission called UNMIN. UNMIN provided cover for all wrongdoings of the Maoist and encouraged them to venture into new wrongdoings so that people could get alienated from them. UNMIN succeeded in this mission. Moreover, the council of ambassadors together with the UN mission, bilateral aid mechanisms and Bratton Woods institutions motivated, encouraged and made ready to the oligarchic regime to venture into the path of ‘consensus politics’. This consensus politics is anti-democratic as it discourages the formal democratic mechanism of “majority-minority in decision making”. Hence, a few leaders started to assemble, interacted and went back to their respective parties just to explain. This explaining was part of a political ritual. The party mechanisms became fiefdoms of a few leaders. The Constituent Assembly that was tasked to draft, finalize and promulgate a new constitution had been made paralyzed, and finally it was slaughtered at the middle of the night.
The remaining task of derailing the constitution making process was accomplished by the donation -hungry northern NGOs and their Nepali counterparts including the human rights groups. They got fund from dubious northern or UN sources, organized several meaningless workshops, and arranged foreign trips to Constituent Assembly members to show them as beautiful dolls and to milk donor-cows. Several Nepali interest groups also jumped in the flood to catch a few fleshy fishes. Intellectuals and media are naturally smell-sensitive. They also grabbed their share of the booty. In this way, the state invested billions of Rupees in an exercise that brought into reality Franz Kafka’s “Kafkaesque”.
In this way Nepal was thrown inside a deep, dark and long tunnel.
The class factor in Nepali politics became weak after 2006 as the Maoist party was converted to Unified Maoist and changed its class orientation from working class to upper middle class. Now, after the emergence of a few political instruments of working class forces, the class politics will get prominence once again. The most powerful force could be the force of working class people and the political process that could bring them into forefront of transformational actions would prevail over all other forces on the long run.
The non-Khas nationalities are on the war path. The Khas domination in all organs of the state is being challenged. The oppressed nationalities are asking for equity, justice and equality. Now, federalism has become the standard bearer of inclusion and power-sharing. The oppressed nationalities want federalism with ethnic identity and right to self-determination so as to mainstream oppressed nationalities and marginalized sections of people. This movement has been gaining momentum.
If the political forces of exploited classes, oppressed nationalities and marginalized sections come together, they could build a formidable force that would lead the process of radical societal change and progressive restructuring of the state. Now the political polarization has started to take shape rapidly. On one side, there could be the forces of status quo lead by the oligarchy of elites and their fragile party apparatus as mentioned above. And, on the other side there could be the political instruments of the exploited classes, regional forces, oppressed nationalities’ political instruments and associations of marginalized sections.
Now, after the dissolution of the duly elected Constituent Assembly, if there is no strong pressure, there is not much chance to have a constitution that is different than the constitution of 1991 with two exceptions – republic and nominally federated state structure. Hence, the progressive political forces including that of class, region, nationalities and marginalized sections should form, at least, a loose alliance and should create a mass movement which could generate strong pressure to make a progressive constitution. These forces must accept the challenges in any front whether that is round table conference, referendum or election. They should oppose the attempt of short cuts, particularly drafting a constitution by a super rich-Khas-male oligarchy appointed commission.
It is true that the tunnel is deep, dark and long. However, determined, sustained and collective journey will take us to the light that is at the other end of the tunnel. Daring to challenge the super rich-Khas-male oligarchy is the new departure point of this long journey. All movements, actions and endeavors, which have been continuing from the past or even from distant past, should get aligned with this historic journey, this new mass movement.
Thursday, June 21, 2012
2. Seeds of Realignment of Social and Political Forces in Nepal
The political course, now, has taken a new turn. The forces of status quo and the forces of change, once again, are in search of new baskets to put them separately.
The Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Establishment Faction or MEF) has taken new stand on federalization and system of governance. The structure long advocated by the Nepali Congress (NC) and the Communist Party of Nepal (UML) has prevailed. The MEF, NC and UML are on one side and they are advocating for 11 ethnic identity-free federal divisions, non-executive president (however, to satisfy MEF ego, directly elected one), sovereign parliament (jumbo sized), provisional constitutional court (that too cosmetic type with 5 years life), and many other attributes of a parliamentary system. Now, the MEF has overtly expressed its political gender that it is a parliamentary political force fully committed to western values, ideals and system.
The change of ideological stand, political line, strategy, tactic and modus operandi of the MEF has influenced several stake holders. The major forces, which are affected by this change, are the progressive political forces, working class including agrarian workers and poor peasants, oppressed nationalities and marginalized social forces including the Dalits and women. The hopes and aspirations of these people have got severe jolt because of the parliamentary forces mentioned above serving the same wine produced in 1991 in new bottles and with new labels. Content-wise, the base would remain the same and form-wise it will look slightly different. There will be a president in place of the king; there will be 11 provinces in place of 14 zones and a few other things.
Now, it is a big challenge for the forces who have been advocating for substantial to radical change in the society, polity and spread of wellbeing among people. The forces that are still committed to their progressive causes are in a challenging situation. Now, they are at crossroads. They should decide whether they go to reformist path or take the path of radical change. The reformist path has been travelled by the UML and MEF and if the progressive political as well as social forces decide the same path to travel through, it would be futile for them to talk loud. If they are genuinely committed to change the society, then they must go for radical change. The progressive political force is not alone as there are other social forces who are feeling betrayed. Particularly, the oppressed nationalities, suppressed social sections and federalist forces could very much shoulder the responsibility of transforming the Nepali society, politico-social relationships and polity and they could work together for equitable spread of wellbeing including wealth, access, power and opportunities.
The forces representing class politics and identity politics, now, are coming closer as these forces are either exploited or oppressed or both. The same is true for the marginalized sections. The problem is that the class politics is heavily influenced by reformism and the identity politics has been under the influence of northern NGOs and western bi-laterals. The marginalized sections are also heavily infiltrated by the western governmental or non-governmental agencies. Therefore, it is a challenge for them to free themselves from these trends and actors first. If they succeed in freeing themselves from such trends and forces, then they could effectively change the prevailing socio-economic order, which has been standing on a sandy ground.
These progressive forces could create the tempest of movements and could transform Nepali society and the state. These forces may include but not limited to the revolutionary faction of the UCPN (Maoist), oppressed nationalities organized collectively or separately such as Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities, Madhesi parties, Janajati Parties, Dalit associations, women’s associations, etc. The unity among such forces has been seen in the movement to realize identity based federalism in these days. If this unity in action which has attracted even the Janajati and Madhesi Constituent Assembly members of MEF, NC and UML takes institutional form, this broader alliance of exploited class, oppressed nationalities and marginalized social sections may lead the new mass movement, which seems inevitable.
Saturday, May 19, 2012
3. History Repeats Itself: Launching a New Mass Movement in Nepal
A newly discharged patient from a government hospital reached limping at the office of the ministry of foreign affairs in German capital Berlin and asked the minister to note his dissent that he will not accept the accord between Germany and France as it was too humiliating for Germany, though it effectively ended the First World War. The man was Adolf Hitler, a wounded Corporal of the German army. In his political profession, Hitler was known for all his wrong doings. However, as a protesting solder, who had already contributed litres of his young blood for his country and tried to defend his nation; his role was remarkable.
In retrospection, when I peep into the situation of Nepal in recent past, I feel proud. There were villains at the helm like Gyanendra and Girija. However, there were heroes too and that too in many in numbers. The society was changing and it was changing very fast. The process of societal transformation could be felt and observed vividly. The powerless were busy snatching power, the marginalized were marching to take respectable place in the mainstream and the ever exploited lots were coming out of the shackles of exploitative socio-economic fabrics of the old society. Everything unscientific and outlived was being challenged and scientific and new one was emerging. When the transformational course was on full swing; the people had started to believe that the roses were blooming everywhere around them. Although, they had to pay a high price, they had consolation that there could be a better tomorrow. There was hope and there was hope that was instrumental in making them believing that all their endeavors have worth. Hope was on the air and hope was inside their mind.
