Social Development in Nepal

Social Development in Nepal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Govinda Neupane

 

 

 

 

 

Center for development studies

kathmandu

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First Published: 1999 (In Nepali)

Revised English Edition: 2011 (Net/Blog Edition)

 

 

 

 

 

Note: In Nepal, the Bikram calendar is in use instead of Gregorian calendar. Therefore, in this book, particularly in the publication date of the references, the Vikram Sambat (V.S.) is quoted. The difference between V.S. and A.D. is 56 year 7 month and 17 days in ordinary year and 56 year 7 month and 18 days in leap year. Therefore, the calculation is – A.D. + 56 year 7 month and 17 days = V.S. in ordinary A.D. and + 1 day in leap year.  All dates used in this book without mentioning V.S. are in A.D.


 

Table of Content

 

  1. Chaptter One

 

Nepal and Social Development: An Overview                                                     04

 

  1. Chapter Two

 

Economic and Social Forces                                                             09

 

  1. Classes 09
  2. Nationalities                                                                                                 12
  3. Special Social Sections                                                                                 13

 

  1. Chapter Three

 

            Fundamental Issues of Social Development                                    18

 

  1. Poverty Alleviation 18
  2. Social Justice 23
  3. Sonscientization and Enlightenment                                     28
  4. Participation                                                                         31
  5. Empowerment                                                                         34
  6. Cultural Diversity and Partnership Building 38
  7. Social Services 43

 

  1. Chapter Four                                                                                    

 

Goals, Approaches and Methods                                                     46

 

  1. Chapter Five

 

Institutional Roles and Relationships                                              51

 

  1. Civil Society Organizations                                                                 51
  2. INGOs and development assistance programs 56
  3. Private Sector                                                                                                 58
  4. Political Parties 61
  5. Government                                                                                                 63
  6. Relationships among Agencies 65

 

  1. Chapter Six

 

Vision, Agenda and Policy Themes                                                 67

 

                                    Positive political and social environment                    67

Creation of prosperity and introduction

of just distribution system                                          68

Physical infrastructure                                                70

Harmonious nature-human relationship                      71

Reorganization of social relationships                        70

Concluding comment                                                  72

 

  1. Bibliography                                                                                                                 73


Social Development in Nepal

 

Chapter One

 

Nepal and Social Development: An Overview

 

The majestic mountain peaks on the northern landmass and a golden bread basket on the southern plains make Nepal a unique paradise bringing natural panorama and plenty of natural wealth together. The history of several annexations, mergers and separations of many principalities mostly ended in 1768 when the Gorkha rulers defeated them and unified all the territories as Nepal. After 1768 too, expansions and mergers continued particularly in the western side. The ever fluid boarders of the country were finally demarcated after the Treaty of Sugauli of 1815 and return of the part of land form the British in 1860 (Sharma, 1951: 273-305, Pandey, 1995: 20-21).

 

The world knows Nepal mostly due to the four factors mentioned below:

 

  • The majestic peaks including the Everest and the natural panorama.
  • Simple natured, hospitable, respectful, brave and honest people.
  • Messenger of peace, Gautam Buddha and his birth place – Lumbini.
  • The ancient heritages, which include arts, artifacts and architectures in Kathmandu valley.

 

In 1991, the population of Nepal had reached 18,491,097 (CBS, 1998:5).  In 1995, the life expectancy was 55.9 years and the per capita income was US $ 206. Nepal was placed at 152nd position in a comprehensive list of countries studied to determine their level of development (UNDP, 1998). In 1996, the adult literacy rate was 36.72 (UNDP/NSAC, 1998). All these indicators provide the evidences that Nepal is one among the least developed countries.

 

The capitalist mode of production appeared in Nepal after the establishment of the industrial enterprises such as Biratnagar Jute Mills and the financial institutions like Nepal Bank Ltd in 1937. However, the pace of industrialization was very slow. Hence, the dependence of workforce in traditional agriculture was 81% in 1991 (CBS, 1998: 35-36). Therefore, even today, agriculture is the main stay of economy and the production relations based on agriculture dominate the sources of livelihood and production relations of a large majority of people.

 

Between 1768 and 1815, Nepal was passing through a phase of state building. Overall, this was the progressive endeavor but the united Nepal was no different fundamentally than the former princely states in regard to production relations, civic life, social uplift and infrastructure building.  After a short period of transition, Rana dynasty captured power and ruled for another 104 years making the Shah Kings as golden dolls. By a popular uprising of 1951, the people overthrew the Rana regime but the power was once again captured by the Shah Kings.  In I961, they ceased power and introduced a polity called Panchayat. The new system was brought to camouflage king’s direct rule and also to employ political converts into the service of the monarchy. The Rana regime and the Shah King’s direct rule called Panchayat, both, were regressive rules and they created obstacles for change in the society. The society had been accumulating anger and frustrations and the rebellions against the system gave birth to defining moments to show people’s power. Therefore, the 1990 democracy movement brought people on the street and the popular movement compelled the king to relinquish the absolute power. However, this mass movement too failed to transform the society and it succeeded only to change the political superstructure.

 

The people of Aryan and Mongol races have been cohabiting in Nepal for more than two thousand years. Although, religious tolerance is one of the much talked issues, it has been just seen at the surface. The non-Khasa and non-Hindus feel the suffocation. The society has been experiencing Hindu orthodoxy and Khas domination for a long time. The Hindu caste system has brought miseries, inequalities and emotional divisions in the society. Fatalism, one of the core philosophical components of Hinduism, has been obstructing the progress, in both, intellectual attainment and collective material prosperity.

 

Nepal is located between 26° 20″ and 30° 10″ northern latitude and between 80° 15″ and 88° – 01″ eastern longitude. It has four distinct geographical regions – mountain, hill, inner Tarai (plain) and southern plain. The majestic peaks and the natural panorama reflect the bravery and kind heartedness of the people respectively. Indeed, Nepal presents a unique combination of abundance of natural beauty and profound humility of its people.

 

Social work has been a tradition in Nepal since the beginning of the society. The voluntary spirit could be found in several mentions in the stories in Purans and Mundhums. But the historical evidence could only be traced that of a land donation to a temple by the Lichchivi king Mandeva in 464 AD (Regmi, 1993: 14). During the initial stage of civilization, the people had some sort of social organizations which were called “Guthi”, “Sithi”, “Nangkhur”, “Chumlung”, “Noghar”, “Khel”, etc. They mobilized masses in civic tasks and also accomplished the preliminary functions for social development. These were the initial organized interventions that the social development today has had the foundation. Not necessarily all of them might have played positive role, but at least they initiated the process.

 

Arya Samaj, established in Pokhara in 1895 was the first organization which talked about social development in the modern sense. Madhavraj Joshi was its leader. The organization shifted its area of work to Kathamandu in 1996. The founder of Arya Samaj movement in Nepal had been influenced by Indian Arya Samaj movement which was launched by Swami Dayananda (Chand, 1991: 27). Arya Samaj was a religious and social reform movement. “Mahila Samiti” (Women’s Committee) was established in 1918. Dibya Koirala had initiated the process to organize women to fight against the autocratic Rana rule (Subedi, 2048 v.s.: 21). Yogmaya Koirala was the coordinator of the committee (Pradhan, 2052 v.s.: 53-57). “Gorkha League” was established in 1921 in Dehradun in India. Thakurchandan Singh had taken the initiative to establish the League and was its leader. The League had no clear political motivation and its objective was to organize the Nepalese people in the area. The League published a magazine called “Gorkha Sansar” (Nepal academy, 1960: 14, Gupta, 1964: 28).  Tulsimeher Shrestha, a noted Gandhian, established “Nepal Charkha Pracharak Gandhi Smarak Mahaguthi” (Gandhi Memorial Trust for Propagating Spinning in Nepal) popularly known as “Mahaguthi”. The objectives of the trust included to promote cottage industry and to serve the humanity in need. Tulsimeher, the founder of the Trust was also a member of the Arya Samaj. He was also imprisoned by the Ranas in 1920. The social activists and religious reformers like Shukraraj Shastri, Muralidhar Bhattarai, Kedarman Byathit  established “Nepal Nagarik Adhikar Samiti: (Committee for Civil Rights in Nepal) in 1920. Some educated youths of Kathmandu, in 1937, dared to run a school called “Mahavir School” to provide modern education. The Rana rulers arrested Chaitanya Mishra and his colleagues who were running the school. The school was closed and 28 youths were arrested and imprisoned (Sharma 1951:391, Gupta, 1964: 23-27). First time in the history of Nepal, a social welfare institute called “Paropakar Aushadhalaya (Welfare Dispensary) was allowed to establish in 1947. After the extension of services and addition of other welfare issues, “Paropakar Aushadhalaya was renamed as “Paropakar Sanstha” (Welfare Association) in 1952 (Chand, 1991: 17-18).

 

Prior to the political change of 1950, the organizations and movements which contributed to the social development process were as mentioned below.

 

Sl. no Organization Date Established Area of work    
1 Arya Samaj 1895   Social, religious reform/awareness raising
2 Mahila Samiti 1918   Raising awareness/women’s issues
3 Gorkha League 1921   Community organizing/unity  
4 Mahaguthi   1926   Promotion of cottage industry/ welfare
5 Nepal Nagarik 1930’s   Social, religious reform/awareness raising/
  Adhikar Samiti     civil rights      
6 Mahavir School 1937   Education/awareness    
7 Paropakar Aushadhalaya 1947   Health/welfare    

 

The above table gives some idea about the priority issues on social change during the period covering between the last decade of 19th century and mid 20th century. Social reform, awareness raising, women’s welfare, community organizing, skill development, education and health services and welfare were the priority issues. Hence, the major thematic areas of social development had been ignited during that period. Immediately after the devastating earthquake in Kathmandu in 1934, social workers formed voluntary welfare organizations such as “Bhukamp Seva Dal” (Relief Team for Earthquake Affected People) and “Maharaja Sevak Samaj” (Society of King’s Servants) and collected and distributed relief materials and mobilized services (Chand, 1991: 17).

 

Due to the liberal political atmosphere that was available after the 1950 mass movement and its partial success, nearly all social activists moved to politics. This move somehow limited the tempo of social change process. Instead of the social forces committed to change, the professional service delivery organizations invaded the social development area. Therefore, the list of the organizations established after 1950 is quite different. The list of organizations presented below validates the observation made above.

 

Sl. no Organization Date Established Area of work  
1 Nepal Tuberculosis 1953   Health    
  Control Association          
2 Nepal Family          
  Planning Association 1959   Population education/Health
3 Nepal Red Cross Society 1963   Welfare/Relief
4 Nepal Children’s Organization 1964   Child welfare  
5 Nepal Leprosy 1969   Health    
  Control Association          
6 Mother’s Club 1975   Skill development/welfare
7 Nepal Cancer 1982   Health awareness  
  Control Association          

 

It has provided a clear evidence that professional social welfare replaced the earlier movements initiated for social change. Social awareness processes were put in the backburner. More particularly, after the Royal takeover of 1960 compelled slowing down the social change activities as they were considered hostile political acts by the new repressive regime. The high society ladies, mostly from the royalties, took charge of welfare activities. From this period, social welfare became a play ground of royalties, big businessmen, high level government officials and retired political collaborators and henchmen of the king. Thus, social development got a new dominion confined to satisfying the emotional need of prestige of the royalties and their courtiers. The main features during this period include the leadership of the royalties, availability of resources, emphasis on service delivery and expansion of services.

 

The ban on all organizations, which had a mission of socio-political change, gave birth to organizations that strengthened the hands of the government in the name of social service. The umbrella organization for such initiatives was “Social Service National Coordination Council (SSNCC)”, which entertained the queen as its chairperson. One of the most powerful royal as its chairperson, SSNCC played the role of a bulldozer and mobilized state and private resources including the foreign development assistance to meet the needs of the collaborators of the royals. In exception, a few organizations played some service delivery, welfare or relief and rehabilitation roles. Among these a few ones include Nepal Red Cross Society and Nepal Family Planning association.

 

Outside the SSNCC and in defiance of the government prohibition some organization initiated their functions, though with a limited impact. Society for Community Development Professionals (SOCODEP) was one among them. A few other agencies started their work getting registered as consultancy business. Informal Center Service Center (INSEC) was one among them. These organizations, irrespective of their legal status, revived the social change agenda, which was otherwise unnoticed. One of the most important developments of this period was the establishment of human rights organizations such as Nepal Human Rights Organization and Forum for the Protection of Human rights.

 

After the democracy movement of 1990, social development trends included both social change and service delivery. But, except in four areas – human rights, environment, women’s awareness and child labor; service delivery trend continued to dominate. These two trends are not alternatives to each other and also do not contradict between them.   Effective expansion of services provides fertile ground for the initiatives such as awareness, organization and empowerment undertaken for social change. Only the confusion among the professionals or armatures that are in the field of service delivery that they are the vehicle and vanguard for social change, has added complication. They are not playing the roles of a vanguard; rather they are supplying some useful services.

 

The organizations of the professionals such as Nepal Medical Association, Nepal University Teacher’s Association, Nepal Bar Association, Nepal School Teacher’s Associations, etc played very important roles during the democracy movement of 1990. They had come together under an umbrella called “Professional Solidarity Group”. Although, their contributions after the movement did not continue, it could be highly effective had they sustained their network and the roles they played.

 

According to an estimate by National Planning Commission, now, the number of Nepalese non-government organizations (NGO)   has reached to 15000 and the number of international non-government organizations (INGO) are 81 (NPC, 2055 v.s.: 699 – 700).   Although, the critical review will be presented in Chapter Three for the flooding of the NGOs, here it should be noted that among them a large number is that of local self-help organizations.

 

After the 1990 democracy movement, the understanding of responsibilities related to social development has been full of confusion. Many think that this is the responsibility of the non-government organizations. Social change is neither confined to the endeavors of NGOs nor are they excluded. All the actors – government, NGOs, local self-help groups, private sector, civil society organizations, media, etc have roles to play. It should be noted that in developing countries like Nepal, the role of the government is very important.

 

During the dark days of Rana rule, a few positive steps had been taken. Abolishing Sati system, freeing of bonded laborers, establishing Bir hospital, publication of Gorkhapatra and establishing Durbar school, etc are among the important ones.

 

During the period of the king’s direct rule (called Panchayat), expansion of social services took place. According to Christine Abel, in 1960 the numbers of health posts and hospitals were 9 and 36 respectively, whereas in 1990 the same had reached to 816 and 123 (RECHPHEC, 1991:33). Similarly, the number of schools also had reached to 22218 in 1996 (NPC, 2055 v.s.: 23).

 

First time in Nepal, planned local development was started with the initiation of “Tribhuvan rural development program” in 1951. The program was designed and implemented with US government assistance. US government had provided US $ 22,000 under “Point IV program”. As the first planned development activity was carried out with foreign assistance, the understanding of development distorted and many people started to believe that “development” will be attained by implementing foreign funded projects. The first five year plan implemented in 1956 emphasized on integrated rural development projects. Production Credit for Rural Women (PCRW) was designed and implemented to enhance opportunities and income for rural women. Similarly, Small Farmers’ Development Program (SFDP) and Rural Banks were initiated to support the farmers and small rural producers. However, the outcome of all these initiatives was not encouraging.

 

The Nepalese private sector feels that donating a small amount of money to some service delivery institutions or agencies accomplishes its social responsibility. After the wind of privatization and globalization touching Nepal, a few education institutions and health facilities are established in towns and cities as businesses and the private sector milks money also pretending that it has been doing social services. Similarly, the media limits its role to publish a few news items or articles on social issues.

 

 

 

Chapter Two

 

Economic and Social Forces

 

The understanding of the roles of different economic classes, nationalities and social sections contributes to have a reality check of the society in analyzing the social processes which determine the forward movement of a society. The analysis will help to find out the discriminatory social behavior, cultural context and the relationships among different social and economic forces. Hence, a brief review on classes, nationalities and social sections is presented here.

 

Classes

 

The Nepalese rural society is primarily an agricultural society. And, the prevailing relation of production is dominated by semi-feudal practices. The capitalist mode of production has been dominating the urban production relations. The polarization of the society on the basis of class interest has been continuing to its final phase with politically aware class forces making the pace faster. As agriculture is still the main source of income for livelihood for a large majority of people (81% in 1991 – CBS, 1998: 35-36). However, the class composition of Nepalese society has not been studied scientifically. The Nepalese Marxist talk loud about class, but have not gone beyond repeating ritualistically Mao Zedong’s analysis of the Chinese society, more particularly the classes he referred to after his critical analysis of Hunan peasant movement. Hence, there has been no serious attempt to analyze the class composition of Nepalese society (Bhattarai, 2046 v.s.: 98-904).

 

Before, venturing into the analysis of classes and production relations among them, it would be necessary to briefly revisit the composition of Nepalese rural society. The presence of the “landlords” in Nepal has been an issue of debate. The Nepalese communists simply borrowed the analysis of Chinese rural society. The mechanical approach of the Nepalese communists oversimplified the social analysis. Nepalese society is neither like that of 1920’s China nor is even it same to the Nepalese society that existed 20 years ago.

 

There are two paths of capitalist development of agriculture. By charting through the first path, the Junker landlord system replaces the feudal land lord system. The new system preserves the slavery of peasants to a certain extent by rationalizing them through capitalist relation of production. The second path would transform the production relations through revolutionary actions and feudal land lord system breaks down. The large estates of the land lords would be confiscated and the land redistribution establishes new socio-political relations. The new peasant transforms him or her into an agrarian capitalist (Lenin, 1908: 229-244).  Goran Djurfeld has clarified the process of transformation of the agriculture society through these two paths in the following diagram (Djurfeldt, 1982: 149).

 

Point of Departure                               Transformation                                    Destination

 

  1. Feudal Lad Lords Junker Land Lords Agrarian Capitalists

 

  1. Undifferentiated Peasantry Rich Peasants

Middle Peasants                       Agrarian Proletariats

Poor Peasants

Agricultural Laborers

                                                                                                           

The Process of Differentiation             Transformation into new classes

 

 

The Nepalese society is not at the starting phase as described by Lenin. It is in the state of transformation into a capitalist society. Therefore, the rural society is passing through a process of the emergence of agrarian capitalists in an unprecedented speed. The general trend has been suggesting that the land lords and their estates have been disappearing. Although, the agrarian proletariats are continuing their feudal practices and lack the new sense of organized power as in the case of industrial proletariat, they are very much in a position to establish capitalist production relation.

 

The patterns of economic behaviors in the rural society also provide further justification that the society is fast moving toward capitalist mode. The Birta Unmulan Ain (Abolition of Birta[1] System Act – 1959) initiated the process of creating a single system of land ownership. Although, the abolition of the Birta system did not change the ownership over land plots and estates owned by Bahun families, but it had tremendous psychological impact. The “Birtawar Bahuns” (the Bahuns who had got land gift from the rulers in the past) who had a higher position, now remained no more than that of other land owners. They had to pay tax and other obligations also were employed. Furthermore, the land reform introduced in 1964 gave impetus to new ideas and provided space for debate for new kind of relationships over the land. The land Reform Act – 1964 had the following main characteristics.

 

  • Introduction of land ceiling and tenancy right
  • Redistribution of confiscated land, which exceeded the ceiling
  • Assessment and fixation of agriculture credit [2]
  • Compulsory saving

 

The new initiative of the introduction of the land reform also failed to bring major change. The law provided some loopholes for the landed gentry. They utilized the provision in the act that if a landlord has been using the land for industrial purpose, the land ceiling had been increased by 20 times.[3] The landlords produced false documents that the land is used for tea plantation, pineapple cultivation in a commercial scale etc. and escaped the ceiling. But on the long run they felt safe if they convert their rice fields into tea estates or fruit plantations. As a result, the tea estates of eastern Nepal came into existence. The law provided another loophole that they were given opportunity to declare their land plots and sizes and that was accepted as final if there were no disputes over ownership. The landlords kept the land in the name of imaginary land owners and escaped confiscation. However, on the long run, they sold the pieces of land even at a lower price. Through this process, the land ownership pattern got changed. The land lords from Tarai, mostly from the Madhesi nationality, who were not better familiar with the loopholes, had to surrender their excess land. That type of confiscated land was distributed to cleaver civil servants, mostly Khasa from the hills. In this way, the land supposed to be redistributed among the landless peasants was grabbed by cunning Khasa civil servants. Another important factor was that for the first time in Nepal the tenancy right was recognized and to some extent, it was also established.  The land reform, introduced by the government was neither intended to radical change nor it did so, but it changed the whole perspectives about the land ownership in regard to its attraction over any other form of wealth. Even the small landlords and rich peasants started to diversify their wealth base. Therefore, different situations arise in the agrarian relations, whether it was production, production relations, size of land holding and the contradictions. The Nepalese peasantry and the rural society had not been the focus of discussion in the past. Also, on the theoretical side, only a few attempts have been made there to generate the debate (Bhattarai, 2046: 98-104). There are several volumes available which talk about peasantry, but they lack critical appraisal done objectively. These volumes talk basically about the experiences of other countries or tell stories or put forward the author’s imaginations not supported by any research. So, these volumes may not be helpful to accelerate the process of socio-economic transformation.

 

A study with a limited scope and size conducted by the author in a few hill districts (Bhojpur and Salyan) and some Tarai districts (Morang and Banke) by using the method of participatory appraisal, it was found the people use the following criteria while leveling the wellbeing of a family in their villages.

 

  • the size and type of land holdings the family own
  • Animal wealth
  • Skills which could help in gainful employment
  • Employment with government and non government sector, trade and other services

 

By applying the criteria mentioned above, it is quite difficult to classify the haves and have not’s. Also, sometimes, it is not possible to reach to conclusions. Hence, the people consider more practical factors such as the comparison between total productions of goods and services on one side and food security and labor inputs on the other. This process sounds complicated for the outsiders, however, the peasants calculate it quite easily. They simply add the incomes from the four sources mentioned above and calculate the expenditure needs of a certain family. And, they decide if the family could manage its needs just comfortably or it has to live in shortage or if it could save. Finally, they calculate if the family has to sale its labor or it needs to buy or just does okay with a little bit barter in sometimes. By going through such process, they classify the families in a village in three categories – rich, middle income and poor. As class, the rich may include a small number of landlords and the rest are the rich peasants. The middle income may include middle peasants and a few petty bourgeoisie families. The poor category includes poor and landless peasants and agriculture laborers.

 

A rich peasant in Nepal snatches the surplus value produced by the agriculture laborers. The rich peasants depend in market for procurement of several agriculture inputs including chemical fertilizer, pesticides, insecticides and seeds. They sale their surplus produces in the market, particularly in the southern plains. The same is true for hills where the towns or the highways are close by. They, recently, have started diversifying their productions and have been producing vegetables, grain, honey, butter and spices. Traditionally, they keep cattle and raise chickens. Off season vegetable farming and multi-cropping are introduced recently. Hence, the rich peasant in Nepali villages has not been a “rich peasant” as described in Marxist classics, but is”agriculture capitalist” in transition. The agriculture capitalist exploits the rural agriculture laborer not only by the means of offering much lower rate of wages, but also by compelling them to work for long hours.

 

Therefore, there are three major factors to address to transform the rural society. These factors are – implementing the policy of “land to the tillers”, fixing the rate of minimum wage and deciding the working hours for the agriculture workers. Redistribution of land if that is available there is one more vital issue without which no rural society could be transformed.

 

Unlike in other many predominantly agricultural countries, Nepal has been facing another problem. The problem is that of squatters. The squatters are a section people that include the migrated rural elites and landless agriculture laborers.  The squatter’s problem is more a political issue that has been used to sideline the major issue of the peasants’ problems. The Panchayati rulers in the past gave unnatural credence and set priority to address this problem using this as a pretext to transfer the ownership of public land in the name of their relatives and henchmen. They cleared thousands of hectors of dense forest in the southern plain and resettled their families and friends.

 

The urban areas are better off in comparison to rural areas in general look. The high rise buildings that belong to urban super Richs and higher middle class families and the infrastructure made available compatible to their need of luxury and their show of wealth and style camouflages the hardships faced by the urban poor. The urban poor have lost their land and the means of livelihood other than their labor. They virtually have become semi-proletariats. Their number has been increasing continuously. Moreover, there are several thousands of child laborers. The urban semi-proletariats have been surrounded by all deficiencies including the base of livelihood, socialization and future prospects. Hence, they are surviving in a very hostile physical and socio-political environment.

 

Nationalities

 

Hierarchical caste system among the Hindu Aryans has been continuing for centuries. In the beginning, it was started as a primitive form of division of labor, however, a Hindu king Manu changed it as a social system giving the hierarchical order permanency based it on the basis of birth. The hierarchical system had four divisions – Bahun, Chhetri, Baishya and Sidra. The Bahuns were placed at the highest level, whereas the Sudras were considered the lowest. The Sudras had to serve the other castes and they were considered as untouchables.

 

The Oxford concise dictionary provides appropriate definition of a caste. It states that the caste is an Indian hierarchical class where the members of a particular caste are considered equal; they practice the same religion and generally they might have the same occupation. They refrain from intermingling with other castes.

 

The main features of caste system are as mentioned below.

 

  • Their social position has been determined by birth.
  • They limit their matrimonial relations within their own caste.
  • They practice particular dietary codes. They have ‘holy’ and ‘unholy’ food items.
  • Generally, they have well defined occupations for a particular caste.
  • They practice the system of untouchability.

(Sharma, 2039 v. s.: 58 – 67, Bista, 1991: 29 – 59)

 

The medieval ruling Lichchhivi dynasty had considered itself as Chhetri and the kings of this dynasty had appointed the Bahun from south India as their priests (Bista, 1991: 35). This provision had been in practice since 7th century. This practice reveals that the caste system in Nepal had started since fourth or fifth century. In Kathmandu valley, King Jayasthiti Malla (1417 – 52 v. s.) introduced the strict caste system among Newars. Rana Prime Minister Jung Bahadur Rana implemented the caste based socio-legal system all over unified Nepal in 1854 (Bista, 1991: 39 – 58). He introduced a penal code where punishment was different for people of different castes for the same of crime. While implementing this penal code, Tanka Prasad Acharya and other Bahuns got life imprisonment whereas Gangalal and other 3 non-Bahuns were executed for their ‘crime’ of organizing people to overthrow Rana rule. Tanka Prasad Acharya became Nepal’s prime Minister after the Rana rule was overthrown. By inserting the clause that accepted, in principle, everybody will be treated equally as per the law in the “Nepal Government Legal Code – 2004 V. S., the unequal caste based provisions of punishment started to crumble down. However, in practice, such equal treatment got legal acceptance through the declaration of “New Civil Code – 2020 V.S.” in 1963. Although, now the state discontinued discriminating on the basis of caste, legally and otherwise, in the society still such practice are common. In rural areas it is still widely followed and urban areas too and even among educated middle class people, caste based customs, values, behaviors and practices have just decreased but not discontinued.

 

The people of non-Aryan origins had inhabited in Nepal much before the arrival of the people of Aryan origin. They had their own dialects, cultures and economic relationships. In several places, and among several nationalities, these languages, cultures and relationships are still very much in practice. However, these nationalities have been pushed backward by the practitioners of Hindu caste system, particularly, by the Khasa nationality. Bahun, Chhetri, Thakuri and Sanyasi belong to this nationality. The reasons for the backwardness of non-Khasa nationalities are mentioned below.

 

  • Khasa was the ruling nationality.
  • Khasa’s mother language Khasakura (Nepali) was made the national language of Nepal (Bista, 1991:59).
  • Starting from 1852, for more than a century, Hindu caste system was the basis of the law.
  • The Khasa cultural values and belief systems had got superior and civilized status.
  • Hinduism was state religion.
  • The state provided free land to Khasalords under different land tenure systems such as Jagir, Birta, Guthi, Ukhada and Mahajani Pratha. In this way, Khasa became economically powerful nationality.
  • The opportunities in education and development were made favorable for the Khasas.
  • Fatalism played significant role in building a psychological makeup that enhanced superiority among Khasa and inferiority among non-Khasas.

 

The reasons mentioned above prevented progress of Dalits and other oppressed nationalities. Although, some of the obstacles have been cleared now, the orthodox thinking, behaviors and social practices are limiting the tempo of the process of change.

 

The Bahunbad[4] based on fatalism influenced the social practices of not only among Hindus who practice caste system, but also it affected the others in the society. The fatalistic philosophy of “we could simply attain what is there in our luck” created formidable blocks in finding out reasons objectively of any happenings. Instead, it motivated people to look to supra-natural being for finding solutions of their problems. Fatalism influenced heavily in all areas including the motivation for achievements,   accepting responsibility, knowing one’s capacity and social relationships (Bista,1991: 77-83). Fatalism has penetrated deep down in both, individuals conscience and social practice. Hence, it is too difficult to be free from it in simple way and through short cuts. Not only are the peasantry in the rural areas who are outside of new knowledge and technology, but also a large majority of the educated urbanites are engulfed by fatalistic beliefs and behaviors. A few among them may be free from its prejudiced viewpoint, but they too are again enslaved by its value system. Therefore, a corrupt person reads the act of corruption not as crime committed, but as pre-destined reward, which was possible as it was in his luck. Also, others in the society wish to have the luxuries lifestyles as that of that corrupt person. Due to the fatalistic beliefs, a poor person accepts as quite normal, the most difficult circumstances he/she is in. In this way, the movement and progress of the society have been negatively affected.

 

The intellectuals who claim themselves as progressives including the Marxists have not raised the issues of caste system in a comprehensive way. Sometimes, they have raised the issue in very superficial manner by just linking it with the class factor. The Dalits and other oppressed nationalities have their own aspirations, wishes and understandings. Just talking about class will not help to understand this complex social phenomenon.

 

The above analysis depicts the prevailing social reality where the Khasa beliefs, values, traditions and practices dominate. Some of the Khasa beliefs and practices have got the state sanction as “national”. A few examples include the dress code of “Daura Suruwal” and also considering cow as “national animal”. The entire society has been suffering with the ill effects of their fatalistic philosophy. It is quite difficult to rectify the social ills, but without rectifying the ill effects of fatalism, there is no future.

 

Special Social Sections

 

Class, nationalities and castes are very important factors to study the Nepali society. Keeping in consideration, the marginalization and vulnerability of other special sections in the society, it is important to study the situation of the women and children.

 

  1. Women

 

Hunting and gathering were the most important occupations of the human being before venturing into agriculture. The men folks usually were involved in hunting whereas women folks gathered eatable roots, fruits and other wild edible items. This was the most primitive form of division of labor. This division was not created for any other form of discriminations. After the ancient communal society discovered agriculture, the system of private property rights had been introduced as individuals and families started to claim their rights over a plot of land they cleared or cattle heads they raised. The new production system discontinued the works of gathering as one of the primary occupations. The economic and social roles had gone through a radical transformative process. The men folks had taken the responsibility of protecting their settlements and their cattle heads and often had to fight against invading tribes. The women folks gradually started to take the responsibility of taking care of children, household chores and agriculture activities. In this way, the roles changed drastically that established ownership of men over their land and cattle (Folbre 1994: 96). The new social arrangements created situation where women were pushed to men’s control and in the society, the patriarchal system of family governance become prominent. The patriarchal system introduced gender discrimination in the social psychology, practices and customs. Women not only lost their equal position in the family and society, they were forced to accept the inferior status and behave accordingly. When the society was progressing to new stage of feudalism, the new social attitudes and norms made women’s lives more difficult. In this new social system, women were also considered as means of luxury and comfort for the kings, their courtiers and warlords. In history, the kings and warlords fought several wars to get control over a certain beautiful lady or ladies. The class factor also played significant role in the lives of women. The women from laboring classes had to work hard to ensure the minimum survival of their families.

 

The many women of defeated states had been raped and enslaved. As a consequence of such phenomenon, the infamous “Sati Pratha” (the system when a living woman was thrown at the funeral pyre of her husband and was killed) came into existence in South Asia. Boswell states that in Western Europe, more than two hundred people were killed between 1450 and 1700 A. D. in suspicion of being witches and 80% among them were women (in Folbre 1994: 138).

 

With the beginning of capitalism, a new debate about women’s plight drew attention. Mary Wollstonecraft published “The Declaration of Women’s Rights” in 1792. Around 1800, Jeremy Bentham and other likeminded economists put forward the issues of women’s rights particularly in areas of employment, voting and birth control. The women’s movement took organized form after the aristocratic women of England established “Ladies of Langham Place” in 1856. The women’s circle started to publish “English Women’s Journal” after three years of its establishment. In 1848, the conference of feminists in Seneca Falls made public its “Declaration of Sentiments”. In this document, it is stated that men compelled women to obey laws where there was no role of women in the formulation of those laws (in Rendell 1997:8). The women of New York City came out in the street demanding their rights in 1908. After two years of this protest event, the very first and historic “International Women’s Conference” was held in Copenhagen (Subedi 2048: 14).

 

The women got voting right in Finland in 1906, in Norway in 1913, in Denmark in 1915, in  Britain in 1918 (initially this right was allowed to exercise to women above 30 years of age which brought down to 18 years in 1928), in America in 1921 and in France in 1945. First time in the world, in Cuba in 1975, a legal provision came into existence where it was stated that household chore is the responsibility of men and women equally (Folbre 1994: 243).

 

The situation of Nepalese women has been determined by their position in the family and society and the treatment they get from the state. The other critical factors include class, nationality and caste. Generally, the upper class men consider women as objects for their use and machines that produce children. In case of working class, the lower class men consider the women of their class also as silent instruments of production and services. The women of MangolKirats have much better status in the family and community in comparison to Khasa and Madhesis. However, the state had discriminated against women equally irrespective of their nationality. The women had no right in areas of making decisions regarding future preparations of the children and taking decisions on owning or selling property. Although, the Khasa literatures are full of praises of women, but these empty phrases do not reflect the reality. The Khasa Hindu belief that if there is no son, the door of heaven will not open for them for ever had influenced the attitudes including that of the women and the larger society. Therefore, if a girl was born, the women themselves started to feel bad. The fatalistic beliefs that existed in society had profound influence on them too.

 

Nepalese women’s awareness movement has its roots on “Stree Shiksha (Women’s Education), a booklet written by Durga Devi Acharya Dixit in 1897. The “Mahila Samitee” (Women’s Committee) established in 1918 was the first organized effort. Dibya Devi Koirala has taken the initiative to establish this organization, whereas Yogmaya Koirala was its coordinator. During this period, Sati Pratha was legally abolished from Nepal. The girl’s education got institutional boost when “Padma Kanya School” was established in 1945. “Nepal Women’s Association” was established in 1947. Mangala Devi Singh was its chairperson. Under the chairpersonship of Kamakshya Devi, the women influenced by communism established “Nepal Women’s Organization” in 1950. During the same period, “All Nepal Women’s organization” led by Punnya Prabha Devi Dhungana, “Women Volunteer Services” led by Kamal Rana and “Birangana Dal” (Heroic Women’s Organization) led by Rohini Shah came into existence. In 1980, the Nepal Women’s Organization established in 1950 was renamed as “All Nepal Women’s Association” and also was reorganized (Pradhan 1995: 53-57, Subedi 1991: 21-22).

 

Nepalese women started the journey getting equal status legally, in principle, in 1946. The “Nepal Government’s Constitutional Law – 2004” accepted that “every citizen is equal as per law”.  The Interim Constitution of Nepal – 2007 had a provision that clearly states that “Men and women have equal rights”. This was the first time in Nepal, Nepalese women were considered equal in respect to their legal status (Sangraula 1995: 75-91).  The constitutions promulgated thereafter continued this provision. The Nepalese women got voting right in 1947. They got the voting right when Nepal Women’s Association demanded such right during the election of Kathmandu Municipality (Subedi 1991: 21). In 1953, a woman got elected in the Kathmandu Municipality. The Congress government formed after the first general election in 1959 had a women minister. However, the awareness movement was not effective irrespective of these small but important gains. The women’s organizations had party affiliations. Their main role was to gather women around their respective mother parties. They were not primarily committed to the cause of women’s emancipation. However, even in 1998, these women’s organizations were not fundamentally different as they were 40 years ago.

 

When the political parties and their sister women’s organizations failed to address the issues of women’s initiatives, opportunities and emancipation; the Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) have been propagating that they are the champions of women’s advancement. The NGOs which are far better than dogs in smelling donor’s money, took this incarnation fully knowing the donor’s priority on women’s issues in Nepal. The NGOs are in this business as some of them are committed on the issue; some of them have been attracted due to good amount of fund and opportunities available and some among them wish to be popular so as to build their constituency with much investment of time, resources and energy. These campaigners of ‘women’s emancipation’ are more in the acts of propaganda and less on transformational role. “Women development”, “gender equality”, “women’s empowerment” etc. are some of the projects; the NGOs have been reaping the harvest for them. Some NGOs talk about girls trafficking loudly, however, with a few exceptions, many among them have quite a limited role.

 

The Nepalese women’s movement for equality, equity and justice got impetus due to Nairobi conference, international women’s decade and political change in Nepal. In the same period, the supreme court of Nepal passed a historic judgment and asked the government to nullify all acts and laws, which discriminate against women. The new debate centered on inherence of parental property offered new avenues to explore for gender equality. Unfortunately, this great debate could not go behind the conference rooms of big hotels, where the educated urban women were graciously present together with the donors. The ‘workshop culture’ of Kathmandu spoiled the opportunity. The classical Marxist simply related the issue of women’s emancipation together with the problems and prospects of class struggle in the society. On the other side, the conventional parliamentary political forces have a tunnel vision and they see only the problems and prospects of educated urban women is the real issue of women.

 

The women’s movement in Nepal should aim to empower women in areas of political, social and economic spheres. The most deprived women of marginalized social groups and economically deprived rural and urban women’s situation and the change therein should be at the focus of such movements. The ‘kitchen gardens’ planted by NGOs simply are failures to empower women. These NGOs could help a little in creating the environment; however, women’s empowerment is too big piece of meat to swallow for them. Therefore, they should accept such reality and should refrain from talking loud as liberators of women in Nepal.

 

First time in Nepal, the village workers and women village workers were hired to help villagers to implement development projects and activities. This provision had been inserted in “Village Panchayat Act” introduced in 1957. This was the first effort of the government that brought the issue of women’s mobilization at the front. These workers were trained in the training centers at Kathmandu, Birgunj and Nepalgunj. Altogether 250 or close to that number of women workers had received training from these three training centers (Chand 1991: 19-20). As a government policy, increasing participation of women in development was stated in the sixth five year plan of the government (RAYOAA 2037 V.S.: 212). As a result of this policy women development officers were hired and women development sections were established at district level. The women development ministry was established in 1994. However, there was not much political will and commitment from the side of the government. The government escaped from the positive impact created by Nairobi conference by performing some rituals.