After the loss of several thousand lives and properties of billions of Rupees, a new situation was created when the April 2006 mass movement succeeded in taming Gyanendra, the autocratic ruler. In that new situation, the yesteryears’ villains put on new furs and projected themselves as heroes. It happened partly due to Gyanendra as he kept them in five star detention facilities that made them ‘freedom fighters’ without sacrificing anything substantial, and partly due to the Maoist leaders’ appetite for power for themselves that made them too accommodative and compromising. The Maoist leaders learnt tricks from the Congress and UML leaders to cheat and steal money from public and governmental coffer and became one among them making corruption as rampant as it could be. On the other side, the Congress and UML leaders sharpened their skills and borrowed courage from the Maoist leaders so as to stage corruption of unprecedented nature and scale. Corruption through change in policy instruments that sounds perfectly legitimate became one of the prime source incomes for them. Inflating the number of PLA fighters at cantonments, increasing the number of CA members to 601, appointing ministers and advisers as many as that could go, are some of such practices. The levy the top leadership got from PLA, CA members and advisors/ministers was their prime source of income which has been amply clear from the financial statements the Maoists, Congress and UML have submitted to Election Commission. The hidden money in the form of commission, bribes etc what they collected is huge. The donation drive from individuals and companies is another area from where large amount of money was snatched. The program funds that were sent to local bodies simply were pocketed by the local leaders and their bosses at national level. Hence, in these post-monarchy five years, the amount looted either from the state coffer or from private source is difficult to estimate.
The never ending power game and ever increasing corruption have impacted heavily negatively in the lives of Nepali people and Nepali nation. The difficulties of people are increasing every day. The price rise, deteriorating law and order and terror created by the anti-social elements under the protection of political forces have added to already existing difficulties of people including managing their lives in a very difficult economic environment. The worst that happened in Nepal is that the people have no HOPE at all. Hopelessness and powerlessness govern the mind of people. From east to west, from north to south, the prevailing majority felling, particularly that of common men and women is that of hopelessness. In leaders, they see the face of villains. The new drive to make new Nepal has been aborted wholly and totally.
Now, it is simply foolish to expect that a bull will deliver a calf. The state is at the verge of collapse, the people are bewildered as their dreams shattered and Gyanendra is there looking at things with all smile. All these three factors add on frustration of people. However, frustration is not the remedy of any problem and here too the people must overcome this frustration. Although they are a few in numbers today, still there are leaders with vision, courage and commitment to cause. They should dare to lead. They may not so strong today; their sustained efforts could make them and their parties champion, credible and large.
There are three forces they could fill the vacuum created by the departure of United Maoists and other forces which were standing with the people in the past. a) The first forces are the communists, particularly who are still struggling against the party apparatus inside the Unified Maoist party – Mohan Baidhya-led platform together with Matrika-led party. b) The second force could be that of democrats who are inside Congress and UML or other parties or independent. They should come together to form a democratic force that would challenge the orthodoxy of the Congress and opportunism of the UML. c) The third force could be the inclusions as well as federalist forces that could uphold progressive agenda as a united front or as an alliance if not as a party.
The Nepali society must not stop transforming itself neither it will. The Nepali nation must not stop advancing itself and Nepali people must not stop dreaming a dream of a new Nepal – the future abode of prosperous, civilized and happy people. Similarly, the progressive, democratic and nationalist political forces also must not stop renewing, reorganizing, rediscovering and reorienting themselves so as to play their historical role of leading the people and nation to new height. They should succeed in providing new direction that makes
Nepali people confident, happy and hopeful and that makes Nepal a proud member among the comity of nations.
With all my reservation about Hitler, I referred him at the very first paragraph to communicate some strong sense of responsibility and some sense of urgency though that could be small and insignificant to begin with. We should dare to start our journey from scratches. Let’s not follow the Hitler of later years, but recognize his act of boldness when he was neither Fuehrer nor warlord Hitler that time in 1918. We need leaders and parties that may not be necessarily too large and too strong now, but they have the potentials to grow fast with progressive vision and purposeful actions and who dare to start from scratches. A mass movement that could mobilize hundreds of thousands of people only could ensure positive change and could sustain it.
Sunday, May 06, 2012
4. Adivasi and Janajati: Indigenous People and Nationalities in Nepal
There are two words that are used in Nepali more frequently recently. These words are Adivasi and Janajati.
Let’s first discuss about Adivasi. They are the original inhabitants of a land mass. They are not immigrants, and if they are, they are the very first settlers of that area. They did everything to make the area inhabitable. Hence, they cleared forests, arranged protection from wild animals and initiated economic activities that included but not limited to hunting and gathering as well as agriculture. They put their energy, skills and resources whatever insignificant it was to develop the very first settlements.
In this way, the Adi Kirats, Magars, Tamangs, Gurungs, Sherpas, Tharus and many other branches of Mongol race are the Adivasis of central and eastern hills of modern Nepal covering the area between Limbuvan in the east and Magarat in the west.
The Aidi Khasas are the Adivasis of Khasan region. The Aidi Khas included present day Matawali Chhetri, Thakuri and Hill Dalits residing in Khasan region till today. The Khasan region covered the hill areas of present day Karnali, Seti and Mahakali zones.
The Tharus moved to several areas in the Tarai as first settlers together with other Madhesis including Yadavs, Rajbanshis, Satars etc. All of them are the Adivasis of southern plains of Nepal.
The Nepar Kirats (originally a branch of Kirats with whom many immigrant groups assimilated afterwards), who were later called Newars, were the first inhabitants of Kathmandu valley. Hence, The Newars are the Adivasis of the valley.
The Sherpas were the first to reside in the Himali region (mountain region) from East to west, and they are the Adivasis of the Himali region.
In brief, Nepal had nine Adivasi regions in ancient times. They were Kirat, Nepal Mandal or Nepaa, Tambasaling or Tamsaling or Tamangsaling, Tamuvan, Magarat, Khasan, Tharuhat (Kapilavastu), Madhes (Mithila) and Himali region. The names of the regions might have not been used during that time as they are mentioned here. Here, the regions are mentioned by these names to know the areas, which were the clusters of certain indigenous people. Hence, Kirat, Newar, Tamang, Magar, Gurung, Tharu, Sherpa/Lama, Aidi Khas, Yadav, Rajbanshi, Satar, etc are the ADIVASIS of Nepal. The list mentioned here is not inclusive of all Adivasis.
In the ancient time neither there was a unified Nepal, nor a single branch of people had a spread that covered the land mass, we call Nepal now. Hence, all inhabitants who had settled or had been roaming around within a certain area of today’s Nepal are the Adivasis of Nepal. And, they have every reason to ask for the rights and privileges of indigenous people.
It is interesting to note that the Bahuns, Chhetris and Sanyasis were the immigrants, who came to the Hills from Aryavarta, the Gangetic plains or from Kumao-Gadhwal region. The process started in the 2nd century. They became part of Khas nationality after assimilation of Aidi Khas and these new immigrants. Some, earlier immigrants in the valley like Lichchhivis submerged within the culture of civilized Newars of that time residing in the valley. The assimilation of Lichchhivis into Newar is a good example of this process. Hence, they became part of Newar nationality. The Madhesi sub-nationalities such as Bahuns, Rajputs, Kayasthas were also the immigrants in Madhes and they assimilated within the Madhesi nationality. The immigrant groups such as Bahuns, Chhertis, Rajputs, Kayasthas etc do not belong to indigenous people.
The new immigrants particularly Bahuns, Chhetris and Sanyasis from the Gangetic plains or from Kumao-Gadhwal adopted Khasakura as their language and also converted many Aidi Khasas into Hinduism. Thus, a hybrid nationality originated. This nationality primarily adopted the customs and language of the Aidi Khas, but also included many branches of Bahun, Chhetris and Sanyasis into its fold. Hence, a Khasakura (afterward called Gorkha Bhasa and finally called Nepali) speaking nationality called Khas came into existence.
Some of the branches of Khas who were socially outcaste from the Khas separated from them and developed gradually as a different nationality. Their socio-cultural and psychological state that originated from extreme humiliation, inhuman exploitation and extreme marginalization made them developing as an independent nationality called Dalit.
Regarding Madhesis, there is still debate going on about Tharus. In my opinion, they are part of the larger Madhesi nationality who have a spread from east to west of Tarai. They are the very spinal cord of the Madhesi land mass and they are very much the driving force of the Madhesi nationality. And, if they think that their Tharu identity has nothing to do with Madhesi identity, they could claim as an independent nationality. They should decide on this issue. It is their internal matter to be settled by themselves.
The Tharus emigrated from the hills to Tarai, the Yadavs and many other sub-nationalities of Madhesis emigrated from the Gangetic plains. Neither the Tharus originated in Tarai or many other Madhesi sub-nationalities. However, they were the very first settlers of Tarai-Madhes and they have every right to claim it.
The Muslims also sometimes consider themselves separate. However, they are religious minorities and not another nationality. They are part of the larger Madhesi family there. However, the Churautes could be classified as “others” as neither they are Madhesi nor Khasa nor Janajati (MangolKirat). They are Muslim by religion but not Madhesi as nationality.
There is lot of debate about the fifth nationality. Many sub-nationalities within this nationality have a long history of inhabitation in the hills. Their spread is between Limbuvan in the east and Magarat in the west. They are several branches of Mongol race. Part of them is Adi Kirats. These two together formed a distinct nationality. Naming them was difficult. Janaklal Sharma was the first to use a common term called MangolKirat to address them. Some scholars named them simply as Kirats and many categorized them as independent nationalities and grouped them as Janajatis together with Newars and some indigenous sub-nationalities of Madhesi including Tharus.
The term Janajati was invented by scholars including Harka Gurung and Krishna Bhattachan when they were in need of finding some common name for people outside of Hindu caste hierarchy. Their interpretation was, “Generally the words Janajati (nationality) and Adivasi (the indigenous people) are used as synonyms. Of course, Janajati is related to social composition and Adivasi has its relation with time period. The word Janajati or Jati refers to the group of people outside of caste system and Adivasis are the ancient inhabitants or the indigenous people.” (Gurung et al, Janajati, Janajati Vikash Samanwaya Kendra 1999: 1). Their attempt was for connecting oppressed nationalities and groups together who had been suffering at the hands of caste-Hindu ruling elites. However, now this term Janajati has become interchangeable with Adivasi. Both reflect the characteristics of indigenous people.
I followed Janaklal Sharma and accepted them collectively as MangolKirat nationality. Now, the word Janajati has become irrelevant in the sense that the term Adivasi is being used exclusively for indigenous people. However, the term Janajati is quite popular and is being used by people of MangolKirat nationality affectionately. Therefore, I have been thinking to propose to use the term Janajati that replaces MangolKirat. Hence, there would be two distinct terms – Janajati as nationality (replacing MangolKirat) and Adivasi continuing as usual as the Nepali equivalent for indigenous people.
In summary, Adivasi meaning indigenous people is well accepted. Hence, that is already a settled issue. Regarding nationalities, we have to continue discussions. In my opinion, they are five – Madhesi, Khas, Janajati, Dalit and Newar.
In this case, Janajati would replace the term MangolKirat that I had used in the past. The Newars and some sub-nationalities among Madhesi could be together with Janajati as Adivasi but they will no longer be part of the Janajati nationality.
It also should be noted that the term Dalit is used for a nationality and a community too. When it is used for nationality, in Nepali it is used as Dalit Jati, whereas for community, it is used as Dalit Samudaya. Within Dalit Samudaya (community), there are some sub-nationalities of Madhesi and Newar nationalities too.
Now, it is high time to understand our social composition, dynamics and processes that are continuously creating new reality, establishing new relationships and rejoining the disjointed parts and sections. We should continue endeavors that could dig out our social realities so as to bring harmony in the society and create social infrastructures that support unity in diversity. Being different is our reality, coming together is our strength. Hence, we should understand multiculturalism not only as a social process but also as an important value adding political ingredient that brings transformative actions into play and generates synergy.
Wednesday, January 04, 2012
Notes Posted on 05/01/2012
P. S. I got some queries regarding the status of reservation as I have proposed something that would bring new scenario to deal with. I reviewed the lists of Janajatis and Dalits. I propose the following changes.
1. The list of Dalit community is fine. They deserve special rights.
2. The list of Janajati needs three changes. a) Newar is a highly developed nationality. Hence, they have to say “Good Bye” to the reservation provision. b) Matwali Chhetris and a few other similar groups of Khas nationality in Khasan region should be included in the reservation list as they are extremely marginalized. c) The name of the list of the groups that is for reservation should be changed to “List of nationalities and groups qualified for Reservation”. In Nepali, it could be called as “Arakshan Paune Jatigat Samudayaharuko Suchi.”
Moreover, in this situation the term Janajati would be completely free to be used exclussively for a nationality. It would replace the term MangolKirat, which I also had used in my previous writings.
Wednesday, January 04, 2012
5. Federalism in Nepal: Why and What Type?
When I was finally editing my first book, “Samajik Bikashko Vivechana” (Social Development in Nepal), I realized that there is a great need and urgency to know the composition and characteristics of colorful nationalities in Nepal and the way they could build better social harmony. It was 1999.
I started to prepare notes on nationalities, social compositions, conflicting values and behaviors, and ways and means to address existing discriminations so as to make Nepal a harmonious place to live in.
Once, I even thought of leaving the task of studying, analyzing and determining the nature, number and historical context of different nationalities as it was too complex and too controversial. However, I finally stick to it as I had done some foundation building exercises already. After months of review of literatures available during that time, I prepared three working papers – a) nationalities in Nepal: their composition and standing, b) relationships among them, and, c) superstructure that provides platform for mutually beneficial and harmonious partnership.
I encountered hostile circumstances as many experts, leaders, activists and professionals had highly diverse views on nationalities and many among them were hostile to any superstructure that challenges the one existing that time. A large majority among this crowd was too critical of federalism as they consider that that structure of governance would disintegrate Nepal. They discouraged me saying that that exercise would harm Nepal. I continued my field work for another six months and arrived at a conclusion that the hostile crowd was that of Khasa, the ruling nationality. Many among the leaders of Khasa origin of all major parties were against multiculturalism and federalism.
After a year, I concluded that there were five nationalities in Nepal – Khasa, Madhesi, MangolKirat, Dalit and Newar. I was in two minds about using the term MangolKirat. Many intellectuals among indigenous groups were using the term JANAJATI that included but not limited to MangolKirat. Janak Lal Sharma had first used the term MangolKirat. Harsha Bahadur Budha had used simply the term Kirat that included Magars. In my first draft, I had used Kirat only. However, after consultations with some of the authorities on indigenous people in Nepal including but not limited to Parshuram Tamang, I was convinced that the term MangolKirat better represents that nationality. Although, several advances have been made in researching the nationalities’ composition in Nepal, still there is no consensus. It may take some more years or decades, and that is only natural. However, after a decade of that research, I am more convinced that the findings of that research stand correct.
In the past decade, my book, “The Nationalities Question in Nepal: Social Composition and Partnership Building through Multiculturalism and Federalism” has been widely used as reference material for evidences to highlight socio-political discriminations in Nepal. It has got wide recognition in area of study on discrimination of nationalities.
The decade-long Civil War created upheavals in the society. The values, belief systems and practices had to pass through scrutiny. Several old values were discarded, belief systems were challenged and the society had gone through the painful process of initial restructuring. However, the process got stuck when the Maoists entered into a new path that included negotiations, give and take and compromises. When the Maoists changed their strategies, they needed different political traits that had similar value ingredients as that of their new brethren, the Congress and CPN (UML). Hence, the process of societal transformation faced new road blocks as the lead actor disappeared from the scene. Thus, the Maoists became friendlier to status quo and gradually sidelined themselves from exercises that needed confrontation against the creamy layer of the society including the most influential Khasa politico-intellectual fraternity.
Many popular agencies formed and led by oppressed nationalities and their activists either were trapped by the Khasa-led politico-governance mechanism or by the western donors as their projects. Now, on the horizon, there are not many agencies or individuals available who truly represent the dreams of oppressed nationalities. Krishna Bhattachan and a few scholars and activists like him could be seen in the wilderness still defending the cause, still putting their intellectual richness, energy and time to champion the dreams of an egalitarian Nepali society that is free from prejudices and discriminations.