 

In the ninth five year plan, the government put forward some policy initiatives to “mainstreaming women”, “to remove gender inequalities” and “to empower women” (RAYOAA 2055 V.S.: 671). However, the programmatic response had nothing to mach to these commitments. The Planning Commission stated that women are a “target group for development (RAYAAA 2055 V.S.: 670).” This is not true. Women are planners, organizers and implementers of development programs and also, they are the good managers of family and community affairs. They have imaginations and high potentials for creation. They should be seen as participants and managers, not simply as target for development.

 

Generally, the Nepalese society has seen women as weaker section or as anti-men. These both types of social attitudes do not reflect the reality. Women neither are weaker section nor are they anti-men. The women’s emancipation movement is primarily against the individual, family, social and governmental attitudes, behaviors, practices, laws and psychology that consider women inferior to men. This is a social emancipation movement (South Commission 1992: 131). To attain success in this endeavor; there is the need of participation of men too. Hence, their awareness and cooperation also play significant role.

 

  1. Children

 

The needs and development potentials of infants, younger children and adolescents are deferent (Dainow 1991: 12-13). However, their protection and development depends on the family as well as social environment and the responsibility for creating conducive environment is the responsibility of their families and respective societies. In the Article 3.1 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Child; it has been stated that any activities, which has its concern with children, the best interests of the children should get attention wherever the activity has been carried out by the social welfare organizations or courts or administration or legislatures. According to Philip Alston, the Convention had been ratified by 155 countries till December 1993 (in UNICEF 1994: 2).

 

In 1998, the projected under 18 population in Nepal was 11,047,000, which is 52 % of the total projected population (RAYOAA 2055 V.S.: 630). The Infant Mortality Rate and Under 5 Child Mortality Rate were 82 and 116 respectively in 1998 (UNDP 1998). The enrollment of primary school age (2-10) was 69.4% and the same for secondary school age children was 34.7%. According to the Child Labor Study – 2054 V.S., 26% children had not attended school due to household work or due to employment to earn something for the survival of the family (RAYAAA 2055 V.S: 632).  According to another estimate, the number of child workers was 570,000 (CWIN 1991: 3). Similarly, the percentage of child labor of the age group 10-14 had jumped to 58 in 1981 from 28 in 1952. The number of child workers in carpet industry was around 200,000 (Stein 1995: 60). The number of street children in Kathmandu alone was 500 and the number of domestic help was 10,652 (CWIN 1990, 1, SIWIN 2050 V.S.: 4-5). From 5 to 7 thousand teen age girls were trafficked into India alone every year (Subedi, 2045: 25). The facts related to education and health and presence of a large number of children in labor work presents the gloomy picture of Nepali children. Moreover, the trafficked girls and children working under slavery like situations, particularly in carpet industries could make any sensible person emotional. The commitments of the civil, social and governmental agencies seem just cosmetic seeing the condition of children as mentioned above.

 

The children’s future depends on the economic condition of the family, awareness level of their parents, social responses and the facilities and the environment the government could provide. The percentage of families, who survive under US$ 1 per day income is 72.2% and the below poverty line families are 59% (UNDP 1998). In such situation, many children are suffering from malnutrition and ill health. They are deprived of educational opportunities. They are surviving under quite difficult conditions including that of child labor.

 

Recently, many NGOs have been raising the issues of opportunities for child development and child labor. However, they have many limitations and their influence is insignificant. First, their presence is primarily confined to urban centers. Second, their programs are driven by donor’s agenda. Third, for many among them these issues are that of propaganda value rather than a movement to create change. Forth, children are the objects for fund raising for many INGOs and hence, Nepali NGOs are also partnering with them. Therefore, with a few exceptions, particularly the good attempts of the NGOs in areas of stopping girl trafficking and child labor, other NGOs are simply either cosmetics or are managing their own employment or even luxuries. The issue of child labor too has been raised at superficial level. The fundamental reason of child labor is economic and till the income level of families does not go up, the child labor issue will continue in one or the other forms. The propaganda could not offer food and cloth for a child from below poverty line families. Hence, without transformational socio-economic achievement, the remedy for child labor in a sustainable way is not possible. The intention here is not to oppose the efforts for eradicating child labor; it is to bring to attention that child labor should be seen in a larger socio-economic context. The easy way out prescribed by northern NGOs and accepted by Nepalese NGOs may help them to raise funds; however, the aim of solving the problem of child labor is unattainable.

 

In a situation where 59% population has been surviving below poverty line, it is too difficult to ensure the fundamental rights of children to provide them enough food and needful dresses. The provision mentioned in the Nepal Government Constitutional Law – 2004 that “free and compulsory primary education” (Sangraula 2052 V.S.: 75-91) and the commitment that the government will “provide free and compulsory primary education within a certain period” (Nepal Academy 1960: 54) have not been implemented for a long time, at least till 1998. The gloomy scenario created by the high rate of malnourishment among children (47%) speaks volumes and presents question marks on the tall claims of child rights and child labor free Nepal as meaningless. These phrases used by the lofty NGOs and government agencies carry no meaning. Only, the real socio-economic justice and progress could address the critical issues of children’s survival and their development. The solution of such major and important issue is possible through political intervention, and hence, the roles of the government and that of political parties are crucial.

 

The government sounds highly satisfied by merely ratifying the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Ninth Five Year Plan has stated its sole objective as poverty alleviation. The objective is appropriate, if policies and programs match its operational requirements. However, the attitudes and values inserted in the socio-economic policies do not express any possibility that leads to societal transformation. These policies do not address the fundamental rights of the children. Neither has it ensured availability of enough food, shelter and dresses for them.  Moreover, there is no guaranty of free and compulsory primary or secondary level education and there is no commitment to provide basic health services to children and their families. The political parties and leaders in Nepal do not invest time, energy and resources to know Nepal better, to understand the issues of societal transformation and to develop capacities to change the living standard of people. Therefore, they do not understand the problems the Nepalese children have been facing. Moreover, they are too preoccupied in power politics. In such context, if the political parties and the leaders from the mainstream fail to behave responsibly, it is only natural that the people will start supporting alternative political forces for change.

 


 

Chapter Three

 

Fundamental Issues of Social Development

 

The analysis of social composition, development challenges and problems and prospects of Nepalese society highlights the need for further studies on fundamental issues of social development. These issues are as mentioned below.

 

  • Poverty Alleviation
  • Social Justice
  • Awareness, Conscientization and Enlightenment
  • People’s Participation
  • Empowerment
  • Cultural Sensitivity, Adjustments and Partnerships
  • Social Services

 

  1. Poverty Alleviation

 

According to the World Bank, “Poverty is pronounced deprivation in well-being, and comprises many dimensions. It includes low incomes and the inability to acquire the basic goods and services necessary for survival with dignity. Poverty also encompasses low levels of health and education, poor access to clean water and sanitation, inadequate physical security, lack of voice, and insufficient capacity and opportunity to better one’s life.”  (World Bank: Poverty and Inequality Analysis, http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/TOPICS/EXTPOVERTY/0,,contentMDK:22569747~pagePK:148956~piPK:216618~theSitePK:336992,00.html)

 

Meghnad Desai has defined that poverty is a state, where the people fail to meet their one or two basic needs. Amartya Sen brings the capability factor and says this is a condition of deprivation where someone survives with limitations in areas of literacy, travel, longevity etc. Kith Griffin looks into social deprivation to judge the state of poverty. (Griffin 1996: 28-29). International Labor Organization (ILO) has stated in its Philadelphia Declaration that the poverty of one place could affect the prosperity of another place (ILO 1944).

 

Not only poverty limits someone’s capacity to meet the basic needs and develop capabilities, it sows the seeds of certain stereotyped thinking such as fatalism. It makes the poor accustomed to poverty and helps poverty continuing as a normal phenomenon (Abercrombie et al 1994). The feeling of being in poverty makes someone hopeless and powerless and the confidence that could generate hope of coming out of poverty and bring change in life goes away (Crofton 1995: 23).

 

Poverty has its two foundations such as the poverty that has its base on total underdevelopment and the poverty that has its base on inequality. The first type of poverty could be seen in remote parts of Nepal. In these areas, with a few exceptions, everybody is surviving under the influence of poverty. The villages have no classless societies, nor are they socially egalitarian. However, the gap between rich and poor is that of different type. Some among them, the rich in these villages, might have comparatively larger sheep herds or harvest some more grains and enjoy a bit better social status and privileges. But, they face the same difficulties in absence of common facilities such as roads, schools, hospitals etc. The economists residing in Kathmandu and busy playing with meaningless statistics may classify them as rich peasants or even as landlords looking at the size of their unproductive land holding. If the classical exercise to find out landlords in such villages could be ignored, generally poverty has its all pervading presence in these villages that engulfs all inhabitants in all critical areas including but not limited to income, capabilities and social exclusion. However, the poverty that has been affecting a large majority of people in Nepal is not that has its base in total underdevelopment, but the poverty which has its base in inequality. The poverty of first type is an exception, whereas the poverty of second type is the most common phenomenon. Hence, to understand the relationship between inequality and poverty, one has to understand the importance of equality.

 

Equality is one among the most controversial terminologies used in politics and development, presently. Strangely, everybody feels free to define equality in a way that suits the definer’s interest. The term “equality” has been misunderstood by many as it has been glossed either with “relative reference value” or with “absolute reference value.” It is impossible to attain absolute equality. If that could be attained somewhere in a particular time, it is simply a temporary phenomenon for a short period. Therefore, in social development arena, relative equality has generally been accepted with several inequalities attached with. If defined in absolute term that phenomenon could be described as no equality at all. Equality in its relative sense does not investigate social reality in absolute term but analyses the discrimination on the basis of class, nationalities, castes and gender; and finds the fundamentals that govern the social structure that either supports positive changes or preserves status quo.  Equality has been misunderstood as a goal of social change endeavors, whereas this is a process that includes attitudes, behaviors and practices, which helps transform the outlooks, viewpoints and paradigms and upgrades the collective understanding to a higher spiral. When equality is defined not in absolute term and not as a goal, it has very clear relationship with radical social change. This accepts its limitations including its relative nature and plays vital role in the process of transformation of the society. In this context, there could be seen its clear relationship with poverty alleviation endeavors including the change in the ownership over means of production, access to opportunities and power to make decisions. To understand the process and relationship better, it is absolutely necessary to explain, though briefly, about the ownership over natural resources such as land, energy and water; nature of skills and employment, and community political participation and leadership.

 

The fundamental relationship between equality and poverty reveals the existence of certain patterns. For example, the poor families’ relationship with land is as means of production as labors. The rich is the owner and controls production costs, processes and distribution as the producer. The agrarian culture of the Nepalese society considers land not just as source of income but also as insurance against emergency needs, pension for retired life and material basis for social status. Analysis of land ownership by size of holding, productivity (barren slopes, fertile plains) and location (New Road in Kathmandu or Dungma in Bhojpur) provide most useful information, if the studies are conducted by segregating the indicators mentioned here. This could help understanding the social processes far better. However, it could reveal scientific information, if studied in relation to many other social indicators. Even if other information is not available, this indicator alone could give critical information on level of poverty and its nature and extent and intensity of class struggle in an area. The land indicator may reveal the ownership pattern over large size of land, prime plots and productive patches that could be of landlords or rich peasants or the capitalists in case of urban areas. The opposite may be true for the working class, farm laborers and poor peasants.

 

Similarly, access to water resource also tells a lot. The irrigation channels irrigate the paddy fields of the rich, the piped water systems mostly serves the water needs of the rich. Even the public taps serve the as the place the taps closer to their houses. When the water reaches urban centers, it goes directly to the kitchens, washrooms and swimming pools of the rich. The villagers may not get any compensation for the resources in all practical sense that belongs to them.

 

The energy utilization analysis also reveals the deprivation of strange type among low income families and communities. The forest mostly belongs to the government or community associations formed by and for rural rich or some forests are directly under individual ownership of the rich. The poor are in extremely difficult situation as they are not able to get firewood or fodder. The government controlled national parks have made their lives more miserable. The conservation policy is based on ‘conservation’ by restricting entry into the forest of the people around. Conservation could be best possible when the forest resources could be utilized in a sustainable way. However, the national parks have become restricted zones for the people and they are angry. In one fine morning, if the angry people will start killing animals, attacking forest officials and putting the entire parks on flames that would not be an unexpected phenomenon (Ghimire 1994: 226).

 

The skills and jobs are evaluated and placed in some sort of hierarchy not on their merit on productivity or value addition but on the social attitudes attached to certain skills or jobs. This particular type of evaluation and acceptance has created vast gap between blue color and white color jobs in both areas – social respectability and remunerations. Availability of opportunities is extremely unequal. Many poor peasants in the rural areas are either unemployed or only semi-employed.

 

The people from disadvantaged social sections and lower economic class have either no or nominal representation in community as well as political leadership in their respective areas.

 

The above analysis makes it clear that control over natural resources, access to better remunerative skills and jobs and occupancy of political as well as community leadership positions are the rights and privileges of higher economic class and chauvinistic social sections. This situation has limited the scope of justice and equality.

 

Poverty is not a technical condition of being deprived of resources and opportunities; this is the end result of discriminatory political, economic and social acts. This is the reflection of social reality. Therefore, alleviation of poverty is not simple and could not be attained through shortcuts. In absence of such understanding, poverty becomes easy to eradicate. Many NGOs and INGOS have been suffering with such misunderstanding and are busy propagating that poverty could be done away by raising a few chicken birds. Raising chicken is not a bad idea but it may not alleviate poverty. Poverty is a complex socio-economic realm and it needs transformational actions that encompass social, political and economic redistribution of power, wealth and opportunities. Thus, the propaganda that it is possible without addressing structural issues is untrue. The NGOs or INGOs or governmental agencies or the United Nations system agencies, if present the issue as cosmetics, their understanding should be challenged and their claims should be contested. These agencies should contribute to create environment. The larger issues that have created and sustained poverty could be rectified only through radical and transformative societal change. The agencies mentioned above should not create false expectations among people.

 

The Nepalese government and the NGOs have taken the issue of poverty alleviation as a popular issue of propaganda value. Poverty alleviation has become one of largest employment generating issue in Nepal, where many bureaucrats and NGO employees have got employment by utilizing opportunities around this issue. Hence, their responsibility and commitment has limited meaning as it revolves around their employment. Due to this fact, they travel any distance where local or foreign assistance or even soft loan is available for their projects. Hence, their “alms pots” are ready 24 hours, 7 days a week (24/7). Such acts may not address the issue of poverty. Therefore, after implementing eight plans (one for three years and rest five years each), the National Planning Commission has stated that “due to unemployment and failure in bringing down inequality, the problem of poverty could be addressed well” (RAAAYO 2055 V.S.: 1). However, the admission of failure alone will not be enough.

 

Robert McNamara’s speech in Nairobi in 1973 initiated some programmatic responses with objectives that addressed fulfillment of basic human needs and had focus on poverty reduction (Escobar 1995: 70). After its president’s speech at Nairobi, the World Bank put forward the idea of Integrated Rural Development (IRD).  To improve the economic and social condition of people residing in rural areas, the IRD was developed as a strategy (World Bank: 1975).  The United Nations, which was under the strong influence of America and the World Bank, which was under the de facto control of America came forward to support rural development programs. In 1977, International Labor Organization (ILO) also supported IRD initiative but raised some critical questions too. The ILO asked to look into the need of redistribution of land and other related resources to start with. Only after addressing the critical land issues, it could be possible to move forward to bring a large section of rural population to prosperity. Julius Nyerere was supportive to the idea of rural development. He shared his observation that IRD could best express and include all aspects of the concepts and priorities of the governmental and social activities (Bhasin et al 1980: 55, 10).

 

Immediately after discovering the strategy to eliminate poverty, the Breton Woods system institutions (World Bank and International Monetary Fund) jumped to experiment in the field. One of the first seeds of this jump was sowed in Nepal. In 1973, the World Food Program and the United Nations Development Program together started a regional project. The new born child was “Asian Survey on Agriculture Improvement and Rural Development”. The project had included 9 countries – Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Korea, Laos, Nepal, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Thailand. Nepal was ‘fortunate’ as it was selected as the very first country to start to. Initially, a “Small Farmers Development Project (SFDP)” was designed and implemented covering 6,000 families. The Agriculture Development Bank implemented the project in Nuwakot and Janakpur (Bhasin et al 1980: 222-229). In 1978, the project was extended in 15 new districts. The Asian Development Bank, International Agriculture Development Fund, World Bank and some other agencies also provided assistance. However, the result reveled that SFDP failed to bring change on the condition of extremely poor families in the project areas (Mosley 1991: 74).

 

The SFDP experiment encouraged World Bank to open the flood gates of Integrated Rural Development Projects (IRDPs). Rashuwa-Nuwakot IRDP was the first IRD projects. The World Bank and United Nations Development Program had supported the project. Koshi Hills Rural Development Project, Sagarmatha IRDP, Mahakali IRDP, IRDP (Dolakha-Nuwakot), Karnali-Bheri IRD, Mechi IRD, Dhading IRD, Rapti IRD, Seti IRD and Karnali Local Development Project have been implemented. All together, Nepalese Rupees 1.47 billion had been spent till 1991 (Chand 1991: 62, NEKAPA Mashal 2046 V. S.: 124).  After 2 decades of enthusiastically starting the IRDPs, one of the proponents of IRDs, the United Nations Development Program revealed the statistics that 59% people were living under poverty line in 1995 in Nepal (UNDP, 1998). Although, the government said that there were only 42% people under poverty line, it agreed that there was no significant progress in reducing poverty (RAYOAA: 2055 V.S.: 182). These facts make it clear that the strategy of poverty alleviation and distributing fruits of development among poor failed.

 

The government has targeted to bring down the below poverty line population to less than 10% in twenty years i.e. 2018 (RAYOAA 2055: 61-62). In its ninth Five Year Plan, the government has proposed to establish Poverty Alleviation Commission and Poverty Alleviation Fund. Although, these are good proposals, but the past experiences suggest that these institutions will be utilized just to provided employment to some party cadres. The bitter experiences of Small Farmers Development Program, Production Credit for Rural Women and Rural Development Banks validate this conclusion. Moreover, the outcomes of the large scale IRDPs also were not different.  In absence of political will and in an environment of corruption and wrong priorities, only there is space to realize personal interests of political leaders and government officials, whereas social and national interests are forgotten altogether.

 

As already stated, poverty could not be eradicated without radical change in the society. The governmental as well as non-governmental agencies’ focus is on adding up services. They did not create environment that could help transforming the society. They did not listen in the advice of International Labor Organization related to redistribution of wealth and resources. In the present context, only redistribution of land may not address the deep rooted problem of inequality. Pertaining to this resource, size of the plot of land, its productivity and location make big difference. Therefore, it is important to increase opportunities in off farm activities. “Right to Work” as a constitutional guarantee may be the long term objective to address poverty, which could significantly reduce hunger. Everybody has the right to get minimum wages and equal access to opportunities. Therefore, a favorable socio-economic environment must be availed.

 

  1. Social Justice

 

Society has been divided on the basis of class, caste, nationalities and gender. There are contradictions in the society due to several differences that originated from discriminatory social attitudes and state’s unfair treatment. Hence, several sections of the society are deprived of justice. Primarily, social justice is the major issue that could address the prevailing injustices, inequalities and discriminations. Because of its importance and popularity, the Marxists relate it with classes, the pro-reservationists in India establish its harmony with backward castes, the feminists project it as “cure of all” to correct the gender stereotypes and oppressed nationalities consider it as one of the best ideology that could help bring them to mainstream with dignity and pride.  Many, who support the idea of social justice, have motivations that originate either from commitment to cause or its popularity as a political slogan. The Indian constitution in its Article number 341 has provisioned for reservation for backward (scheduled) castes and backward (scheduled) tribes. The Article has been active since 1950; however it has failed to transform the social structure except elevating a few Harijans (backward castes) into privileged as Brahmins. The so-called lower castes and backward tribes have been surviving in a very hostile political as well as socio-economic environment similar to pre-1950 situation. The fact here explains that the slogan of social justice will not change anything fundamentally, if there is no commitment and political will. It should be noted that if there is no economic justice and a revolution therein to change their condition radically, the exploited classes will continue to survive in a hopeless condition, and in absence of social justice, the marginalized sections of the society will have not any sunny day in their lives. For any kind of progressive management of a society, there must be social and economic justice, and their political environment must support the progressive management of the society.

 

Some scholars put social justice and social development in the same basket, whereas others argue that these are two separate subjects. However, all of them emphasize to look into its content. The Copenhagen Conference on Social Development has clearly spelt out that social development is inter linked with social justice and it could not be attained in absence of respect to human rights and commitment to fundamental freedom (UN 1995). Social justice is a complex social process. It assigns roles to individuals, classes, groups and nationalities according to their place in the society and determines their relations with others. Social justice includes human rights, civil rights, peace and security that ensures harmonious social environment, just protections and issues of natural justice. Hence, social justice pleads for affirmative action in areas of services, opportunities and supports. When, the state makes investments on services, corrective measures and motivational acts such as reservations in jobs, positions and opportunities, it has to take into consideration the need for affirmative action. For example, there could be provision of free education for children of marginalized people and reservation of certain percentage for them in the administrative, military and political positions. These actions could correct socio-economic discriminations that the marginalized sections, nationalities and classes are subjected to. Therefore, social justice is to be seen as the progressive socio-political value of a state system, corrective approach towards justice and the yardstick to judge the progressive orientation of a given society.

 

The application of social justice is not that simple. There should be appropriate policy responses. These policies certainly discriminate positively. In Nepal, when the state formulated a policy for providing old age allowance, when a citizen reaches 75 years of age sounded good in first look, but it doesn’t do justice as there could be rich pensioners or millionaires at that age. Hence, there should be socio-economic criteria to make it more inclined towards social justice. The bottom line is that the support should go to them who need and deserve. The Nepalese leaders did not utilized their common sense neither they applied any sensible decision making process. They were after vote and they simply go by the logic of vote bank politics. Anarchy and irresponsible acts have become the general trend in Nepalese politics.

 

Affirmative action no longer need provided the society has entered into egalitarian mode, where prosperity, peace, justice and social harmony are basically ensured. Such society has been named “Ramrajya” (God’s realm) by the Gandhians, “Swarga” (heaven) by the religious believers and “Communism” by the Marxists. However, such state of a society has not been seen yet even in the developed western world.

 

Many among the supporters of social justice simply interpret it as distribution of resources and opportunities. However, social justice has been related to, both, bridging the socio-economic and political gap and eradicating inequalities in the society. Therefore, social justice should address, both issues – justice and equality. Hence, the aim should be to realize these two critical goals.

 

The start point of social justice in modern time in Nepal was 1925 when the slavery system was legally abolished and the former slaves were rehabilitated by clearing the forest in Bhikshakhori in Amalekhgunj. The declaration was historic in the sense that it abolished one of the most inhuman as well as criminal acts.  The freedom enjoyed by the freed slave families had great value. Moreover, change of psychological and social attitudes of these families and the larger communities had great significance. During the same period, “Sati Pratha” (the wife was sacrificed by throwing in the same funeral pyre of the dead husband) was abolished. This abolition was one of the epoch making event in the lives of Nepalese women. The society in general and the state in particular started to review the injustices to women.  In the process, a girl’s school – Padma Kanya School was established in 1945.

 

Social justice made its presence in the first constitutional act of Nepal that was promulgated in 1947. The crude form of social just could be seen in the article where it has been stated that “the law considers all (citizens) as equal”. The Interim Constitution of 1951 clearly mentioned that men and women have equal rights and both will get same remuneration for similar work. There were provisions for affirmative action in favor of women and children (Sangraula 2052: 79-91). The first two provisions above ensured equality whereas the third provision promotes social justice.  The Constitution of Nepal – 1959 has made slavery, human trafficking and forced labor illegal. Moreover, the land tenure system called “Birta” (government or communal land donated to Brahmins by the state) was abolished. A Common Criminal Code was promulgated in 1963. This code declared illegal all previous legal provisions, which had discriminated on the basis of caste, gender and nationalities. A Land Reform Act also came into existence in 1964. The new constitution of 1990 abolished untouchability.

 

Woman started getting attention in the government programs since 1951 when the government employed male and female separately as “village Development Workers” (Chand 1991: 19). Not only employment, but also, first time, women got recognition. This act opened up the opportunities for unlocking women’s rightful place in the society. This initiative could be seen as first step in a long journey of equality and justice the women deserved. The government initiated scholarship programs for deserving students from low income families, provided incentives to girl students, and offered old age allowance to senior citizens and widows, established council for indigenous nationalities etc. to help mainstream marginalized groups, sections and nationalities. The other initiatives such as Production Credit for Rural Women (PCRW), Small Farmers Development Program, and Rural Development Banks etc. helped low income families and marginalized groups to a certain extent to progress. In the 9th Five Year plan of the government, “development of backward areas”, “gender equality”, “poverty alleviation”, “indigenous nationalities in development works”, “Dalits and marginalized sections in development works”, “Program for senior citizens, helpless and physically challenged”, “Children’s development” etc (RAYOAA 2055 V.s.: 182, 238, 630, 651-673) had been included, which could address the issues of social justice and could promote equality. However, the government did not show any sign of its commitment to establish social justice or to bring equality. Both, political will and commitment had not been seen in practice. The 30 years autocratic rule of the king camouflaged as Panchayat and the ever anarchic parliamentary regime that followed Panchayat in 1990 obstructed the process of substantial social change.

 

During their inception stage in early years of anti-Rana movement, the non-governmental social organizations played somewhat positive role in introducing social justice and the concept of equality in Nepal. Some of them raised the issue of civil rights, some others propagated for women’s awareness. When Sukraraj Shastri was hanged and his three other friends were executed in 1941 as they had raised the banner of revolt against the autocratic Rana rule, the organization they established – “Committee for Civil Rights, Nepal” became defunct. Gradually, the issues of socio-political awareness were put on the back burner and the NGOs took the new path of service delivery and welfare. However, after forty years, “Human Rights Organization of Nepal” and “Forum for Protection of Human Rights in Nepal” were established with the same objective with a bit fine tuning as that of “Committee for Civil Rights”. Besides these human rights agencies, there were a few other NGOs in areas of child labor and girls trafficking active to address the issues.

 

After the political change of 1990, the flood gate was opened for NGOs. The types of NOGs included philanthropic, welfare, reform oriented, activist and professional. All of the NGOs irrespective of their nature were busy talking about social justice. They used the terms either social justice or close words such as empowerment, civil rights, social peace, equality, mainstreaming etc. and stay very close to the fundamental concept of social justice.  Interestingly, the trustees or the core leaders of the NGOs in Nepal are educated from urban centers as well as from higher castes (Pant 2051: 6). They might have come from upper class and their origin may suggest they are in no need of affirmative support mechanisms. Generally, the donor agencies have become the life-line of Nepali NGOs.  Many donors themselves are just the intermediaries of the services they claim they provide. Therefore, the donors are project oriented, strive for success to show even at superficial way and they harbor illusion that they have the remedy of social ills or at least they could deliver quality services. The NGOs operating through the donations of such donors, when talk about “social justice” forget that such abstract issues, which  needs to pass through a strategic process is unattainable for them as their goal. Therefore, these NGOs should understand that social justice is not simply a social phenomenon; it has strong linkage with politics. As far as it has a relation with politics, if the foreigners stay out that would be better. Here it should be made clear that the donor driven NGOs are fundamentally different from activist movements and organizations. The second types are people’s initiatives and people’s movements but such types of organization in Nepal are only a few.

 

Social justice demands three basic functions to significantly influence the process of societal transformation. They include creating conducive environment, social actions and movements and management as well as institutionalization of change.

 

Together, the local voluntary organizations, NGOs, class organizations, political parties and the government, could work in creating conducive environment. All of them could work on spreading technical information and enhancing skills, helping to establish organizations and promoting organized behaviors and identifying problems and exploring possibilities. They could inform people on issues of human rights, civil rights, promotion of peaceful living and social security. In this way they could support people.

 

The local voluntary organizations, activist NGOs, trade unions, and other class organizations, and political parties could involve themselves in activities that promote social actions.  They could lunch movements.

 

The class organizations, political parties and the government could manage and institutionalize change.

 

The local voluntary organizations or the community based organizations may organize people and motivate them. They even could lunch movements and provide leadership at local level. They may play major roles in empowering people and igniting immense desire for liberating themselves from injustices. However they have some limitations such as being small in size and confined to small locations. Hence, they have to operate with limited information and management skills. Therefore, the participation of activist NGOs and political parties could make big difference. They could provide much better leadership. When the political parties or the government accepts the importance of issues raised or they are forced under the strength of the movement, governments would formulate policies, laws and bylaw. It could introduce programs and implement.  The challenges of proper implementation and sustenance of the institutionalized change should be addressed appropriately.

 

Although, the nature of movements that are lunched to establish social justice is the same but while launching such movements, the organizing approach may differ. The concerned people, class, section, community, caste or nationality may lunch these movements themselves. These movements may be of social or political nature. Some examples include the anti-untouchability movement of the Dalits and the movement for getting equal right over parental property of women. These are the issue based movements and such movements have great meaning in the larger movements that are launched for social justice. In the second category, there are the movements for larger issues in broader areas that need to correct socio-political anomalies by addressing the structural adjustments. Examples include the larger movement for establishing the “Autonomous State of Limbuwan” movement. The Jhapa movement of 1970-77 launched for emancipation of people in general and peasants in particular is another example. Although, primarily the Jhapa movement was a political movement but it had great social impact and this could be taken as one good example.

 

The difference between social action and movement is difficult to identify in terms of issues. Generally, social actions revolve around one or a few specific issues for comparatively a shorter period of time, whereas the movements include larger issues and take a longer period of time to come to any meaningful conclusion either in the form of success or failure or in-between. Both, social action and movement target unjust traditional practices, insensitive customs and cultures, restrictions on fundamental rights and regressive political systems, which obstruct the transformation of the society. Social justice focuses primarily on the fundamental societal transformation. This fact alone makes it clear that the political parties are the most important instrument. The political party, which is committed to bring substantial change in the society could work on making people aware and organize them. Such party or parties could also lead people’s spontaneous movements. Also, the people should march through the main road of movement to get away with their own unscientific beliefs and value systems and to acquire new perspectives and develop scientific outlook. The subjective attributes of social justice such as progressive values and beliefs, sense of collective and individual responsibility etc could not be imposed from outside. These characters should be formed through the experience they get from participating in the movements. Social justice could be attained by combining both – subjective and objective behaviors.

 

Many individuals and agencies, which are involved in social development over simplify social justice issues. This phenomenon creates illusionary approaches and helps to generate unrealistic understanding. In fact, Social justice is a very complex social behavior and could be attained in a long period of time through robust actions of the people themselves by passing through highly complicated processes. People’s organizations and political parties could lead such activities and processes. The list of people’s organizations may include community associations, activist NGOs and class organizations.

 

In summary, Social justice accepts and strives for affirmative action that could be discriminatory in favor of oppressed sections, nationalities, classes and marginalized sections of people. It is directly related to both equality and justice. The stages of initiatives to attain social justice start from creation of positive environment, social actions and movements and management and institutionalization of change.  Professional development NGOs could provide support in creation of positive environment whereas community associations, activist NGOs, class organizations and political parties could launch social actions and movements and also could manage and institutionalize changes. The government should ensure implementation of the institutionalized changes and should help sustaining them.

 

  1. Conscientization and Enlightenment

 

During the decade of 1970, a reproductive health survey was carried out in Nepal. The findings highlighted the limited information on family planning. The researchers recommended the need of basic information on the subject. Another survey was conducted including the respondent who had said in the previous survey that they have no idea about family planning. The second survey findings showed that a much larger percentage of people have information on family planning. Also, it was discovered that the people did not understand the highly Sanskritized Nepali language used in the first survey. Moreover, sensitiveness of the subject and the environment during the interview also made big difference. From this illustration, it became amply clear that the ignorance of the outsiders was imposed on the villagers (Chambers 1983: 56). Also, this illustration revels that ignorance is not the absence of literacy or degree, but it is the absence of information, common sense and sensitivity.

 

Many Nepalese leaders and development professionals believe that education is to obtain certificate and the certificate equals consciousness. They believe that literacy is the start point of knowledge, consciousness and Conscientization. Therefore, they think that literacy classes and schools are essential for education. These activities are useful and positive; however, the fundamental proposition that these activities could educate the participants is wrong. Those who equate the technical skill of literacy with education are unaware and educated. Generally, illiterate persons know that they are illiterate, but many literate leaders and development professionals do not know that they are uneducated in thousands of subjects and issues. The problems start from this departure point and many wrong conclusions and remedies crop up.

 

Several people in the villages are educated. The peasants in agricultural activities, women in the management of household activities, the children in eco-friendly rural sports, the Ayurveda practitioners in herbal medicine and healing etc are highly educated in their respective areas of expertise. The level of their education could be just basic, that may be that of weak foundation and sometimes that may not work. However, it is equally applicable to the so-called educated persons. Only because they are illiterate; to believe that the people are foolish, ignorant, unaware and incapable is completely wrong. Similarly, it is not true that literacy offers heaven. The people have their own attitudes, knowledge and skills. And, the so-called educated persons also have their own attitudes, knowledge and skills. Therefore, the process of Conscientization does not start from zero. This is equally true to small children.

 

Some development professionals and government agencies also propagate that Conscientization starts from the literacy skills for the people between 15 and 35 years of age. Many people attend literacy classes and that is good. However, just teaching technical skills that makes reading and writing in the name of Paulo Freire, who championed the cause of human emancipation is somewhat strange. Conscientization could be classified into two categories depending on its outcome and prospects. The first is technical awareness and the second type is socio-political consciousness. Technical awareness includes information and understanding of opportunities, prospects related to growth, productive technical know-how and vocational as well as other technical skills. The socio-political Conscientization is related to much abstract factors such as the causes, reasons, processes that bring substantial social change and greater societal transformation. The process and movement of societal transformation also deal with and transform the values, belief systems and social attitudes.

 

Conscientization is a continuous process of knowledge building that had started centuries ago and will continue to centuries to come. It starts from information. Information is not simply collection of facts and statistics, but also the result of the processing of both of them (Shallie 1985: 151-53). The processing technique, capacity of the processing and the practice make it easier to reach to information. This whole act creates new knowledge and brings to new level of awareness.  The source of information could be individuals, events, articles and experiences. The meaning of Conscientization is the capacity to understand the complexities and to enable someone to decide his or her values, thoughts, behaviors and practices independently. The highest stage of Conscientization is enlightenment. Enlightenment is a level of super-consciousness where it would be possible for a person to see long-term prospects, larger responsibilities, human dignity and liberty, social emancipation, etc in strategically broader context. Enlightenment enables them to understand critical processes that ensure their involvement in that great movement of radical change.

 

The analysis above states that technical awareness and socio-political consciousness start with information, moves to Conscientization and finally reaches to the highest level called enlightenment. This process of transformation could be generic and gradual or that could be special and revolutionary. This could have a visible or tangible outcome or that could be more abstract and intangible.

 

The Nepali development community uses the terms “Conscientization”, “change in attitude”, “attitude building” etc. more often. The user of these terms might have information about the meaning they carry, they might have conscious level of understanding or even they could have reached the level of enlightenment related to the meaning, their worth and outcome of these terms. Alternatively, they might have been using these terms ritualistically. It would be relevant to tell a Philippine story.

 

In one family, a newly-wed woman cooked meat in two pots and when it was ready she was mixing both items in one large bowl. From that bowl, every member of the family was served the mutton curry.  She was continuing this practice, when meat was cooked. The husband of the woman observed this strange cooking system for some times and once asked to his wife why she was cooking in two different pots and mixing in one bowl. The wife replied that her mother was doing the same and she simply repeated. The husband went to talk to his mother-in-law. The mother-in-law replied that it was not she who started that practice but her mother. And, the man went to ask his grand-mother-in-law the reason behind this strange way of cooking meat. The grand old lady, the grand-mother-in-law of the man was surprised knowing what her daughter and grand-daughter were doing. She told that when she was young, her family was not that well off. So, she had no large pot to cook the meat for a large family. So, she was cooking in two pots. She was mixing the mutton curry in one bowl as she had that large bowl and the mixing was for preventing children from quarrelling on the issue of taste if served from different pots. But, her daughter and grand-daughter were rich enough and they had no need of doing that. The man, a conscientized person came back home and told the story to her wife. She was awakened. However, the scientific behavior of the grand old lady became a taboo for the coming generations.

 

Similarly, many development workers use lofty terms as part of their superstitious beliefs. This is no different than the “meat cooking technology” of the Philippine daughter and grand-daughter. Many among these development workers, be they from government agencies or the employees of NGOs, do not know that everybody is ignorant, with one deference that the ignorance is in different subjects (Will Rogers, in Chambers, 1983: 168).

 

In this context, where everyone could be ignorant but in different subjects, an overview to understand among the development communities who could give what from others and what could get from others would help to have some useful insights.

 

  1. Grassroots people and organizations (Community Based Organizations or CBOs):

 

Could give to others:

 

  • Information on actual leaving conditions,
  • Importance of fundamental human values,
  • Experiences of struggle and enhanced understanding of issues,
  • Traditional knowledge,
  • Useful appropriate technologies, and
  • Cultural riches and specialties.

 

Could get from others:

 

  • New technologies and skills,
  • New values that help to come out of fatalistic beliefs,
  • New information and processing methodologies,
  • Theoretical basis for socio-political change and organized endeavors.

 

  1. NGOs

 

Could give to others:

 

  • Information, facts and statistics,
  • Professional and management skills,
  • Sharing conclusions of participatory research, and
  • Conscientization (applicable only for activist NGOs).

 

Could get from others:

 

  • Get help to find out limitations of NGOs,
  • Democratic management and transparency in works and records,
  • Emancipation from the habit of making tall claims and too high ambitions.

 

  1. Political Parties:

 

Could give to others:

 

  • Awareness, organization and leadership,
  • Development of new social values,
  • Understanding of development potentials, and
  • People’s empowerment, struggle and movements.

 

Could get from others:

 

  • Popular grassroots politics, people friendly political lines,
  • Departure from power centered politics to people centered politics, and
  • Refraining from misleading people and creating “utopian optimism” among them.

 

  1. d) Government:

 

Could give to others:

 

  • Development approaches and priorities, and
  • Social security and services delivery mechanisms and infrastructures.

 

Could get from others:

 

  • Accountable governance,
  • Committed management of development endeavors, and
  • Understanding of popular sentiments, expectations and needs.