In this context, new breeds of champions of federalism have emerged. They are the yesteryear’s die-hard opponents of federalism including the Congress and UML leaders. Many anti-federalism professors and professionals are raising voices in favor of federalism. However, their model of federalism is the second edition of Panchayati geographical set ups of zones or regions. Adding a few cosmetics, they want to reintroduce the same politico-administrative mechanism in the name of federalism.
Why federalism was considered a need in Nepal? The oppressed nationalities had concerns in three primary areas –cultural identity, end of discriminatory practices related to nationalities and equitable access to power, opportunities and resources. To address these concerns, they raised the voice for multiculturalism and federalism. Putting together these two attributes with geography, economic viability and governance, the appropriate federal model could be evolved. However, the new Mullahs of federalism are advocating for splitting the federal units from north to south to suit their interests. Mahendralism or Birendralism with some cosmetics added by Congress-UML-Maoists will not be federalism, if it would not address the core issue of multiculturalism that too with autonomy and the right to self-determination. Moreover, the federalism that has its functional base on co-operation or if it is a cooperative federalism, only that model could absorb the shocks and could provide sound platform for dialogue so as to sustain development, cooperation and harmony.
Now, there is a commission that is tasked with recommending the model. Before any meaningful discussion inside the commission, the coordinator of the commission has started to advocate for Mahendralism or Birendralism. This is another futile exercise that would simply legalize the thoughts, plans and designs of the Khasa leaders. Without addressing the core issue of multiculturalism, any state restructuring exercise would not address the aspirations of oppressed nationalities and thus, could not solve the problem.
Now, the transformational socio-political and economic course has been put in the back burner. It is quite unfortunate. The interests of working classes, oppressed nationalities and marginalized sections should get proper attention and priority. If that will not happen, the radical transformational course would get acceleration, once again, sooner or later. The wise men and women could see it, the average type could sense and the fools have no idea. Irrespective of having any idea or no idea, the radical course correction is inevitable.
Sunday, December 18, 2011
6. Nepal: Disparately Waiting for the End of Darkness
The ‘last’ extension of the term of six months of the constituent assembly has many interpretations. Some of the cartoonists have already sensed that the leaders, who have no credibility and moral obligations to abide by laws, rules and norms would again propose for another ‘final’ term extension after six months as the Supreme Court has used the term ‘last’ and not ‘final’ in its verdict. Some parties have even rejected the jurisdiction of the court in the ‘extension business’, which they consider is their fiefdom. Moreover, some party cadres present in the parliament have asked to impeach the judges for ‘encroaching’ into their politico-legislative territory.
Similarly, the verbal barbs have regularly been exchanged between Prachanda-Baburam Faction (PBF) and Baidya-Badal Faction (BBF) within the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). The two line struggle of the present essence and form that had originated from the Chunbang meeting has been polarizing them and has established two de facto Headquarters. The management of the Maoist fighters or rather, in essence, the demobilization, disarmament and rehabilitation of the organized Maoist’s military force could be the last axe that would split the party into two.
The non-Maoist parliamentary forces have downsized their roles as cautious observers. The issues they were championing in the past that included disarmament of Maoist fighters, return of seized property, end of barrack-system of Youth Communist League (YCL) and acceptance of pluralism by the Maoists have been taken over by PBF. When PBF replaced them as the lead parliamentary force, the leaders of the Nepali Congress (NC) and the Communist Party of Nepal (UML) have plenty of time to shine their cheeks, dresses and shoes. Hence, now they look as the products of high quality manufacturers. Really, they are the new brand of Nepali leaders – wealthy, healthy and elegant. The Madhesi leaders are neither far away from them nor could they be so. The parliamentary Panchas, organized under a democratic banner called Rastriya Prajatantra Party, could be seen ruminating at one corner of the luxurious balcony. Hence, the fire-fight between PBF and BBF has provided opportunities to relax to the conventional parliamentary forces.
The social forces with several organizations, natures, colours and agenda are making their presence felt through their acts, actions and movements. Among them, the prominent forces include the indigenous people, different nationalities and marginalized sections. Two issues – federalism and rights of their respective constituencies are being debated vigorously.
Some forces including the Kirat Janabadi Workers party, different factions of Tarai Janatantrik Mukti Morcha, Samyukta Jatiya Mukti Morcha, etc are carrying out their social-political activities by being involved in violent means. The Matrika-led Maoists also are in the picture, though with limited visibility.
The foreign forces, particularly India and the United States are busy in pampering PBF so as to complete disarmament of the Maoists fighters. Dismantling the organized formation is what India and the westerners are after. For them everything including human rights, stability, progress and development etc. are non-issues. When the nonperforming constituent assembly got extension, the Secretary General of the United Nations pours flowers on them. Non-performance is being rewarded. What nonsense!
In such background as briefly discussed as above, the fundamental challenges that include societal transformation and structural rearrangement have been out of sight and they are no longer considered as priority issues.
The gains, which the people had made during the transformative period of civil war, are in question in regard to their sustainability. Poverty, illiteracy, social inequalities and marginalization have been continuing, as if they are part and parcel of Nepali life.
When the PBF came to power with some mysterious arrangement with Madhesi forces, there was some sort of euphoria. Baburam had an untarnished image, further shined by his academic brilliance. He was one of the last available leaders of high stature. When he became Prime minister, during that time people had high hopes and expectations from him. In the course of reaching to power and staying there for a longer period of time, he sacrificed most part of his political and intellectual assets. This phenomenon thickened the darkness. And, the frustration among ordinary people contributed to further hopelessness. Now, the political process has lost its way and nobody knows where it reaches to.
Lawlessness and anarchy are the twins that govern everything in Nepal. Criminals have a field day. Criminalization of politics or rather politicization of crime is a course that has been accepted as normal as sun coming out from the east every morning. For two grams of gold, women are being murdered. Small children are continuously being abducted in want of ransom and several of them have been murdered. Nepal has been witnessing hundreds of events that make commoners very sad.
The complex and fluid situation, which is full of anarchy, lawlessness, corruption, and many more negative phenomenon has been called ‘transition’. It is full of darkness. Nobody knows how and when this darkness ends. There are not many alternatives or alternative forces that could generate hope among people. The BBF together with social forces such as indigenous nationalities has the potential to develop as an alternative. However, they too are behaving like a talking club. In strategic sense, yes, the darkness will end; but right now it is too gloomy to see the end of the tunnel. One most probable course could be an unpredictable one – spontaneous uprising of people, the Nepal Spring.
Thursday, December 01, 2011
7. Nepal in Transition: Short Euphoria, Long Journey
Formation of the new Unified Maoist-led government has created hype among intelligentsia in Kathmandu. A large majority of them dislikes Unified Maoist but likes Prime Minister Dr. Baburam Bhattarai. It is strange but true. Dr. Bhattarai has been considered a genius for a long time. The support available for him is primarily based on his background, particularly his academic records and his tax collection ability during his tenure as Finance Minister. After being the Prime Minister, he has taken some steps, though cosmetic in nature but quite popular among the intelligentsia. These steps include the Mustang Jeep, lunch at Sigh Durbar cafeteria, announcement of a few relief measures etc. Individuals could play important roles. However, an individual could not transform a society. The politics they represent makes the difference. Hence, leaving him alone here, I like to explore probable course of Nepali politics.
The Unified Maoist got the opportunity to lead the government, second time. The first Unified Maoist-led government is known for selling dreams of all-round transformation and buying political compost to nurture parliamentary sapling inside the party. Prachanda’s government never seriously concentrated in any real issues, rather he was spreading everywhere. He sounded a man in hurry. During that time, his control over the party was intact as he was still the superhero of the revolution. Gradually, he demystified himself. His party also contributed to demystify him. The Unified Maoist party tried to look communist to its base and democratic to its new found galaxy. The new galaxy of parliamentary fame incorporated it with some serious pre-conditions. The pre-conditions included that the Unified Maoist had to renounce violence, disband their fighting force, which they call PLA, revert to old societal structure in economic relationships by surrendering the land they seized during insurgency, and finally accept pluralism in all sphere of socio-political values, systems and practices. Gradually, the party opened its doors to individuals, groups and smaller parties to get a majority to meet the conditions put forward by the great galaxy of parliamentary fame. The leadership used two types of fodders to feed its cadres and supporting grassroots on one side of the divide and to convince its new national and international friends on the other side. The first was a basket of anti-India rhetoric and strikes, including the suicidal ‘indefinite general strike’ and several industrial closures. It helped the party to maintain the revolutionary posture. The second was accepting “made in India” political course more indirectly and attending to meet the pre-conditions as mentioned above. The first course helped to soften, deform and disband the hard core revolutionaries gradually and the second course broadened the acceptance among new national and international friends like Nepali Congress, Unified Marxist-Leninist, India, Europe and America.
Now, inside the Unified Maoist party, the line struggle has centered on demobilization of the PLA either through integration with Nepal army or by rehabilitating them in the society. The leaders are fighting, the cadres are joining them and the public at large are watching the fight with bewilderment and scepticism. The side the Unified Maoist camel will sit is already clear. The majority will go for demobilization as this is a major condition put forward by the parliamentary forces together with India, America and Europe to fully submerge itself into the democratic world. The course of minority led by Kiran-Badal combine is not clear. The minority leadership has not made public any specific tactical or strategic line till date. Anyway, the new government formed over a sandy foundation may continue till it implements “made in India” political course.
The old parliamentary political parties will sit in opposition and utilize any available opportunity to create more pressure on their new Unified Maoist friends to meet the conditions as soon as possible. They also will continue to harvest financial benefits and other opportunities as far as possible. Happy India could use its new found financial muscle to accomplish the task of PLA demobilization by supporting to offer an attractive package or also may provide finances to fund infrastructure projects, though in a cosmetic way. We could even see the development that followed the merger of Sikkim with India. The western countries may throw their hats on the ring. Scandinavian countries, particularly Norway may provide finances as it could project Nepal as its success story in its peace initiatives. It may compensate its failure in Sri Lanka. The Americans, though they are in difficulty in managing bread for themselves, may throw a few million dollars by printing money as they always do as one of the most undisciplined nation in the world. Hence, we could have a euphoric environment exactly similar to the post-1990 days. During that time, we were waiting for a giant Russian cargo plane that could bring Singapore to Nepal. The Prime Minister of that time had promised to make Nepal Singapore in no time. That did not happen that time, nor will this happen this time.
More than 1400 people sacrificed their lives either in establishing a new order or protecting the existing socio-political order. However, what we achieved?
The grassroots is more aware of their conditions, prospects and the hostilities that surround them. The social hierarchy has started to crumble down. The social power structure in the society has got changed drastically. The mouths are open. The spirit has been reinvented. The sense of power has empowered the previously marginalized and economically oppressed. The women are not only dreaming equality but also demanding to bring it into practice. The oppressed nationalities have come forward and are asking for greater access to opportunities and are striving hard for establishing their shining identities in a federal Nepal. The monarchy is gone. These are remarkable achievements. However, when we compare our achievements with that of other nations, sadness governs our thought processes. Poverty, illiteracy, ill health, oppression, marginalization etc continue to challenge our conscience.
A large percentage of people are still surviving under extreme poverty. The progress what we have attained has been grabbed by a tiny minority mostly composed of the upper middle class and urban elites. Inequalities exist in their extreme. Hence, the society has changed in incremental term, but is the same in structural term. The structures of the old society have started to crumble. However, they are very much dominant even today. Hence, there is the need of transformational ideals, actions and arrangements.
But, how the process moves ahead that addresses the need after such a major setback? The Maoist (not Unified Maoist) left the course at the middle of the journey. Yes, there is scarcity but it is still not a situation of disastrous famine. Be they minority inside the Unified Maoist or some new entities to take the lead; the endeavors that once the Maoist initiated, championed and developed would continue.
The euphoria originated due to the formation of new Unified Maoist-led government will be over sooner than later. The new endeavors will take shape and different organized forces would emerge. The new heroes will appear. And, the class confrontation will continue till a fundamentally different society comes into existence and a new progressive state power is established. The oppressed nationalities will continue their struggle to meeting their aspirations that will help them getting greater access and shinning identity. The Dalits will never sit idle till their emancipation is attained. The people have no option other than to continue their forward march. We took rest for about five years; it is time to start a long journey, once again.
Monday, September 12, 2011
8. A Cursory Look on Political Developments in Nepal
Even after a long and painful waiting period of more than four years, the Nepali people could not see rays of hope and the mile stone where the transition ends. Frustration has become the talking agenda for a large majority. The leaders are busy building the personal empire and ensuring luxury and comfort for them. The people are seeing the leaders and their notorious acts and have become speechless. They, particularly the disciplined cadres, who still cherish the dream of a new Nepal, have been slowly recovering from their own disbeliefs. The most revered leaders and most loved party headquarters have moved 360 degree in all areas encompassing ideology, politics, tactic, strategy and practice. This phenomenon is more true to the cadres and supporters of Unified Communist party of Nepal (Maoist). The change, there, is phenomenal.
Now, it is important to have a cursory look of the political developments, particularly reviewing the developments of recent past so as to have some glimpses of the future.
The 12-point agreement between the Maoist and the parliamentary parties had created new expectations. The Nepalese people were waiting to get rid of many difficulties. Although, the people’s movement of April 2006 succeeded in electing the constituent assembly and abolishing the monarchy, but the new ruling elites utterly failed in generating hope among the people. They talked loudly about the birth of a New Nepal, but that Nepal was neither moving towards peace nor stability nor prosperity.
The Maoist people’s war was naturally violent. During the war, they not only practised armed transformational course of the society, but also imparted skills on the use of weapons, build strong attitudes towards organized attempts to attain goals and generated hope among people that a shiny new day is closer to their lives. So, the expectations had been created aggressively. The failure in materializing the expectation resulted to the emergence of several armed groups.
The parliamentary parties were accustomed to lethargy, cynicism, brinkmanship and greed. They were in a state of rotten potatoes. Simply, they were involved in certain regular rituals, which could be constructed as ‘peaceful struggle’ at times of need. They lined up at the opportune moment together with the Maoists and with India and are continuously harvesting benefits.
The king was an outdated autocrat, who was not only extremely unpopular but also was a useless brat who did not know even the basics of governance. Naturally, the monarchy accumulated all negatives at one point of time and initiated its own downfall.
The anti-monarchy role India played at that particular moment was critically important. India was unhappy with the monarchy as the monarchy was considered as anti-India, historically.
Hence, the Maoists with the strength of people’s power moved ahead in collaboration with the parliamentary political parties as these parties had certain degree of legitimacy on their side. Both of them together joined hands with India to overthrow the autocratic monarchy. India also represented the western power centres. Finally, they formed a coalition to overthrow the monarchy and they succeeded to accomplish that goal.
The days after the success of the movement, brought some honeymoon between the changing Maoists and the parliamentary political parties. They formed an interim government, drafted an interim constitution, organized election for the constituent assembly, abolished monarchy legally, formed government under the Maoists’ leadership and gave some impression that things will move to right direction and a New Nepal could be there sooner. But, that did not happen. The Unified Maoists failed miserably in all fronts, which could initiate radical change in the society. Hence, the Unified Maoist-led government collapsed. The UML-led spineless governments were no different.
After a few years of the success of the mass movement, the scenario got drastically changed. There is all-round frustration. There are tensions in the society. There are clashes of interests. The contradictions between and among nationalities is one particular feature of serious concern. The constitution drafting is facing serious roadblocks and the nature of federalism is one among them.
In political front, there are three forces in full play.
The first camp is that of regressive forces. The former monarch is the de facto leader of this camp. The regressive forces are not that well organized in form but have tremendous power in substance. They are thinly spread within political parties, bureaucracy, army, police, intelligence networks, so-called civil society groups and so on. They sometimes cover themselves as nationalists, in some other occasion as anti-federalists and in some other times present them as Hindu zealots. They sound sometimes as peace preachers and sometimes as human rights defenders. So, they are omnipresent. They work on the basis of issues and try everything to create obstacles in the advancement of the society in all its attributes – values, ethics, beliefs, attitudes, progress etc. These dark forces play skilfully and create platforms where the forces of reform and the forces of transformation clash among and between themselves. These regressive forces have played vital role in maintaining the.