 

The issues mentioned above are some of the examples. The purpose here is to make it clear that Conscientization is a multi-way process. The other two actors also have important role in Conscientization. These actors are the private sector and media.

 

In summary, what the Nepali NGOs propagate as Conscientization is something different. The political parties and governments also believe that this is the area of core responsibility of the NGOs. Hence, the NGOs boast that they are the wholesome deliverers of Conscientization. Therefore, it should be well understood that Conscientization has two primary components – technical and socio-political. It has three stages – information, Conscientization and enlightenment. Also, it has multiple deliverers such as political parties, civil societies, private sector, NGOs, media and people. This is a complex process and goes through complicated mechanism and takes longer time than usually anticipated. Over simplification of this most important strategic variable of transformation will derail the movement for radical socio-political change.

 

  1. Participation

 

History is full of events and stories where large mass of people have come together to change the society. It is full of liberation movements and independence struggles. Now, the situation is no different. If somebody says that the people coming together in such a large mass are there due to crowd mentality, it is clear that that person has no understanding of people or that person is not ready to accept the truth. It is possible that there could be difference between the plans of the organizers of the movement and the dreams of people. However, there are always some dreams that make people participating in the movements.

 

Many civil society entities such as community organizations, local user groups, NGOs, class as well as professional organizations, media, etc. have contributed in the process of societal transformation. However, they could not bring the tempest of transformation; neither have they had the requisite strength for this stormy act of radical change. Sometimes, they feel that they are the champions of such movements for change. This is their innocent or cultivated illusion. Therefore, they need to understand their roles properly and should limit their tall-talking.

 

The private sector works for profit. This is just natural. However, they also contribute in social change and development. They offer services, though at a cost, provide employment and contribute for welfare activities. They have also played important roles in providing relief assistance during the time of natural disasters.

 

The government and the political parties have played vital roles in activities of social development. They not only provide services but also support the process of Conscientization, though most occasionally.

 

The analysis above makes it clear that there is the need of defining participation. Generally, participation has been immortalized as a medicine of all diseases.  The term has been used meaninglessly in a very abstract way and also with no commitment attached with. The term has been glamorized. Therefore, defining participation has become an important task. Participation is the purposeful presence of any individual, group, section, organization or state in any specific subject, event or process. This could be in the form of involvement or collaboration or leadership. Participation brings into play four factors together – the actors, issues, value adding presence and purposes.

 

Paulo Freire has provided the context for defining participation. According to him, the world has been advancing through the process of reconstruction and transformation. In this process, both play important roles – the people and leaders as well as the teachers and students. In retrospect, it could be seen that the knowledge gets accumulated through their collective endeavors. In this way, the oppressed will participate in their liberation movements, not as fake presence but as committed involvement (Freire 1970: 51, 79-80).

 

There are different levels of value adding presence. This is about some sort of degree of contribution and roles certain individuals or groups play. In any activity or plan or movement, someone either becomes involved or collaborates or provides leadership. The level of participation depends on level of awareness, socio-political environment and the roles an individual or group is capable to play.

 

Participation has become a catch word today in all discussions and actions in the realm of social development. All of them who have heard the name of Robert Chambers and know a little about Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) by attending a few workshops have become the masters of the ritual called ‘participation’. However, they fail to understand that in absence of information and critical understanding of the issues, this would be a futile exercise. According to Judith Tedler the people assembled on the call of an NGO had become bewildered, when they were asked to find out solutions by analyzing their problems (in Vivian 1994: 184-85).  Hence, it should be noted that participation has its direct relationship with awareness, environment and capabilities.

 

The study of social mobilization and participation in Nepal could be possible if researchers could reflect on the cultural practices and indigenous institutions. The mother of Nepalese indigenous local organization is the “Panchali” that was responsible in resolving local disputes. Moreover, it had to ensure observation of local festivals and construction and maintenance of local development infrastructures such as foot trails and irrigation channels. They also had major roles in communicating government decisions at local level. The “Panchalis” were the local instruments of social mobilization during Lichhivi period (250 – 750 AD). “Sithis” and “Guthis” followed “Panchalis”. The ethnic cultural organizations such as “Bheja” (Magars), Chumling (Limbus), “Nangkhur” (Tamangs), “Nogar” (Gurung) etc. were active in the locations predominantly resided by particular ethnic group and nationality (Tuladhar 1997: 31). Analyzing the roles played by these primitive indigenous organizations, it would be quite clear that they were instrumental in providing village or ethnic self-rule, constructing and maintaining village development infrastructures, continuing cultural traditions and practices as well as nationality’s identity and maintaining social unity and harmony at the times of their functional existence. These organizations played effective roles when the centralized state either was weak or the seat of power was far away, geographically. However, the ordinary people had no major say in these organizations as the feudal lords or their agents in the village had established control over the organizations. Only because these organizations were traditional and indigenous, it would be unscientific to project them as wonderful agencies, detaching them from the socio-economic reality they were in. The “village self-rule” of that time was the rule of landlords. Gradually, the centralized feudal state systems became powerful and these organizations become less effective. Ultimately, their roles were limited to cultural arenas particularly after 1768, when a process got acceleration to establish a unified and multi-cultural Nepalese state.

 

There is need of studying participation of people in the past by differentiating their role in techno-physical area and socio-political area. The modern day ‘development masters’ use to classify people’s role in techno-physical area as contribution. The physical and technical participation could be in the form of money, materials or labor. The people provide labor and this is great participation from them as that is only what they have to spare for the general good of larger community. May it be Lichhivi’s time (Panchali), or Ranas (Jhara system) or Panchayat (Gaon Pharka), the producers of the common social assets including facilities and services are the people and people alone, that too from lower strata of economic hierarchy. Hence, this should be taken as people’s committed participation.

 

The people’s participation in socio-political decisions was never effective as they were directly or indirectly barred from being present in this critical process. Only in exception in larger political movements, particularly in agitations, people participated. However, when the movement got some sort of conclusion, the same people were thrown into the dust bin.

 

Who are the people? There is the need of defining them. The word “people” in social development do not include the entire population. The word has contextual meaning depending on time and space. In contemporary Nepal, the term includes oppressed classes, groups, sections including Dalits and women. Therefore, the participation discussed above is primarily the participation of people as mentioned here. Similar to “people”, the word “participation” also has become the victim of ‘intellectual’ distortion. They define participation that includes the mix of Conscientization and empowerment. Conscientization and empowerment are not the branches of participation. However, all these three social processes and individual attainments influence one another and build networks at the higher level of capability spiral.  It is absolutely necessary to understand the differences and inter-relations among these three transformational components of the society as well as that of individual.

 

The government of Nepal has set a long term goal in ninth Five Year Plan and that is poverty alleviation (RAYOAA 2055 v. s.: 62).  The goal is important. Around this goal, the government, people and the NGOs could come together. Making their participation most meaningful, it would be necessary to elaborate the types of poverty, the people usually are in. There are three types of poverty – being unable to meet basic human needs, lack of minimum capabilities and social exclusion. However, the political leaders, bureaucrats and NGO professionals over simplify poverty and make it a slogan that suits their proposal to solicit funds.

 

The mass movements that brought some change in 1950 or in 1979 or in 1990 were participated in by a large number of people and, at least, partial success of such movements was due to their effective presence. This is most unfortunate that when they returned to their respective jobs, the elites either they were politicians, NGO professionals or bureaucrats grabbed the opportunities created by the movements and pocketed all benefits by any means, legal or illegal. The people did not get anything substantial to improve their living conditions.

 

The sad fact here is that there was no relation between investment and returns. People invested their time, energy, sweats, blood and sometimes their precious lives. However, in return, they got quite insignificant, if any, whereas the creamy layer pocketed the benefits without scarifying anything important and valuable. Hence, when there is no return, the participation becomes meaningless. Here appears the need of establishing relationship between participation and empowerment, so as to bring justice into play.

 

  1. Empowerment

 

Empowerment is primarily a feeling that has been based on confidence and capability, which gets expression in dealing with certain situations and conditions. As it is feeling, it has been influenced by the context and intensity. Time and space also play critically important roles. The empowerment exercises differ with any other attempts originated from the contextual behavior in two areas. First, they may be spontaneous responses or planned acts; however, they are genuinely driven by the conscience and decision of the driver. Second, the driver may or may not be that much free to select a course from among many alternatives; however, when he or she selects that particular course, the course will have the power to proceed with full, total and unconditional involvement of the driver. R. Loboute defines empowerment as the capacity of someone to decide on his or her role in life and could make definition, analysis and actions (in Scambler 1993: 252).

 

Empowerment, whether it is related to consciousness or capacity or practice, deals with the following four factors:

 

  • Access to information and understanding of possibilities and limitations.
  • Capacity to analyzing facts, exploring possibilities and ability to select right course from available alternatives.
  • Progressive outlook that enables to undertake meaningful efforts to explore and find out the laws of individual or social change.
  • Courage as individual, group, class or organization to take responsibility to select future course.

These qualities may not be available simply by “production of services”, “literacy classes” and management of “people’s drinking water projects”, though these are helpful activities. These activities might provide environment for empowerment, but these activities alone may not empower people. Empowerment gets enriched through the process of participation of an individual or people in the movements that are launched against social and political inequalities, injustices, exploitations, oppressions and discriminations. Empowerment could be attained through participatory learning and actions in the process of radical social change and societal transformation. There will have no major impact of said empowerment in absence of organization or intellectual enrichment or prosperity. If all three factors are there, then that is the wholesome empowerment; however, if only is present, still it has the basic requirement for empowered behavior. Hence, discussion on education, organization and prosperity becomes quite necessary.

 

Empowerment Education:  This is a journey, which begins with knowledge generation and helps to understand social, economic, political and scientific qualities of an individual or group or section or class or society. These qualities might have been inherited, acquired or adopted. This enhances capacities to learn from past actions, guides present activities and help finding out appropriate future course. Empowerment education though was there always in an abstract form accelerating the learning process in a spontaneous way, was consciously and overtly initiated by Paulo Frere since the decade of 1950s in South America. The education he taught was the education that promoted people’s liberation and built capacities to analyze the situation objectively and taught laws of change and the process to conduct the movements for social change. This way of educating people had power to change individual as well as social reality. After Frere’s days of active teaching, his devotees and disciples appeared all over the world. In this part of the world devotes dominated disciples.

 

A bilateral donor provided financial support to an INGO to spread literacy classes in 72 out of 75 districts in Nepal. Many Nepali intellectuals and traditional educationists jumped in this band wagon and started to project this exercise as eradication of ignorance. Afraid of this flood and misinterpretation of empowerment education, some Nepali Frere’s followers started to organize seminars to promote Frerian education. However, these employees of NGOs and INGOs who had no connection with people and had not participated in the people’s movement for social emancipation pretended that they were champions of empowerment education. These 5 star Frerians had been raising the banner in different names to ensure their own employment and to complete their researches. However, those who practice empowerment education do not see themselves as liberator of people; rather they commit themselves to fight for emancipation by being together with the oppressed (Frere 1970: 21).

 

In Nepal, in retrospection, it has been found that when the movement for social change had been accelerated, the empowerment education had got intensity and expansion. During the period between 1930 and 1950, when there was anti-Rana mass movement at its height, the issue of civil rights had come to the fore front. The awareness on civil rights had been heightened to a high level that created fertile ground for democratic movement. The political parties like Prachanda Gorkha, Praja Parishad, Nepali Congress and Nepal Communist Party had been involved in the activities that made people politically aware and strengthen their organizations. These parties launched political movements and people who participated in got excitement, ownership and a sense of power. In that initial phase, the parties had not tasted blood of people and were quite empathetic towards people.

 

Also, during the anti-Panchayat as well as anti-monarchy movement that started in 1960 and continued till 1990, people passed through a critical phase of empowerment education. The leaders and some cadres of Nepali Congress were in exile in India. A few were in jail. The leaders and cadres of the Communist Party of Nepal either were underground or they had hidden their identity as communist and had been active staying over-ground. Some of their leaders and cadres also were in jail. They were quite studious. Particularly, the communists had a reading and debating culture. They were argumentative and logical. In this process both the congress and communists developed critical understanding of the Nepali reality and share their new found wealth of knowledge with people. They launched several movements and the people also got exposed to political reality and gained knowledge through the process of learning by doing. The political cadres, particularly the communists used to analyze the successes and failures of the movements and they used that experience to launch another movement from a higher plain. This way, they passed through a process of gaining empowered education by acquiring critical knowledge.

 

However, after getting control over the state power, many leaders and cadres of that time utilized their critical knowledge, debating skill and information processing power to get access to ways and means of corruption, to camouflage their illegal financial deals and acquire wealth and capture opportunities. Although the people were more informed and organized, they had to stay on the sidelined, once again.

 

The empowerment education that advocates for radical social and political change is not possible in absence of the theory and practice of mass movements directed towards human emancipation. In this context, it is only natural that the political or semi political organizations could play vital roles. The class organizations, grassroots level people’s organizations and activist NGOs could support the process of societal transformation. However, the donors either they be multilateral or bilateral or INGOs could only provide effective service extension activities and technical skills such as vocational skills, literacy, etc. They should limit their expectations and should take themselves out from making tall claims such teaching empowerment education, bringing radical change in the society, empowering people, etc. These are too big for their narrow throat passages to swallow.

 

Prosperity: One of the major obstacles of empowerment is poverty. Fifty-nine percent people in Nepal had been living under poverty line in 1997 (UNDP 1998). Equitable economic development is a precondition of empowerment in countries like Nepal. In response to a field researcher’s question of the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD), a Zimbabwean woman said, “We do not have anything. We have no money, no equipments and no essential materials. Due to famine this year, we do not have food and drinking water and our cattle are dying. Now, we have just our hands with us. You are telling us to take care of ourselves. We are ready to work whole day. However, without any productive resources, our all efforts would be meaningless. (in Vivian 1994: 185).  This illustration reveals the side of the story of the people. This is quite clear that empowerment has direct relationship with economic prosperity. Empowerment will be a hallow slogan where there is no prosperity, social justice and availability of basic services. Poverty blocks the process of empowerment. Basically, poverty is the state of centralization and improper utilization of power and resources. Therefore, sustainable prosperity could be attained by decentralizing power and resources (Korten 1995: 179). How the redistribution could be done? This depends on the existing political environment of a country. Major responsibilities lie on the political will of the system that governs the country and the society. Eighty-one percent Nepali people depend on agriculture (CBS 1998). A large majority of economically poor families live in rural areas. If agricultural land could be redistributed on the principle of “land to the tiller”, minimum wage system and constitutional right to work have been introduced; in that situation, the major issues that surround to rural impoverishment could be addressed. Hence, the movement to empower people in rural areas should take into account these critical issues. The class and communities should come forward to lead such movements that could bring tangible change in their lives.

 

Those who motivate people and support to raise 10 chicken birds and talk loud that they are empowering people are misleading the people. They should refrain from creating illusions. The activities of some improvement such a keeping a few cattle are not bad at all, but the creation of dreams not attainable through such means is not good at all. The NGOs or INGOs involved in distribution of such dreams should understand that without structural change in the society, no community will be empowered. This task of structural change needs social and political interventions and by participating in such process, particularly in the movement that addresses the change in dynamics of power structure and redistribution of resources, people could be empowered.

 

Organization:  Organization is one of the most important factors for empowerment. Any organization includes three important elements – affiliation, interaction and unity. Organization is a mix of affiliation, interaction and unity for relatively a longer period of time. Organizations play different roles and may have different types of structures (Janvry at el 1995: 4). Their roles make them different and decide their nature accordingly, either as progressive or regressive. The organizations may be official or nonofficial, and legal or non legal or illegal.  They could be political or social or militant. However, in the context of empowerment, the organizations stand for social justice, equality, equity, societal transformation and social change. These organizations help people to change for better. The empowerment process starts taking shape together with the movements that people participate in consciously and willingly. The organizations play very important roles as they expand the role of people (Ricker 995: 97), enhance their capacities and develop mechanisms to launch social movements by being together (Korten 1995: 97).

 

The picture of the organization in context of empowerment in Nepal is gloomy. The much appreciated organizations of the past like Sithis and Guthis were also the instruments of oppressors. Hence, the praise does not go together with their contributions, which hardly was positive.

 

After the establishment of Arya Samaj, the first generation empowerment organizations came into existence. The social and political organizations gradually started to make people socially and politically aware. They organized them and launched several glorious movements from 1930 to 1950.  The political parties and activist social organizations inserted the idea of civil liberty, social dignity and political freedom among the masses and the people revolted against the tyrannical Rana regime. In the process of revolt, they learned many valuable lessons, which created a base for them for going forward in acquiring empowerment education by participating in actions and analyzing the outcomes.

 

The analysis above brings three factors – critical awareness and education, prosperity and activist organizations, together for empowerment. This is the expression of power, capacity and objectivity in actions. Also, this is a complex political and social process. It is naïve to oversimplify or make it a slogan. In practical term, empowerment could become a reality when the power relationship gets changed radically.

 

 

  1. Cultural Diversity and Partnership Building

Finding out differences between superstitions, unscientific traditional practices, religious beliefs, customs decreed by kings and feudal practices and the culture is complicated, difficult and confusing. Therefore, it is easy to talk about culture; however, it is quite difficult to define. It is equally difficult to understand its diversities and inclusivity so as to build solidarity and partnership among cultures. Hence, in this section, an attempt has been made to define culture, to understand cultural diversity and to examine the process that promotes partnership between and among cultures.

 

Defining Culture

 

Culture has its primary root in experiences of several generations of a particular nationality. The fountain of culture originates from these experiences, which enriches collective consciousness that breeds collective behavior of a certain pattern, both individually and socially. This process continues through a mechanism of reconstruction and enrichment. The influences of practices and changed social environment create new ground for new customs, belief systems and new sets of collective thinking and behaviors. Through this process of renewal, regeneration, discovery and inclusions, the irrelevant ingredients disappear and relevant ones get entry. South Commission includes values, customs, norms, languages, social attitudes, belief systems and traditions within the broader meaning of culture (South Commission, 1990: 131). Moreover, culture also includes the philosophical aspect of social life.

 

In traditional societies like that in Nepal, culture has been understood as a mechanical mixture of the core elements as mentioned above and the rituals, feudal codes and middle age practices formulated, introduced and enforced by Brahmin priests, feudal lords including the kings and shamans in the villages with the sole purpose of strengthening the control over the society and maintaining supremacy of their caste, nationality and class and to ensure male domination. Hence, it should be noted here that there are two distinctively different types of components in the mixture. The first type is that which promotes scientific outlook and behaviors and advances social change by supporting progressive values and practices. The second type stands for status quo or even for regression.

 

The culture, in summary, is the way of life that enriches itself through the process of continued practices that transform consciousness and again that new consciousness translates itself into new practices and the process goes on. The cultural attributes of the old and new cultures are constantly in struggle and the individual or the society or the entire nationality or a nation see regression or transformation, when one set of cultural attributes win.

 

Diversity

 

The culture has been continuing by adopting the changes made suitable to respective societies, communities, nations and classes.  The fundamental thought processes and the behavioral response of human being have several similarities, which had been reflected as common themes in their practices. If a person dies, there are differences in final rites. However, there is similarity in paying final respect to the dead person. The methods may differ. Either they cremate, bury or offer the dead body to birds by making it into pieces assuming that the birds would carry the soul from that body to heave. The methods differ according to the places, environment and beliefs systems.  When nations and nationalities came into existence, the differences become more and more stark.

 

The cultural streams that could be found in Nepal also are the successors of different cultural offshoots of different races. The Aryans had started the division of labor and created four Varnas (castes) to put the right person in right place. The people rich in rote power were put at a basket as Brahmin, fighters as Chhetris, occupational experts as Baishya and service deliverers as Sudra. In the beginning, no one was Brahmin or Sudra by birth. The quality of a person and the desire on him was the entry point to train him on that division of work. However, the clever ones changed the rule of the game in due course of time and it became a hierarchical social system attached to somebody’s birth. The son of a Brahmin was a Brahmin and the son of a Sudra was Sudra. The Brahmins were considered most pious and were considered at the top of the caste ladder, whereas Sudras were at the bottom. The Brahmin enjoyed every good thing in life and the Sudras were pushed as untouchables without any right and privileges other than to serve the higher caste and survive on their mercy. This way the Aryans, which means “tiller” got a new meaning and became “aristocrat” or “supreme” (Nehru 1946: 84).

 

The Aryans considered the other races such as Dravidians and Mongols inferior and discriminated against them.  However, they had some interactions among them and they also mutually influenced each others.

 

The Aryan’s caste system got entry into Nepal together with the invading Lichchhavi kings. However, the Lichchhivis failed to conquer MongolKirat culture prevalent in this part.  A two-way process of assimilation helped to develop a new composite culture. The rise of the Newar culture in Kathmandu valley was the product of this assimilation process.

 

 

Unity in Diversity 

 

Nepal is a multicultural country. Many scholars have studied about cultural riches of Nepal. However, there are a few comparative studies regarding the relationships among cultures. The cultural nature of Nepali state is very much reflective of Bahunbad, which makes Nepal a Hindu theocratic state. The evidences that led to such conclusion include the constitutional provision that declares Nepal a Hindu kingdom[5]. The Civil Criminal Code has been based on Hindu customs and values. It is strange that in a country where such a large number of indigenous people reside together with Buddhists and Muslims, the state has openly declared itself a Hindu state. There are a few disciples of Swami Prapannacharyas and his Hindu disciples of MangolKirat nationalities, but their number is too small to influence the overall socio-religious composition. Similarly, the state has made Khas dress – Daura-Suruwal for men and Sari-Cholo for women, national dresses. The Khas Kura, later known as Nepali has been made the official language. There are many examples of discrimination against non-Khas nationalities.

 

While analyzing cultural context in social development, it is not possible to limit itself within the boundaries of cultural characteristics of high castes, high classes and more particularly the Hindu-Aryan culture in Nepal. One should go beyond Khas culture to understand the larger picture.

 

There are different cultural streams in Nepal. The cultures of higher class and working class; the cultures of high caste and Dalits as well as indigenous people and the cultures of people of Aryan origin and non-Aryan origin have been in constant struggle against each other for centuries. In other words, the ruling elites of high caste Aryan male and large majority of common people of different class, caste, nationality or gender have been involved in a vigorous fight. The comparison of the lives of women of Khas and MangolKirats explains volumes in regard to cultural perceptions of two different nationalities. If a village girl of Khas family goes on her own on a function in a night without getting permission from her parent and returns the next morning; she would be, most probably, charged as characterless, irresponsible, disobedient and many more. If a MongolKirat girl does the same, the next morning she will also face the wrath of her mother and would be scolded. However, she will not be charged as being characterless, disobedient and irresponsible but for her failure to inform that she would not return in the night. The difference in perceptions makes the charges different and the lives of girls also are different. Hence, it is important to understand the cultural difference in perceptions and behaviors so as to understand the differences and possible attributes for adjustments and unity in diversity.

 

The culture of nationalities differs with the culture of a nation and the culture of nations differs with the culture of the world. The culture of a nationality could be more homogeneous, collectively adhered to in uniformity and practiced with zeal and enthusiasm. The culture of a nation, more particularly in a multicultural state has some common elements, but also there are several differences. The culture of the world is a herbarium of national cultures. Very few are similar and a lot more are different. The nationalities have not much problem to adhere to their cultural codes or practices. The world has also not much problems as it is a very loose network of national cultures. The problem, mostly, lies in a multicultural state.

 

In a multicultural state, it is necessary to analyze the commonalities and differences between and among cultures. The differences between the culture of a ruling nationality and other nationalities should be studied thoroughly to understand the issues and intensity of social harmony and contradictions. There are different languages, dress codes, customs, food preferences, festivities, etc. The ruling nationality’s culture dominates others’ and places itself as superior and imposes itself to state codes, practices and behaviors. The Nepali dress code during Panchayat era, the Daura-Suruwal and Kot was imposed on all to wear compulsorily if they were civil servants or Panchayati politicians. It was designed by the Khas ancestors for the cold climate. In the southern plain with above 46 degree Celsius temperature, wearing this Khas dress was not less than a punishment.  The mass movement of 1990 liberated common civil servants and ordinary politicians from this punishment. After 1990, only the ministers and high level bureaucrats wear Daura-Suruwal-Kot to hide their body nourished with money accumulated through corrupt practices. The same result will come out if “national animal”, “national heroes”, are included in the discussion. The Nepali ‘history’ is the account of the luxury and cruelty of the Kings. If history restudied and rewritten based on evidences, several Khas heroes will disappear and new heroes from several oppressed nationalities may crop up.

 

With a few exceptions, there are five nationalities in Nepal – Khas, Madhesi, MangolKirat, Dalit and Newar. The Dalits have a common ancestry with Khas, However, the differences between them originated from the differences in their social psychology, social hierarchy and customs made them different nationalities. According to Baburam Acharya, the Newars in the valley came into existence in 15th century by the assimilation of several sects, groups, cultures and languages that were in existence the Kathmandu valley that time (in Bista 1991: 40). MangolKirats are the indigenous inhabitants of Nepal and they were here since pre-historical time.  Although, they seem divided now in several sub-nationalities such as Limbu, Rai, Tamang, Magar, Gurung, Sherpas, etc, they have the same basic cultural foundation. The Madhesis included the people of Tarai origin together with Tharu and Dimal, who have the origin in MangolKirat. Only because there are several languages or because of several cultural branches, it could not be said that there are hundreds of nationalities in Nepal. Such small groups of people could be sub-nationalities or linguistic groups.

 

Unity in diversity starts from developing and understanding of all five cultures and respecting them as equal. Finding out the binding elements among them, acknowledging differences as normal and natural and promoting dialogue among cultures so as to build unity in diversity or creating a union of cultures are the tasks that need to strengthen a multicultural platform for cohabitation as harmoniously as possible. The state should play a role of harmonizer. Alternatively, if the state sides with a particular culture, the other cultures certainly resist and the animosity increases.

 

The Nepali language, originally known as Khas Kura, could be another good example. There are more than 100 languages in Nepal. Nepali was the mother language of 48.7% people in 1952 (Nepal Academy, 1960: 9,) whereas in 1991 it increased to 50.31% (CBS, 1998). The percentage of people, who speak Nepali as their mother tongue has increased by 1.61% in 40 years. The data on people using Nepali as medium of communication among different linguistic groups is not available. Some participatory rural appraisal exercises of a very small scale carried out in two villages in Madhes, one village in Kathmandu and one village in Bhojpur revealed that more than 84% people understand Nepali and more than 80% could speak. The results of these exercises could not be constructed as representative data as sample size was tiny, however, it is clear that a large majority of people in Nepal could understand and speak Nepali. The language has three basic functions – exchange of ideas, expression of culture and feeling of pride. If it is possible by speaking in Nepali, this should grasp and internalize the specialties of other languages. This could be done if Nepali gets out of Sanskrit dominion and Khas rule. Tara Nath Sharma and his friends had brought the issues of reform of Nepali grammar and also they advocated for indigenization of it.  If the issues could be addressed properly, there is high chance of Nepali language getting acceptance as a common language of Nepal. When Nepali language becomes the medium of common communication, gradually other languages may take rest in history books by completing their historic role.

 

The international dimension of culture is not much different from the cultural processes of multicultural states. The same example of Nepali language as mentioned above could be applicable for English in international arena. People feel good or bad; English has been expanding its sphere of influence in all parts of the globe. This language has been progressing as the medium of exchange of ideas and communications. The southern provinces in India are in advantageous position in the human resource market in the world. One among the major reason is their better knowledge of English and mathematics.   The people who oppose English would not be in a profitable position any more. One fine morning, Nepali language also may take rest in history books when all its functions will be taken over by English.

 

Here, Vikram Sambat or calandar could be another example. The Vikram calendar was started to celebrate the victory of an Indian King Vikramaditya. Now, it has become Nepal’s ‘National calendar’. It is strange. Moreover, Some Newa organizations in Kathmandu have been raising the banner of ‘Nepal Sambat’. Not only for future, but for today itself it is extremely important to accept the role of Gregorian calendar. Today, the computer applications run on Gregorian calendar and computer application run the lifeline of individuals and nations. In this globalized world, Gregorian calendar has been commonly used by a very large majority of states. Countries like China and India changed to Gregorian calendar from their indigenous calendar. However, the Nepali rulers are happy continuing the futureless Vikram calendar as one of the base of culture and are creating all sorts of difficulties for the citizens.

 

The leaders, both in culture and politics should have perspectives and vision. Narrow mindedness is always regressive. Also, throwing away the identity is entirely wrong. Therefore, in such issues there is not much place for emotions. One should examine the situation to find out alternative courses. Finally, there should be forward movement so as to create a bright future. If someone uses a telescope, which reaches to 2100 A.D., most likely, there would be no Nepali language in use, forget about Vikram Sambat.  The same would be applicable to our several indigenous languages. Most probably, the major languages such as Mandarin Chinese, Hindi, Japanese, French, German, etc also would be at last legs of their historic journey. Our cultural thinking, vision and horizon must be fertile from such prospects and dreams.

 

In summary, the analysis above refers to three conclusions in regard to culture. First, culture has nationality at its core, but is divided into several classes, genders and groups.  Second, respecting cultural diversity and identity is the issue of paramount importance. However, the cultural practices that have no future should be discontinued in a way they disappear as normally and naturally as possible.  Third, the cultural specialties at indigenous level, state level and international level might have commonalities and differences. The differences should be respected and should be observed differently by respective nationalities and nations and multicultural states.

 

Culture not only influences human behavior, but also it affects their fundamental understanding of social relationships. Hence, culture is one of the central elements of development strategy (South Commission 1992: 132). The writers, artists, poets, journalists, media and social workers could play vital role in enriching cultural behaviors and discovering areas of harmonious multicultural cohabitation. The Nepali cultural professionals and activists could immensely contribute to reject Bahunbadi culture based on fatalistic beliefs and values, to promote multiculturalism and to defeat Khas domination in the society and state.

 


 

  1. Social Services

 

Effectively managed social services are important components in any types of development processes. Social services got recognition as essential ingredients of welfare state. Michael Hill has classified personal care services, education, health services, employment and housing as social services (Hill, 114-201). In Nepal, health services, education, employment and housing are considered as social services.

 

Health: The health situation in Nepal lacks understanding, infrastructure, resources and skills. Health facilities are generally absent in rural areas. The general health conditions of the people could be summarized in the following tables.

 

Description Situation 1997 Government’s Goal 2003 Government’s goal 2018
Infant Mortality Rate 74.7 61.5 34.4
Under 5 Mortality Rate 118 102.3 62.5
Gross Reproduction Rate (per woman) 4.58 4.2 3.05
Life Expectancy 56.1 59.7 68.7
Maternal Mortality Rate (per 10000 live births) 47.5 40 25
Contraceptives Users (%) 30.1 36.6 58.2
Delivery by Trained Attendant 31.5 50 95
Infants less than 2.5 KG at birth 23 12
Crude Death Rate (per 1000) 11.5 9.6 6
Crude Birth Rate (Per 1000) 35.4 33.1 26.6

 

Source: RAYOAA, 2055 V.S. 609.

 

The statistics presented above reflect the sorry situation of the health condition of the people. These are government statistics and the general belief is that government manufactures data so as to make picture rosy. If a rosy picture is this, it could be easily imagined how gloomy the picture could be in reality. Hence, it is not desirable, but absolutely necessary to take corrective measures immediately. These corrective measures may include but not limited to increasing local control over management of primary health care services, improving and expanding service delivery mechanism, building new infrastructure, introducing technologies to enhance capacities and emphasizing on research and development linking these initiatives to local, national as well as scientific needs.

 

Education: Similarly, education is another critical social service area that needs immediate attention. The situation in this area is not much different than that in health sector. The table below provides information on some critical variables.

 

 

Description Situation 1997 Government’s Goal 2003 Government’s Goal 2018
Enrolment Rate at Primary Level (%) 69.4 90 100
Enrolment Rate at Lower Secondary Level (%) 50.3 55 85
Enrolment Rate Secondary Level (%) 34.7 45 75
Literacy Rate 48 70 100

 

Source: RAYOAA, 2055 V.S. 563, 570, 572, 573.

 

Social private sector has also been involved in education services for a long time. Recently, private sector also has stepped in. The local control over public educational institutions has been weakened after the introduction of the America-guided and funded new education system. Now, there is a need of reactivating and strengthening local control. The formal education system is based on rote learning.   This should be changed and interactive learning from early childhood should be implemented. Higher educational institutions have become production centers for unmarketable graduates. Such situation should be changed radically.

 

Employment: Employment is the most important base for self reliance. Employment has direct role in reducing poverty and also it plays vital role in socialization and integration. The employment scenario in Nepal could be reflected by the data presented in the table presented below.

 

Description Situation 1997 Government’s Goal 2003 Government’s Goal 2018
Total labor Force 11.669 million
Population Below Poverty Line (%) 42 31 10
Unemployed (%) 4.9 4 3
Semi-unemployed (%) 47 32 10
Employment in Agriculture of Total Employed (%) 81
Employment in Industries, Mines, Electricity and Construction of Total Employed (%) 5
Employment in Trade. Tourism, Transport, Finance, Realty Sector Social Services of Total Employed (%) 14

 

Source: RAYOAA, 2055 V.S. 66, 188, 195, 197.

 

One of the critical factors contributing to poverty is semi-employment or under employment or disguised employment. Eighty-one percent of active workforce depends upon agriculture for employment Due to unavailability of water and fertile land, this activity is highly seasonal. Hence, disguised employment becomes equal to semi-employment.  Redistribution of land with the policy of “land to the tillers”, increasing labor productivity through education and training, improving management capacity of private and public sector, diversifying manufacturing base, introducing commercial farming and improvement in quality of hospitality businesses are the most important areas for Nepal that could generate employment, rationalize resource ownerships, increase labor productivity and open options for prosperity.

 

Housing and Settlement Development: Housing as well as human settlement development is one among the priorities as in Nepal a house has an extended meaning that includes shelter, insurance, collateral, social prestige and many more. Planned settlement development could help arranging services cost effectively.

It has been estimated that there are 2.7 million houses, whereas in 1981, there were 3.287 million households. Sixty-one percent of the population has no access to comparatively safe drinking water and 16% of the population has no sanitation facility including toilet (CBS, 1998: 5, RAYOAA, 2055 V.S.: 238, 643).

There is no possibility of extending services to the far away settlements inhabited by 4-5 households; rather it is possible if they are in a reasonably large settlement. It has been estimated that now in Nepal there are more than 64000 human settlements spread over all geographical regions including high altitude areas, remote hills and valleys reachable in two-three days from another cluster. It is possible that in coming 50 years, these settlements could come down to less than 8000. In that case, services could be made available. If the thin population moves to compact settlements, those vacated areas could be once again covered by greeneries. The horticultural farms could come into existence in large scale. If there is good network of transport including roads, ropeways and airports, it is possible that the hills and mountains could bring greenery, serenity and prosperity back. A farmer could have his or her breakfast at his home in Dang in south-western Nepal, could take a cable car to reach to Jumla in north-west, harvest apples and several verities of flowers, puts the harvest in a sack, sends the sacks to Dang through ropeway and comes back home in the evening to his home at Dang using the cable car. This sounds dream now but when it happens, it happens wonderfully.  In that case, several cargo planes may be waiting at Nepalgunj airport to transport the fruits and flowers to several South Asian, East Asian, European, American and African destinations.

 

The recent trend of migration from rural areas to towns would make this possibility a reality. The government and nongovernment agencies see these trends as negative mobility, whereas that is a positive trend. They have to formulate policies that are helpful to support people’s desire for better future. Planned settlement developments, appropriate farm activities for vacated areas and building physical infrastructure should be the policy responses of the government.

 

In summary, the functional mechanisms and deliverables in regard to social services in Nepal could be best described as unacceptable. The services are either absent or not well managed. People are in desperate need of such services and government responses are none to inadequate. To march to 21st century, there must be better responses both in sensibility and service delivery.

 


 

Chapter Four

 

Goals, Approaches and Methods

 

The most important goal of any social development initiative is to support, accelerate and achieve radical social change that brings equity, equality and justice into full play ensuring their sustenance and continuing to achieve even qualitatively better standards and higher levels. To attain such goal or any other related sub-goals, there are four approaches, which complement each other and align all efforts and energy to one direction. They are as mentioned below.

 

  • Social actions and movements
  • Pressure generation, advocacy and positive intervention
  • Participation and support
  • Community development

 

  1. Social Actions and Movements

 

The social and political organization in Nepal had generally adopted this approach from 1936 to 1959. The examples include the activities of “Arya Samaj”, “Gorkha League”, “Nepali Nagarik Adhikar Samiti” and “Praja Parishad”. The Bara peasant movement of 1953 is one among the shining example of this approach.  During that feudal period, the landlords used to call agriculture workers by adding a derogatory term “Re” before calling their names in a distorted form. For example, instead of addressing a certain person as “Mr. Lakhan” or simply “Lakhan”; they used to address him as “Re Lakhania”. The Bara chapter of the peasant association opposed such name calling and asked the landlord to address the peasants and agriculture laborers as “Mr. Lakhan” or “Lakhan ji” in local language. In that feudal social setting, this was a very radical demand and the feudal lords rejected it out right. The peasants of Bara and Rautahat district started protest programs including demonstrations and strikes. This became a fight between the landlords and peasants. The law enforcement authority of the state sided with the landlords and the movement progressed as an anti-government mass movement. The expansion and intensity of the movement was unprecedented. The peasant leaders were arrested, there was blood shed, but finally the movement compelled the landlords to stop using derogatory terms.  The landlords signed an agreement accepting that from that date they will address the peasants and agriculture workers respectfully (Jyapu 2046: 19-21). The same year, at Ratmata village in Pyuthan district, the local youths organized under the banner of “Progressive Study Group” had been running a training camp for 150 youths. During their field visit at Narikot village, local peasants shared with the youths the injustices at the hands of the landlords they were suffering from.  The youths had some exchanges with the landlords. The landlords were angry against them. The local peasants also got agitated and there was full scale fight between the peasants and the landlords. The fight continued for a week. Finally, the landlords accepted that there was injustice against the peasants and they signed a commitment paper that they will not repeat their mistakes in future. They agreed all other demands too put forward by the peasants (Singh 2046: 9-17).