The second camp is composed of reformists. They are in a difficult situation as their cadre base is composed of idealist change activists and their leadership represent the interests of semi- reactionary or reactionary classes. Many among leaders who are at the helm of the political organizations in this camp are overtly foreigner’s darlings. They talk loud to pacify their cadres, to blindfold common people and to camouflage themselves. Hence, this force, which is at the centre stage of the state power, is a coalition of progressive bottom and part-regressive top. The Nepali Congress, UML and Unified Maoist Establishment Platform (UMEP) belong to this reformist camp.
The third camp is that of transformational forces. The Mohan Baidya-led Maoist platform, Matrika Yadav-led Maoists, Mani Thapa-led Maoists etc belong to this camp. There are others also such as Kirat Janabadi Workers Party in this camp. They are in a state of setback and are again rearranging raw jute threads to make a rope. Hence, they are, at this point of time, creeping babies in the sense of their organizational strength. Still, they could turn into a formidable force anytime soon as there are plenty of raw materials available for them to process.
The regressive forces were the regressive forces in the past too (prior to 2006). The transformational forces were the transformational forces in the past too. Among the reformist forces, the Nepali Congress and the UML were the reformist forces in the past too. Hence, there is only one entity that got changed is the Unified Maoist’s establishment platform (UMEP). All other forces except the UMEP have been travelling following their stated roadmaps. They are predictable. However, the political behaviours of the UMEP are most unpredictable. This platform swings to all directions and climbs up and down in no time without any understandable reasons. Hence, the UMEP has been instrumental in making and breaking promises, structures and functions. It is primarily responsible for what has been happening today in Nepal. Understanding this reality is no less than attaining half of the solutions of the problems the country and the people are facing.
The sudden change of the politics of the UMEP made the process of societal change gloomy and messy. The state and society have every right to ask UMEP to behave according to their newly acquired political philosophy. The transformational forces also should recognize the fact that they are fundamentally different and should take their course accordingly. When, the roles would be clear, the mess will start getting cleared. The clarification of their roles automatically clears the ways for political alliances based on their ideological affinity and class base. Gradually, the thick fog would disappear and the road ahead will be visible to drive to.
Monday, August 22, 2011
9. Tenure of the Constituent Assembly: Extension, Extension……
Why the Constituent Assembly (CA) again failed to complete the constitution writing process? Many people believe that due to fighting among political parties and infighting within them are the major reasons. Some others say that it is due to Unified Maoist’s reluctance to detach itself from its combatants. Some fertile minds cultivate reason and tell us that there is foreign hand. Some leaders say there is conspiracy to dissolve the CA and they are creating hurdles to stall the constitution drafting process. Hence, it would be absolutely necessary to look deep why the constitution is not ready.
The major issues that had contributed to the starting of the decade long “people’s war” and the people’s movement of 2006 included but not limited to political freedom, economic development and social justice through inclusion and participation. To institutionalize these strategic objectives, it was agreed that a new constitutional mechanism should be designed and for that purpose the election of a CA would be the best course. Hence, the election was organized and a grand CA came into existence. The tenure of this assembly was of two years, and when the assembly failed to produce the desired result the life of the assembly was extend for another year.
After sidelining the king, the CA declared Nepal a republic. Also, it concluded that Nepal will be a federal state. However, it failed to state on what basis the federal structure will stand on – geography, economic viability, nationality/ethnicity clusters, and combination of all or something else.
Hence, inability in agreeing on the restructuring of the state by designing a system that insures social inclusion and no interest in creating an operational framework that brings into full play the rights of indigenous and/or oppressed nationalities, marginalized sections and working class people are some of the major factors that have been contributing for the failure to finalize the constitution. In such background, federalism becomes one of the issues of prime importance.
The people, particularly the indigenous people and Madhesis have been facing discrimination in areas of language, ownership, opportunities, representation and governance. They want their rights back. To ensure that their grievances are addressed appropriately and positively, they should get the opportunity to govern themselves in a very autonomous way with the right to self-determination. Unfortunately, nearly all top leaders of major political parties are high caste hill Hindu Khasa males, who have failed to feel the discriminations against and sufferings of the oppressed sections of the people. Moreover, their control over power may erode, and thus, they are most reluctant to design a federal system where power is highly decentralized. Now, they need time to dilute the aspirations of oppressed people with frustrations so as to design a system of their likings that could be a nominally federated mechanism more in line with Mahendra’s zonal system or Birendra’s regional system.
The other unresolved issue was the reservation or special rights for marginalized sections of the society including Dalits, indigenous peoples and Madhesis, and women. Inclusion of marginalized sections into the mainstream needs bold steps to incorporate in the constitution. The reservation for women and Dalits and reparation for the Dalits are some of the critical issues. The Khasa male mindset of the troika prevents them moving forward. At the same time, they cannot deny the needs of such provisions, and they simply prolong the life of the Constituent Assembly to buy time.
Similarly, the large working class majority has been expecting change in their conditions. This needs a constitution that overtly favors working class majority, excluded sections and oppressed nationalities/ethnicities. However, the leaders either have come from higher class back ground or have amassed wealth and have elevated to higher class. They are not in need of the change which is transformative and creates environment for radically new power relationships. If there is no new constitution, the leaders could pretend that they are with the people whilst enjoying lives of aristocrats.
Democracy is one of the most misunderstood political terms in Nepal. Nepal, as a country, was never democratic, neither it is today. The Shahas had the dictatorial rule that followed by similar rule of Ranas. When such rule finally was over in 2006, the people got a dictatorial rule of a new troika (sometimes a gang of two or sometimes only an individual lord). This troika collectively and/or an individual behind the curtain or openly have been ruling Nepal for more than four years. The brigade of 601 at Baneshwor is functioning just as the participants of a public gathering. They are there to listen and to clap. Due to the troika or the individual lord taking all decisions, the CA has been functioning as a rubber stamp. May be a large majority of the CA members feels powerless, sees their role ornamental and experiences humiliation when the people throw stones on them. Designing democratic constitution by the most undemocratic troika is an uphill task, if not impossible.
Every big leader has turned to be a liability for him. This has created fear factor within them. In the same degree, their parties also are not confident that they will be able to grab better opportunities next time as their credibility factor is too low. In any case, there will be much less number in the legislative assembly, if a constitution is finally ready. Hence, slaughtering the constitution writing process and prolonging their stay in power is in the interest of the parties of the troika.
Also, the Unified Maoists are being composted and they need time to go through the decomposition process. They have taken the familiar UML route with much better speed. However, the compost needs time to be ready to be used to make the parliamentary system greener. The westerners know this better and as experts of time, space and processes, they are advising to extend the tenure of the CA and are funding too.
Due to the reasons as mentioned above, the government has proposed to extend the tenure of the CA for one year now, and the future extensions are open.
Is there any chance that the people or parties or parliamentarians could snatch power from the troika and complete the constitution writing process?
The people are very much frustrated. Hopelessness, generally expressed as “Jun Jogi Aaye Pani Kanai Chireko” (everybody is the same), has been encrypted in their mind. May be, not because of no constitution, as it is too abstract for them, but because of anarchy, lawlessness, scarcity of essential commodities and sky rocketing prices, the people will come out boiling with rage. When the lion is out of a cage, it is really out. Similarly, when parties start becoming parties and not the fiefdoms of the patriarchs, they may revolt against.
And, when the parliamentarians start feeling really as a humiliated lot – powerless and frustrated, they may start ventilating their anger that could progress to some sort of revolt. These three are the positive factors that could help bringing out a federal, inclusive, democratic and progressive constitution. The alternative is foreign instigated or locally staged coup. This will add even more darkness; however, the troika rule is heading towards that direction. Let’s try to bring synergy and build collaboration among people, parties and parliamentarians to prevent further darkness and to take our country to peace, progress and prosperity.
Saturday, May 14, 2011
10. New Political Masters Enthroned: Hopelessness and Upheavals Continue
The election of the prime minister has significantly polarized the political situation. The Congress has felt betrayed. A large majority of the Madhesi parties saw the play, a process that further marginalizes them. The so-called small parties have splinted vertically between left and center. The Unified Maoist party has faced near revolt as their 51 legislators expressed their disagreement on the standing committee decision that supported the CPN (UML) candidate. The UML is one in its look but when somebody goes beyond their physical being, it is the loose network of two entities clubbed together. They are in constant fight against each other. The center-right faction saw the biggest surprise of their political journey, when the Unified Maoist supported the UML candidate, who represents center-left faction of the party. The exercise conducted to elect the prime minister sounded a conspiratorial drama designed to checkmate the other side of the divide. It had everything – conspiracies, cover-ups, excitements, frustrations and many lows of political characters.
The new government will have several push and pull factors together. The most critical factors include but not limited to integration and rehabilitation of Maoist fighters, constitution writing and concluding the peace process logically. The Unified Maoists will not agree to break the chain of command of their fighting force. They will try to keep it as it is now under one or the other cover. The day when they agree to demobilize and disintegrate their armed force, they will be toothless. Hence, neither they will lose control of their PLA, nor will they change the status and modus operandi of operation of the Young Communist League nor will they return the property seized during the time of war. They consider that, now, they are free from these obligations as they are not leading the government. Therefore, at best, the new government could preserve the status quo. “Integration”, “rehabilitation”, “concluding peace process” and “constitution writing” are simply the phrases to use repeatedly without any operational obligations. Therefore, expecting any outcome, which could be termed substantially progressive, is just a mirage.
One of the major qualities of the new prime minister is that he is considered a weak and vulnerable leader. A government where the Unified Maoists are in majority in the cabinet, certainly they will promote their party’s interests. The PM will have no other option than to abide by the Unified Maoist’s decisions. The UML, minority in the cabinet, will be utilized to further the Unified Maoist plans. In outer appearance it sounds all great for the Unified Maoist leadership. The critical question is for what the Unified Maoist will utilize such opportunity? The Maoist agenda of societal transformation has been kept in the back-burner, since they became Unified Maoist. Hence, naturally, this opportunity will be utilized for some handsome gains for a galaxy of their core leaders.
The Unified Maoist leadership has clear objectives now. First, sideline or even crush the internal opposition. Second, maximize benefits of the barter they have done in the form of offering the prime minister’s chair to a UML faction. Third, implement already devised strategy of getting the prime minister’s chair for their chairman. And, finally get a constitution that has presidential form of government and ensure its chairman could get that position. In that day, they will integrate or rehabilitate their PLA, finish barrack system of the Young Communist League and may even return the seized property, if that would help them.
Many people have already started to speculate how long the government will survive? It depends on two critical issues – first, what will happen to constitution writing? Second, how far the prime minister could bear the load of ever increasing pressure? The sources of the pressure include the Unified Maoists, arch-opponents within and outside his party, the southern and northern neighbors and the western world.
There is no two-third majority with the governing coalition. To have the constitution finally approved, they need two-third majority. Therefore, there is a great need of give and take. However, in this environment, where the trust factor has been vanished, it is too difficult to finalize the constitution by the deadline. In that situation either the Constituent Assembly will be dissolved and election for a new assembly will be ordered or again the parties will extended the life of the existing assembly for another year. In such phenomenon, the never ending period of transition will frustrate the people more and there is most likely situation of people revolting against the ruling coalition. This will not only effectively seal the fortune of the government but also it will end the position of the Unified Maoist as powerful party. This way, the government will go by people’s revolt. This is not the revolt the Unified Maoist talk often. This would be a revolt against them too. In a distant scenario, the constitution will be drafted, new election will be held and the new government will take over from this government. This is most unlikely to happen.
Now, let’s see the second factors. The Unified Maoist chair is just ready to jump on the chair of the government. He will do everything to ‘cordially’ and ‘comradely’ oust the PM. Even there are people who say that the new prime minister is a stop gap official as their ‘secret’ seven point agreement hints that the PM’s chair will revolve. In such case, the PM will simply warm the chair for the Unified Maoist chairman. Hence, the pressure from the partner could be unbearable. Equally important is the crucial role that could be played by Baburam Bhattarai camp to bring down the government. Once again, he is cheated as his political line has been implemented excluding him. The Congress and Madhesis are just restless to revenge the ‘betrayal’ of the UML leaders. The arch-opponents inside the prime minister’s party will leave no stone unturned to dethrone him. When the Unified Maoists start prevailing over all government decisions, they will get fodder to feed their own comrades. Frustrated without getting any position of power, many UML MPs may turn against the prime minister. This could lead to the downfall of the government. The Unified Maoist at the center of power, that too, checkmating it, the famous South Block together with the mighty westerners will do everything at its disposal to dislodge the government. This “everything” includes designing splits within the governing parties, particularly within Unified Maoist and UML, convincing the President to stage a soft coup or provoking the army to militarily dethrone the government.
The new government, thus, is simply a change of guards. The guards are that of the same species but with different motivations regarding their self-interests. Their tilt is different. The previous one was tilted towards center- right and this new government has its tilt towards center-left. However, Nepal is a unique case for years. The society remains the same irrespective of the change of governing parties, ideologies or polities. This has been applicable this time too, which simply contributed to continue the existing crisis. There is just the change of custodians but hopelessness and upheavals continue. No medication has been working. Probably, our society and the governance have to go through surgical processes that include rapid transformation through genuine revolution. When the revolution with all its colors and vibrancies starts descending rapidly, the gamblers of the political casinos will be washed away and the people, individually and collectively, will celebrate the dawn of a new age.
Monday, February 07, 2011
11. Nepal: Hopelessness to Vibrancy
(The following text is part of my reply to a friend’s email. The personal references are taken out. I had sent the reply on 12 September 2010.)
More recently, collectively the Nepalese people have started feeling hopeless. The leaders, as individuals and collectives, failed to generate hope among the people. This all happened, I think, not as an accident. This sounds designed by someone skilled, interested and powerful. In our case, they are the external powers – easterners and westerners. I believe that the design was conceived around their need of disarming the Nepali Maoists so as to prevent the resurgence and spread of communism. The immediate objective was to effectively prevent the Maoists taking over power in Nepal until they become same as the Communist Party of Nepal- UML (the center-left liberal parliamentary party that still carries the word “Communist” in its name). Aware or unaware of such design, the leaders (including the “overtly anti-India but covertly nobody knows type” Unified Maoists) sound just a part of the external powers’ support mechanism in implementing their design.
In the distant past, the Ranas had resisted external designs somehow and to some extent. The Panchas followed the Rana’s line. However, the parliamentary system of government, particularly, the one after 1990 movement followed pro-external power line, aggressively. Moreover, the mid-wife of the new political course, which started in 2006, as people believe and some external powers claim or agree with, is Delhi. Therefore, the external powers (not only India) remained most important, influential and dominating in today’s political scenario. What we are seeing is just the dance of our leaders under the conductor’s gestures. These conductors are in Washington, New York, Delhi, Beijing, London and Oslo. The roles of the ambassadors and their diktats reveal a ton.
Our socio-economic foundation is very weak and politico-educational attainment is in its infancy in regard to the formation of a critical mass. If the common men and women as the human products of such foundation behave in the same way as that of their base, it is understandable. But, when the leaders, who claim as the vanguards, behave in such fashion, it makes no sense. Hence, there is something seriously wrong in them. They may not be that bad as individuals but the environment made them subservient to its objective whole, and many among these leaders demean themselves to the lowest extent possible. As a result, even the infamous former king has started dreaming that he could revive his throne. This is a day-dream, but the new messy environment provided ground for him. I agree with you that the major parties and their leaders are responsible for this mess.
I agree that we are passing through the most difficult phase in our nation’s history. The independent decision making power as a sovereign state has been compromised. The Nepali state is in crisis. The hope generating side of the Maoist movement has been evaporating. And, frustration among a large majority of people has been running high. However, as a diehard optimist, I believe that there is light on the other side of the tunnel. These leaders could be thrown out. The parties of today may disappear. There could be the need of another difficult journey. New sets of leaders may emerge. New (or radically reoriented existing) political parties may come up. This is quite certain that there would be a day full of sun-shine. You and I may or may not see that shiny day. However, the energetic, enterprising and visionary youths of today or even small children of today will bring that day, will see that day and will celebrate the birth of a shinning Nepal. As Anton Chekhov (1860–-1904) has narrated in his famous short story, “Ward No 6”, we should enjoy the imagination of that pleasant day though it may arrive in distant future. After that historic break, there would be the creation of tranquillity, peace and prosperity. Our motherland will be pervaded by the lovely yellowish light of the baby sun. I salute in advance to those politically, economically, socially, intellectually and culturally emancipated, enlightened and empowered citizens of that vibrant Nepal!