 

All movements aiming for emancipation of oppressed classes, nationalities and genders (including the third gender) mobilize people around certain issues. One of the fine examples of such movement is the Chipko movement of north India. In 1921 people of Kumao in the northern state of Uttarakhanda, started a movement to save their forests. To protect their forests from commercial exploitations, the people used protest demonstrations, sit-ins, road blocks, mass arrests, and hunger strikes etc as methods of their struggle. When the contractors used to come too cut down the trees, the local people used to go to the forest and stand with the targeted tree hugging it.  This was called “Chipko” meaning hug a tree as tightly as possible. This made the work of contactors impossible. Moreover, the famous environmentalist Sundarlal Bahuguna covered a foot journey of 4000 kilometers from Kashmir to Kanyakumari in far south in India. During the later years, the “Save Narmada movement”, which had the goal to save Narmada River and protect people residing alongside the river in the Namada valley by opposing the large dam project, also used the Chipko tactics and methods (Gadgil et al 1994: 120-22). These examples make it clear that there are several methods used in social actions and movements.

 

The above mentioned methods have been in use in Nepal too. One of the most effective movement is the student movement, which has been continuously raising the issues of improvement in education system, quality of teaching and teaching materials as well as curriculum and also change in political system that should upheld democracy, civil liberty, justice and equality. The students played vital roles in organizing mass movements in 1947, 1965, 1979 and 1990. Also, the political parties failed in mobilizing the peasantry, encouraged the youthful students to participate in political movements sometimes at the cost of their study. This act sidelined the need of availing quality education to them.

 

The method of social action and movement has been utilized for struggles as mentioned below.

 

  • Land redistribution movements targeting “Land to the tiller” and ensuring everyone gets basic minimum wage.
  • The ideological and political movements that oppose Bahunbad based on fatalism and promote progressive and egalitarian social values.
  • Student’s movements for scientific and affordable education.
  • Worker’s movements for reasonable wage, better quality work place and skill improvement.
  • Women’s movements for equality and justice.
  • Dalit’s movements launched for abolition of cruelty including untouchability and against exclusion, injustices and oppression.
  • Nationality’s emancipation struggles launched by Dalits, MangolKirats and Madhesis against the domination of Khas.

Local voluntary organizations including CBOs, class organizations, activist NGOs and political parties could take this approach to attain the social development goals.

 

  1. Participation and support

 

Now, Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) has become a ritual for ‘development professionals’. This has become a means for their development. The autocratic managers of the social development agencies have been acting as champions of PRA. The well-known villains, who are notorious for corrupt practices have been projecting themselves as the ‘development catalysts’.  PRA has become, somehow, meaningless but quite popular same as Nepalese democracy. It has become wonderful earning means for a good number of high flying intellectuals. The ‘development pundits’ have misused the term for their self-interest.

 

PRA is a process that empowers people. This is a combination of dialogue, analysis, interaction and reflections. This process could be bilateral or multilateral. This is a serious exercise, which adds value.  Also, PRA provides understanding, skills and tools to transform the collective energy into consciousness, organization and practice. However, in Nepal the PRA people talk about and teach is one sided, superficial and value neutral. The common people are spending energy and time in exercises that have no relevance to the reality they are in and the process of change they need to accelerate. The NGOs, researchers and trainers should go through a process of introspection and should objectively evaluate the roles they are playing in relation to social change and PRA.

 

When the project is under design phase, the people have nominal roles. The NGOs, INGOs or government or semi-government agencies prepare project proposal to get funding from the donors. By the time it gets approved, the goals and objectives are already set, timelines have been determined and the implementation mechanisms finalized. After completing these steps, the ‘development workers’ go to the people asking for their participation. The involvement of people, if any, starts from that point. That involvement too is primarily becomes the involvement of the elites of the villages as they are vocal and smell well.

 

PRA is not limited to a few meetings neither it is problem identifying technique. This is a continuous process that ensures mutual exchange of ideas, information, and skills and collaboratively develops techniques. The meetings, maps drawn on the ground, dialogues, rankings etc all are flowers, but the PRA is a colorful garland made from all the flowers as mentioned here. Continuity of attempts and exercises and heightened level of mutual understanding that result into empowered feeling and enhanced capacities are the outputs of value adding PRA.

 

The NGOs and INGOs demand transparency from people whereas they keep secret what they should be sharing with them. They block information, particularly about the financial details of the projects. The people equally deserve to know what level of participation the NGOs and INGOs are ready for. The NGOs and INGOs, hence, should make clear their limitations and level of participation whether it be resources or skills. This proposition refers to mutually agreed upon common rules for all. Hence, the practice of NGOs and INGOs keeping the information related to them under a wet rug and demanding transparency from the side of people that too in the name of ‘people’s participation’ is naturally immoral. Needing all these improvements and overcoming their limitations, the NGOs and INGOs, bilateral and multilateral agencies and social development programs of the government have been utilizing this approach for the following issues.

 

  • Agricultural productivity, diversifications and expansion of market and services
  • Skill development and market management
  • Project planning, monitoring and evaluation
  • Empowerment of community organizations
  • Environmental protection at local level
  • Evaluation of donor agencies in social services market, etc.

Community Development

 

In the context of Nepal, community development is primarily an approach directed to rural development. In urban areas the communities are mainly fragmented already and the large majority of people live in rural areas. Due to these two important reasons, community development is basically understood as rural development in Nepal. The World Bank has defined rural development as a strategy aiming at improving economic and social condition of people in rural areas (in Harriss 1991: 15). Hence, Nepal had introduced several Integrated Rural Development Projects (IRDPs) accepting the World Bank as a specialist of poverty alleviation. Not only large projects funded by bilateral or multilateral donors, but also hundreds of small projects initiated and implemented by INGOs flooded rural Nepal.

 

Nepal had seen its first foreign assistance project in 1951 when United States Aid provided funds to implement some projects under Tribhuvan Rural Development Program. The IRDP was introduced in 1975 with Swiss development cooperation. However, after 47 years of foreign assistance and after 27 years of IRDP experimentation, the above poverty line population (59% in 1995 UNDP, 1998 and 42% in 1997 RAYOAA 2055) shows that the strategy referred to by the World Bank to alleviate poverty has failed. This strategy neither recognizes the structural issues of the rural societies nor does it accept the prevailing socio-economic contradictions in the society. Hence, it is absolutely necessary to accept this strategy with its limitations.

 

The strategy and also the approach of community development could be beneficial in creating physical and social infrastructure, in introducing, improving and expanding services and increasing production by using news kills and technologies. Certainly, such activities will help laying foundation for awareness raising and empowerment. However, these activities alone may not empower people or may not produce any change in the power relationships in the society.

 

The most travelled road of the bilateral and multi lateral agencies and INGOs and NGOS in Nepal is community development. The government development programs also utilize this approach. They may mix some element of participation. However, their catch phrases such as “women’s empowerment”, “social transformation of marginalized people” have nothing to do with what the phrases tell. Ultimately, they are the programs targeted to avail accesses to services. These programs may not bring any fundamental change in power relationships in the society.

 

The community development approach has been in use for the following issues.

 

  • Building physical infrastructure
  • Social services delivery such as education, health, gainful skills and expansions and improvement of human settlements
  • Institutional socio-environmental initiatives and management
  • Enhancing productivity, etc.

The four approaches mentioned above are useful for the issues as mentioned above.  Neither of them is absolutely good or absolutely bad. It depends upon the issues.  Also, it is related to the traveler. The approach useful for a political party may not be useful for an INGO. Under the influence of David Korten, some of the service contract agencies talk about societal transformation and bringing change in social structure in the society and that is nothing more than a deliberate attempt to mislead people.

 

Social development is a multi-dimensional, bio-polar, complex quantitative and qualitative change of society that is both a process and the result par excellence. Every entity has a role to make the difference according to their specific character and nature.  Even some actors will play negatively. The confrontation between the negative and positive forces and their opposing actions make the emergence of a new society. The intensity and depth of the struggle sets the impetus of the change process in all areas encompassing values, ethics, attitudes, new relationships and new structural arrangements and the society gets transformed.

 


 

Chapter Five

 

Institutional Roles and Relationships

 

Many institutions are actively involved in the social development arena. Each of them might have different roles and areas of contributions, but their presence is visible. The institutions and agencies that have influenced the social change could be classified in following categories.

 

  • Civil Society organizations
  • International non-governmental organizations and development assistance programs
  • Private sector
  • Political parties
  • Government

 

By defining the roles of the institutions and agencies involved not only helps understanding their roles clearly but also makes their contribution focused and meaningful. Hence, it would be quite useful to discuss their roles and relationships.

 

  1. Civil Society Organizations

 

Civil society is a single whole of people’s organizations and movements of diverse nature. It includes local community organizations, NGOs, class organizations, welfare initiatives, professional entities, media and many other non-profits at local level. They get the drive by their own perceptions, collective will, inherent commonalities expressed in their aims and their desire to commit their time, resources and energy for common good. They may differ in size, scope of work, goals, capacities and specialized or general areas of contributions. Civil society is popular politics. However, it is different politics than the power centric nature of general politics. It is not value neutral, non-political or anti-political endeavor.  It opposes non-politicization, non-humanization and consumerism in the society (Shrestha 1997: 52). Deference in roles, deference in objectives and difference in their priorities make the civil society organizations different. They could be classified in the following categories.

 

  • Local voluntary community organizations
  • NGOs
  • Other organizations

Local Voluntary Community Organizations

 

The voluntary sector is quite complex. The large organizations with thousands of dollar budget to small local community initiatives fall within this sector (Etherington 1996: 7). The modern voluntary sector has been active to bring positive change in the conditions of poor, marginalized and suppressed.  Hence, in final analysis, redistribution of power, wealth and position is its goal (Bhatta 1995: 77). In conversational voluntary sector, there are two categories of initiatives. First, the local efforts, organizations and initiatives with their aim to self-help or getting nominal outside help for their betterment, are the core of this sector. Second, they are NGOs that would be discussed after a while.

 

The local voluntary organizations generally come into existence to manage religious, cultural and social functions and to initiate, expand or maintain local facilities and services. The main strengths of these organizations include being small, transparent and locally controlled. Starting from traditional music band to several types of user groups, they have a large spread and they could be organized, semi-organized or loosely connected issue-based networks. These organizations or networks could be very effective in mobilizing human resources and locally available physical resources.  Basically, they are four types of such organizations, which revolve around their work.

 

  • Cultural entities such as Bheja, Guthi, Chumlung, Rodhi, Mankakhala etc.
  • Cooperatives such as Dhukuti, Sajha, saving and credit groups etc.
  • Religious organizations such as Mahayan Bouddha Samaj, Anjuman Islam, Jusuit society, Shree Pashupati Dharmik Samajik Sangh etc.
  • Development organizations such as user groups, consumer groups, service delivery agencies, community associations etc.

Among the initiatives and organizations mentioned above, the large majority is that of development organizations. A large majority of local organizations are called NGOs. Their number was around 15000 in 1999 (RAYOAA V.S. 2053: 699). They are called NGOs because they got registered as NGOs in absence of any laws that governs local community organizations. Moreover, there is no clarity to defining CBOs and NGOs separately. Also, due to desire of prestige, the CBOs call themselves “NGOs”. As a result, many CBOs have become members of NGO Federation Nepal.

 

The forward movement of social development largely depends on local efforts and initiatives. These efforts could be seen in making services and facilities available and launching movements for social transformation. The local organizations are people’s organizations that have local memberships and leaders need to become accountable to people directly and also generate resources in a self-sustaining way (Korten 1995: 187).

 

The role the local organizations have played in the social development arena in Nepal is very important. However, after the inception of large scale integrated rural development projects, these organizations were either off-rooted or were converted to parts of the IRDPs’ project implementation mechanisms such as local service contractors, construction committees, user groups etc. These acts influenced negatively to local self-help mechanisms and displaced them. The same situation could be seen in other acts of international development assistant programs including that of INGOs. The foreign funded projects did not bring new morning to Nepali villages rather they destroyed the survival system and coping mechanism of local people. Moreover, the dependency syndrome started taking its shape in rural areas at the cost of self-confidence among local people.

 

The popular organizations at local levels, either they have been continuing for a long time or are they newly established, have to be cautious to preserve their independence and self-help initiatives. Also, they are at a crossroad from where they have to start a new journey championing the cause of radical social change.

 

The grassroots level local organizations have to identify their prospects and limitations and have to design roadmaps for their relatively long-term journey. Moreover, they have to mobilize and manage resources. They also have to add facilities or services in a way that is compatible to social justice needs by addressing the emancipation aspirations of oppressed people, class, nationalities (MangolKirat, Madhesi, and Dalit) and gender. Otherwise, the fruits of development, if any, will be harvested by the upper class Khas males. The upper class elite will collect benefits in the name of local development. The cultural activists should play major roles in expositing Khas chauvinism and also could help demystifying fatalism.

 

There is a big question mark regarding capacity building of such a large number of local community organizations, that too spread all over the country even having diverse nature and areas of work. To accomplish this task, there is a great need of reaching out to them directly at grassroots level. Also, there should be concrete efforts to enhance their participation to strengthen local democracy, independence and nationalities’ emancipation movements. To build capacities and capabilities of these organizations, the foundation, the people at grassroots should have critical awareness, education and skills. Moreover, it should be appreciated that the fountain of strengths includes understanding of organized community behaviors, enriching self-help attitudes and creating favorable economic base. The activist NGOs, class organizations, political parties etc could play active and effective roles in such activities and programs.

 

Non-Government Organizations

 

The voluntary organizations of the past, particularly of British origin are rechristened as NGOs today. The term “non-government” is the direct translation of the Greek word “anarchist”, meaning “without” or “none”. The British Parliamentary Act of 1601 has mentioned about welfare issues in its preamble.  Lord Macnaghten classified “welfare” in four categories such as relief from poverty, educational development, religious uplift and other community welfare measures (Winfield 1996: 128).  The UN charter also has made provision for affiliation to NGOs as mentioned in Article 71.

 

NGOs are the organizations of social workers, community development professionals, welfare workers, human rights workers, environmental activists, who work for others. They could have one or more objectives. They generally get their legal status by registering under acts that are legislated to govern organized social activities. The other common feature is that they are non-profits. These organizations govern themselves according to their own constitutions and are generally accountable to their members. They are primarily managed by their boards or trustees. Generally, the boards of the NGOs are that of four types – family board, invisible board, staff board and professional’s board (Tondon 1996: 42-46). The family boards, staff board and professional’s boards are clear to understand whereas the invisible board needs brief explaining. In the invisible boards, there could be some family members or friends of the main person who runs the NGO. These sleeping board members have no real interest in the functioning of the NGO.

 

The World Bank, bilateral aid agencies and UN system agencies have projected NGOs as their lovely children. Moreover, they propagate that these NGOs are magic-bullets, whereas there are no proof to justify this proposition (Vivian 1994: 167-191, Eduard et al 1996:5). However, the questions are being raised, today, that how they got legitimacy to represent the people? Is their registration with the state is their basis for representing the people? Are they elected? Or, do they have obtained through mass acceptance resulted by the mass movements they lunched? It is neither moral nor ethical to claim representation simply because they are registered entities. Therefore, in this category there could be service contract agencies (Korten 1995: 185). Many NGOs have been established with the motive of employment or self-employment. These NGOs could play effective roles in delivering services in areas of health, education, building small community facilities and technical skills development at a reasonable service charge. However, they could not bring any desired change in power relationships. Hence, they should refrain from clamming that they are championing the causes of empowerment, Conscientization, sustainable development, social justice or equality. They are the intermediaries between donors and beneficiaries and they should do their jobs as effectively as possible by taking reasonable amount of service charge. It would be most ethical if they become transparent and admit that they are service contract agencies.

 

Although a large percentage of NGOs in Nepal belong to the nature and character as mentioned in previous paragraphs, there are some NGOs, which have participated in the mass movements for change or even elected by their general members. However, as their membership may be too limited to a few hundred making the election a value-neutral exercise. There are exceptions of such exercises also. The Nepal Red Cross Society, Nepal Jaycees etc are functioning in a more democratic way including electing the executives periodically by ensuring fairness and competition. Many other activists NGOs derive their strengths from the movements they participated. The Chipko and Narbada movements in India, Maiti Nepal’s anti-trafficking movements are a few examples that have their credibility established by their movements and public image.

 

The history of Nepali non-government initiatives is full of meaningful contributions. The ancient traditional community organizations such as Guthi, Sithi, Chumlung, Nangkhur, Nogar etc played significant roles in organizing traditional communities and managing services, facilities and recreational needs. However, the open environment that was there after the mass movement of 1990 provided opportunity to NGOs to establish and expand. Hence, the number of NGOs mushroomed.  The inefficiency and corruption in governmental mechanism and frustrations among people provided fertile ground for the intellectuals who were waiting for opportune moment for self-employment and NGOs made them available such outlets. The donors also stepped in with cash and opportunities. The clever politicians doubled themselves as NGO professionals and put colorful hats on their heads. All these factors contributed immensely in increasing the number of NGOs. Hence, religion, culture, welfare, social justice etc did not remain the source of inspiration of NGOs rather self-employment, service contract and imitation became the driving factors. A large majority among the newly emerged NGOs is neither mass membership organizations nor are they voluntary in nature. They are managed by a few individuals under the signboard of executive boards, executive committees etc. Another interesting feature in Nepal is that the small businesses, such as consultancy services and service delivery enterprises registered under Company Act are all seen in the queue of NGOs.

 

The NGOs in Nepal are not transparent particularly in areas of funding support. There is mismatch between what they preach and what they practice. Accountability is generally absent in their glossary when it has to do something with them. They are propagandist in nature and always ready to criticize others. Their leadership style is unique where a leader is an institution on him or her. However, they have strengths too. They have become instrumental in expansion of facilities and have contributed in improving self-employment. A few activist NGOs have also taken the issue of child labor, girls trafficking, women’s rights etc. Also, the human resources involved with NGOs have enhanced their skills and attained better capacities.

 

Many Nepali NGOs, which are delivering better services, would make positive contribution, if they stay on the course and stop pretending that they are people’s organizations striving for equality, freedom and justice. A few Nepali activist NGOs may raise issues of societal change, social justice and equity and also could contribute in that process as long as they remain free from donor domination, petty interests and slogan mongering.  Moreover, they should be transparent, open to mass membership and democratic in their own formation and continuation.

 

Many analysts believe that many Nepali NGOs compete for profit with private sector in a liberal economic system (Dixit, 2055: 4). The “non-profit” tag they have attached with is simply a cosmetic. Moreover, many NGOs are expert in criticizing others and they fail to manage their own house (Edwards et al, 195: 126-27). The Nepali NGOs should reflect on these observations and should learn lessons. The donors’ darlings, which have left their ground, will become history sooner than later. The agencies like NGO Federation, Nepal could help NGOs to be responsive to criticism, to re-examining their actions realistically and to rectifying them periodically.

 

Other Organizations

 

The class organizations, professional organizations and media could play vital roles in social development. The workers of Biratnagar Jute Mills had staged the very first industrial strike in Nepal (Gupta 1964: 21). Several political parties organized the workers and the trade union movement started in Nepal. The peasants also followed the foot-steps of the workers and peasant associations came into existence. They tried their level best to address peasant’s problems and organized several movements. The same happened among students and women. However, over politicization of class, professional and community organization derailed them from their novel goals and degenerated many among them as instruments to gather people from their respective constituencies around a certain political party of their affiliation.  Despite such serious limitations, the class, professional and community organizations played major roles in mobilizing people. The examples of such endeavors include the peasant movement of Bara and Parsa district (1954-56), the workers’ movement (1981) and the student movement (1965-1990). They played major roles in empowering people in general and their respective classes and sections in particular.

 

The professional organizations also have played significant roles in movements for socio-political transformation. During the 1990 movement, the contribution of “Professional Solidarity Group”, a loose network of professional organizations such as Nepal Medical Association, Nepal Engineer’s Association, Nepal University Teachers’ Associations etc was historical. The solidarity extended by them provided energy to the democracy movement, which succeeded to overthrow a one party rule imposed by the autocratic monarchy in Nepal.

 

Media has become an essential part of modern society. The print and electronic media inform people and support creating a critical mass. Their investigation could prove lethal to corrupts and criminals. Educating people and helping them to organize around issues are most important tasks media could make difference. However, lack of professionalism further compounded by inclination towards sensationalizing every issue and events have eroded the credibility of Nepali mass media. Moreover, ideological preferences, glamour and financial considerations have injured their image.

 

  1. International non-governmental organizations and development assistance programs

 

In the globalized world today, many countries have the presence of multilateral as well as bilateral agencies and INGOs. They are involved in the development of socio-economic sectors and in building and expanding facilities including the physical infrastructure. They support the host country government or local NGOs in implementing programs and projects.

 

Multilateral and Bilateral Agencies

 

Immediately after the conclusion of the Second World War, the victorious nations in Europe and America called a conference in Bratton Woods in USA in 1945 aiming to reconstruct Europe as it was devastated by the war. The conference decided to establish two financial institutions – International Monetary Fund (IMF) and International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (popularly known as the World Bank).  The conference was followed by introduction of Marshall Plan to check the expansion of communism in France and Italy, stabilize West Germany and free Britain from the attraction of socialist policies. The Point IV program introduced by US President Truman gave continuation to these objectives as mentioned earlier (Griffin 1996: 34). Attracted by the influence America was expanding, the Soviet Union also jumped in the fray. Gradually, France reached out to French speaking African countries and Britain jumped to its former colonies called Commonwealth of Nations. Gradually, the powerful nations including comparatively powerful neighbors of Nepal started to provide assistance to influence the policies of weaker nations including the weaker neighbors.  The assistance China and India provided to Nepal is one such example.

 

Foreign assistance includes both – grant and loan. Such loan could have been provided by commercial banks. The World Bank has said that 45 countries in 1995 have serious problems due to heavy burden of loans (Griffin 1996: 64). Many African countries seen loaded by heavy loan during early 1970s and the World Bank and IMF started to provide some project support from 1974. When Turkey appeared at the verge of loan default, The World Bank devised a “policy based lending” in 1980 and provided assistance to Turkey attaching policy related conditions.  Following this act, the World Bank made a firm policy of “structural adjustment loan”, where several policy related conditions were attached. The major conditions include high growth rate, balance of payment in medium term and for this adjusting structural framework of economy.  This was non-project loan (World Bank 1982). This module had put emphasis on the following policies.

 

  • Emphasis on export
  • Expansion of private sector
  • Minimizing state control on economic activities
  • Control over inflation and deficit budget
  • Decontrol labour market

(Reed 1996: 355)

  • Cut down government investment in social sector
  • Privatize government corporations and social services.

The policy based lending program got rapid expansion. The program had covered 75 countries in 1975. The World Bank had stated that the program would address poverty and sustainability of development projects (World Bank, 1992). Women and environment also were included in this program. The World Bank started compelling the loan recipient countries to accept provisions that part of the loan amount would be channeled through NGOs.

 

International Non-Government Organizations

 

The INGOs are non-government organizations in their countries of origin and are part of civil society there. However, they are the donor agencies in their program countries. These agencies enter into contracts with the host country government and operate within the mandate of such contract. There could be difference between INGOs and bilateral or multilateral donors in areas of procedures, processes, priorities and management styles. However, these differences do not change their basic similarity in their nature as donors in program countries.

 

An NGO if operates in three or more countries has been considered as INGO. Their number was 176 in 1909. The number continuously increased and there were 28100 INGOs in 1993. The number of INGOs, which had the consultative status with the United Nations, was 1300 in 1994 (Runner 1997: 152). The INGOs have been operating under serious confusions. These confusions have both philosophical and moral dimensions. The trustees of the INGOs are in developed countries and many among them have programs in developing countries. They are responsible to their respective boards. They profess that they are committed to bring changes in the living conditions of the program participants, be it physical, moral or intellectual. They advocate for fundamental change in the society and many among them want to democratize development. However, this needs political education and interventions. The irony for them is that they could not participate in politics (Eduwards et al 1995: 224). Hence, irrespective of what they say, they are simply part of development assistance program. In real functional world, they are managed by bureaucracy in their program countries and operate within the parameter of hundreds of corporate administrative and financial rules and systems.

 

The INGOs would face difficulties in future. There are four major reasons that could make them worrying. First, they may not implement programs directly in their program countries in future. They should operate within partnership arrangements with NGOs. Second, the economic and financial crisis in the developed world would create situation highly unfavorable for them for fund raising. Third, the questions have also been raised that whom they represent and to whom they are accountable to? Fourth, how they will raise fund if they will move to policy advocacy? (Zadek 1995: 193-94) These factors will affect on their size, operational modalities, nature and relationships.

 

The United Mission to Nepal, which had started its welfare services in 1950 is the first INGO in Nepal. There were 81 INGOs operating in Nepal in 1994 (RAAYOAA, V.S. 2055: 700). The INGOs which are generally rich in intellectual capabilities, artistic expressions, production of bundles of beautifully prepared documents sound majestic. However, they sound majestic not due to their contributions in making the lives deferent of vulnerable people and marginalized communities. Their characteristics include generalizing the successes in establishing a few kitchen gardens successfully and telling mouth-watering stories. However, despite such serious limitations, the INGOs have brought some foreign fund to Nepal, have created some employment and have expanded some services and build some facilities. These are their contributions. The contribution of INGOs was 5.5% of the total foreign grant assistance in 1992 (UNDP 1993 11-13).

 

The INGOs in Nepal have followed the following modalities in implementing their programs.

 

  • Supporting the government,
  • Working together or in partnership with the NGOs,
  • Working in collaboration with local community based organization, clubs, etc.

Supporting the Government

 

The modality is in full conformity with the modalities of bilateral and multilateral assistance agencies. The major risk of this modality is corruption. The government agencies in the developing world are not only highly corrupt; they could cover corruption by using the power of their positions. The positive factor of this modality is that the mass psychology will not be diverted towards the praise of foreign powers.

 

Working together or in partnership with the NGOs

 

The INGOs practicing such modality have adopted three types of operational systems. They include partnership, project contract and single activity grants. The future among these three modalities is that of partnership. The government has stated its policy on that direction as the National Planning Commission in its policy has stated that the INGOs will be asked to help develop capacities of NGOs and the new projects and programs would be implemented through Nepali NGOs (RAYOAA, 2055 V.S.: 701).

 

Working in collaboration with local community based organization, clubs, etc.

 

This modality makes INGOs more visible at the grassroots, but the cost of operation goes up. The limitations of this modality include making people more dependent on foreign assistance particularly attitudinally and raise more questions on the sustainability aspect of the program.

 

The INGOs involved in community development should add value by working with NGOs to expand or start building facilities that could bring some quality addition rather than talking using hallow phrases such as talking about social justice, equality, empowerment etc. However, these phrases have relevance to INGOs involved in policy advocacies in human rights, child rights or environment. The source of fund for many INGOs is bilateral or multilateral agencies. A few exceptions include INGOs which have religious affiliation like UMN and child sponsorships such as PLAN International. The source of their fund is primarily small private donations. The governmental source of funding will gradually dry up as the financial muscle of the developed west has been gradually decreasing.

 

  1. Private Sector

 

The general tendency is that the private sector most often is kept out of social development.  In international arena too it has not been discussed thoroughly. The welfare economics has become a major agenda today and it is only natural to review the roles played by the private sector, be it positive or negative. There are two types of wings of private sector. The first and larger one is profit oriented businesses including industries and commerce.  The second and smaller is non-profit social sector.

 

Industry and Commerce

 

Traditionally, the wealthy industrialists and traders in Nepal are called “social workers”. These wealthy managers of market and players of risk and profits are involved in exploiting ordinary people. From social justice perspective, they belong to non-progressive forces. Hence, their relationship with people and the forces of change is highly complicated. It has been influenced by the contradictory streams of opposition and cooperation. The basis of the roles of profit ventures is primarily economic. Their contributions in the form of teaching skills and offering donations have also some long-term gains for them. With these limitations recorded, they could play the following roles in social development.

 

  • Assistance in relief and rehabilitation during emergencies
  • Donations for activities of micro-infrastructure building
  • Management of social service activities
  • Expanding opportunities for employment
  • Sponsoring development of a particular area, event or institution

Nepal has a long history of donations. These donations include cash, materials, land, building, manpower etc. Many names of schools and colleges are strangely long and not so user friendly. Many among these names bear the names of donors who donated either land or even constructed buildings of a particular school or college.  The eye hospitals of Biratnagar and Lahan are some examples of such donation. Many institutions working for education, health and welfare services have benefitted from donations.

 

The private sector has mobilized resources to establish and run social service activities. These activities include hundreds of private boarding schools and colleges and private hospitals. The quality of education and health care offered by private sector has been considered better than the quality of public sector. Hence, the crowd of rich has become their consumers. Now, previously over-crowded public sector institutions are catering services to low income group of service receivers.

 

The private sector has contributed most meaningfully in providing employment for many. This is not only an economic issue; rather it has an important relation with social development. It offers employees opportunities to arrange means of livelihood and enables them to invest in their future including education of children. However, in regard to its relations with labor forces; injustices and exploitations are rampant.  Hence, there is a great need of effective trade union movement. However, either co-opted or overly politicized trade unions in Nepal have not been doing justice to their constituency. It is unfortunate that many trade unions are not trade unions. They have to reinvent themselves so as to maximize the role of private sector for social development and to minimize injustices to workers.

 

Many private sector institutions sponsor. Their sponsorship is effective in several activities. The example could be their sponsorship of sports events or institutions like football clubs.  The sponsorship could be more effective if they are encouraged to sponsor specific activities. Example could include that the Eastern Sugar Mills takes responsibility to making one of the village development committees in Sunsari fully literate. The industry and commerce sector should be sensitive to its social responsibilities and the state should encourage them to go to this direction.

 

The associations like Nepalese Federation of Industries and Commerce could play vital role in sensitizing and activating businesses to be more socially responsible. Also, inter-sector communication and dialogue between social sector and private sector could help to understand each other better. From now on, not only the feeling of welfare but also partnership building should be the basis for private sector contribution in social development.

 

Special Social Services Trusts or Social Private Sector

 

In Dingla, Bhojpur district, a Sanskrit medium school was established in 1875 A.D.  The school was second oldest school in Nepal. The first school, Durbar school, was established in 1854 A. D. in Kathmandu.

 

Sadananda Adhikari, popularly known as Balaguru, had established the Sanskrit school in Bhojpur by collecting donations in the form of grain and land. He had established a trust to manage the donations and to run the school utilizing the donations properly. Dingla had become a center of learning that time due to that school and some sort of preliminary educational awakening movement had taken shape in the entire far-east of Nepal. Several schools were established there. However, the New Education Plan, an American baby, initiated in 1972 A.D. took over the management of schools from local community and established government control. This plan eroded local participation and management control of parents and communities. Now, again, in higher secondary education and also in secondary education, the government has adopted the policy that increases local control.

 

Social Trusts are not the NGOs, rather they are special service institutions and they provide social services in subsidized rates. These institutions are managed by trustees collectively. They function as private sector but are highly socially responsible. Profit is not their primary motive, though they run on service charges collected from the end users of the services they offer. They try to get support from government or nongovernment entities too. However, they will not die in absence of such assistance.

 

There is no clear common legal frame in Nepal to govern the institutions run as social private sector. Hence, they are managing their legal registration under five different Acts. First, they are registered as NGOs under Societies Act. Examples include the micro-credit agencies like “Nirdhan’, “Swabalamban Vikash Kendra”, etc. Second, they are getting legal recognition under Company Act. Example is the small technology institute like Centre for Rural Technology. Third, getting registration as NGO and running a separate special service institution under it. Example is Public Health Concern Trust and the Kathmandu Model Hospital under it. Fourth, they are getting recognition from the government ministries and departments including Technical and Vocational Training Council, Higher Education Council, etc. Examples are several higher secondary schools and vocational training centers. And, fifth, they are getting legal recognition under special acts such as Kathmandu University.

 

The social private sector has been playing important roles in managing services particularly in areas of education, health and vocational skills. It has created employment opportunities too. Their management style and nature is also quite interesting subject to study. They are neither after profit nor dependant on donations. It is primarily striving for cost recovery to sustain and sustain by recovering cost. This could be done by continuous innovation and constructive endeavors.

 

  1. Political Parties

 

Political parties play major roles in social development. As the parties represent a particular class as an institution, they stand for social, political, economic and cultural interests of that class. In their form, the parties have three covers – “party of all people”, “united front of several classes” and “party of a certain class or that of classes of similar nature and interests”. Among them, parties of the third type are more open to their class base and more clearly put forward their socio- political and economic agenda. In their election manifestoes, the parties claim being anything and many things to lure voters; however these claims and offers are simply propaganda pieces for mass consumption. Anyway, these manifestos are the product of fertile imaginations and are interesting to read.

 

Generally, the parties either govern or stay in opposition or fight being in non-legal or illegal entities. However, they could play vital roles and could influence the course of social development irrespective of their own place. They could effectively influence in setting social agenda and determining priorities. Although, they might have several shortcomings, they are the source of energy and sacrifices. Similarly, they are the parents of hundreds of corruptions and thousands of wrongdoings. Hence, it would be a futile exercise to find out the flow and destination of social development being politically neutral.

 

The organized political activities started in Nepal since 1931 after the emergence of “Prachanda Gorkha”. The aim of this party was to overthrow the Rana regime and to establish democratic system of governance. However, the party did not tell anything about type and nature of democracy. The founding members of the party were arrested and imprisoned immediately after establishing the party and no work could be carried out. Another party called “Praja Parishad” came into existence in 1935. Its aim was similar to that of Prachanda Gorkha. The Rana government arrested its more than 500 members and supporters in 1940. Due to this mass arrest, Praja Parishad remained inactive till first historic change of 1950. One of the major political parties in Nepal, the Nepali Congress was established in 1950 by the merger of two smaller parties. Among these two, the first was “Nepali Rastriya Congress” established in 1947 and the second was “Nepali Prajatantra Congress” established in 1948. The Communist Party of Nepal came into existence in 1949. Both, the Nepali Congress and the Communist Party of Nepal were anti-Rana parties and were talking vaguely about democracy or socialism or democratic socialism or communism. These four political parties established prior to 1950 had no clarity on agenda and priorities regarding social development, polity, politics, culture and economic policies. Somehow, this was normal in that time.

 

Considering their size and special interests, “Nepal Rastrabadi Gorkha Parishad” (NRGP) and “Nepal Tarai Congress” (NTC) were important parties formed after 1950. The NTC and NRGP were established in 1951 and 1952 respectively. The Rana-led NRGP was the political incarnation of Khukuri Dal, a militant group formed by Ranas in 1950 that had opposed the Delhi Agreement. The NTC was very clear on its agenda. Its agenda included self-rule for Tarai, recognition of Hindi as one of the national languages, more jobs for the people of Tarai origin the government services, etc. The NTC was talking specifically, whereas the Congress, Communist and the NRGP were revolving around some generic politico-ideological terms such as democracy, socialism, communism, nationalism, etc. Between 1950 and 1958, parties were in consolidation phase organizationally and in learning phase politically and ideologically. Hence, they were like talking clubs and talked much about the form of government, rights and duties of citizens, constitution drafting and organizing election.  Talking advantage of their immaturity and antagonism among the parties, the notorious king, Mahendra declared a new constitution for Nepal. He had drafted that constitution himself. On the basis of the provisions of that new constitution, he organized election. The Nepali Congress party won the election and formed the government. However, disrespecting his own constitution, Mahendra overthrew the elected government in 1960 and imposed his tyrannical rule giving it a new name – Panchayat. The parties organized popular movements and armed struggles against the monarchy though they were considered outlaw and were underground from 1960 to 1990.

 

The Nepali Congress initiated armed struggle in 1962 and continued it till 1975, breaking in betweens and keeping it a low intensity affair. Otherwise, it was involved in mass political awareness and periodic popular movements. The Nepal Communist Party launched several popular movements including that of 1954-56 peasants struggles in Jhapa, Bara, Rautahat and Pyuthan and Jhapa armed rebellion of 1972-75 and workers’ movement of 1981. Both parties actively mobilized students and kept themselves alive primarily as students’ protest movement since 1965. Nepal Tarai Congress became “Nepal Sadbhavana Munch” and “Nepal Sadbhavana Party” afterward. It was simply breathing till 1990. The Nepal Rastrabadi Gorkha Parishad merged with Panchayat as ideology and with Nepali Congress as organization. It’s all important leaders joined Nepali Congress. After 1990, NRGP was revived as Rastriya Prajatantra Party. The political parties become overly involved in the tasks of changing political structures and hence, gave no attention to social development including the societal transformation through mass awakening and empowerment.

 

After the defeat of Panchayat in 1990, the parties introduced parliamentary system and joined a race for reaching to the seat of power. They forgot their past glory and constructive imaginations by being blind by the hunger of power. Hence, the issues of radical socio-economic change were put on back burners.

 

One of the major reasons for failure of the political parties in addressing the social development issues is their lack of understanding and unwillingness to educate them. Rather than being factual, responsible and proactive, they talk in a nonsense way and talk superficially.  For example, the Nepal-India Treaty of 1950 could be a fine case. Due to this treaty, thousands of Nepali workers have been in India and some thousand Indian workers work in Nepal. Although, the statistics and estimates contradict in regard to number of Nepalese in India and Indians in Nepal, all accept that the number of Nepalese worker in India is quite large (CSB, 2049-50: 41-42, Nepal Academy, 1960:9, Mishra, 2045 & Jha, 1995: 45).  The political parties particularly the communist parties who claim as representatives of the working class raise slogan for abrogation of the Nepal-India treaty of 1950. Are they proposing for introduction of passport and visa system? Or, it is for implementation of work permit? Or, is it something else? Nobody knows. Even, they do not know. Pseudo-nationalism is what they are after. If the treaty would be abrogated how they will manage the work force that returns after the abrogation? Nobody knows. The leaders are completely ignorant, ill prepared and irresponsible. They do not understand the issue. So, they do not work for finding out solutions. This example is neither to support the treaty nor to oppose the same. It is to expose the mentality, horizon, vision, sincerity and stand of the political leaders, that too from the left. The political parties, if continue as an irresponsible lot always, the future looks dark including that of the social change.

 

 

  1. Government

 

Social development is one among the sector that should be the subject of concern, responsibility and commitment of the government. It could not be transferred as the responsibility of local organizations or NGOs or private sector. In modern times, the government has three functions: good governance, redistribution of income and help to produce products and services (Self, 1993: 38). The policies of the government influence redistribution and productions. Primarily, it depends upon the nature of state that determines the quality of products and services.

 

The role of state was expanded after the October Revolution in Soviet Union in 1917. The state accepted the function of creating environment for social change and for that purpose providing social services to its citizens. As an impact of such functions, non-socialist states also adopted many social services functions as part of the larger role of welfare state. Both, leftist and rightist governments were influenced by this concept after 1945. However, the leftists were more inclined to initiate and implement welfare programs. The role of state increased continuously in areas of education, health, employment and social security (Self, 113-116).