Thursday, September 23, 2010
12. Nepal in Crisis: Long Live Nepal!
The political parties are repeating the same wrongful acts and activities as they did in 1950s and 1990s. They were after power and now they are again after power. They ignored people’s problems and prospects completely in the past when they were at the helm of affairs; they are doing the same today. Being a participant of the parliamentary political system, the Unified Maoist party has been claiming itself as a revolutionary force. This role was played by the Communist Party of Nepal (UML) in 1990s. Lack of alignment between the form and content is what the Unified Maoist party is sick of. Similarly, the CPN (UML) is a party that represents the interests of middle class people. Still, it declares that it is the party of proletariats. The Nepali Congress, at best, is a centre-right party, but it proudly declares that it is socialist. Hence, all three parties have been suffering from ideological illusion. Their philosophical lenses are no more working. However, they pretend that their lenses are all right. Hence, the major Nepali political parties are in crisis in regard to their approaches as their practices are totally detached from the ideology they love to talk about. The other smaller parties are in the same condition or if some of them are okay, still their roles may not have much impact in the larger political amphitheatre of the nation.
All the main leaders want to grab the high office of the Prime Minister. There is total irresponsibility on their part. Two of the leaders representing two major parties are contesting an election which has failed to produce result for six times in a row. The third largest party knows nothing other than hatching political conspiracies to get the highest seat of the state power. This time ‘consensus’ is their mantra to cover their ill intensions. They want to sit at the driver’s seat whatever way it is available. The Madhesi parties, notorious for their splits and doubtful practices, are at the bidding place and the bidders are bidding for their votes. Therefore, the political circus, which is one of the worst in the history of Nepal, has been continuing. The end result of the collective political behavior of the political actors has been confined to petty interests of the political lead-actors/villains or their parties. Similar to their ideological chit-chats, the nation and the people are simply means to attain power and prosperity for them.
The social forces also are overly reactive. They are just reacting to both issues and non issues. Coming to street has become the order of the day. There are several “forced closures” of market, transport, industries and educational institutions as and when a small section wishes so. Stone throwing crowd could be seen all over Nepal. Bewildered with all sets of chaos and anarchies, the indigenous people in some areas have started to demand greater role including a nominally federated state system. The demand of Limbuvan autonomous state is an example.
The law and order situation has been deteriorating continuously. People are feeling insecure as anytime criminals could strike. Their lives and properties are in danger of all sorts of harm. The criminals have a field day. The crime graphs including the daring cases of rubbery, abduction and killings are increasing many folds. Particularly, the central Madhes is seeing such events most regularly. The people in Madhes are the worst affected lot. A Tim, Dick or Harry comes with a gun, loots a few, kills a few and disappears. They are living in a disparate situation where the forces of the state have become onlookers. The parties and the leaders, who claim to represent Madhes and Madhesi people, are busy making their fortune in Kathmandu.
Moreover, the people all over Nepal have become virtually powerless and they have become pessimists. There is the other side of the coin. Therefore, there are high chances that the patience of people disappears and a situation of total anarchy pervades the country.
The youths all over Nepal got an escape route in the form of foreign employment. Skilled or unskilled, rural or urban, male or female and healthy or not so much aspire for going out, particularly in Gulf countries, Malaysia, South Korea , Japan, USA, UK and Australia. This large scale migration of labor has been helping the national economy breathing as remittance income is 22% of annual GDP of Nepal. However, in the absence of youths and their vigor, vision and spirit, the societal as well as political changes have suffered.
The gap between the rich and poor has been widening. The recent Oxford report says that there is a large majority of people under poverty line (Multidimensional Poverty Index Poor 64.7%). The national wealth is mostly under the control of a few super rich families. The economic contradiction has been fierce. The strikes in industries, though ignited by political aspirants have reflected the workers’ desire for a better life.
At macroeconomic level, the situation is fast approaching to full-fledged characteristics of a failed state. The legislature is unable to pass the annual budget as there is constant fight among the major political parties in the parliament. The Balance of Payment is quite negative. The foreign currency reserve has been decreasing. Trade deficit is alarmingly high. The growth rate of economy is nominal. Nobody knows exactly what the rate of unemployment/underemployment is. No new macro development projects, which could add wealth to national economy and provide infrastructural foundation, were implemented during the last several years. Prices of essential commodities are skyrocketing. Corruption, nepotism, favoritism, malpractices and black-marketing have become regular features.
On the nationalism front, Nepal has been in the weakest position after the war against the British colonizer (1814-1816). This fact also has been rightly pointed out by Pashupati Sumsher Rana and Baburam Bhattarai in their television appearances. They were unanimous comparing today’s situation with that of aforementioned period. When Nepalese are so much divided, it is only natural that the foreign powers start meddling. Not only big countries like USA or big neighbors like India or China, but also small European countries like Norway try to diktat. The resources they provide and their nationals who are international professionals and hold high offices in Nepal are the instruments of their meddling. Together, India, European Union, USA and United Nations are over stepping on Nepali sovereign rights in an unprecedented manner. These over stepping, meddling and interferences have contributed immensely to make Nepal a strong candidate for failed state. Now, survival as a nation and as a people has become the first and foremost concern for us.
The situation is too gloomy. The nation is too fragile. The people are too weak. This mess is what the ‘big’ political leaders and their party apparatus have created. Their lust for power, money and luxury is the main cause of this sorry state. The problem is that we do not have any strong and organized progressive political force to snatch the initiative and start doing something to generate synergy for a rapid political change. Hence, Nepal is virtually at the stage of either power take-over by the regressive forces or fragmentation of its territory to deferent nationality/ethnic units or losing its sovereign national status. Alternatively, the process could be reversed if nationalists (do not equate to royalist), leftists and democrats within all major parties rebel against their Headquarters. If the rebels could take control of their parties or form separate parties and create a united front with other like minded parties, they could keep Nepal united. This endeavor offers hope to people, creates positive environment to reverse the fate of being failed state and opens up new horizon to move forward.
Now in Nepal, there is possibility of two types of coup d’états. The first is regressive coup d’état, which could be staged by the army. The other is progressive coup d’état, which could be staged by nationalist progressive democrats, who are functioning as second layer leaders or cadres within the major parties. They could stage the political and organizational coup d’état against their own party Headquarters. If this happens, people could see the ray of hope. The third option is disintegration of Nepal into several smaller nationality/ethnic units. If this option gets acceleration, there would be bloodshed of unprecedented nature and scale. The solution is not several smaller nationality/ethnic units, but a nationality/ethnicity based cooperative federal system. The fourth option is Nepal being a protectorate either ruled by western powers through a United Nations mechanism or directly by India. Hence, the situation is grave.
We have not many choices available. Therefore, all who love Nepal should be alert, active and organized to challenge the Bhasmashurs (the notorious destroyers). Defeating or sidelining them, at least, makes space available to initiate the process of societal transformation and national renewal. Therefore, all patriotic, progressive and democratic Nepali political and social activists should contribute most meaningfully to make sure that our beloved motherland overcomes weaknesses, acquires strengths and starts shining. Strategically, only “people power” movements could realize this goal. The “People power” movements could include but not limited to mass information initiatives, political awareness campaigns, cultural programs, diplomatic lobbying, literary works, pro-Nepal internet information endeavors/campaign/networking, dissemination of well-researched facts/truths and direct actions including demonstrations. Let us create the sound of thousands of Vuvuzela aiming to energize the grassroots and encourage the pro-people, pro-Nepal activists. A person or a group or a mass of large number of people, individually or collectively, could contribute in these “People Power” movements. Hence, wherever we are, this is our duty to organize or participate in these movements and contribute positively whichever way we could. Long Live Nepal!
Monday, September 06, 2010