 

The Soviet Union started to become weak. The cost of welfare services increased many fold. It became difficult for many states to continue social services. In the mean time a new conservative government of Margaret Thatcher came to power in Britain and started to cut down social services programs. The Ronald Regan government of United States advocated strongly in favor of privatization of production of products and services and liberalization of economy. The policies of the World Bank and International Monitory Fund got heavily influenced by the American policy. Hence, they devised a program based on privatization and liberalization and named it as “Structural Adjustment Program.” They forced many developing nations to downsize their social services programs. The Structural Adjustment Program impacted highly negatively on social development. As a result, the public opinion has been favorably increasing in developing countries that opposes Structural Adjustment Program and supports states’ role in social services. Example of such increased public pressure could be seen in the Noble Prize awarded to Amartya Sen for economics in 1998.

 

In Nepal, the role of government in social sector till 1950 was negative. The rulers like Jayasthiti Malla and Jung Bahadur Rana played criminally anti-social roles by dividing society into caste hierarchy and bringing punishment systems not based on crimes committed but according to the caste of the criminals. Before 1950, only a few initiatives were taken for social progress. These include establishing Durbar school, Bir hospital, Tri-Chandra College, publication of a newspaper called “Gorkhapatra” and abolition of slavery and Sati system.

 

Some efforts on local development had been made after 1950. The first local development institute, Tribhuvan Gram Vikash Centre, was established in 1952. The country was divided into 150 blocks. The first Five Year Plan was implemented in 1956. During this plan period, the budget allocation had included 5.7% in education, 8.15 in health and 8.3% in rural development. The Village Panchayat Act was introduced in 1957. This act, though in limited way, started the process of decentralization of authority at local level.

 

The first elected government of the Nepali Congress party promised to end feudal land tenure system and to introduce free and compulsory primary education within a reasonable time (Nepal Academy, 1960: 54). These proposals could have a better impact in social development had they been implemented. However, the government did not implement these proposals. One of the major reasons for this failure was that the elected government was thrown out of power due to a coup d’état. Although, not implemented, these proposals questioned, first time, the privileges of the feudal-landlords and gave some food for thought on the need of educating children.

 

During the period of the Panchayati Raj rather the king’s autocratic rule from 1960 to 1990, the government implemented several integrated rural development projects. Till 1990, nine integrated rural development projects were implemented in 28 districts. The total investment was 14.65 billion Nepali Rupees (Chand, 1991: 62). However, a large part of this money was spent paying salaries, allowances and other benefits to foreign experts and advisors. The administrative expenses were so high of these projects that the government had a policy of not making the expenses public (Chand, 1991: 63). These projects were implemented primarily from bilateral and multilateral foreign aid.

 

A large part of the money returned back to foreign countries in the form of expatriate expert expenses. The grant was grant anyway, but the loan is still there and that has reached to more than 70 billion Rupees in 1997. Part of the loan is the result of this failed adventure of integrated rural development projects.

 

Also, in 1964, land reform program was introduced. It had four tasks. One, determine the maximum ceiling of land for families and redistribution of land seized that was above the maximum ceiling. Two, provide tenancy right to the tenants. Three, determine the agriculture loan and free the peasant if he or she had already paid by calculating with 10% annual rate of interest.  (In large number of cases the peasants were declared loan-free as the prevailing rate of interest was 36% and by deducting 26% each year, there was no principal amount left to pay.) And, four, start a compulsory saving program. There was no “land to the tiller” issue as it was not the objective of the government.  Therefore, the land reform failed to address the core issue of land redistribution. However, it fragmented land holdings, created a psychological foundation for future land reform initiatives, made several peasants free from the oppressive practices of money lenders and provided tenancy rights to several tillers.  These activities, certainly, offered some hope for incremental social change.

 

After the change of 1990, a new development strategy was adopted. The core component of this strategy was to provide fund to local village development committees or municipalities for their development. As a strategy, this was a good initiative.  However, the political parties made mockery of this strategy by assembling a crowd of their cadres as technical support personnel to grab the fund. They captured the fund for the benefit of their cadres and supporters and institutionalized corruption at local levels too.

 

The government included education, health services, drinking water, housing, local development, population, environment, women and social welfare, child development, sports, culture, drug control, etc in social services. It also allocated 33.3% of total budget for these services. The allocation for education and health was 13.8% in the First Five Year Plan, whereas it was 15.2% in the Ninth Five Year Plan (Nepal Academy, 1960: 75, RAYOAA, V. S. 2055: 107). Although, it sounds positive, but it failed to bring desired result due to corruption, weakness in execution of program and irresponsible practices that are common in government system. Hence, the outcomes of the increase in the budgetary provisions were discouraging in tangible terms.

 

Alleviating poverty is the goal of the government for the Ninth Five year Plan. This could very much address several social development issues. However, the government had failed to work out details and there were no concrete proposals to ensure societal transformation. In absence of the programs that ensure just land distribution, rationalization of wages, end of Khasa supremacy, gender equity and social services targeted to make the quality of lives better for the law income group of people; there would no major leap forward. The government should work on these issues seriously and should make tangible difference.

 

Relationships among Agencies

 

The agencies discussed above have to enter into complex relationship while dealing between and among them. These relationships, broadly, could be categorized in six categories – cooperation, collaboration, partnership, competition, opposition and resistance.

 

The agencies cooperate among each other in formulating policies. Also, they could work together in mobilizing people for better cause. The government could provide environment, legal or otherwise, where other agencies could work in a better environment.

 

The civil society organizations and the political parties could become more imaginative and could offer new perspectives. The government and the private sector generally refrain from taking risks for social processes that leads to greater change. The NGOs and INGOs prefer to travel through riskless path. Hence, the imaginations of the civil society organizations and political parties, the presence of and resource mobilization from the government and the technical as well as managerial skills and resources from INGOs, bilateral as well as multilateral donors could bring synergy into play and could maximize the impact.  Collaboration is important to bring change in the larger society. However, in Nepal that has been seldom happening.

 

The relationship between and among agencies of diverse make, nature and responsibilities could be best governed by partnership that too where there is acceptance of coexistence. This is the best form of relationship. This relationship provides platforms where agencies could maintain their identity and independence and also could come close to contribute together. If the government is accountable to people and is to provide friendly environment; if the political parties are committed to progress, prosperity, equity and justice; if the socially responsible private sector and civil society organizations are ready to perform respectable roles in changing the society and if form partnership and work together, there is much better chance that the society gets transformed rapidly.

 

Competition comes into play due to limited resources, lust for glory, desire for social and political positioning, and difference on ideologies and values. Not always completion contributes negatively. It may help improve efficiency, effectiveness and quality. Competition gives birth to debate, dialogue and sometimes divisions. Hence, it inserts life. And, the relationship, which has its base on competition, should be seen as cure of many soft weaknesses that exists in many agencies.

 

Sometimes, agencies behave against each other as opposition. This is particularly seen in the relationships among political parties. Also, it could be seen among civil society organizations, though to a lesser extent. If the parties or other agencies oppose each other’s initiative and offer better alternative, it could be healthy relationship and that could lead to better understanding and performance. However, in Nepal it has been happening around power and positions. This will lead to severe limitations and would affect the development of the society and the country.

 

The last but not the least, which governs the relationship is resistance. Any agency, in final analysis, represents certain class, sections, communities, nationalities and so on. Their interests clash and they develop as adversaries or even enemies. Hence, they resist the ides, values, plan, or anything initiated by the other side. The contradiction between them may result in disassociation. However, it is not always counterproductive to resist. If a force creates obstruction for society to move forward, resistance is absolutely necessary.

 

The agencies involved in social development may not confine to only one type of relationship. There could be a good mix. However, their behaviors are governed by particular type of relationships, though temporarily or depending upon issues.

 

In the Nepali context, the relations among different agencies have been flooded with distrust and negative criticism. The NGOs have taken lead in attacking local institutions and government initiatives. Many NGOs are just busy in snatching glory from others. They pretend that they are the torch bearers. The NGO professionals who are busy running an NGO with sole intention of creating employment for them are busy projecting them as agents of radical social change. The NGOs are neither bad nor good as such. However, their pretentions are not helping anybody.

 

The government was busy in controlling and regulating social institutions and NGOs till the people’s movement of 1990, after that it has become not only sympathetic, but also started to become dependent on NGOs. The foreign donors have become the virtual rulers, NGOs are acting as their agents and the government has become a nonentity in areas related to social development. Private sector and civil society organization are staying separately in no communication zones.

 

Now, the situation demands that their relationships should improve and they have to contribute meaningfully for social development. The six types of relationships as discussed above may help them to understand their roles and may help to enter into productive relationships.

 


 

Chapter Six

 

Vision, Agenda and Policy Themes

 

Social development is an integral part of overall development. Hence, the pace and destination of social development depend on political, economic and environmental development.  Keeping these critical factors into consideration, in this chapter, an analysis of priorities agenda and policy themes would be presented together with the proposed vision statement of new Nepal (in 2050).

 

Vision – A New Nepal in 2050

 

Nepal has become the glorious landmass in South Asia, where barring a few exceptions, all women and men are healthy, enlightened and prospering.   Here, creation and distribution of prosperity has been embedded with social justice. The political behaviors, economic practices and social values of people encompass freedom and justice, mutual respect and collective happiness. The people discover and optimize everybody’s potentials. The urban as well as rural settlements are clean and serene. The greenery has pervaded mountains, hills and plains with all its beauty and delight.

 

Agenda and Policy Themes

 

To translate the vision into reality, appropriate agenda, right priorities and suitable policy themes are the most important factors. Hence, here, a set of agenda and policy themes concerning social development are proposed.

 

  • Positive political and social environment
  • Creation of prosperity and introduction of just distribution system
  • Physical infrastructure
  • Harmonious nature-human relationship
  • Reorganization of social relationships

Positive political and social environment

 

It would be wrong to see limited role of state in social development as that is the case in the western countries. Countries like Nepal, which are just coming out of feudal social structures and governance, the state has to play the roles as economic agent, manager of public wellbeing and guarantor of social services (Reed 1996: 35-37). In developing countries, the state has to lead the process of development by formulating appropriate policies, creating positive environment and developing strategic plans. Some NGOs spread pretentions that social development is their business. This propaganda does not reflect the reality. They could be one small partner but they are not the leaders. The development that has its dependence on foreign assistance promotes indifference, attitudinal servitude and decreased capacity in leading a nation to prosperity. Arranging foreign resources is justifiable, but that should be done by creating appropriate environment for foreign investment. India and China may be good investors for Nepal.

 

Until now, the political debate in Nepal has been cantering around the system of governance, whereas the debate should be revolving around the quality and nature of governance.  The difference in nature and quality of governance and the progressive nature of the state make difference in ensuring social justice, equity, social security and rationalization of production relationship. If there is no change in status quo in these areas, there would no forward movement in the society irrespective of the system of governance. Hence, the state could play vitally important role in the process of societal transformation. And, the socially responsible private sector and civil societies, who are crystal clear in their roles, could help most meaningfully in this process of radical change that would be taking place in the society.  The creation of positive and social environment is possible, when there is clarity in setting priorities, formulating progressive policies and translating them into practice. Some of the important agenda and policy themes are proposed below.

 

  • Land tenure system based on “land to the tiller”.
  • Secondary education, functional literacy and primary health care accepted as part of constitutionally granted fundamental rights of the citizens.
  • Clearly defined constitutional provision that guarantees “right to work” for a minimum of 180 days per year for every adult citizens who ask for execution of this right.
  • State overtly committed to justice and equality and opposes exploitation and injustices.
  • Unconditional support and encouragement to scientific researches, explorations and encouragement to risk taking culture.

There would be fierce struggle between advocates of status quo and progressives in taking decisions, formulating policies and implanting them into programs. The contradictions and resolutions of issues through appropriate conflict resolution mechanisms will ensure the nature of change in the society. If and when the progressive forces prevail, the society would move forward.

 

Creation of prosperity and introduction of just distribution system

 

Prosperity is not static; it is rather a dynamic phenomenon. This is the return of investment of physical, mental and intellectual inputs and synergy generated by the combination of resources, technology and skills.  Many people misunderstand prosperity as opposite to equality. In fact, when talking about equality, the picture of millions of people surviving under difficult circumstances and hostile environment emerge. Therefore, often it has been misunderstood as a sum of attempts that redistributes poverty. When there are repeated failures in creating prosperity, in this context, this understanding might be correct. However, that may not happen for a long time.

 

Equality was the major talking point in Eastern Europe for about half a century. However, Eastern Europe failed, both in attaining equality and creating prosperity. More or less, the same happened in East Asian countries, which were idealized by the West as centre of prosperity. They also failed in both fronts – prosperity and equality.

 

It is needless to stand against equality while talking about prosperity and vice versa.  Equality, by nature, is not obstructive of progress and prosperity.  Hence, in the production of goods and services, there must not be hundreds of hurdles. These hurdles would discourage initiatives and entrepreneurships.  Similarly, there is a greater need of addressing the issue of controlling and centralizing wealth in limited hands.  By continuous adjustment of wages, change in tax codes and change in investment of state on social sector the state may act to redistribute wealth and prosperity continuously so as to bring some degree of equality. Inequality would continue as there is no possibility of absolute equality. However, there should be attempts to minimize the prosperity gap.  There must not be the situation where a large majority is unable to meet its basic needs and a small minority has been enjoying the pleasure of heavenly abode.

 

Considering creation of prosperity and attaining relative equality, some agenda and policy themes are proposed below.

 

  • Introducing and continuously rationalizing the range of minimum wages in agriculture, industry and service sector.
  • Limiting the role of state in business enterprises except in some strategically important areas.
  • Encouragement to private sector.
  • Promoting long-term foreign investment and transfer of technologies.
  • Focussed development of hydro-power, horticulture and tourism.
  • Expansion of social services sector.

The government should formulate policies and provide legal as well as operational framework and the private sector should play important role in creating prosperity.  The civil society organizations could facilitate and monitor the arrangements and ensure fairness in implementing policies and programs. The NGOs could play limited roles. Even the most talked about NGO in the world in the sector of prosperity creation, the famous Gramin Bank of Bangladesh had reached a few thousands families in 1995 (Runner 1997: 148). This is the figure of families getting access to a small amount of credit. However, in Bangladesh, there were eight million families surviving under poverty line income. When, the work of Gramin Bank would come under objectively carried out scrutiny on its impact, the hype and acclaim it has generated might not sustain.  Such programs simply over simplify fundamental structural change initiatives and create hopes that could not materialize. The state, socially responsible private sector, civil society and the people should not get too much involved in such over hyped initiatives.

 

Nepal could not do everything and it should not do too. Nepal has to identify its core strength areas where it could be reasonably competitive and should focus on those areas. The available information suggests that the core strength areas where Nepal could develop specialization are hydro-power, horticulture and tourism.

 

Nepal could sale electricity to South Asian, Chinese and East Asian grids.  Internal consumption of electricity in abundance will contribute significantly in creating prosperity and bringing happiness to millions of people. Similarly, our hills and plains could look impressively green with fruit trees growing everywhere. Horticulture could provide unimaginable opportunities, income and employment. People from Dang in the valley in south western Nepal, could go to Jumla in north western Nepal after the delicious breakfast at their home. They could travel by cable cars to Jumla and could come back in the evening to their homes by sending tones of to Nepalgunj airport by ropeway to export to several destinations. There could be queue of cargo planes in the international airports in Biratnagar, Niggard, Bhairahawa and Nepalgunj waiting to carry the load full of fruits, flowers and vegetables to Asian, European and American cities. In fifty years from now, it is perfectly achievable. Moreover, the majestic Himalayan picks, Buddha who has been immortalized, the historical, cultural and architectural heritage sites including the famous Kathmandu valley and the greenery that provides freshness, delight and beauty together with the most hospitable culture of Nepali people would increase tourist arrivals several hundred folds.

 

In brief, Nepal has the capacity to make the country and people prosperous. The raw ingredients are available in abundance. Absolutely, there is no reason to get frustrated, negative and defeatist minded.

 

Physical infrastructure

 

In absence of sound physical infrastructure, no development initiatives, processes and achievements could be sustained. Prosperity could be ensured only if there is foundation that supports it and there is possibility and capacity to take it to ever better level. Hence, below, a few agenda and policy themes are proposed.

 

  • Transport network – road, ropeway, cable cars, airports
  • Hydro-power
  • Information and communication networks
  • Settlement development and concentration of services around them

The ‘environmentalists’ who are vehemently opposing major infrastructural projects in the name of environmental conservation have no vision for a prosperous Nepal. Their petty personal interests have overshadowed their vision, if they have any. They are obstructing building base for prosperity. Until Nepal exploits its hydro-power potentials, it is hard to develop Nepal. These ‘environmental activists’ make excuse sometimes that of a single customer (read India), sometimes talk about bio-diversity and sometimes talk about per unit cost to oppose any hydro-power project, particularly the Arun III. In future, Nepal will remember these so-called environmental activists as anti-prosperity forces, who held Nepal back just to ensure their travel and parade in front of World Bank offices located in faraway places like United States of America and the Philippines.

 

It is highly unlikely that everything would come out positive. One has to sacrifice something to attain something substantial. One has to get liberated from the prison of today and should peep into the future. After a few decades, it could be quite possible that the long distance buses and trucks in Nepal will run on electric energy. All district Headquarters and cities and towns could be linked by the network of cable cars. All major production centers and major commercial hubs could be linked by ropeways. In such situation, there would be much higher demand of electricity. The so-called environmental activists fail to see such internal consumption and export potential of electricity and advise to generate electricity from tiny streams like Tukucha in Kathmandu. This is simply astonishing.

 

It is certain that some hills would disappear. People would be affected and large-scale resettlement could be required. The foreign investors also would try to maximize their return on investment. These are the negatives factors, which could be better minimized but could not be avoided. Being imaginative and visionary is more important than being populist and obstructive.

 

The same logics could be applied in other infrastructures such as roads, ropeways, cable cars, airports, radio and television networks, telephone etc. Also, the settlements development and concentration of services around them will have to go through the same path.

 

The proposal of constructing the East-West Highway in 1960 sounded not feasible. Many thought that this was too ambitious. However, after 40 years, the highway was ready and has been serving as backbone of Nepali road networks. It contributed immensely in expanding economic activities and cultural bonding among several nationalities. In the beginning, it was planned to construct the highway with donations from people. Several open stage cultural programs were staged in thousands of places to collect donations, but that was too little. Several friendly governments provided supports. Finally, the dream of the highway was translated into reality.

 

Similarly, it is possible that more than 64000 scattered settlements, many among them in remote areas may disappear in coming 5o years and 8000 or less compact settlements could appear. This statement may astonish some people. However, there is no possibility of availing sound facilities in every scattered settlement, whereas there is possibility of providing such facilities to everybody, if they move to compact settlements. Hence, urbanization has been in acceleration. If this process of urbanization could be carried out with proper planning, the compact settlements could have much better facilities including water, energy, education, and employment and health services. During Panchayati Raj period they had proposed, in vague term, this type of idea in the name of Ilaka Kendras (Area centers). If further refined and properly planned, this could be a solution for availing facilities to a larger size of population in much reasonable cost. Hence, the housing policy should address such potentials and settlement planning should be seen as one among the priority themes.

 

Harmonious nature-human relationship

 

The module discussed above suggests that in the mountain region and hills of Nepal, gradually, many scattered settlements would disappear and grain cultivation also will decrease. Instead, these areas would have more forests, large horticulture farms and grass fields, animal farms etc. The cable car, ropeway and road networks will connect these areas with major population centers, business districts and service hubs. The mountains and hills covered with grass, shrubs, plants and trees would have best of their beauties. Moreover, they will be economically beneficial with better productions. The cities and towns will be more livable as the cars and other vehicles will run in the roads using less polluting energy – the electricity. As there would be higher level of awareness and better facilities, waste disposal management will keep the cities, towns and other compact settlements clean. In such situation, nature and human being would align in the same direction complementing each other.  To attain the goal of such harmonious nature-human relationship, the agenda and policy themes mentioned below would contribute.

 

  • Promotion of community forests
  • Launching horticulture and animal husbandry activities as a movement that brings greenery back, generates employment and enhances income.
  • Promoting use of hydro-power in industries and vehicles
  • Setting up agro-processing industries and expanding markets
  • Creating much better arrangements in harnessing forest products commercially and sustainably and improving people’s access to and rights over several forest products to create a balance between people’s need and environmental conservation

Environment should not be an issue, which makes people’s livelihood more difficult. The national conservation parks in Nepal have been established considering ordinary people as destroyer of environment. The national aim of environmental protection revolves around keeping forests out of reach of people rather than considering them as valuable partners in conservation. Hence, they should be allowed for sustainable use of forest products. However, the national conservation areas have generated lots of social disputes. The angry people may burn some forests some day if their accesses to their forest resources have been continuously denied (Ghimire 1994: 1994). People have to depend on forests for firewood, fodder and herbal produces. When, they are not allowed to utilize such resources, it is only natural to revolt. Hence, the prevailing policy should be changed and people should be taken into confidence and should be accepted as partners in programs and activities of environmental conservation.

 

Introduction of community forests, promotion of commercially viable several small private forests, and expansion of horticulture activities all over Nepal should be included in the larger environmental regeneration program.

 

Similarly, use of green energy including hydro-power and solar power may help improve quality of air around. Pollution should be a major area of environmental concern.

 

The more the relationship between nature and human being becomes harmonious, the environment could be much better and a much better place would be available for human being to live in. Hence, the emphasis should be on better relationship, which addresses concerns including that of the nature and human being, both.

 

Reorganization of social relationships

 

The prevailing social relationship in Nepal has three core components – domination of exploitative economic classes, supremacy of Khasa nationality and male chauvinism. Until the social relationship gets radically changed, the society will not move forward. The society which is free of such evil is difficult to build but not impossible to. In a complex socio-economic and political setting, there had been several attempts to radically change the society. However, irrespective of incremental change in several core areas, the qualitative change has not taken place. It could be done more aggressively now and it should be done without further delay. For this purpose, some of the agenda items and policy themes are proposed below.

 

  • Poverty alleviation
  • End of fatalism in thinking and behaviour and end of Khasa supremacy
  • Empowerment of marginalized sections including women.

Several attempts have been made to alleviate poverty by increasing production. These efforts include micro-credit, production credit for rural women, small farmers’ development programs, rural development banks, etc. However, the problem is not that of low production only but also is that of ownership over means of production and inequitable distribution. Being indifferent on radical social change, exploitative economic practices and change in the ownership over means of production, there is no possibility of alleviating poverty. Hence, poverty alleviation endeavors should include critical awareness on societal values, norms and practices, presence of strong popular as well as class organizations, people’s movements particularly launched and led by oppressed classes and marginalized sections and positive environment that overtly favors grassroots change movements, role reversals and civilized social values that promote equity, equality and justice including inclusiveness. Poverty is not only economic deprivation, but also this is a state where helplessness, feeling of discrimination and fatalistic acceptance of injustices, inequalities and deprivations dominate. Therefore, without fighting against injustices, without opposing fatalism and without raising hopes and feeling of self-respect as well as empowerment, no battle against poverty could be won. Similarly, women also could not get their rightful place if they do not fight against inequalities and could not throw away their inferior, conservative and accepting ‘male superiority’ thinking, practices and behaviors. This is not an act of giving and taking, rather this is a movement of women’s emancipation and empowerment lunched and led primarily by women themselves. This should be an emancipation movement that transforms the women themselves and changes the society radically.

 

The other factor that has been keeping Nepal as one of the backward country is the supremacy of Khasa nationality in each and every areas of political and social governance. Till the Madhesis, MangolKirats, Dalits and Newars could share the opportunities, resources and socio-political standing equitably, Nepal could not progress. The injustices meted out to oppressed nationalities should be opposed strongly and the process to establish an egalitarian society should get acceleration.

 

It should be reminded once again that poverty, inequality and injustice are not just technical issues, rather they are complex socio-political issues and these issues could be best addressed by socio-political movements. Such movements will challenge the existing socio-political order and demand for a new order based on radically restructured society including the change in power relationships in the society and state.

 

During the past fifty years, foundations have been created for several types of movements to replace the old socio-political order with a new one and during the next fifty years, certainly there would be monumental changes.  Really, a new Nepal is in making.

 

Concluding comment

 

The challenges include to have a vision and to have agenda and policy themes, which translate that vision into reality. In a complex phenomenon of rapid change, old state would disappear and a new one would emerge. Old social values will be replaced by new values and entire society will go through a process of transformational upheavals. Finally, the society would be radically restructured. The analysis of the past fifty years makes people hopeful that another tumultuous fifty years would be crucial to reorganize Nepali state politically, to restructure Nepali society socially and discover new heights of prosperity economically. The opposite trends of destructions and constructions, degenerations and regenerations and regression and progress would continuously transform Nepal. The door is open and rays of lights are straight coming in. The next fifty years would be full of exciting events that would open up new possibilities and prospects. The socially responsible, politically enlightened and technologically advance endeavors would be the major thematic areas that Nepali transformative course would revolve around.

 

 

 


 

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[1] Under the Birta system the state used to donate or gift entire villages to the Bahuns (so-called high caste Hindu priestly layer). They were exempted from land tax and any other obligations.

[2] The prevailing practice was that the interest rate was determined by the need of the peasants and agriculture laborers. The money lenders used to charge the interest between 60 and 120% annually. The new law fixed the rate of annual interest at 10% and calculated the interest paid by the barrower retrospectively and deducted the amount paid back as interest exceeding the 10% limit and deducted the exceeded amount from the principal amount. In most of the cases, the repaid amount exceeded the total loan. Hence, that was summarily written off.

[3] The land ceiling for a family in Tarai was 25 Bigah (16931.75 sq. meters) and 80 Ropani in hills (40697.6 sq. meters).

[4] Bahunbad is a first coined by Dor Bahadur Bista, a renowned anthropological research scholar. It means unjust but all-pervading dominance of Bahuns in all spheres of society and state. Literally, it means Brahmanism.

[5] This provision was changed by the Interim Constitution of Nepal 2006, and Nepal was declared a secular state.

 

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Anarchy of Elites: A Case of Mismanaged Political Transition in Nepal

By Govinda Neupane

Center for Development Studies, Nepal

Kathmandu

First Internet Edition – August 2012

Contents
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

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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

Upheavals in Nepal – Transforming the State and Society

 

Upheavals in Nepal

(Transforming the State and Society)

By Govinda Neupane

Center for Development Studies, Nepal

Kathmandu

Year of Publication: 2001 (In Nepali language)

Revised English Edition – 2004

Center for Development Studies, Nepal

 Kathmandu

General Note: In Nepal, the Bikram calendar is in use instead of Gregorian calendar. Therefore, in this book, particularly in the publication date of the references, the Bikram Sambat (B.S.) is quoted. The difference between B.S. and A.D. is 56 year 7 month and 17 days in ordinary year and 56 year 7 month and 18 days in leap year. Therefore, the calculation is – A.D. + 56 year 7 month and 17 days = B.S. in ordinary A.D. and + 1 day in leap year.  All dates used in this book without mentioning B.S. are in A.D.

Table of Contents

S.N.                                                                     Title                                                                        Page

Chapters

1. Historical Context and Mass Movements

2. Parliamentary Politics

3. Role of Political Parties

4. Achievements and Limitations of Parliamentary System

5. Maoist Movement

6. Socio-Economic and Political Issues and Observations 

7. Constituent Assembly and Pluralism with a Difference

9. Winding up

Experiences and Feelings (in boxes)

1. Kudos to Nepalese Democracy which is shapeless.

2. Change Upward, Change Downward

3. People Walk with Visible Commotion

4. Walls Speak

5. Seminars and Speeches: Employment of Marginalized Leaders

6.  Democracy Lives in the Pockets of Leaders

7. Discussion on the Maoists and the Context of Change

8. Maoist Movement: Different Interpretations

9. Newness in Environment and Continuity in Belief

10. Be Aware of Nongovernmental Organizations

11. Sale of Quotations

12. Intellectual Community and Intensity of Fear

Notes

Bibliography

Index

Upheaviels in Nepal

(Transforming the State and Society)

 

Chapter One

 

Historical Context and Mass Movements

The Nepalese history is the saga of bravery, courage and valor. It does not lack in effort for entrepreneurship, new experiments, reconstruction and progress. The present day Nepal woes its existence to the great role played by its people, community and class who have added contribution in the flow and momentum for changes. It is also true that the hindrances, obstacles and scandals created by reactionary forces have retarded our advancement. Following the emergence of the greater Nepal in 1768, our country had to go through the Rana rule, the Panchayat rule and that superstructure has taken the form of parliamentary system today. However, the changes that have been introduced in the superstructure have not resulted in the transformation of the basic structure of the society. Although these tasks remain unaccomplished, many important steps are found.

The first settlements and the villages developed by the Kiratas, introduction of farming and animal husbandry by the Lichhavis, expansion of the kingdom and evolution of military strategy and war policy by Prithvi Narayan Shah, the heroic campaigns, bravery and sacrifices of anti-British warriors, efforts in retrieving the New Territories from British-India, reform measures of Dev Shamsher, abolition of Sati system and slavery are a few fine examples. Similarly, the awakening brought about by Krishna Lal’s “Makaiko Kheti” (the book on the cultivation of corn which indirectly criticized the all powerful Rana rule indirectly), effort of courageous political activists made under Prachand Gorkha for a change, establishment of Biratnagar Jute Mills and the Nepal Bank Ltd., birth of Praja Parisad, the strike of September 1, 1940 for the first time in the Nepalese history1, contribution of literary geniuses including Laxmi Prasad Devkota and Gopal Prasad Rimal, the movement of Jayatu Sanskritam, the first workers movement of Biratnagar, establishment of the Nepali Congress and the Communist Party of Nepal and the historic people’s movement of 1950 constitute some fine, strong and positive aspects of the Nepalese history. Similarly, the armed resistance of Ram Prasad Rai and Dr. K. I. Singh against the Delhi Agreement of 1950, the peasant’s revolt of far western Nepal organized under Bhim Dutta Pant, the peaceful resistance of 1958, the armed actions mounted by the Nepali Congress in 1961, the Jhapa Movement of 1971, the pre-referendum movement of 1979, the armed actions of the Janabadi Morcha in 1985, the People’s Movement of 1990 and the Maoist People’s War started since 1996 are such events of Nepalese history, which have made important contribution in the progress and advancement of the Nepalese society. Clearly,  there is a series of political, cultural and professional movements of classes, and other social forces.2 Today, it is necessary to undertake a systematic study of these cumulative values contributing to a radical change of the society. With this in mind, an attempt will be made for a review of this process and the role of various strata of political, professional and other communities and their dynamism.

Political Renaissance

In 1920 A. D., a new event took place in Nepal’s social, literary and political sphere. That year, a book on agricultural science called “Makaiko Kheti” (cultivation of corn) was published. This was not only an unexpected event in the Rana regime characterized by a dark epoch of savagery; it was also a rehearsal for the opening of the renaissance. On the importance of the publication of the “Makaiko Kheti” the Praja Parisad comments, “It was almost impossible for the poor and ignorant people to oppose the Rana rule. But no one could stem the flow of time. In spite of control on education by the Ranas, some Nepalese started to receive education living in India. From there, they studied about the people’s revolutions of America, France and Russia apart from learning many things about the Indian Independence Movement. Some Nepalese who had become conscious in this process published the book called “Makaiko Kheti“.  This book contained an oblique criticism of the Rana regime. (Praja Parisad, 2043 B.S: 27-28)

The importance of “Makaiko Kheti” was in its containing dual meaning. It could be used symbolically to interpret the social condition of that period. The political connotation of the book can easily be understood from references such as “the red headed insects and black headed insects”, “domestic and foreign dogs”, the devils entered since 1846″ and the “Chandrodaya is not as good as mother’s milk to a child” etc. (Pokhrel et al 2000 B.S: 4) A victim of the anger of the Ranas, Krishna Lal Adhikari was awarded a prison sentence of nine years in a court decision of August 2, 1920. The nature of this punishment was political. Another characteristic of this book was to try to teach how to cultivate corn technically and scientifically. Although 1000 copies of the book were printed, 999 copies were confiscated and burnt down by the Ranas. The remaining one copy has not been traced as yet. (Paudel, 2040 B.S: 89-100, ‘Samarpan‘ without page numbers, Pokherl et al, 2000 B.S: 4) The legal action taken against nine people including Krishna Lal who were involved in the publication of this book and the upheaval it brought is known as the “Makai Parva“. Krishna Lal who had been awarded with a rigorous prison term of nine years died in jail after three years.

After ten years of the publication of “Makaiko Kheti” some enthusiastic youths organized “Prachanda Gorkha” in Kathmandu in 1932. This was the first political organization formed with the objective of overthrowing the Rana regime. The founders included Khadga Man Singh, Khanda Man Singh, Umesh Bikram Shah, Nanikaji, Ranganath Sharma, Krishna Prasad Wagle etc.  According to Khadga Man Singh, “Bhim Shamsher, the Rana prime minister was the Maharaja in 1988. He stayed in Tangal. Commander- In-Chief Juddha Shamsher lived in Jawalakhel. At that time Putali Sadak (one of the main city roads) did not exist. One had to go to Tangal from Jawalakhel via Kalikasthan and Dilli Bazar. The bend of Dilli Bazar was quite narrow at that time. The four youths had planned to wipe out the Rana rulers by lobbing bombs at that very point while they were traveling on horse carriages. In this case only one ‘Maharaja’ would be left in Tangal and one Nati Kaji (grand son of Bambu Colonel); a soldier in his barrack had been assigned to finish Juddha Shamsher off there. We had a detailed map about the number and whereabouts of the children and grand children of the Ranas. After the incident in Dilli Bazar, no mercenaries of the Ranas were likely to come out for resistance. If the soldiers of any barrack had the gut to resist, we had planned to make bomb attack against them also. We had a plan to finish of the Rana clan just as Jung Bahadur had killed all royalists, patriots and enlightened people in Kot massacre.” (In Shrestha, 2057 B.S.: 31) In the process of searching for a person to establish link with the King, Laxman Raja was found out by the activists. But he had deep differences on the procedure of executing the plan with the members of Prachanda Gorkha. As a result Laxman Raja betrayed them and informed it to the Ranas. After that all the members of the Prachanda Gorkha were arrested. In the words of Puspalal, the exchange of words that took place between the then Maharaja Bhim Shamsher and the activists of ‘Prachanda Gorkha’ during the ‘trial’, makes it clear that these revolutionaries were inspired by the principle of the socialist revolution.  During the trial, Bhim Shamsher said to his courtiers, “Such rebels used to be trampled under elephants’ feet under the Tsar regime in Russia; what should we do to them?”  Before the courtiers could reply, the revolutionary leader replied,” The Tsars have been already overthrown.” (Rawal, 2047 B.S.:23) Although these young braves and dreamers of change did not have any clear picture about the future, they had a deep feeling about the pains, persecutions and suffocation of the prevailing society. Of them Maina Bahadur, Khandaman, Khadgaman and Ranganath were awarded a life sentence including the confiscation of their property. Being the member of the ruling family, Umesh Bikram was held in home detention in Dhankuta. Nanibabu Sijapati was banished out of the valley. Ranganath was released after 2 years and four months with the help of the queen of Shreepur Palace. Khandaman was taken to Pashupati Aryaghat (cemetery) when he was terminally ill and died there on April 9, 1936 after battling with death for a week. Maina Bahadur also fell seriously ill and died in the dungeon on August 21, 1938 at the age of 33. Khadgaman Singh was not released even in 1996 when 19 political prisoners were released.  He was released only after the successful movement on 1951 bearing all the hardship of incarceration. (Praja Parisad, 2043 B.S.:51, Shrestha, 2057 B.S.: 31-32)

A second attempt of political significance was made on June 4, 1936 when five youths assembled in the house of Martyr Dharmabhakta’s uncle in Ombahal and decided to form a political party. They came upon the decision after consultation to name the, “Praja Parisad“. This was formed with a view to overthrow the Rana’s arbitrary rule and to establish a democratic system as the king its constitutional head. Operating slowly keeping its activities underground, Praja Parisad distributed extensively the political pamphlets in 1941. This pamphleteering started political movement in Nepal for the first time. This not only surprised the people, it also astonished the Rana rulers. If this sprouted hope among the people, it engendered an extraordinary anger and fear among the Ranas. Of those who were arrested in connection of this case, 4 were given death sentence, 2 were given life imprisonment with confiscation of property and the shaving of head, and 30 got prison terms from life to 2 months including the confiscation of property and 37 were given sentences ranging from economic fine and banishment. (Praja Parisad, 2043 B.S.: 30-34, 39-42)

The anti-Rana movement did not have the unified nature. It was developing as a spontaneous movement launched in the field of politics, society, culture and religion. Yog Maya’s reform movement was also one of them. Yog Maya was a religious reformer and her demand for a religious rule and her consequent Jalsamadhi (drowning in water to death) constituted one of the important events of that time. Born between 1861 and 1864 in Bhojpur of eastern Nepal, Yog Maya had raised voice for social reform and religious rule or good governance. When she realized that the movement she had led was on the brink of failure, she and her 68 disciples drowned in the Arun River in 1942 as a supreme pressure in the form of a spiritual rite. (Himal, 2057 B.S.: 4-21, Neupane, 2057 B.S: 133-137, Timsina 2057 B.S., 138-174; Aziz, 1993).

In 1942, the Ranas arrested and imprisoned in Hanuman Nagar Jail some Indian leaders such as Jayaprakash Narayan and Ram Manohar Lohiya who had come to Nepal and were clandestinely leading the independence movement in India. The Ranas had done so to please the British government.  Some Nepalese youths broke the Hanuman Nagar Jail to free them and thus to contribute in the Indian Independence Movement. The Nepalese youths were successful in freeing them and to escort them to India. This was the first case of prison break in Nepal with political objective. Later, the Ranas initiated legal case against more than 140 persons and awarded rigorous prison sentences to 22 of them. (Praja Parisad, 2043 B.S.: 47)

On April 30 and May 4 and 6 in 1947, huge demonstrations were held in Kathmandu. Slogans like “Inquilab Zindabad! Release Political Prisoners! And We Want Civil Rights!” gave birth to new hopes and aspirations. As the effect of the demonstration, Rana Prime Minister Padma Shamsher announced on May 16, 1947 that he would institute constitutional reforms within 12 days. He promised that he would invite experts to consult about constitutional reforms and released the demonstrators who were arrested. (Praja Parisad, 2043 B.S.: 51)

On 31 October 1946, “All India Nepali National Congress” was established. A representative assembly convened in Calcutta on January 25-27 in 1947 to ascertain its goal and programme, considered the name inappropriate and renamed it as “Nepali National Congress.” It had the objective of establishing representative rule in Nepal with the king as its constitutional head. Later, the Nepali Congress was established merging the Nepal Prajatantra Congress and Nepali National Congress. Concurrently to this, the Communist Party of Nepal was also established in 1949.

For the first time, a people’s movement started in Nepal in 1951 with an extensive participation of the people. Soon the movement assumed the form of armed struggle. This movement, which was able to mobilize the people extensively, ended in the Delhi Agreement. This was the first power sharing among the ruling classes in the name of the people. On the one hand, this stunted the wishes of the people for liberation and on the other it ended the possibility of developing equal relation and trying to regain the Nepalese territory lost in the Treaty of Sugauli by a review of the treaty with the new Indian rulers in the context of the British withdrawal from India. As a consequence a base was created for an anti-Indian environment in Nepal. During the visit of Nepal by Inidan Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, various sister organizations of the communist party of Nepal demonstrated black flags against him on 16 June 1951. This was first time in which India’s view towards Nepal and her unequal treatment was met with a mass rebuff. This was in fact a continuation of the armed protest to the Delhi Agreement mounted by Ram Prasad Rai and Dr. K. I. Singh.

Despite the promise by King Tribhuwan on February 18, 1951 following the Delhi agreement and the stipulation in the preamble of “Interim Constitution – 2050” that “the government of Nepal would be run in accordance with the provision of the democratic constitution prepared by a constituent assembly” (In Vaidya et al, 1996:232), no initiative was taken for a long time to hold the election of the constituent assembly for drafting the new constitution. Consequently, a civil disobedience movement started demanding for a constituent assembly in 1958. However, a constitution was drafted and enforced by creating a parliament with a strong presence of the king without an election for the constituent assembly. The King engineered a military coup on December 15, 1960 on the basis of the provisions of this very constitution.

Following the royal military coup of 1960, people’s movements were trampled under military boots. As a result, no cases of people’s movement were seen till 1965 apart from minor exceptions. After 1965, however, the history of Nepali people’s movement is full of the glorious sacrifices by the Nepalese youths and students. In fact the students’ movement seems to the mainstream of the opposition politics from 1965 to 1971 when the political parties had become ineffective. During this period, large student struggles such as Valley Student Struggle, struggle against the misdemeanor of D. I. G. Narayan Singh and the Susta Movement. The movement of 1979 was also basically a movement of the students. The student movement which was influenced by the Jhapa Movement that started from “class enemy annihilation” in Jyamirgadi of Jhapa district on May 24, 1971, made the Nepalese monarchy yield for the first time before the people’s movement and compelled it to hold the referendum. Although it was able to bring the result of the referendum to its favor with the misuse of state resources the monarchy in the guise of Panchayat could not prevent the people’s movement. As a result, the People’s Movement of 1990 took place. This movement ended the party-less system which was in existence for a long time and restored the multi-party system. It helped to change the absolute monarchy into a constitutional monarchy and widened people’s rights to some extent. This movement had not taken place only as a consequence of previous political movement but as a culmination of entire mass movements. It is therefore desirable to discuss briefly about these mass movements.

 

Mass Movements

The movements of various classes and communities of the Nepali people include those movements launched by the Nepalese peasants, workers, youths, students women, oppressed and down trodden people considered untouchables, low salaried employees, teachers and progressive intellectuals. It is, therefore, necessary to review these movements, briefly though, and to subject them to general appraisal and review. With this objective in mind, these movements will be subjected to an evaluation and review.

Experiences and feelings-1
 
Kudos to Nepalese Democracy, which is Shapeless

 

I was busy for about a year meeting with various outstanding democrats to ask after the health of democracy, which rules the country in the form of parliamentary system today. Although I met very many people, I am planning to present the excerpts of talks only with three of them. They have also represented the ideas of other people I met. One social democrat leader having a long history did not see any relevance of such question. In his view, this was the best system; only the terrorists (Maoists) and conspirators had gone against it. But he also was not satisfied with what was happening in Nepal today and felt that the leadership of the present government, which was the root cause of the distortions, needed replacement. I repeated the same question to a youth leader of the same school of thought who is considered an outstanding intellectual. He said “since a long war was fought against party-less system, we call multiparty system a democracy. Multiparty system was restored but democracy has not been established from the point of view of ideas, practices and culture. Therefore, the health of democracy is not good.” I repeated the same question again with a leader of the second category, who was a little more sentimental. He said, “My ideal was this multiparty democracy, and it has come. I am no more worried about whether we would win election or not because we won the election and formed the government. Those very leaders whom I considered my ideal came to power also. We lack in experience in the beginning but we have now gained experience also. The worry as to whether I would belong to the group of policy makers is also irrelevant now because I belong to the team. What surprises me is that the ideal of democracy, which I had dreamt about, was not realized. There is no possibility of this being realized also. The decision of our own government to regularize 30,000 teachers without competition can be taken as a case in point. This was utterly undemocratic decision. Failing to prevent our own government from taking such a decision we have knocked the door of the court.” I felt that one outspoken leader had at least seen the blurred face of democracy. Many other leaders of the same school of thought did not seem to have seen the face of democracy in Nepal. It is not surprising, therefore, for ordinary Nepalese people and poor me not to have seen it. Kudos to Nepal’s shapeless and incomprehensible democracy, which may be seated somewhere in its divine throne. 

 

Peasant Movement

The system of land holding that existed in the various principalities annexed in Nepal remained intact for a long time. These systems included Raikar, Birta, Jagir, Guthi, Kipat, Ukhada, Mahajani, Rajauta etc. In all these systems, feudal relation of production remained dominant. The peasants were powerless and they had no control over their product. In general terms, the landlords were the real decision makers. The state and law always favored them. The peasants, therefore, had to mount struggle against this unjust system several times.

The movement launched by the peasants of Gaur in November 1950 was the first such movement by the Nepalese peasant which was planned. On November 18, a massive demonstration of the peasants was organized in which 10,000 peasants had participated. The army indiscriminately fired upon the demonstrators. Many peasants including their leader Shiva Prasad were killed in this shooting (Sharma, 2008 B.S.:422). The glorious movement of the peasant was a part of the great people’s movement that was going on inside the country, which succeeded in bringing down the Rana regime and inspired the people to continuously march forward on the path of class emancipation. This peasant movement has its own place in the various other movements that took place in 1950.

On May 3, 1961 the government opened fire killing a number of peasants in a peasant struggle against landlord in Bardia. On August 4, 1953 it murdered Bhim Dutta Pant who was a strong and popular peasant leader of western Nepal. In the terror that was unleashed by the Indian army called by the government two other peasants also died from the bullets of the Indian army. In this movement about 50 peasants were injured and about 200 were taken prisoners.

The peasant movement that had started from Rautahat expanded to Bara, Parsa, Sarlahi and Mahottari. In this movement the peasants tore the unlawful debentures and took defaulting landlords for a donkey ride after blackening their faces with soot. During the movement debentures worth 6.5 million rupees were confiscated from the landlords and were torn to pieces.  But the government quelled the movement due to various causes including the passivity of its leaders (Baidya, 2047 B.S.: 56-57).

The Peasant Association of Bara had raised the issue of human dignity strongly. During those days, people from rich families used degrading terms while addressing the people of poor families. The peasant’s Association demanded that dignified terms be used in addressing the poor people. This was something, which the feudal landlords could not tolerate. The peasants of Bara and Parsa district plunged into the struggle. It soon changed into clashes between the landlords and the peasants. The police sided with the landlords and the movement took an anti-government posture. The momentum and height of the movement compelled the feudal lords and the police to yield. Although with a lot of bloodshed and difficulties, the peasants won victory and the feudal lords were compelled to sign an agreement promising to use honorable term of address to the poor people. (Jyapu, 2046 B.S.:19-21). Similarly, a progressive study association of Ratamata in Puthan district had organized a training camp for its workers in 1953. In this camp, 150 cadres were provided training and were taught to do exercises. Some peasants complained about the injustice and atrocities being meted out to them before a team of cadres who had gone of Narikot in connection with the training. When a negotiation with the landlords failed to find solution, a movement was launched with general participation of the people. During the mass action many cases of attacks and counter attacks took place there. At the end, the feudal lords were compelled to fulfill all the demands against injustice and atrocities. (Singh, 2046 B.S.: 9-17)

In 1979, the peasants of Sindhupalchok launched a struggle against the exploitation of the Guthi and the oppression of the police. In this struggle, crops were captured and the crooked persons were punished. The peasants of Dhanusa launched movement for raising the wages in 1980. The protesters from 20 villages and numbering in thousands were able to get a slight increment in their wages. In 1981, the jute-producing peasants of Jhapa, Morang and Sunsari launched a struggle demanding increase in the price of jute, expansion of market facilities and the increase of the quota of jute purchase by Jute Development and Trading Corporation. The government took violent measures to suppress these peasants and opened fire against them at Urlabari of Morang. Many peasants were injured in this incident. The peasant movement of 1984 launched in Jhapa and Ilam was also significant. In this movement in which a more organized initiative was taken collecting the demands of the peasants from the village level. The peasants were able to collect 30 thousand signatures in support of their 14-point demands and submitted them to the government. The government arrested 49 peasants in this event.

The peasants of Sindhupalchok were struggling against injustice since 1969. A massive demonstration was held in Barabise in 1972 demanding food for the hungry people. In 1979, a militant struggle was launched by the peasants against a notorious landlord demanding social prestige and the increase in the wages of farm laborers. In 1981, a struggle was also organized against the oppression and injustice of a foreign aid program called “Intensive Hill Development Project.” The peasants of this area continued to launch struggle on major and minor issues. Due to these events the local bullies and administration set about suppressing the people on the pretext of the “growth of extremists.” As a result the police opened a discriminate fire upon a crowd of the people who had gathered to celebrate a traditional festival at Piskar village in 1984. Two peasants were killed and more than a dozen were injured in that incident. In the suppression campaign that followed, three more peasants were killed. Numerous peasants were arrested in this incident. (Himali Prakasan, 2041 B.S.: 189-194). This incident was condemned throughout the nation.

In 1979, the government unleashed an extensive suppression against the peasants of Chhintang in Dhankuta. In this suppression campaign launched by the rulers, several peasants had to lose their lives. Similarly, the peasants of Jugedi of Chitawan also launched a brave struggle against the government. One peasant was shot dead in this incident.

Slavery was abolished in Nepal in 1926. But it did not abolish the practice of indebtedness and bonded labor. As a result, the practice of bonded labor continued in Dang, Banke, Bardiya, Kailali and Kanchanpur districts of the western Terai. According to official statistics, the number of the bonded families was 17000 in 1994. (Susasaa, 1995) A movement was started for the abolition of this infamous practice after the restoration of democracy in 1990. Organizations such as Backward Society Education (BASE), Bonded Labor Eradication Forum, Bonded Laborer Concerned Group, and INSEC etc. were involved in the movement while the struggle launched in June and July in 2000 under the Committee for the Struggle of Bonded Labor saw them in a different situation. The government declared their emancipation on July 17, 2000. Although, this is their great achievement and success, their life has not become liberated and free in the real sense of the term. They have however, reached to the status of other farm laborers.

Gaining experiences from these struggles and taking negative and positive lessons, the Nepalese peasants have been marching forward on the path of their emancipation. The progress may be faster or slower, but it has not come to standstill.

 

Workers’ Movement

The Industrial Council was established in 1935. After some time, Gharelu Ilam Prachar Adda (cottage industry promotion office) was opened under it. It was changed into the department of Cottage and Small Industries in 1939. The Company Act was brought into force in 1936 for the first time. With the establishment of Biratnagar Jute Mills in 1936 and Nepal Bank Limited in 1937, conditions were created for the emergence of new classes and a new relation of production in Nepal. From this specific point, from where the capitalist relation of production started, a change occurred in social, political and economic role of classes in Nepal. With the emergence of new industrial class, it was bound to have more decisive ideological and political role than all other classes. It was also appropriate to have an expectation of a militant struggle from the working class. As a result, the first workers strike in Nepalese history started in Biratnagar Jute Mills and Cotton Mills from March 4, 1947. The strike went on peacefully until March 24. Dialogues were taking place between the leaders of striking workers and the owners of the mills. But a contingent of 250 troops sent by the Ranas to suppress the strike reached Biratnagar on March 24 and the strike was mercilessly suppressed the next day. The leaders of the workers and other political leaders were also arrested. (Praja Parisad, 2043 B.S.:48)  Similarly, 9 workers were killed and 51 others injured when the government opened fire on the workers on April 28, 1950 even after the overthrow of the Ranas. The same year, the government again opened fire killing five workers who had risen in struggle in Birgunj demanding for higher wages.

A cursory look at the industrial management of the country reveals that it had started to take some momentum after the introduction of the First Five Year Plan in 1956. An Industrial Policy was announced 1957. The Factory Act was brought into force in 1959. The same year, the Industrial Development Center was changed into Industrial Development Corporation. Industrial Entrepreneur Act was enforced in 1961. In 1981, an act was brought into force concerning foreign investment and technology transfer. An economic stabilization program was implemented from 1985 and a structural adjustment program was implemented from 1986. The number of factories established in private sector from 1936 to 1995 was 71,405. (CPN-UML, 2053 B.S.:41)

In April 1979, about 25,000 transport workers launched a strike. They had a partial success in getting their demands fulfilled. In 1979, workers from various industrial sectors launched a strike putting forward 27-point demands. This strike assumed a nationwide character. The government, which had come out with a policy of suppression, was not able to attain its objective. It was compelled to fulfill the demands of the workers, though partially. It instilled them with a consciousness of an organized strength and prompted them to form a national level free workers’ union. In 1980, the workers of Kathmandu, Biratnagar, Birgunj and Hetauda launched a struggle putting forward a 34-point demand.  This strike went for fourteen days. The strike could not be successful for lack of adequate internal preparation, failure to forge unity and a severe crack down from the government. In May, 1981 the workers of Biratnagar rose in struggle again. One worker was killed during the movement. But the workers were able to get their demands fulfilled staying firm in their struggle. In November 1981, the workers of Hetauda succeeded in getting their demands partially fulfilled through a 22-day long strike. Similarly, the workers of Balaju were also able to get their demand for a better life through their 25-day strike in January 1982.  The workers of Balaju again plunged into struggle in 1982. The strike, which had started with a four-point program, ended in failure. During this movement 336 workers were expelled from different factories. In 1985 the movement of the workers of the Hetauda Cement Factory also ended in failure. 350 workers were expelled from the factory. In 1989 the strike of the Kathmandu Textile, however, was successful. They were able to get a number of their demands fulfilled.

Taken as a whole, the workers movement of Nepal is still in its infancy. There are four causes for this: 1) Limited number of industries owing to sluggish rate of industrialization and industrial services. 2) Dispersal of strength owing to division of workers between innumerable leftist and centrist groupings. 3) Helplessness created by the concept of fatalism prevalent among the workers. 4) Effectiveness of the suppressive measures of the industrialists and the rulers. Despite this, the extent to which the workers are participating in the movement with partial success carries a serious and long-term importance. As they have already acquired enough negative and positive experience, they are bound to overcome their weaknesses and engage in the task of class emancipation with the strategic thinking, a long-term plan and a militant struggle. Their present day status compels them not only to participate in the movement to bring about a change in their situation, but also to fulfill their historic responsibility by providing leadership to it.

 

Women’s Movement

Women’s awakening is found to have started in Nepal with the publication of the book “The Women’s Education” written by Durga Devi Acharya Dixit in 1897. The “Women’s Committee” formed by Dibya Devi Koirala and Yogmaya Koirala in 1918, however, constitutes the first attempt for women’s movement. During this period, Sati System (according to this system a widow was brunt live in the funeral pile of her dead husband) was abolished from Nepal. Establishing Padma Kanya School in 1945 institutionalized the women’s education. “Nepal Women’s Association” was established in 1947 under the chairmanship of Mangala Devi Singh. A pro-communist “Nepal Women’s Association” was established in 1950. At the same time, “All Nepal Women’s Association”, “Women Volunteer Services” and “Birangana Dal” were also established under Punya Prabha Devi Dhungana, Kamal Rana and Rohini Shah respectively. After 1960, the pro-Panchayat women activists formed “Nepal Women’s Organization.”  In 1980, the “Nepal Women’s Organization” set up in 1950 was reorganized into “All Nepal Women’s Association”. (Nemansangh, 2055 B.S., Pradhan, 2052 B.S.; 53-57, Subedi, 1991)

The Nepalese Women started to acquire their legal rights after “equality before law” was theoretically guaranteed in “Nepal Government Act-2004”. Women are found to have given equal status after “Nepal Interim Constitution-1950” recognized the equality between men and women stressing the need for the state to make special provision for women and children.(Sangraula, 2052 B.S. :75-91). Even the constitutions promulgated after that have recognized that theory. The Nepalese women got their right to vote in 1947. This right was given to them after the demands set by women on the election of municipalities were fulfilled. (Subedi, 1991: 21) A woman candidate was also elected in the election of the Kathmandu municipality held in 1953. There was a woman minister in the government formed by the Nepalese Congress in 1959. Despite this, the awareness movement of women was not effective. Most of the women’s organizations mentioned above were attached to one or the other political parties or were their sister organizations. Their main objective was not to study the life standard of women, explore their potentialities and to launch an organized struggle but they were merely used as a tool for political parties to gather women around them.

The Nairobi Conference, International Women’s Decade, Beijing Conference as well as the change of 1990, provided momentum to women’s awakening and their struggle for liberation. A great discussion started on the status of women and their right to paternal property after the Supreme Court directed the government to change those laws that came into clash with the constitution or restricted the equal rights of women. This historic event could have changed the women’s movement hovering around the women of higher middle class into an emancipation movement of all women. But the political parties and the NGOs, which encouraged the “sick culture of holding seminars”, did not let it happen.

At present the classical Marxists deny them a change in their present status on the plea that their emancipation would come only after the class emancipation and the centrist political formations are bent on creating an ironic situation of equating women’s emancipation with the problems and potentialities of educated middle class women.

The issue of basic concern in the Movement of Nepalese women is to empower them politically, socially and economically. Moreover, the awakening, organization, development and empowerment of the vast majority of poor women, especially the women of rural areas should have been at the center of the movement. It is not possible to bring about a change in the status of peasant and working class women from the “kitchen garden” of the NGOs.3 Lately; however, a change is being witnessed even in the situation and the initiative of women.

In view of the transformational situation created by the Maoist movement, three salient features have been noted in the present day women’s movement. 1) The women’s movement has forged an alliance with the class emancipation. It has, therefore, become a part of people’s liberation. 2) The women’s movement has acquired an extraordinary militancy. Now, it has taken the path of transformation, which is full of sacrifices. 3) It has assumed the form of peasants’ and working women’s movement surmounting all the trappings and ceremonies of the INGOs, NGOs and the women of higher classes.  Despite the effort of western desire and their impersonated representatives – the NGOs and INGOs – to make the women’s movement serve the interest and aspiration of urban and the higher middle class women, this movement is moving forward in the form of emancipation of all women.

 

Nationalities’ Movements

 

The newly established greater feudal Gorkha State, which was later called Nepal, was a state of Khas domination. From the very inception, this state was whole-heartedly engaged in Hinduisation of the society. We can cite Prithvi Narayan Shah’s calling it “Asali Hindustana” (a real Hindustan) and his injunction to ensure the presence of one Pundit in each Kachahari (legal hearing) and his order to banish “Newar” Christians from the country after the conquest of the Valley as examples.

Experiences and Feelings-2

 

Change Upward, Change Downward

Four of us, co-travelers of Jhapa Movement, had a coincidental get-together some times ago. We were in a mood to listen and make other listen each other’s ideas. In fact, a lot of ups and downs were witnessed in the country during the last 25 to 30 years. Practices changed, ideals altered and the worldview also underwent a great transformation. During that period some people considered worthless proved capable and those considered promising relapsed to passivity covering themselves with the mantle of falsehood and absurdity. Those biologists who never thought that lions would eat grass were surprised to see for themselves them eat grass. It also provided some sociologists a fertile field for research. This upheaval changed great heroes into villains. What is strange is that these heroes did not sense this change nor did they have the ideological level to accept it. They even lacked the olfactory faculty to take stock of their present situation.

Even among us (the “ex-Jhapalis”) assembled there, we found that we still had the remnant of adventurism of the Jhapalese in us. One among us said “our classes have changed. So have our class characters. The character of our class politics is also no longer the same. Some of us had a transition to upper class and acquired class character accordingly. I and some other friends declined from our previous level from the class point of view. The character of our class politics also changed. It is clear that our roles also changed. I have come to hold the view that the duty of my class politics is to strengthen the present day Maoist movement. I may sympathize, assist and support them according to my situation. But I should side with them.” The speaker, ex-Jhapali, who had spent more than twelve years in prison thus expressed his views and relapsed into silence. The conclusion of this former comrade who was rich in experiences but poor in financial position astonished some of us while it upset and disturbed others.

 

Nepal’s feudal regime established a high class Hindu-Khas domination in the political, cultural and economic field through ideological basis of Hindu religion, dissemination of social psychology about the cultural supremacy of the Khas people, Making Khas language which is now known as the Nepali language compulsory in all kinds of official works and the establishment of Khas control through Birta and Jagir system in land management and its ownership. The opposition of high class Hindu- Khas domination, however, had started from the very beginning. The war between the Kirat states of  Chaudandi, Hatuwa or Bijayapur-Morang and Gorkha Khas state whose capital was shifted to Kathmandu was not only a war between two states but was also a war between the Khas and the Kirat nationalities. Some people have depicted it as a war of national unification on the basis of the fact that the Khas army also contained some Magars and Gurungs in its ranks. But the facts are different. In 1806, an order was given that all the Gurungs should send at least one member of their family in the war of Kangada. Many Gurungs went to fight that war completing a long journey but they were unaware of the political cause of the war. (Pignede, 1966: 490). In MajhKirat, some rebels (Kulyaha) staged a revolt against the Khas-Gorkha expansion in very early years. According to Gyan Mani Nepal, Atal Rai, Bharat Singh Rai and Kanthabir Rai were executed and 15 others were subjected to confiscation of property and other punishment. (Yakha Rai, 2053 B.S.: 345) According to Parsuram Tamang who has ascribed his information to Harka Gurung, Maheschandra Regmi, Janaklal Sharma and Durgahang Yakha Rai, the expulsion of the Kiratas in 1770, the revolt of the Tamang and the Limbus in 1793, the revolt of Lakhan Thapa in Gorkha in 1870 and the revolt of Supati and Sukadev Gurung in 1877 were revolts and movements with ethnic overtones. (Tamang, 2054 B.S.: 122)

The oppressed people were under such a pressure that they were compelled to live without voice, organization and movement for a long time. During the Panchayat regime they opened some cultural associations such as Dalit Janabikas Parisad and initiated some works in the field of unity of the nationalities and their uplift. “Nepal Oppressed people Liberation Society” is one of its developed forms.

After the Khasa rulers of Kathmandu distributed land in the Terai to their relatives in an indiscriminate way to army personnel, civil officials, their sycophants, stooges and various other people under their favor and specially after the wave of migration to Terai increased following the control of malaria an atmosphere of mistrust, suspicion and animosity increased between the people of Madhesi nationality and other people. Even before this, the Khas rulers used to treat the Madhesi as right-less second-class citizens born for the fulfillment of their duty. Although the Terai looked calm from the point of view of conflict and clashes among nationalities, it was due to lack of strength on the part of oppressed nationality and not an expression of social well being. The Terai Congress tried to some extent to give expression to it. The Terai region of Nepal is beset with the problem of citizenship. The landless people have no proof of citizenship. It has made them stateless. The Madhesis bear justifiable grudges against land reform (specially the distribution of land confiscated from the Terai landlord to other people), the government’s arrangement about language and culture as well as the solution of the problem of squatters (specially the distribution of public land in the Terai to the families of non-Madhesis), and discrimination in employment. Although questions have been raised on these issues on a number of times, their solution has not been found yet. (Yadav, 2054 B.S.).

The movement of 1950 had brought the concept of self-governance to the fore. This is proved by the following incident described by B. P. Koirala, which was said to have taken place in Majhkirat during one of his visits there.

“As I looked to the other side of the river (a river near Bhojpur Bazar) there was a crowd of eight to ten thousand people. I had to go there. I went on horseback. Crossed the river on a boat. The crowd was excited. We were in front of them. Brahmins and Kshetries were hiding in fear. The followers of Bhudev Rai were demanding their right over the territory and they were demanding statehood. Some slogans were even raised demanding for self-governance.” (Koirala, 2055 B.S.: 162-163)

In the 1970s, pamphlets were again distributed in the Majhkirat calling for a movement against the thread wearing Khasas. During the Panchayat regime, an attempt was made though reluctantly, to bring together Sherpas, Tamangs, Magars, Gurungs, Rais and Limbus in the name of “Setamagurali.”   Limbuan Liberation Front was formed demanding for the self-governance of Limbuan. Similarly, various nationalities’ liberation movements such as Khumbuan Liberation Front, Magar Liberation Front, Mongol National Organization, and Newar National Movement came into being. Even Mangol-Kirat also organized in political groupings such as National People’s Liberation Party, Nepal Jana Party, and Janamukti Morcha Nepal and started to raise voice in favor of nationalities’ rights and equality. Similarly, the Nepal Terai Congress in its new incarnation as Nepal Sadbhawana Party came into existence for the rights of the Madhesis. Now Madhesi Rastriya Mukti Morcha has also been established putting forward its view that the liberation of the Madhesis is possible by linking it with class liberation movements. Lately, even the oppressed people are found to have declared their organized presence establishing “Nepal Dalit Shramik Morcha.”

In this process the reorganization, awakening and expansion of nationalities’ cultural organizations and social movements also took place rapidly. Manka Khala, Kirat Dharma tatha Sanskrit Utthan Manch, Kirat Yakthung Chumlung, Nepal Tamang Ghedung, Nepali Maithili Samaj, Newa Rastriya Andolan, Akhil Nepal Janajati Sammelan, Nepal Janajati Mukti Andolan, Maithili Bikas Manch, Awadhi Sanskriti Bikas parisad, Nepal Bhojpuri Pratisthan, Tharu Kalyankari Sabha are some of its examples. Ever since the Janajati Mahasangh (Federation of Nationalities) came into existence, it has tried to act as a backbone of ethno-cultural unity of the oppressed people. The Nationalities’ Development Coordination Center is also found to have started a serious effort to find ways of solving the nationalities’ problems of Nepal including revisiting the Nepalese history. In fact, it has become necessary for reinterpretation and rewriting the history of social classes. (Tamang, 2054 B.S.: 112) What the Khas rulers call history is, with minor exception, only the glorification of Khas superiority and the stories of the victories and luxury of their Kings.

The People’ Movement of 1990 gave birth to an aspiration of freedom and emancipation among all the classes, groups, communities and nationalities. The above-mentioned organizations and movements are also the expressions of the very aspirations. But these aspirations of the people were stunted due to vile character shown by the ruling political parties, indecent political culture, insensitive works of the government in the field of culture, skyrocketing price and growing cases of corruption. In the meantime the continuity of Hindu religiosity in the constitution, controversy over compulsory teaching of Sanskrit and broadcast of news in this language and the stay order from the Supreme court restring the use of nationalities’ languages in their local bodies further deepened the acrimony of the non-Khas people.

The feelings, thinking and practices created by Nepal’s nationality scenario, presented a dichotomy in which the Khasas and other people had their identification as the oppressor and the oppressed respectively. As for the Newars, they hold equal status in political, economic and social structure and in the use of opportunity. But they have also been victim of the rule and cultural interference of the Khasas.

In essence, the major contradictions of the Nepali society are made up of the contradiction of oppressed nationalities against the chauvinism of the Khasas, the contradiction of the so called “untouchables” against the anachronism of social untouchability and the contradiction of women against patriarchal social system. There is desperation, anger and the feeling of revolt. If this suffocation and revolt does not find a way out within constitutional arrangement, it is certain to take a non-constitutional path. (Neupane, 2000)4. In the view of Lok Bahadur Thapa Magar, “It is impossible for the oppressed nationalities to get self-governance without forging an alliance with the liberation struggle of the workers. A great unity, therefore, has become inevitable to achieve the great objective of acquiring emancipation from class, national and regional oppression.” (Thapa Magar, 2056 B.S.: 19) This, in fact, has paved the way for the path of liberation.

 

Movement against Untouchability

In a society with predominance of conservative ideas, the effective values of society are often based on the value judgment of the rulers. Therefore, the religion, social system, family and individual practices and the criteria of civilized behaviors of the rulers are given such a status that they can be accepted as something distinct and superior. The distinct faiths, values and social norms of the present day Nepalese society are also governed in this way. This means that the Hindu-Khasa practices have served as the basis to govern the social and ruling value system of the country. One of the worst arrangements of these practices is the caste system whose anarchic form can be seen in the untouchability prevalent in the society. In fact, there are some ideas that equate classes with castes. (G. Berreman in Sharma, 1999:39). The difference in it is that a person’s class may be changed in accordance with the achievements he or she makes in his or her life, but the caste the person is born into can never be changed through out his or her life. (Kingsley Davis in Sharma, 1999: 15-16)  This difference indicates the influence on individual as well as social psychology and general behavior of these people. This creates a condition of managing the responsibilities of the society and state to these communities. Caste system is a criminal practice and the Hindu-Khasa priesthood has demonstrated brutality by giving continuity and respect to this stigmatized practice. In the view of Swami Dayananda, leader of Arya Samaj Movement, “Caste system is a cancer which is slowly poisoning the life blood of the nation.” (In Sharma, 1999:34) The Hindus had brought this cancer from the Gangetic Plains during the Lichhavi period. But feudal kings like Jayasthiti Malla (1360-95), Ram Shah (1605-36), Prithvi Narayan Shah and Jung Bahadur Rana institutionalized it. It acquired a status of directive legal principle after Junga Bahadur made it the main basis of the penal code of the nation through the provisions of Muluki Ain in 1854. This very law made caste system and untouchability part of the legal system of the state. Although the new Muluki Ain of 1963 has mainly tried to remove this unwholesome practice, it continues to get recognition in society and various provisions of law.

It is difficult to pin point the date of the beginning of the resistance of the oppressed people against the Hindu-Khasa oppression for lack of reliable research. But we have information about such attempt having been made after 1947. In 1947, Bhagat Sarbajit Bishwokarma started an organized movement against untouchability but it ended in failure. The successful entry to Pashupatinath temple in 1954, the struggle launched by Tikhe Nagarchi and Tikaram Parki to enter the Shaileshwari temple of Doti, the petition submitted to the King in 1962 by Rastriya Dalit Mukti Parisad under the leadership of Sahashranath Kapali, the successful entrance to Shidhakali Temple in Bhojpur in 1965 constitutes the first stage of such struggles. The movement of filling milk in the container of milk collection center of Udiachaur in Syangja, the entrance in the Nawalparasi Temple in 1991, the milk movement of 1994 in Chitawan, the struggle launched to enter the Gorakhkali Temple in Gorkha, the struggle to bring water from the Sipapokhari pond in Sindhupalchok constitute major struggles launched after the People’s Movement of 1990. (Bishwokarma, 2000: 23-24. Khadka, 2000: 33-34) The Oppressed People’s Liberation Society launched a successful struggle against the discriminatory treatment of Milk Collecting Cooperative in Gaidakot in Nawalparasi district demanding the right of the oppressed people to collect milk.

The oppressed people of Nepal are struggling against ‘higher caste’ Hindu chauvinism and Khasa domination. The struggle of the oppressed people has been effective and meaningful in recent years but they have not been successful to compel the Hindu-Khasa state regret for its heinous crime committed for centuries. It is, therefore, natural for them to include in their demand of struggle the apology from the state, Hindu religious authorities and the Khasa nationality as well as the demand for reservation for the oppressed people on the basis of the principle of affirmative actions. The movement of the oppressed people seems to have been directed towards these goals.

 

Student’s Movement

Banaras Hindu University Nepali Students’ Association was established in 1946. This was the first student organization of the Nepalese students. In this very year, Himanchal Students’ Union was also established in Calcutta. In 1947, the students of Tindhara Sanskrit School had launched struggle demanding the inclusion of geography, history, economics and political science in the syllabus. This is known as the movement of Jayatu Sanskritam. This incident had taken place on June 15, 1947. The suppression by the government provoked the movement and the students started to go from door to door for alms shouting “Jayatu Sanskritam“. This mustered support for them. As a result, the government was compelled to accept their demands promising to fulfill by Dashain festival. In Nepal, however, the first students’ union was “The All Nepal Students’ Federation” established in 1950. The Student Federation had acquired the membership of International Union of Students in 1954. In 1951 an organization called “Nepal Students’ Union” was established but it could not be activated.

First time in Nepal a student was killed in a demonstration in 1951. The government opened fire in the procession that came out on November 6. A fourteen-year old student, Chiniya Kaji, was killed in the shooting. (Prajatantra, 2046 B.S.:5-6).

In 1963, the government gave birth to a flunkey organization called “Nepal Students’ Organization”. After this event the student struggle broke out. The main objective of the struggle of 1964 was the acquirement of the right to form students’ union. This was the first, effective, glorious and successful movement. In the process of this movement, the government was compelled to release all the students arrested earlier and to give permission to form free student union.  The first “All Nepal student Conference” was convened in 1965. Both the anti-Panchayat pro-communist and pro-democrat students participated in it.

On August 23, 1966, the students of National College organized a cultural programme in Rastriya Nachghar. While the programme was going on, Deputy Inspector General of Police, Mr Narayan Singh entered the make-up room and tried to mistreat some female students there. The students launched a strong protest about the incident. This great student’s struggle, which was launched against the police atrocity, marched ahead and was successful in removing the police officer from office.

When a division took place among the leftist and democratic students, the “All Nepal National Free Students’ Union” and “Nepal Students’ Union” came into existence in June 1968 and June 1971 respectively. In 1972, the government founded an extreme rightist student organization called “Rastrabadi Swatantra Bidyarthi Mandal.” This organization, which was formed among the young and arrogant Panchas among the students, terrorized the whole educational institutions. This organization, which was notorious with the name of “Mandale”, collapsed only after the movement of 1979.

The most important movements that took place during this time are the struggle against the unjust war mounted by the United States against the people of Indochina, protest demonstration held during the visit of American Vice President Spiro T. Agnew to Nepal, the widespread movement against Indian encroachment of  the Nepalese territory in Susta in 1968, the movement for the removal of the Indian check posts, voice raised for the solution of the squatters’ problem, movement against the Khampas, struggle against the new education system and the protest against annexation of Sikkim in India.

A four month long student movement took place in 1976. This movement had an objective of bringing about reform in education system. This movement ended in failure owing to massive police atrocities and the lack of internal unity. On April 6, 1979, a procession of students was marching towards the Pakistan embassy to handover a protest letter against the execution of former Prime Minister of Pakistan Julfikar Ali Bhutto by the military administration. The police intervened.  Many students were injured and many more arrested. The student movement, which started after this incident, created an upheaval in the country. Violent clashes took place in Kathmandu, Pokhara, Kalaiya, Hetauda etc. Hundreds of students and opposition leaders were also arrested. The movement however took more serious turn. According to the then Prime Minister Kirti Nidhi Bista, one policeman and ten other civilians lost their lives in this incident. (Devkota, 2039 B.S.: 45). This movement ended only after the promulgation of referendum on May 24, 1979. The participation of students carries great importance even in the movement of 1990.

So far as the students’ unions of Nepal are concerned, the students’ unions have emerged concurrently with the number of leftist political groups. Thus, innumerable student unions such as Nepal National Students’ Federation, The Progressive Students’ Union of 1981,5 Nepal National Progressive Students’ Union of 1980,6 Nepal Revolutionary Students’ union,7 Nepal revolutionary Students organization,8 All Nepal National Free Students’ Union (Ektako Panchau)9, All Nepal National Free Students’ Union (Chhhaitaun)10 came into existence during the later period.  In more recent years, more than half a dozen of student’s organizations came into existence having a prefix of ‘Akhil’. Following 1990, there has been comparative decrease in the role of students as political organizations themselves are enjoying greater freedom. In the present context, Nepal Students’ Union, the sister organization of the Nepali Congress, All Nepal National Free Students’ Union, the sister organization of CPN (UML) and All Nepal National Free Students’ Union (Revolutionary), the sister organization of the CPN (Maoist) constitute major student organizations. Other students’ organizations are oriented towards extinction with the decline in the strength of their mother organizations.

In essence, the youth students who were rich in courage, activism and imagination, remained the most effective characters of oppositional political stage during the Panchayat rule. The anti-Panchayat political mechanisms were gradually pushed to the background. The main task of these organizations was reduced to the control and mobilization of students. Although there were intermittent political ripples in the country such as the armed actions of the Nepali Congress, the Jhapa Movement and the armed revolt of the Nepal Janavadi Morcha (Nepalese Democratic Front), they were the students who remained at the forefront of struggle from the view point of effectiveness. During this period, the students carried the torch, both, of political resistance movement and the educational and academic reform movement. At present, once again, they appear to have been oriented towards such an important role again. The movement organized by All Nepal National Free Students’ Union (Revolutionary) in 2000 is an example.

 

Progressive Literary Movement

Starting from “Makaiko Kheti“, the literary movement has played a great role in the social awakening of Nepal. The awakening movement that started during the period of Rana rule played a significant role in bringing about a change in the world outlook of the Nepalese people. Due to intolerant and repressive cultural policies of the Ranas, action was taken against “Makaiko Kheti“, Dharanidhar Koirala’s verse ‘Naibedya‘ was banned, youth literary figure Laxminandan Chalise was pushed to premature death, liberal scientist Gehendra Shamsher was put to death, the establishment of library was restricted and the youths trying to establish Mahabir School were punished. The essence of this policy was to frighten the people in general and to terrorize the Nepali intellectuals in particular. (Bhatta, 2054 B.S.: 7)

The cultural and political awakening movement that started from “Makaiko Kheti” assumed an institutional form from the establishment Mahabir School. It had started classes from 1938. But it was forced to close down when twenty-eight of its teachers were arrested and awarded long prison sentences. Similarly, people trying to open a library were also punished. The publication of Yuddha Prasad Mishra’s “Jabiko Chara“, which called for freedom in a symbolic way, constituted an important event of this period. Similarly, Laxminandan Chalise was imprisoned for writing critical comments on the Ranas in his examination papers and was released when he was terminally ill of tuberculosis. Baburam Acharya’s ‘Shikchya Darpan‘ was banned. During this period, the works of Laxmi Prasad Devkota and Gopal Prasad Rimal represented the awakening of the time. Laxmi Prasad Devkota went to Banaras to participate in the revolution and published ‘Yugbani‘ in cooperation with other people. This magazine had started publication from February 1948. ‘Nepal Pukar’ was published in 1949. It was banned in Nepal.

In the relaxed environment brought about by the change of 1950, a new zeal and zest was noted in the field of progressive literature. During this period, Laxmi Prasad Devkota composed excellent poems like ‘Dal, Bhat, Duku’ and ‘Pagal.‘ In 1953, the Progressive Writers’ Association was established in Nepal. The progressive literature and cultural stream after that, is found to be moving ahead along the path of creation, struggle and organized self- mobilization. It has helped in the transformation of Nepalese society. Be it in the dark nights of Panchayat regime or the repressive moments of parliamentary system, the progressive literary stream and its creators have participated in the liberation struggle of the people. Various creative people are still languishing in jails and the state is engaged in stunting their talents. The struggle of the literary creators against the suppression of talents by the parliamentary regime indicates infinite loyalty of the progressive literary creators towards the people.

Unfortunately, the progressive stream of literature had also its limitation. From the point of the limitations, it is found to have developed along four trends: 1) hollow, insipid, unpalatable and vituperative sloganeering. 2) Impersonation of progressivism out of hypocrisy and pretension devoid of faith and conviction. 3) Staging a so-called ideological and literary race on the surface in the absence of research, investigation and analysis, and 4) Absence of coordination between the progressive creators and the wish, needs and desire of the people and their continuously changing belief system. Obsessed with the race of quantitative production, the progressive literature could not shake itself off the chronic disease of beginning from the enthusiasm of new comers and ending in a cycle of writing for the sake of writing. The victim of this disease is not only thousands of ordinary new writers but also many talented and prestigious figures. Many fine minds of the progressive literature have made an unimaginable misuse of their talent because of their compulsion to live with variegated daily, weekly and monthly newspapers and magazines. Moreover, they also plunge into unnecessary, uncultured and undignified political duel against activists of their own rank if requested by their close associates. But they do not represent the main trend of progressive stream. In spite of these limitations, the progressive creators are found engaged not only in the field of creation but also in the forefronts of struggle.

 

Teachers’ Movement

The teachers’ community has been entangled in problems since the old teacher and disciple relationship was replaced by a new teacher-student relationship. Before, they were not organized; they were not collectively aware of their problems and potentialities and had not reached a consensus on taking a path of struggle. But they took to this path taking advantage of the temporary relaxation of the referendum of 1980.  Consequently, the movement of the teachers plunging into struggle with 15-point demands on May 1980 assumed a nationwide proportion. It not only generated a sense of unity, organization and struggle among the teachers but also got their demands fulfilled. It was also able to create a nation-wide teachers’ organization called “Nepal National Teachers Organization.”

They again plunged into struggle in April 1980 with a 9-points demand. This struggle continued for 38 days. They were able to get most of their demands fulfilled even in this struggle. In 1982 the teachers’ struggle with a seven point demands ran for 104 days. This struggle, however, was not successful due to split within the organization and a severe crackdown by the government. The teachers launched another struggle in January 1985. They had assumed a periodic form of struggle. Nationwide strike with a slogan “let’s go to Kathmandu” and Nepal Bundh (nationwide general strike) were major forms of struggle. The government was set to suppress the movement. The inner split was growing within the teachers and they could not rally the support of the people of other sectors to their struggle. In this specific situation, the bomb explosions of 1985 took place in the country. The teachers’ movement was then automatically suspended. While evaluating the teachers’ movement, we find a number of strong points in it. It made a concrete contribution in the awakening, unity and organizational work of this community. It was successful to a great extent in bringing the improvement in the life standard of the teachers. They also manned the field of struggle when other forces had grown passive following the defeat in the referendum. In fact, it effectively filled the gap between the period after the referendum and bomb explosions. Their movement also inspired the people of other walks of life to organize and struggle for their rights and welfare. But the political parties who were blankly staring into the space failing to organize and conduct professional and political movements, over-politicized the teachers’ movement to preserve themselves rather than linking it to the fulfillment of their professional welfare.  Because of this, it was pushed to division and erosion of strength at the later stage. Another negative aspect of this movement was that the over-politicization of their movement made their academic role secondary and it badly affected the educational standard of the students. The remedy of this negative effect has not been found till 2000 A. D.  It is because of this that the teachers are not strong and able to muster people’s support. In view of the positive role they have played in the past and the environment of movement brought about by the Maoist movement, however, it seems possible for them to remove their shortcomings, play a responsible role in making the future of the students, and acquire support of guardians and launch struggle to bring about improvement in their lives.

 

Employees’ Movement

Nepal had military administration during the period of expansion of the Gorkha state. It means that there was a feudal military rule and the king was the head of the government. When the Rana rule was established, this place was preserved for the Ranas. Junga Bahadur is found to have formally started bureaucracy by establishing civil and military administration. Later toward 1900, Dev Shamsher fixed the time for offices and instituted a system of quarterly and annual leave for the employees. (Sharma, 2008 B.S.: 342, 353). The high level employees worked as the courtiers of the Ranas. The low level employees were called functionaries and their work was to serve the Rana regime and to terrorize and exploit the people. Since these courtiers and functionaries worked only as slaves, servants and sycophants of the Ranas before 1950, the real bureaucracy started in Nepal only after 1951. After 1951, the employees, known as the servants of the nation started to search for the possibility of improvement in their living condition.

The low salaried employees started to launch organized struggle after the movement of 1950. “All Nepal Low Salaried Employees’ Association” was established on January 1951. The employees launched a movement in February 1953 demanding a rise in their salary. The government suppressed this movement. After this, the organization remained virtually defunct.

In 1983, they tried to organize again. But the suppression of the Panchayat regime aborted it in the very beginning. After the People’s Movement of 1990, the employees, like the people of other walks of life, started to make an organized effort for the improvement in their lives. As a result, “Nepal Civil Servant’s Organization” was registered on November 5, 1990. Immediately after the registration of the organization, a movement started demanding equality between the pay scale of the employees of corporations and other government offices. The government called the employees for talks and agreements were made on salary, allowances and other facilities. In the meantime, the government also registered another organization of the civil servants called “Nepal Civil Servants’ Association.” A law was then enacted preventing the officer level employees to acquire membership of any employees’ organizations. In the meantime, the employees launched a movement putting forward a 4-point program.11 The government resorted to strict suppression of the movement. Consequently, an employee lost his life in Khotang and 393 employees were dismissed from office. Other 18 employees from Nepal Rastra Bank, Nepal Oil Corporation, Nepal Construction Company and Radio Nepal were also dismissed for helping in the movement. (Rijal et al, 2051 B.S.: 1-15, 44-69)

The low salaried employees are generally found to have engaged in struggle for the change in their life standard. However, the general people do not have positive attitude towards the employees. People feel that employees, do not work, ask for bribe and regard their job as a gift from the rulers. So far as their productivity is concerned, they are considered less productive than other social and economic classes who are more imaginative, aware, and adding in values. Instead of refuting this accusation, it is better for the employees to launch a movement to bring about an inner change and to link these movements with the efforts to attain the goals of their lives. The low salaried employees are the part and parcel of the people. But no one will accept this that easily. One should guard against a situation in which the society has changed but the changed society considers the employees as being criminals deserving penalty. This situation will be bitter, but if this takes place, there may be very few people to help them. It is necessary for the employees to correct the impression about them among the people and to struggle against the injustice meted out to them by the government. The struggle they launch on these two fronts with a view to bring about amelioration in their lives will certainly make a positive contribution in the transformation of the society as a whole.

 

Impact of Political and Professional Movements

Apart from those described above, many other movements have also taken place in the past. They include the movement to reject the milk contaminated with radiation following the Chernovil atomic accident, movement against the expulsion of the Nepalese people form north-eastern region of India, movement that took place against the death of more than 70 people at the stampede of the National Stadium and the movement against the Indian blockade in 1989. All of them have a positive impact in the direction of change of the Nepalese society.

While analyzing the force of classes, community and society from the movement starting from “Makaiko Kheti“, we can see that despite various weaknesses’ these movements have been successful, to break the silence, giving momentum to the change of society, howsoever slow it may be, and to open the gate of new possibilities. These movements have also made fine contribution in preparing the base of total social transformation and will have an extraordinary role in bringing about a qualitative change of the society. In fact, these class, community and professional movements have become the vehicle of mass awakening and struggle amidst the major political movements that have taken place in Nepalese history. It is only on the strength of political awakening and the class and professional movements that the tasks of social change have occurred. It is because of the extensive environment of change created by these movements that the political change of 1950, the referendum of 1979 and the change in the political system in 1990 became possible.

 

Chapter Two

 

Parliamentary Politics

Many small and big changes have taken place amidst various important achievements made by different class and professional movements. The movement of 1950 has an important place in the history of Nepal. This movement tried to open the first gate of change representing the aspirations of the people.  This movement ended in the Delhi Agreement owing to lack of clarity in the leadership, involvement of India and the state of infancy in which the class awakening movements were in the country. This agreement affected a new balance of power among the ruling class instead of bringing a social transformation. As a result, the previously lost right of the royalty were partially restored. The Ranas‘ hereditary rights were forfeited. Those civilians whom no high posts were given previously got opportunity to be in the government. This change was mainly psychological but since the representatives of higher classes were included in the government, there was basis enough to make propaganda of a new change. There was people’s participation in this movement, there was a basis for a link between their aspiration and the goal of the movement and it gave a feeling to the people that they had acquired strength. These were the strong points of this movement, whereas its weaknesses were its failure to bring about a change in the basic structure of the society, the increase of the Delhi Durbar owing to its mediation in the agreement and to pave the way for India’s interference in Nepal’s internal affairs by using India’s armed forces to quell the opposition to the Delhi Agreement.  The mass upsurge and the armed struggle were terminated in partial and ineffective achievements.

The monarchy which was able to partially restore its rights through the change of 1951, started to stage various farces, demonstrations and maneuvers. It is because of this that the country remained in a state of flux from 1951 to 1960. The monarchy was able to restore its autocratic rule of the days of Prithvi Narayan Shah through a coup of 1960 following a series of events like induction of stooges in the government, conflict among ruling classes, concoction of a political literature called the constitution and the scenes of the general elections. The thirty years following this were the years of struggle of the people and an extreme suppression by the government. The armed resistance mounted by the Nepali Congress in 1961, the Jhapa movement of 1971, the unsuccessful armed operation of the Nepali Congress that was started from Solukhumbu in 1975, the students’ movement and the referendum of 1979, the armed action of Janawadi Morcha (Democratic Front) in 1985 and the joint people’s movement of 1990 constitute some of the important events. The royalty, which was living under the chrysalis of Panchayat system, was forced to lose its privileges. It again returned to the status of restriction of the Rana era.

Parliamentary system of government was ushered in Nepal when the absolute monarchy established after the overthrow of the Ranas was brought to the status of constitutional monarchy in 1990. Many people have called the period between 1951 and 1960 a period of parliamentary system. But only eighteen months out of that period can be partially called parliamentary system in which the rights of the government were restricted. The rest of 102 months were under the direct rule of the king. In essence, the arrangement during the above mentioned 18 months was also an indirect extension of direct rule. In fact, that period can only be called a period of rehearsal from the point of view of establishing parliamentary system. Therefore, 1990 should be regarded the starting point of parliamentary system of government in the country.

The united movement of 1990 played an effective role in creating a new political atmosphere. In Nepalese history, the Nepali Congress and the leftist forces constituted separate streams. The class base of the Nepali Congress, its anti-communist mindset, the mechanical class outlook among the communists and the divisive policies of the Panchayat System were responsible for this. When they slowly realized the importance of each other’s cooperation or at least each other’s usefulness, some of the communists and Congressites started to draw closer. Also, the decline in the rank of the Nepali Congress and the class deviation in a dominant section among the Nepalese communists had caused them to come together. As a result, an agreement was made between them for a united struggle in January 1990. The movement, which started in February 1990, became weaker and at one time it seemed that it would collapse. But various class and professional organizations contributed to the revival of the movement. These class and professional organizations had been active in the transformation of the Nepalese society for a long time.

Experiences and Feelings-3

 

People Walk with Visible Commotion

It was 1990. A meeting of Professional Solidarity Group was going on. All were worried about the uncommon low ebb of the movement. Political parties were pushed to the farthest background. The agenda of the meeting was to find a way out of the impasse. One engineer friend said – we should look for a form of the struggle in which everyone can participate in the movement even being inside his or her home. Put forward the idea of ringing dinner plates or switching off the electricity light simultaneously which he said could be effective. The idea of switching off the electricity bulbs was deemed appropriate and was decided to use it as a form of struggle. The program was a success. It at least broke the silence. The possibilities of struggle increased. A seminar was organized in Kirtipur. The people started to become active in favor of the movement. A people’s upsurge was created and we got an opportunity to participate in a rebellious demonstration of hundreds of thousands of people. We witnessed a part of successful movement. In fact, people want to move with commotion, which is collectively seen at a particular time. The activism created by such collective consciousness takes the form of an upsurge, which can sweep away even formidable mountains.  This is true not only in people’s movement but also in armed struggle and not only in the quantitative change of the society but also in the campaign for transformation. The growing attraction towards the present day Maoist movement also reflects the same collectively seen mass activism to move along a new long march. 

The parliamentary system was established as a cumulative affect of anti-Rana struggle starting from the revolt of Lakhan Thapa Magar and developing through Makai Parva, Prachanda Gorkha, Praja Parisad, the 1950 movement, and other political, class and social movements including the movement of 1990. The interim government established after that, had given a feeling of a new dawn. This period was different in the sense that monarchy was not active, there was a great enthusiasm among the people and political parties were in a more conducive environment to implement their ideals and imaginations. It had started as a honeymoon period for the people, political parties and parliamentary system.

 

Constitution

 

The promise made by the king in 1950 for a constitution drafted by a constituent assembly of elected people’s representatives had not been fulfilled and 1990 would have been the best opportunity for getting the promise fulfilled. But collusion among the monarchy, Nepali Congress and some dominant left parties united in a left front deprived the people of their rights of selecting the type of government of their choice and to draft a constitution accordingly. This right of the people was violated and a commission was formed to draft a constitution on the basis of sharing of power. In this way the concept of the “power sharing” was institutionalized in Nepalese politics.

The Constitution of Nepal -1990 has made the adult franchise, parliamentary system of government, constitutional monarchy and multiparty system as unchangeable (Constitution, 2047 B.S. : 2 and 104).  The constitution, which follows the West-Ministerial pattern, provides the separation of power of the executive, the legislature and the judiciary and defines their scope of authority. It has also made a provision of other constitutional organs. They include the Commission for the Investigation of the Abuse of Authority, Auditor General, Public Service Commission and Attorney General. It has also incorporated fundamental rights and the directive principles of the state, which are included in all the modern constitutions. In essence, it has incorporated all the elements that are found in the modern parliamentary system. When it was implemented, those who were committed to the parliamentary system welcomed it whole-heartedly, whereas those who were being trained in this system only extended critical support to it. The Nepali Congress represented the first category, whereas the leftist parties, which were aligned in the left front, represented the second type. Some other political and social forces opposed it. The then United National People’s Movement was most prominent of all.

According to Bishwonath Upadhyaya, Chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee and former Chief Justice “The constitution is a contract. We put the contract among the power centers of that period in writing. We put down only those points over which we could obtain consensus.” (Upadhyaya, 2057 B.S:41) It shows that the basis of the drafting of the constitution is a tripartite agreement. This is, therefore, a political contract for mutual power sharing signed by the then dominant political and social power centers in the name of the people. At that time some political and social forces had opposed the constitution or some of its provision. The point of criticism included the following:

a) Hindu Supremacy: The Article 4 of the constitution stipulates, “Nepal is a multi-national, multi-lingual, democratic, indivisible, sovereign and constitutional monarchical Hindu kingdom.” This retains the provision of “Hindu kingdom.” It projects Nepal as a theocratic state. That is why, aggressive Hindu fundamentalist organizations like Vishwa Hindu Parisad and Shivasena are kicking off the propaganda that Nepal is the only Hindu kingdom in the world. It has its influence among the people in general. The adherents of non-Hindu religions had protested it and this process continues even today.

 

b) Provision for the Inviolability of Property: The Article 7 (2) stipulates, “Except for public welfare, the state shall in no way forfeit or expropriate any individual’s property nor shall it create any kind of right over such a property.”  Similarly, according to Article 7(3), “The basis or procedure of compensation of the property of any individual forfeited or expropriated for public welfare shall be as prescribed by the law.” These provisions completely proscribe the redistribution of land in the country. Moreover, they also guarantee that the present social structure based on exploitation and inequality remains intact. In essence, these provisions of the constitution ensure the continuity of the status quo.

 

 c) Provision for unchangeable subjects: Article 116 (1) stipulates, “The bill for the amendment or annulment of any article of the constitution may be tabled in any house of the parliament in a way it does not clash with the spirit of the preamble of the constitution. But this article shall not be subject to amendment”. The preamble of the constitution mentions, the adult franchise, parliamentary system, constitutional monarchy and multi-party system. It means that these four subjects are unchangeable. It does not conform to science to hold anything unchangeable. When anything cannot be changed through a peaceful and constitutional means, any one wishing for a change must pursue an armed and unconstitutional way. In this way, this constitution leaves way for provoking violence and restricts the sovereign rights of the people to change all the provisions that do not suit their interest.

 

d) Language: Article 6 of the constitution defines the Nepali Language as the national language and the languages spoken as mother tongues in various part of the country as the languages of nationalities. The status of these languages has not been specified. Therefore, the feelings of the non-Nepali speaking people have been hurt and the possibilities of their development have been restricted. It is being opposed by various organizations relating to languages and dialects.

e) Provision for Emergency Powers: Article 115 stipulates, “His Majesty the King can impose emergency throughout the country or over a certain part of the country, if the sovereignty, territorial integrity and the security of any part of the country is seriously threatened by a war, external attack, armed revolt or an extreme economic crisis.” It has been made possible that a simple misuse of this provision may lead to military rule over the whole country or over certain area of the country.

In this way, the constitution makes enough provision for the safeguard of the welfare, aspirations and the possibility for development of higher classes, preserves Hindu-Khasa pride and maintains the status quo through addition of parliamentary cosmetics. But the workers of the country are not taken care of. No mention has been made of the wishes and aspirations of those communities and nationalities that need social emancipation. The constitution has been drafted to make it a functional document of unitary-parliamentary-male dominated-higher class-Hindu-Khasa state. Thus, this constitution provides legal validity to the rule of minority over the majority. The people’s representatives were not allowed to draft the constitution.  It has also not been endorsed by a referendum. People were not only deprived of their paramount rights but the parliamentary system was enforced without giving them any kind of opportunity for endorsement or refusal. This system is, therefore, not a system endorsed by the people.12

People were granted the right to vote under the constitution drafted on the basis of tripartite agreement. Such a right was given even under the Panchayat system but there was no feeling of collective competition because political parties did not exist then and the defeat or victory would be decided on the basis of local issues or the influence and capacity of individuals. Under the new system, parties were able to contest election on the basis of their own programs and to form government by attaining majority in mathematical terms or by mustering majority with the help of other parties or by forming a minority government in case no party had majority or there was no possibility of a coalition government also. It was the structural aspect of the management of political affairs of the country. So far as the basic change is concerned, it was hindered, restricted or discouraged by the constitution. It is natural for this kind of constitution to advocate status quo. The constitution, which was prepared by the representatives of the palace, the Nepali Congress and the Left Front, represented in essence the continuity of status quo in the basic social aspects by implementing parliamentary multiplicity and tripartite understanding. The triangular government, which was given the responsibility to review the draft of the constitution, was perhaps the most powerful government in Nepal’s history. All the dominant political forces had participated in the government and an energetic environment created by the movement was also available. Unfortunately, the government took initial steps for the first time to institutionalize the politics of sharing of power, acquitted the criminals put behind bar by the previous system, rewarded inaction and sowed the seed of anarchy in all aspects. The government misused tens of millions of rupees in the name of providing relief to political sufferers. It is the interim government, which sowed the seed of perversion and anarchy that are prevalent today. Thus, the boat of parliamentary system, which had lost balance from the very beginning, started to sail into the sea terrifying all the passengers in its hold.

Function of the Main Organs of State: 

 

It will be relevant here to evaluate the results of the constitution after ten years of its implementation. Under this topic, I shall review the role of the organs of state, their function and their superiority in order to analyze the role of the executive, legislature and judiciary following the establishment of multi-party system in Nepal.

Nepalese legislature has two tiers and three units. His Majesty the King, National Assembly and the House of Representatives are included in it. The inclusion of the king in the parliament appears purely decorative as no use has been shown in practice. The upper house has no significance and this is only a luxury to decorate those tired and defeated leaders and cadres of the parties, friends and relatives of leaders and those having loyalty to the palace. It will, therefore, be a useless endeavor to try further analysis instead of questioning the very rationale of this upper house of parliament. We should also not forget the burden on the state revenue from the remuneration, allowances and other facilities needed to make it breathing. If the upper house is to be removed at the present condition and the scheme of things, there is no possibility of a negative impact on the governance of the country. So long as the lower house or the House of Representatives is concerned, it requires to be dwelt in greater detail.

It does not have the importance just because the government is formed on the basis of majority in the House of Representatives.  It is influential and powerful. It has 205 members. Under the constitution of tripartite agreement, the first election for the House of Representatives took place in 1991. The people, who had become hopeful from the change in the form of governance, gave a comfortable majority to the Nepali congress. The election results of the first general election were as follows:

  Congress CPN(UML) UPF RPP(both) Sadbhawana others
Seats 110 69 9 4 6 7
vote percent 37.75 27.89 4.83 11.64  4.1 13.7

Source: Khanal, 2056 B.S.  24

As a result, the Nepali Congress formed its government. The people had high expectations. The most important assurance that Nepali Congress gave to the people during the election was the economic development. The enthusiastic way in which the government was formed further heightened the hopes of the people. This government put emphasis on physical development.13

The priority of the Nepali Congress was to increase production and to expand facilities. Some issues of social justice were also included. But no attention was given towards the emancipation of productive forces, establishing new relations of production and bringing about a change in the basic structure of the society. This means that there was nothing new with the program of the Nepali Congress regarding the change in the system of distribution. In this aspect, the Nepali Congress had given continuity to the policies of the Panchayat system. Further, Nepali Congress not only failed in giving expression to the expectations of the people but also implementing what it had promised.

In fact, the Congress leaders, who were individualist in culture, retrogressive in character and comfort seeking in philosophy were bound to fulfill unlimited desire of their hangers on, relatives and new converts. This task was performed with such single mindedness that all the shame, dignity and moral vanished. Not only the ruling leaders, but also the opposition seemed desperate for honor, money and overseas journey for themselves. As a result, they resorted to tricks, conspiracy and overt and covert machinations were staged and the first Nepali Congress government was forced to declare a fresh poll within three years. The tenure of this government mired as it was with the airlines (Dhamija) scandal, treaty with India regarding Tanakpur barrage, murder of teenagers like Anish, the stampede of the opposition for share in power and the deviation of the forces fighting for real change will be remembered for a long time. Thus, not only the government collapsed under the weight of individualist party-less character, failure to meet the aspirations of the people, imbalance in the internal share and bargaining but also the same practice became a catalytic for restarting a fresh cycle again and again. All the parties expect United People’s Front joined the election fray. United People’s Front, which was a mere spectator of these dramas and had decided not to contest parliamentary elections. No party was able to secure majority. The result of the 1994 elections was as follows:

  Congress UML UPF-Vaidya RPP(both) Sadbhawana others
Seats 83 88   20 3 11
vote percent 33.38 30.85 1.32 17.93 3.49 13.o3

Source: Khanal, 2056 B.S.  24

The CPN (UML), which emerged as the largest party and was in favor of parliamentary practice, formed the government. The people had too high an expectation from this government of the UML but the leaders had also their own needs. The UML government, which moved heaven and earth to balance these two interests, could survive only for nine months. It did not take up the role of bringing about a radical transformation but took up the easy path of parliamentary popularity of distribution of resources. We can take its “build your village yourself” campaign and the “old age pension schemes” as a case in point. It also made itself stand on the line of the corrupt leaders by letting itself to be mired with the Letter of Credit scandal. UML was planning to stage a comeback by holding a fresh election but was not successful.

During four and a half years after that, the Nepali parliamentary politics rapidly plunged to the depth of notoriety owing to the astounding, unusual and inappropriate activities of the ministers and the lawmakers, inaction of the government and its irresponsible and amazing behaviors and the role of the people as mere spectators. The people, who were astonished to see during this period many shameful acts such as the red passport scandal, Mahakali Treaty, buying and selling of Member of Parliament (MPs), the scandal of supplying women and wine to satisfy MPs,  flight of some MPs to Bangkok as part of a bribe to keep the government surviving, holding of MPs in “detention” in five star hotels, fertilizer and sugar scandals, receiving commission and black marketeering, heard a sound of a new explosion which is known as the Maoist movement in popular parlance. This topic will be dealt with later on.

To  collect wealth by scurrying across party floors in a rat race,14 to arrange for themselves most sophisticated vehicles like Pajeros and Prados under legal cover for corruption, to take 300,000 rupees from state revenue (it was increased to 1 million in 2000) in the name of development of their constituency, to scatter the resources under mellifluous  program like “build our village ourselves” or “local self-reliance program”, to get disbursement of medical bill by male MPs involving medicine which is generally given to lactating mothers, to send a whole group of ministers to Bangkok under the pretension of sickness misusing state revenue and to engage in hundreds of other scandals like smuggling and red passport etc. are the most shameful issues of that time. No parliamentary parties engaged in division of share have remained untouched from such shameless irregularities and scandals. In the scramble for feathering their nest, the Rastriya Prajatantra Party and the CPN (UML) split, the Nepali Congress MPs dismantled their own government, the MPs of Nepal Workers and Peasants’ Party crossed floors and the Sadbhawana Party is seriously sick of division.

In the words of Professor Krishna Khanal and Krishna Hachhethu “the constant making and dismantling of political equation in the House of Representatives that came into existence after the election of 1951 and the aberration attached there with, not only brought a situation of political  instability, but also reduced the parliamentary system to a near laughing stock. During that period the governments changed hands six times. The politics of the country was in a state of confusion and everyone felt that it had reached to the point of an unexpected accident.”  (Khanal, 2056 B.S.: 6-7) In such background, the Nepali Congress attained majority in the third election held in a very disappointing situation in 1999.

The result of the election is as follows:

  Congress CPN(UML) UPF RPP(Both) Sadbhawana others
Seats 111 71 1 11 5 6
vote percent 26.14 30.74 0.83 14.06 3.13 15.1

Source-Khanal, 2056 B.S.: 24

The division in the communist party and the RPP came as a boon to Nepali Congress. Nepali Congress was able to attain the majority presenting itself as the only party capable of running the government and making a good use of the money and muscle it could muster while in the government. The characteristics of this election were that 79 percent of the lawmakers were new faces and the parliament was not triangular. These new faces were even seen as the symbol of the people’s wish for a change. (Khanal, 2056 B.S.: 28) But the new government of the Nepali Congress, formed in a situation was characterized by misuse of power, corruption, criminalization of politics, foreign dependence, shirking of responsibility, valueless ness etc., could not enthuse a positive hope among the people. The leadership of the party soon changed owing to internal groupism. But the government single-mindedly kept to the old path where it could not give anything except despair, state terror, corruption, staging of various antics and extreme misery to the people. What is surprising is that the people are destined to worship the parliamentary system, as a new God, to pretend faith in it and to be grinded under its tyranny. One section of the people who is desperate from the situation is engaged in an effort to search for an alternative.

So long as the dignity, impartiality and the respect of the court under Nepal’s parliamentary system are concerned, it is not different from the general politics and the prevailing culture of governance. With great difficulty, one has to say that the judicial decisions are not impartial and justice is not easily available. The judiciary enjoys the immunity against criticism. If that shield of immunity is removed, they will emanate the same stench that assails one in the colony of parliamentary political leaders and high government officials. So much so that the general people quip the courts are also shops where court verdict is available for sale. The only difference is that the transaction here takes place through a specific chain of contact and bidding of prices. Some times, these courts do dispense justice owing to individual honesty and uprightness of some judges or when there is no chance for indulging in corruption. But this often remains a powerless inscription in front of the totalitarian government and the violent wrath of the police and the administration. The re-arrest of the prisoners of conscience from the very premises of the courts which set them free in Ilam, Butawal, Hetauda and other places can be taken as examples.

In this way, we can see that all the three organs of state are found to have engaged in the establishment of absurd values, norms, conviction and practice amidst the distortions and inaction of the parliamentary system. As a case in point, they also raise alarm about the palace trying to usurp power. But the situation is so compelling that even the possibility of such an event would hardly raise any eyebrows. This is so because the weight and the possible result of such an action are not found to have electrified anyone. To sum up, the parliamentary system of Nepal is dragging itself along as a glaring example of failure. To be more precise, it is in existence not because of political reason but because of pure technical reason and the role of strategic forces and their alignments. 

 

Chapter Three

 

Role of Political Parties

Prithvi Narayan Shah said that the country would be strong if the people were rich. Though he used the term ‘people’, the kind of policy he had taken would make it more appropriate to say that the country would be strong if the courtiers were rich. If this quotation is redefined today, it would come to mean, “The country will be strong if the leaders are rich.” The practices of the parliamentary parties are, in fact, geared towards making leaders of various level rich (in terms of positions, money and false prestige). Thus, the leaders are found to have engaged in a role different from what was expected of them. It will be dealt with in the following chapter.

 

a. Nepali Congress

The establishment of the Nepali Congress had given a new height and energy to the awakening of the Nepalese people. It started to be controversial from the very 1950 movement because of class character of its leaders, their inconsistencies and opportunism. The Delhi Agreement of 1951 not only deprived it of a unique opportunity of leading social transformation, it also started to lose people’s confidence. Because of this compromising character, it participated in the election accepting the catastrophic constitution of 1959 and discarding the important demand for constituent assembly. There were limited choices before the people. Nepali Congress had the history of leading the movement of 1950 and the charisma of leaders like B. P. Koirala was also appealing to the people. The Nepali Congress, therefore, gained majority. Even if it reached to the government, its program was not geared towards social transformation. It had taken the path of gradual development. For some time it took the path of armed struggle after being overthrown in 1960, but it soon relapsed into peaceful resistance. It again weakened the resistance movement by entering into compromise in 1968. It briefly launched an armed struggle in 1975, but soon took the path of compromise in 1979 under a vague slogan of ‘national reconciliation’. In 1990 also, it did not lead the movement towards total victory but took the path of concluding it through a compromise.  This party is, therefore, always liberal, inconsistent, vague and wavering.

Nepali Congress acquired majority and formed the government even after the people’s movement of 1990. But its government was compelled to declare a mid term election owing to its own internal quarrel, personal interests of the leaders and party workers, amazing instances of misconduct, staging of undignified farces and inaction. The CPN (UML) ran a minority government in the hung parliament that emerged following this election. The government of the Nepali Congress, which was formed following the UML government, will be talked about for a long time in history for its corruption, naked misconduct and appalling inaction. All the coalition governments formed after that remained confined within this pattern of function.

The Nepali Congress brought about a little change in its priority after it came to power following the election held in 1999. Unlike earlier, other issues were given priority rather than development. Further, another of its government formed after the change of leadership in the party made control of corruption, law and order and good governance its priority. In practice, however, the Nepali Congress government continued to unleash reign of terror, let corruption thrive unabated and allowed its hangers on to enjoy in the heaven of plunder. It has become a character of the Nepali Congress to parrot socialism, move heaven and earth to usurp power and to set a trail of murder, terror and corruption as soon as it reaches power. The Nepali Congress, which presents itself as the mainstream of democracy, has turned into a force, which limits people’s rights, unleashes state terrorism, creates economic chaos and engenders corruption. This party is one of the most organized forces responsible for the failure of the parliamentary system. It has a past to glorify about but the infamy it has earned at the present has made its future very bleak.

 

b) Communist Party of Nepal (UML) 

 

The Jhapa movement of 1971 had taken place under the influence of China’s Cultural Revolution, Naxalite Movement of India and as a revolt against various liquidationist, comfort seeking and rightist trend, ideology, practices and political lines of different brands of “communists.” It had followed the political line of “class enemy annihilation” propounded by Indian communist leader Charu Mazumdar. It was not organized in a conscious and planned way. It had assumed class struggle as the path of Nepalese revolution. This movement made a unique contribution not only in assuming the path of liberation full of sacrifices but also in determining the class base of the communist movement. The serious mistakes that remained in the movement were the blind imitation of Naxalite movement, indifference towards mass movement and mass organization and the petty bourgeois romanticism that was rife in the organization. The movement started the unification process of the communist movement, generated the positive optimism and initiated the path of armed struggle. But the inter party controversy starting after 1981, and the inner party struggle between the programs of “political freedom” and “party freedom” gave birth to parliamentary line and helped “multi-party democracy” to take form as a parliamentary program of action. To be more specific, this very force became the main stream of parliamentary communist politics aligning itself with other rightist communist forces. Various small communist groups joined the parliamentary streams under the cover of “multi-party democracy” and other political expediency. UML provided leadership to them all. The UML, which was the largest cadre based party of the country, was also in a position to play an extremely impressive role in the mobilization of the people. This party, which had become a virtual leader of various other left political groupings, merged some groups into itself and provided ideological orientation to others. Although it has not forsaken its communist brand, it is, in fact, a non-communist force.

It is not even a revisionist communist party in the strict sense of Marxist terminology. To be a revisionist party, it is necessary to be in favor of revision on one or the other fundamental tenet of Marxism. However, this party is not practicing Marxist ideology, theory and practice regarding the tenets of class struggle, state of the working class, armed transition of the state power, continuity of revolution, social transformation or progressive management. This party is essentially a parliamentary party. It is its limit. Despite minor change in the color and form of this system, it will not create any essential difference. This party is also not in favor of introducing any substantial change.15

 

UML, which was a successor of the Jhapa Movement, “All Nepal Communist Revolutionary Coordination Committee (ML)” and “the Communist Party of Nepal (ML)”, took the line of mass movement since 1981. The party completely embarked on the path of peaceful transition after it assumed the line of united mass movement being advocated by Puspalal for a long time. At present its main trend has been to distribute dreams of communism to its cadres, to incite people to acquire land and homestead, to give entrance to the infamous Panchas to inflate its size, to resort to all kinds of tricks and stratagems and to defend the interest of its leaders of various levels. The UML occupies the second position in bringing the parliamentary system to disrepute.

 

C. The Communist Party of Nepal (ML) 

 

Except for a separate name, a separate list of office bearers and the separate characters in the ups and downs that take place occasionally, this party is, in fact, the very same CPN (UML). In view of its ideology, principle, norms, practices and future, this party cannot be other than the CPN (UML) or, at most, nothing more than a sister party of CPN (UML). The proposal16 it has now raised for another kind of multi-party may constitute an agenda for the improvement of parliamentary politics, but it is difficult to establish its blood relation with the transformation of the society. This party which forged a coalition with the Nepali Congress in its early period of existence, manifested the ideology and practice typical to the CPN(UML).This party, whose militant cadres are preparing to go to “jungle” and the phrase mongers and comfort seekers readying for entry to the UML, appears to be fighting a war of existence.

 

d. Rastriya Prajatantra Party

 

This party of the former Panchas, who have appeared in the political arena for competition in a new appearance, is rich in the experience of governance and resources. It has not only established its existence in multi-party political stage, it has also reduced the Nepali Congress, which claims a ‘sole dealership’ of multi-party system and the CPN (UML) which claims itself a grand master of ‘multiparty democracy’ to the level of a valet not only once but several times. It is understandable why this party is indifferent to social transformation, consolidation of parliamentary system and the all round development of the country. This party is being blamed of advocating stagnation and even regression when possible. This party, whose main role is to preserve the interest of higher-middle class, is liberal in economic policy and traditional in politics. The RPP, which was compelled to play a defensive role during the early period of parliamentary system, became a major player during the term of the hung parliament, which was formed following 1994-election.  Nineteen of its parliamentarians crossed floors several times in their rat race for power, made good use of the ministerial posts and foreign trips and harassed almost all the parliamentary parties by forging alliance with them one by one. The former Panchas who had a background of working in a party-less system gained skill in the use of multiparty system in a short period. Keeping the question of agreement or disagreement on their activities aside, one must admit the fact that they succeeded in climbing several ladders of their success in a short period. This is, however a different matter that their success posed a question mark on the rationale of parliamentary system.

 

e. Nepal Sadbhawana Party

The Sadbhawana (Goodwill) Party, which aims at establishing an equitable society by abolishing economic, political, linguistic, cultural discrimination and exploitation (Sadbhawana, 1990:3) has raised constitutional monarchy, federal system of government, equal linguistic rights, real projection of statistics and the solution of the problem of citizenship as the main political issues. It has given emphasis on the development of the Terai and the Madhesis. Many political parties are starving for political issues. These political parties dish out the nonsense uttered by their leaders as a variety of delicacies in the form of policy, program and manifestoes often prepared by dishonest scribes. And, that is a part of their regular activities. In such a scarcity of issues, it is always positive to have issues, good or bad, to have commitment towards them and to make the contents of these issues known to others. In this sense, the Sadbhawana Party appears different from many others in this regard. This party carries a blame of being pro-Indian. It may be true during pre-democracy days, but it is almost inconsequential for a small party like Sadbhawana to become pro-Indian especially after the signature on the Mahakali Treaty when the first and the second largest parties themselves have been vying for a pro-Indian status. So far as strongly siding with the people is concerned, this party too did not seem different from other parties. It assimilated itself better with the culture of loot and plunder. Even its leaders have shown competence in the race of collecting material benefits for themselves. In spite of this, this party appears successful in enthusing hopes among the people of Terai and to raise the issues of their rights continuously. These issues not only constitute the strong points of this party but also form important political agenda in Nepalese politics.

 

f. CPN (Masal) and CPN (Unity Center)

Some other “middle of the road” communist parties have also taken the parliamentary path. CPN (Masal) and CPN (Unity Center) are the largest of those parties, which have entered the parliament under the veil of fronts. The fundamental character of Masal is to curse the relatively weak force in power (its sharp opposition of the Nepali Congress prior to 1990 and that of the royalists now can be taken as an example), show too much attachment with unreliable allies such as UML obviously to remain close to power, see its future in the destruction of the Maoists and to ride the dreamy chariot of the revolution. It has not yet reduced itself to naked parliamentary force but its alternative paths are progressively growing narrower. As for the CPN (Unity Center), which is eroding rapidly, has also become a prisoner of indecision. This party, which has not reached the point of deviation, is still engaged in the primary task of the revolution, is still not completely submerged in the trappings of parliamentary system and possesses a rank of loyal cadres even if small, is facing a serious crisis of existence. It is, therefore, found sometimes sowing a dream of ‘third stream’, and is heard to have been intensely trying to unify with Masal only to divide again.

CPN (UML)’s giant size, trickery and destructive attitude on the one hand and the expansion of Maoists’ strength and reputation, has led to sharp erosion to Mashal’s rank. If this process goes on increasing, it is likely that these parties shall be turned into “generals without a rifleman”. Even the Unity Center is likely to follow this path, but the way it is indulging in the self pleasure of opposition to the Maoists, there is more possibility of its being swallowed by the CPN (UML).16 So far, these parties lack vision, are living under the spell of self-pleasure and are going through the agony of their mere existence. In their view, revolution is on its way staggering like a lactating buffalo along the main road lying somewhere between the naked parliamentarism of the CPN (UML) and ‘ultra-left deviation’ of the Maoists. It is difficult to say how much they believe in that but they are actively engaged in propagating it. Whenever there is a great possibility of change, they oppose it or feign support organizing an elaborate ritual of opposition. Cursing parliamentary system and trying to die for it while crying wolf about Maoist ‘extremism’ and royal regression are their understandable appearances and physical forms. This “middle path” has been becoming more and more irrelevant in the context of social transformation and its independent existence is sure to be jeopardized in the speed proportional to the polarization of other political forces or that it will be forced to conserve its strength or protect by entering into the alliance with other parties.

 

Chapter Four

 

Achievements and Limitations of Parliamentary System

 

It is necessary to bring under review some important issues in order to evaluate the effectiveness of parliamentary system in Nepal and understand the direction of present political development. In this context, the role of parliamentary system will be subjected to review in the context of people’s political rights, patriotism, development and people’s prosperity and social justice.

 

People’s Political Rights

Whenever the question of democracy arises in Nepal, there is a tendency to define and implement it linking it with the interest of urban intelligentsia. If we follow the modern values and consciousness, the end of Rana oligarchy was defined as democracy. The Rana – rule was abolished but democracy was not established. After that, the end of the Panchayat system was called democracy. Panchayat was overthrown in 1990, but were the people empowered? It is necessary to search for the answer to this important question.

During the 104 year long Rana autocracy about 248 persons had to lose their lives due to political cause. Of them, 193 persons were killed during internal clashes for power among the Ranas. These people were killed in the processes of political push and pull. If we remove the contestants for power among the Shahs and the Ranas from the list of those killed, the number of murdered people in the opposition is not so large. During that period, the number of political opponents who were murdered while making conscious effort to bring about political change was 55. Similarly, 312 political personalities were killed during the rule of absolute monarchy covering the period of 1961 to 1990. During this period 34 political activists were recorded as missing. At the later period of the present multi-party system, 961 people have been murdered by November 2000 (A detailed list is available in the Annex-1, Neupane; 2001, Nepali version of this book). While analyzing the statistics as to which political system killed how many opponents due to political reason, one finds that the Rana regime killed 2.38 people including those who were killed in mutual power struggle, the Panchayati rule killed 10.7 persons, the interim government killed 7 people and the parliamentary system of government killed 101 people per annum. Further, the people killed in the later period of the parliamentary system have reached 1300, which indicates a terrific situation. During this period, hundreds of people have also been missing. During the period of 1997 and 1999, more than 127 people made disappeared by the government. (INSEC, 2000: 141). In this way, not only is the number of the opponents killed by the government staggering, the number of those missing is also astonishingly high.

Every tier and agency of the structure of society and the governance are engaged in the practice of undemocratic norms, values, faith and practices. The so-called ‘mainstream’ political parties, which are engaged in the propagation of the illusion that the multiparty form of government is democracy, have been playing the role of wholesale traders of so-called democratization. Today the rural society, particularly in western part of Nepal, is living in terror as never before. The state is engaged in the destruction of the life and property of its citizens by violating all the norms of civilized state. The people are forced to live under the shadow of state terror. It seems that the definition of Nepalese democracy only includes the luxury of the affluent, arbitrary domination of the corrupt political leaders and high officials and barbaric control of the police over the life and property of the people.

While talking about the extent of corruption, the irregularity committed under legal cover (provision of pension for lawmakers which was later declared illegal by the Supreme Court), corruption practiced by influencing the policy (the exemption of custom on expensive vehicles for MPs and other high government officials), corruption perpetrated to fulfill individual and partisan interest during the implementation of a policy (the instance of commission grabbing while taking aircraft on lease) and other inappropriate use of public property  have taken the country under their claws. If a leader dies, it becomes like a lottery for the ones who are living. Leaders, big and small are found to be sucking state revenue by establishing a memorial academy in the name of one or the other dead leader. “B. P. Thought Forum”, “Madan-Ashrit Memorial Academy”, “Ganeshman Academy” and “Puspalal Memorial Academy” are some of the examples. Most of these academies are engaged in earning by trading in sentiments. The facilities given by appointing supporters in the boards of corporations and the provision to allocate 1 million rupees to each MP in the name of development of constituency are corruptions indulged under the cover of legality. The withdrawal of non-political cases or the waiver of prison terms of the convicted criminals and the misuse of state revenue in the name of providing relief to political sufferers are those stigmas of history, which the multiparty system is not likely to be able to wash out. If we only analyze the burden on the state revenue brought to bear by the cost of maintenance of the ministers and parliamentarians, the ministers and MPs under democracy are found to be living a more luxurious life than their counterparts in the Panchayat era. These events have made corruption more of a rule than exception. Because of this practice of the people in higher echelon of government, corruption has become inalienable cultural practice in the daily life of ordinary people too. In fact, the parliamentary system has left the Rana regime and the Panchayat system far behind in the expansion and intensification of corruption and debilitation of the people. An environment has been created in which it has become compulsory to tread the path of moral and economic corruption to get service from any kind of legal and semi-legal agencies and administrative functions of the government.

 

 

Experiences and Feelings-4

 

Walls Speak

 

One can see the slogans like, “the parliamentarians are bandits” and “the constitution is for the bandits” written on the walls of the premises of Singh durbar. Similar types of slogans are also found on the walls of drinking water office at Tripureshwor and Bhadrakali in Kathmandu. One can also see slogans, like “O King! come and save the country” and “Down with multiparty system” written on the walls of the Department of Housing near Ramlila Maidan in Nepalgunj.  Occasionally, processions of the Panchas are also seen being taken round. I have been engaged in limited but intensive, concentrated and open discussion to find out whether such things have been written with a real belief that the King will save the country or it is a rash act of some anti-multiparty elements or an expression of extreme despair. After talking with more than 25 political workers and ordinary people, I have come to the following conclusion.

 

            1. The leaders are naturally hungry. Since the majority of them are new to the trade, they have no idea of reaping benefits out of their position. The high officials are, therefore, involved in the process. The officials make necessary arrangement and the leaders take actions. As a result, money vanishes from the state exchequer, people are dislocated and foreign loan reaches mounts. Whatever the motive behind it, it is, therefore, an act of robbery. It is an exception if some ministers, parliamentarians, politicians and high officials are free from guilt.  Their number is definitely small. It is also not strange for the constitution, which is powerless to stop it to stand accused. Therefore, what has been written is correct.   

           

            2. The king also draws on facilities from the state exchequer. Naturally, he also should take up responsibility against all the works of destruction. In this sense, it is also natural for the king to be called upon for help. Instead, it looks unnatural for the king to look helplessly at the present day injustice, aberration, terror and degeneration. Even if the motive of the slogan or the graffiti writer may be regression, it is not unnatural for him to call upon the king for intervention.

           

            3. When there is anarchy everywhere, how can it be surprising for such slogans to appear on the walls of the Singh durbar? There is no reason to doubt the person who is doing this has great anguish over the situation. He may be a hero or a villain, whatever he is speaking through these walls against this anarchy, this mismanagement, and the undisciplined offspring of this miraculous “democracy”, is very necessary.  Kudos to that hero!  Be he an army personnel or a Maoist, he is speaking the truth. That is why he is doing right.

 

            4. This is an act of a Maoist. This slogan writer is definitely a Maoist or his accomplice who is bent on fulfilling his ambition of creating a split between the king and the supporters of the parliamentary system. What is right is that what has been written is a fact. It is true that the constitution has been used for the fulfillment of extraordinary wishes of limited number of individuals. So it is natural that the slogans have opposed the  use of the  constitution, laws and acts for the loot of state coffer in a judicial, semi judicial and extra judicial way.

After documenting these reactions, I did not feel it necessary to add anything on my own.  Why is it necessary to explain anything if the walls speak for themselves?

 

The leaders, who are not tired of talking about making the people sovereign, have not gone beyond the level of thinking of middle class Nepalese who enjoy the status of relative strength and benefit. A neo-rich class is emerging in the country and is getting richer amassing wealth in a wrong and unusual way. Culturally too, they have the temptation to demonstrate their transformation. These upstarts have even started to use the language of aristocracy. For some people belonging to aristocratic class, this may mean continuation of their own way. But for other neo-rich class, it is only a clumsy display of unusual weight of the newly found luxury. Similarly, the discotheque, dance restaurants and massage centers have also started to fall within their priority.

It is also necessary to analyze here the primary expectation of the people about their basic needs and the desire for change in their state of marginalization. In fact, the people had hoped that their expectations would be fulfilled after the establishment of parliamentary system of government. By the term “people”, primarily we should understand those persons living below the poverty line in the rural and urban areas and a large majority of common folks. Their primary needs are very simple – fulfillment of minimum basic needs for livelihood. It is luxury for them to think beyond that. But we find only a negative picture when we think whether some positive efforts were made to fulfill them during the last ten years. According to a statistics published in 1995 the percentage of the people living under the poverty line is 82.5 percent on the basis of internationally accepted standard income of per day 2 dollars per person (World Bank, 2000). It means that the parliamentary system was not been able to create a condition of work for the people to make their lives easier. It is true that literacy and average life span increased. But this situation created without a change in the condition of people’s poverty was relative rather than absolute and was like a harvest in an oasis of a desert. It means that one class in the Nepalese society is becoming rich very fast. At the first row, there is a class, which is in a position to grab the benefits of the society. This class includes big businessmen, agents of multinational companies, high level corrupt officials, deviated leaders of the parliamentary system, commission agents, smugglers, the chiefs of some non-government sectors and other varieties of people representing foreign interests. In the second row, there is a class, which is capable of bargaining for getting a larger share of benefits. This includes, teachers, professors, lawyers, journalists, high-level technicians (such as doctors, engineers etc.) mid level employees and organized businessmen.  Apart from the above two classes, there is a third class which at least aspires for these benefits. There is another fourth class, which is compelled to eke out a living in a state of marginalization. Within the last two classes there are a large number of people who are struggling for mere subsistence.  The 82.5 percent of the people living under the poverty line belong to the third and the fourth classes. For these people for whom even the minimum subsistence has not been possible, democracy is no more than a right to cast vote to a candidate fielded from the higher classes. Thus the benefit of this system has been received only by a small section of the people of upper classes who are still moving upwards. Some people say that there is democracy for all the people. But for the people who lack the capacity to exercise democratic rights and whose participation in governance has been limited by a number of obstacles, democracy has been no more than a spectacle.

The civic society is in its infancy in Nepal. A large section of it is seriously sick of definite political bias, sensation, advertisement and the malaise of self-fulfillment. In a society like ours, in which there is no large number of population, who is equipped with critical consciousness and with a domination of feudal values, norms and practices, parliamentary system becomes a means of fulfilling the aspiration and ambitions of those who are clever and advantaged. Thus for some intellectuals, the civic society has become a means to exploit the government, to demonstrate the plight of the country to the foreigners and to earn wealth and reputation by selling the disadvantages of the nation.

In this way, the claim that the people have been empowered with democratic rights, they have been made sovereign and that their rights have been ensured lacks concrete basis. For a large number of people of the agricultural and non-agricultural fields, it has brought nothing but despair, disappointment and debilitation. The superficial developmentalists, quite a few intellectuals, high level officials and parliamentary leaders who are also chiefs of smuggling rackets, will create a din about development and say – ‘schools have been built, roads have been constructed, health posts have been opened’ etc. However, this will be clear when we compare with the loan that has been received from foreign countries. Can this modest development be justified in proportion to 172 billion rupees received in loan during nine years from 1990 to 1999? (NRB, 1998/99: 79 &table 36 & NRB, 1989/90: Table 33). Furthermore, it is necessary to see that empowerment, wealth and justice are the indicators of development not some modest changes in physical infrastructure which automatically takes in course of time. In this dark period when the power is concentrated in the hands of higher classes, wealth is under the ownership of the rich and justice has been made to serve the interest of the privileged, it is not necessary to get confused by the false reasoning of so-called development workers, corrupt persons and sycophants. There are only two things that the parliamentary system has provided to the people – to shout hoarse at leisure and to cast vote to the representatives of higher or middle class once in every five years. It may be a great democratic opportunity from the western standards but for the Nepalese people who are deprived of basic means of living, it is like a French Shampoo displayed at the departmental store in Tripureshwor but is beyond the purchasing capacity of the ordinary people. This means that there is no essential difference between the Panchayat system and parliamentary system for the common Nepalese. In fact, these two are the only different forms of superstructures. Both of them were not responsible towards the people. Comparatively speaking, Panchayat was simpler, more transparent and easier to understand, while the parliamentary system is more complicated, less transparent and difficult to understand. Both of them are the forms of government, which represented the higher classes. The practice of present day parliamentary system takes us to this conclusion.17 Furthermore, the long list of those killed and missing mentioned above, clears even the remaining doubt about it.

Patriotism:

The independent characteristics of the Nepalese state has been deprived by the situation in which Nepal has to be dependent on important factors concerning its status and decisions on foreign affairs. It is clear that Nepal has never been a colony of any power. But it does not lead us to the straight conclusion that it was in a position to make independent decisions. It is, therefore, desirable to undertake a study of the history of Nepal’s foreign affairs, its impacts and influences.

Nepal came into an existence in 1968 as the greater Gorkha Kingdom. It went on expanding till 1914 acquiring a size double as much as it is today. At that time it was defeated by the British and was limited with minor alteration to the present boundary losing half of its territory in the course of war. Because of the leading role of the Shah dynasty of Gorkha in the making of Nepal, monarchy has remained as a center of strength and legitimacy.  While making a historical review of the history of Nepal’s monarchy, it becomes clear that though it had started since the Lichhavi period (fifth century), the shah dynasty established after about 1300 years was the fully developed monarchy. Not only did it rule over an extensive territory, it was this dynasty, which was able to build the first centralized military strength. The feudalization of land system, development of bureaucracy and full control of the king on state administration was the characteristics of this monarchy. The Rana dynasty, which was established following the Kot Massacre of 1846 by weakening the Shah dynasty, ruled over Nepal for 104 years. During that period, the power of the state rested with the Ranas, though the crown of honor and legitimacy remained with the Shah kings. This dual monarchy was not only strange; there was also an odd kind of feudal unity and contradiction between them. This dual monarchy gave continuity to conflict, conspiracy and killing on the one hand and the possibilities of people’s resistance were relegated to improbable optimism on the other. The people, who were angered by the Rana autocracy, remained expectant towards Shah dynasty. In this specific period of dual rule, the British colonialists who were already knocking at Nepal’s door in course of empire building took advantage of this quarrel and people’s passivity. Following its defeat in anti-British war of 1814 -1815 and signing the Treaty of Sugauli, Nepal not only lost a large portion of its territory, she also underwent a change in her sovereign state character.

Although Nepal has always been independent, its freedom has been limited. Facts shed light on it. According to “Abrogation of Treaty with the Terai”, compiled by Narahairnath, when Makwanpur came under the control of the Gorkhalis in 1769, the king of Gorkha sent Dinanath Upadhyaya to call on an English officer called Major Kilik in 1771. Before that he had promised the British that he would continue to pay the tribute, which was being paid to them by Makwanpur. In this way, a beginning was made to slip under the control of the British. In 1792, King Rana Bahadur Shah had put forward a proposal for a trade treaty with Britain in front of English officer Duncan. King Rana Bahadur Shah had also enclosed a courteous letter to Duncan along with the draft of the treaty. He had also sent a lot of gifts to the English officer. (Naraharinath, 2022 B.S.: 21-22) During that period, gifts carried a great meaning in diplomacy.

Article 6 of the Treaty of Sugauli stipulates, “The King of Nipaul shall never incite the king of Sikkim to engage in revolt and destructive acts with a view to occupy his territories.  In case of differences, however, between the kings of Nipaul and Sikkim or the peoples of these countries, these differences shall be subjected to British arbitration and the King of Nipaul undertakes to abide by the decision.”  Similarly, the Article 7 of the treaty stipulates, “The King of Nipaul undertakes not to employ any British citizens, Europeans or Americans without the permission of the British Government.” (Naraharinath, 2022:82) It indicates that the circumscription of Nepal’s freedom awarded a semi-colonial status to Nepal. Further, let us examine the moment of Jung Bahadur’s audience with the British Queen as described in Jung Bahadur Rana’s Journey to England – “Nepal’s Prime Minister, his colonel brother, Kajis, Sirdars, captains and lieutenants had gone to England. The Empress called the Prime Minister and asked if he would like to have some refreshments. But the Prime Minister said that it would be improper for them to eat in front of the Empress. She smiled and requested him to sit on a chair. The prime Minister then sat down.”  (Dixit 2014 B.S.; 27-28)

This quotation also proves that Jung Bahadur Rana had also practically accepted British subjugation. Similarly, the clause 2 of the Annex containing royal seal addressed in the form of a letter to the resident by Nepal’s king in 1839 states: “The government of Nepal undertakes not to form alliance with the British protectorates across the Ganges. These countries are, according to this treaty prohibited from undertaking the above negotiation without the consent of the Resident.” The second clause of this very document states: “The landlords and the Baboos living on the other side of the Ganges and having matrimonial relation with royal dynasty of Nipaul, can undertake correspondence with the Nipaul government and their traffic can be maintained for the people as usual.” (Naraharinath, 2022: 123)

The British monopoly over important natural resources, forest and other products had been accepted on a number of occasions. The second clause of the of the accord of 1829 on the preservation of forest along the border of Gorkha and British India states: “As Captain Musuli Saheb has been permitted by a royal degree to cut timber within the fixed boundary of the forest of Madhubar, only his carts should be allowed to carry timber from Patli Madhubar forest. No other Indians should be allowed to cut down trees.” The fifth clause states: “As for our own villagers, permission should be given to cut wood only to meet the need of daily utilities. If you allowed supplying timber for the purpose of trade, you will be subjected to severe penalty.” (Naraharinath, 2022: 116)

Jung Bahadur dispatched Nepali troops to quell the Sepoy mutiny of India in 1857. This troop suppressed the mutineers at Lucknow. This was a wrong deed of the Ranas to please the British. The recruitment of the Nepalese citizens in the British army also proves an indirect British control over Nepal. Although the British left India in 1947, this attitude towards Nepal remained unchanged. The Indians replaced the British. The Indians gained control over Nepal through 1950 in the name of special relationship. Jawaharlal Nehru says: “To be candid, we cannot tolerate any kind of foreign interference in Nepal. Even a small child understands that the only way to Nepal is through India. Therefore, we have closer relation with Nepal than with other countries. The Himalayas has been our borders from time immemorial. We will not allow that boundary to be broken. This is a major boundary line even for India. When we stand in favor of Nepal’s freedom, we won’t allow any disturbance to occur there nor shall we allow anyone to cross this border or weaken it.” (Nehru, In Rawat, 1974: 30)

Apart from these treaties, and ideas regulating state relationship, Nepal also constituted an unlimited market for British-India from economic point of view. This very colonial mentality seems to have been at work even in the use of Nepal’s natural resources. In this context the Koshi Agreement of 1952, the Gandak Agreement of 1960 and the Letter of Understanding on firearms signed in 1965 are all motivated by this sentiment. These treaties have protected Indian interests. Nepal has been a victim of inequality. It indicates the 200 yearlong activities designed for circumscribing Nepal’s independence. These activities prove the correctness of the communist analysis that Nepal is a semi-colonial country.

In the history Nepal’s continued independence is taken as a mater of pride. Although there were occasions of partial restrictions on Nepal’s independent decision making power, it did not have to come under complete foreign subjugation. Nepal had taken symbolic suzerainty over Tibet following victory in a war with it in 1789. However, it was reduced to a country which had to pay tribute to China after being defeated in another war in 1792. It not only had to lose half of its territory after being defeated in Anglo-Nepal war of 1914, it also had to accept an indirect domination of the British. The Treaty of Sugauli of 1815 and the Treaty of 1923 prove that. On the one hand these treaties restricted the country’s independence, on the other; the conflict of the dual monarchy also had a serious effect on the country’s self-respect. The dispatch of troops by Jung Bahadur to help the British in quelling the Indian independence movement constitutes an example. Recruitment of the Nepalese in the British army was also an act of lowering the country’s honor. So long as the question of the comparative study of the time frame of actions strengthening Nepal’s patriotism is concerned, there always is space for differences as it is a question not of numerical but qualitative study. Taking this into account, an attempt shall be made for an evaluation in the following paragraphs.

It is difficult to enlist the good works performed during the Rana period. It must be admitted that the return of the lost new territory was a good work done at that period. In their 104 year long rule, the decision to help the British in quelling Indian Mutiny, to agree for the recruitment of the Nepalese youths in the British Army, the Nepal-India Treaty of 1950 and their failure to try to obtain the land lost through the Treaty of Sugauli during Indian Independence can be cited as their acts of disservice to Nepal.

The acquirement of the UN membership, observance of a non-aligned foreign policy,  putting forward of the “Zone of Peace” proposal and removal of the Indian check posts were the positive works done during the period of absolute monarchy reigning from 1951 to 1990, while the continuation of 1950 Treaty, the secret letters exchanged in 1965 concerning the import of weapons, Koshi Agreement, Gandak Agreement and the negligence shown during the construction of the Tanakpur Barrage were the works performed against national interest during the same period.

In this context it is now necessary to assess the parliamentary parties and their roles. It is more contextual to start their study from the eve of 1990 movement rather than stretching too far into the past. In March, 1989 India closed 13 border transit points leaving only Raxaul and Jogmani open on the plea that the duration of trade, transit and unauthorized trade control treaties had expired. For want of fuel and other goods of daily necessities, the public transport system of Nepal nearly came to a standstill. Schools, colleges and hotels started to close down. There was a drastic fall in the arrival of the tourists. As the goods of daily necessities began to be scarce, long queues of people became common sights for securing stocks of things like kerosene. Serious crises loomed large in the life of the people. In an interview given to the Times of India, the then Nepalese ambassador to India said that it was an economic blockade against Nepal. (Bhattarai et al, 1993; 63-65) In fact, it was the bitterest period in Nepal-India relation. The Nepalese people were in a state of panic. It also presented a severe test to the Nepalese patriots. On the one hand there was a need to launch struggle against the barbaric Panchayat system, on the other there was a need to organize a movement against the economic blockade. This blockade was not like the one imposed against the apartheid policy of South Africa. It was rather a blockade against Nepal’s natural right for an access to sea. It was therefore, a blockade imposed against Nepal’s sovereign right to take independent decisions. For Nepal’s political opposition, there were only two alternatives available. Either they had to support the initiative of the government to resolutely face India’s blockade or to organize democratic movement considering the blockade an opportune international situation for a democratic movement. There was also a possibility of creating a patriotic democratic movement against both of them. But the dominant parties of that time did not embark on that way. These parties considered the possibility of raising an anti-Panchayat movement to better advantage. Leader of the Nepali Congress, Mr Girija Prasad Koirala said, “This stalemate has come because of differences in ideologies. This was destined to happen because there is democracy in India, whereas Nepal has autocracy.” He asked for help with Indian Congress and the opposition parties for the establishment of a system with supremacy of parliament. He also requested Indian leaders to consider democratic aspirations of the Nepalese people before reaching to any agreement with the Nepalese government. (Bhattarai et al, 1993: 103) These initiatives clearly violated the patriotic aspirations of the people. Nepal’s political opposition started to praise the unjust role of India directly or indirectly. As a result the Indian leaders raised voice for the continuation of Indian blockade created a sustained pressure. Also, deprived of the support from the people, the Panchayat government was overthrown.

India tried to take an undue advantage by cashing in its support after parliamentary system was established in Nepal. As a gratitude for this help the Nepalese side presented its first gift to India by not including the “Zone of Peace” proposal in the directive principle of the constitution.18 The proposal was included in the directive principle of the previous constitution. This proposal was a fine equipment of Nepal’s foreign policy and an important tool that could be used in favor of patriotism. But this had been an issue of dispute between Nepal and India. (Bhattarai et al, 1993: 160) That is why it is clear that it was removed from the directive principles because of the pressure from India. In this way the parliamentary leaders of Nepal handed over to India the “Zone of Peace” proposal that had received support from 116 countries (Nepal Pachchhik 2057: 29). This was continued even in the Mahakali Treaty. It should, therefore, be admitted that the strong opposition comprising the Nepali Congress and the Left Front had committed a mistake by failing to pursue patriotic path in the movement of 1990. As the days pass on, history will gradually separate itself from the exaggerated glorification of the People’s Movement and in the same proportion, the leaders shall be reduced from heroes to villain for fawning upon the Indians even at the most painful moment of economic blockade by India.

Experiences and Feelings-5

 

Seminars and speeches: Employment for marginalized leaders

On the one hand lawlessness, corruption, anarchy run rampant, the heat of the movement continues unabated. There are rumors of regression. Seminars are being held. These seminars have become life saving schemes for unemployed leaders and intellectuals. They run for an opportunity from one forum to another. It has become the daily routine of these leaders. These leaders and intellectuals can spend years making speeches remaining indifferent from the context, dignity of participation and the aspiration of people for difference. It seems speech making is a specific dramatic genre in which they have achieved mastery. Those affiliated to the Nepali Congress are engaged in creating an ocean of voice remaining completely detached from word, metaphor and ideas. The leftists on the other hand engage in self- praise imagining that they have carved a new height for them by communicating bombastic nonsense learnt during their secondary school days. The people have become audience to their speeches not the committed loyalists. Those who organize such seminars do not have the problems and their solution as their priority but are doing so for an opportunity to get access, earn money, develop public contact and launch propaganda. Moreover, foreign money has entered through non-governmental channel to embellish such political seminars. A similar seminar was reportedly held by a non-governmental agency in a semi-secret way at dhulikhel. Now, these ‘non- governmental organizations’ have started to show interest in such political seminars.  Foreign money will have an increased flow. When they start shooting infallible weapons named “dialogue”, and “peace”, it is only natural that foreign money flows non stop. So long as these Non Governmental Organizations’s fulfilling their words is concerned, when have NGO’s ever-fulfilled words so that these NGO does also have to do it? The future of seminars, however, looks promising. Thus, the country is overflowing with seminars and speeches.

 

The history, however, will not forgive the leaders for these serious errors. In this way only those individuals, groups or parties, who have benefited from the parliamentary system established after 1990, may be able to find out and prove the positive works accomplished during that period. So far as the list of negative work are concerned, the advocacy of the concept of the common river, Mahakali Treaty and the continuation of 1950 Treaty can be taken as examples.

Today, the United States of America has emerged as a single superpower in the world. It is engaged in various unjust and aggressive acts of war, and has been launching aggressive campaigns through military alliance and is maintaining military presence in areas of strategic importance. At present, a strategic alliance is being forged between the US and the neighbors of Nepal including India and Pakistan. This new development has created a situation in which the Nepalese patriots have to rally up for conscious and resolute struggle against the aspirations and practices of big power domination.

In the analysis presented above the merits and demerits of all the political systems have been briefly summarized. The comparative assessment shows the parliamentary system as the most unsuccessful one. Those who have assumed the responsibility of the country’s security, not only lack transparency, responsibility and sensitivity in their assumption, ideas and practices, they are also deviated from the patriotic feeling, stand and duties. Mahakali Treaty constitutes the most glaring example of this. It has become a routine for the masters of these farcical shows to stage hypocritical dramas and to sacrifice the cardinal interests of the nation for the fulfillment of their vested interests. Today, instances of foreign influence, interference and domination are growing in different fields. Our cultural life is gradually becoming polluted. The NGOs and INGOs are circumscribing the people’s rights to independent choices in their cultural, economic and political life. An attempt is also being made to beg in the name of the people and to turn the image of the nation to dust.

The real democratic movement in Nepal should stand against all kinds of conditions, provisions, treaties, intrusions and aggressions. It should stand against any kind of internal or external activities that go against an untarnished image of the country. It means that Nepal’s democratic movement must accept a patriotic path. It is an important touchstone to measure the strength and weaknesses of Nepalese democracy. The parliamentary system utterly failed to play the role of a flag bearer of democracy if viewed on the basis of this touchstone.

 

Development and People’s Prosperity

 

Nepal belongs to one of the most backward countries from the point of view of development. Although, all of the political forces staying in power in various times are responsible for this, specific financial and economic indicators must be analyzed to find out which one is comparatively more responsible for it. The exchange rate of the Nepalese rupees with the Indian currency was Rs 1.04 in 1951 immediately after the fall of the Ranas. Now, in 2000 the same is 1.6. In 1960, the exchange rate of one US dollar was Rs 7.60. That same US $ exchange rate was Rs 29.10 in 1990, the year of the people’s movement. Today, in December 13, 2000, this rate is Rs 73.95 (Maskey, 2000: 18, 24, 66), Kantipur, 2000:11). It shows a continuous decline in the purchasing power of the Nepalese currency.

So long as the acceptance of loan by the government is concerned, the government had not accepted foreign loan during the Rana period. Following the downfall of the Panchayat System, in mid July 1990, the total government debt amounted to Rs 51.5 billion rupees. (NRB, 1989/90, Table 33). Of the 51.5 billion rupees the internal loan amounted to 14.7 billion and foreign loan amounted to 36.8 billion rupees. This very loan increased to reach 223.5 billion rupees in mid July 1999, out of which internal loan was 49.7 billion rupees and foreign loan was 173.8 billion rupees. (NRB, 1998/99: 79 & table 36). The Ranas used to fulfill their needs and luxuries from the exploitation of the people. During absolute Shah rule attention was also given to the tapping of external resources. The 9 years of the parliamentary system incurred a loan of hopping 172 billion rupees, which is enough to hold the entire future of the state at stake. Today, the rulers are trumpeting about development on the basis of increase in services and facilities. But it is necessary to look at the loans. The major part of this loan has been used in creating glitter and wealth for leaders, making a paradise for high officials, obtaining opulence for senior level bureaucrats and building of bungalows for bosses of non-governmental organizations. The old system of feudal exploitation of the people can be seen in the rural areas even today. But the large part of the spoil grabbed by these villains should be looked into these foreign loans and other “assistance”, “grants” and development investment. To buy their present at the cost of the country’s future has become the daily activities of these hypocrites, leaders, high level officers acting as their accomplices, big time peddlers working in the field of judiciary, brokers, businessmen and the so-called development bosses working in the non-governmental organizations. It has become the duty of all individuals and the parties working for social change to understand this phenomenon.

A general review of the trend seen in the field of economy reveals that there is an appalling level of unequal control over the means of production. The role of agriculture is still very important in the field of Nepalese economy. The agricultural sector of the country is entangled with the problems of productivity. Even after the land reform program of 1964 only 10.6 percent cultivable land was in the hand of 63.1 percent families, whereas 10. 4 percent families owned 60.5 percent of the land. (Zaman, 1973, 29). There is no substantial change in the situation even today. Because of this situation of ownership, a large segment of the population is unable to manage the basic minimum needs of life, whereas a small segment of higher class is leading a luxurious life with all kinds of comfort and amenities. Instead of engaging itself in the task of emancipation of agriculture laborers and the establishment of ownership of the tillers over the land, solving land problem, promoting employment in that area and establishing a system of social justice, the government is only maintaining the status quo. A constitutional arrangement has also been made to give continuity to this status quo. Article 7.2 of the constitution of Nepal stipulates, “Except for public interest, the state shall not expropriate, requisition or create any kind of right over such property.” Similarly, Article 7 (3) of the constitution stipulates, “While expropriating of and requisitioning or creating right over the property of an individual, its compensation, basis and procedure should be as determined by the law.” These provisions have completely blocked the possibilities of redistribution of land in the country. Moreover, they also guarantee the preservation of the present structure of the society based on exploitation and inequality.

The government is completely indifferent towards the initiative and infrastructure for building an independent economy. This has turned Nepal into a consumer’s market for foreigner businesses. In Nepal, privatization means sale of government owned corporations taking commission in the process. Such privatization has had negative impact on productivity, social justice and management. Similarly, the interests of the nation and the people have been discarded in the name of liberalization and globalization, which have only served the interests of the rulers.

Water resource is one of the most important resources of the country. Apart from that, high snow capped mountains, forests, minerals and rare animals also fall in this category. Foolishly, accusations are often leveled at nature for the poverty of Nepal, whereas the blame should have gone to unjust political system, erroneous economic policies and the infamous practices of individuals and forces in power. In the country a situation has been created in which the people’s life has been made difficult by price rise and unemployment, national development has been hindered and the country has been pushed to regression.

Private sector is naturally an area to run on risk, use entrepreneurship and make profit. These characteristics are found only in a very small segment of Nepalese private enterprises. The most serious impact after the establishment of multiparty system was seen in the field of business. It created a sort of economic anarchy. In the competition for spoilage of the future of the people and the nation, a series of vile activities such as emptying national exchequer with an unholy, fatal and astonishing alliance among the statesmen, high officials and businessmen, stigmatizing the nation by creating black economy and committing thousands of scandals for one’s gratification still goes on. Only a small portion of private sector belongs to national bourgeoisie. But they are gradually becoming weak due to harmful influences of liberalization and globalization. The role of state in nation’s economy is guided by an absolute privatization and exclusive use of commercial enterprises under the ownership of the state. Foreign investment is very limited. The Nepalese representatives of foreign business transactions have run Nepal’s private sector. Today, the country’s economy is at the hand of comprador bourgeoisie. The comprador bourgeoisie is bent on taking advantage out of the fluid political situation of the country.

It is necessary to analyze the character of the Nepalese society. In fact, there has been the existence of pre-feudal to capitalist relations of production. The subsistence agricultural economy, capitalist agricultural system and comprador bureaucratic capitalism are some of the various factors, which determine the present relations of production. Comprador bureaucratic capitalism is becoming more extensive and intense. With reference to Sabir Amin, Hari Rokka writes on such comprador and bureaucratic capitalism – “In order for the capitalist class to be able to become a national force capable of developing productive force with a minimum of freedom it has to establish control over the circuit of productive forces, national re-production in agriculture and industry and the collection of capital.

Experiences and Feelings-6

 

Democracy Lives in the Pockets of Leaders

 

Those leaders who think that speech alone is not enough to glorify them are busy in collecting gems and jewels by assigning their valet to extol democracy. I don’t know as to how many episodes Ramayana, the Hindu epic, has.  Similarly nobody knows how many scandals the leaders are involved in. They are in, both, the ruling and opposition benches. As the rulers have committed the cases of corruption, the leaders have been mired in scandals, weaker leaders and intellectuals on a queue to power have had chances to organize feasts of seminars against corruption. Many sons and daughters dreaming for a social change are being made to disappear, imprisoned and killed. Taking advantage of this situation these leaders and intellectuals are again organizing seminars to sing elegy for human rights and to make their relevance felt. An effective way of movement does not generally figure in their agenda of action. Sometimes, they are organizers. At others, they are guests. In this way this exchange of roles continues. As this exchange of roles goes on, the rulers are staging farces. They often say there is democracy in the country. In their democracy, prisoners of conscience are going missing, scores of people are killed in the name of ‘encounters’, people released by courts are abducted from the very premises of the courts and unsavory dramas are enacted to pressure people to change their conviction. Dinseh Sharma was recorded as missing for eleven months. But when he was brought to view, he was made to read a statement suiting the rulers’ interest. He took the road to the “jungle” immediately after that. One minister said he was in custody and the press meet was in accordance with his wishes. The government had shown goodwill by releasing him. Another minister said he was never arrested. As he himself approached the government for such a press meet, the government had done so to oblige him. There is absolute democracy for the rulers, democracy to blurt out whatever they want to say and to do. People are surprised to see these leaders who are carrying democracy in their pockets. I am surprised to see the marginalized leaders and intellectuals who are feeding on the seminars and statements based on the rituals performed by these statesmen. The Nepalese people and I are surprised to see the plight of the poor bird called democracy. The weak democracy is on the deathbed. So it does not sound unnatural for the voice of change to rend the sky.19

 

if it could not control over, it will change into a stooge. It cannot fulfill the expected historical role. In other words, 1) it does not allow the workers to join the markets, 2) it does not expand the domestic markets, 3) it is operated from outside, 4) it is corrupt, 5) it invests in black markets and not in productive areas, 6) it reduces production and controls it, 7) it does not allow the feudal culture to develop into pure capitalist culture, 8) it weakens the state and encourages the bureaucracy, 9) it looks for new buyers for products, and 10) it demolishes the indigenous industry and destroys the capital with nationalist character, etc. (Roka, 2057 B.S. :7)

This makes it clear that the present day capitalism which we see in Nepal today is not an independent capitalism but bureaucratic capitalism. It is appropriate to call such capitalism as parasitic capitalism. Thus the type of capitalism which we have in Nepal today is not the type of capitalism that had evolved in Europe but a dependent and parasitic capitalism which has hindered the building of independent capitalist society.

While talking about the country’s development and building of independent economy, it is necessary to refer to the role of international financial institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund which represent, primarily, the interest of American multinationals. These institutions are interfering into the independent initiatives, decisions and development priorities of all developing countries, are imposing their wishes on the developing nations and are limiting these countries into the markets of the groups of western capitalist nations. In this difficult international situation the parliamentary rulers are prepared to stoop to any extent in the name of “foreign assistance”, consider the loan obtained by selling the country’s future as “great achievement” and misuse such money in their personal interest in an unimaginable way.

It is clear that the parliamentary system has not been able to bring a remarkable change in any field ranging from the infrastructure for economic development, social as well as structural base of development to the material prosperity of the people. Instead of leading the process of transformation of the society, the rulers are engaged in the work of pushing the people towards dependence, subjugation, pessimism and misery. It has become the character of these rulers to curse the previous system and shirk responsibility for any kinds of failures. In this way, the parliamentary system has not been effective both in the people centered development and the general prosperity of the people.

 

Social Justice

While considering over social justice, Hindu superiority in the governance and the domination of Khasa male members of the society must be taken into account. While dwelling on such topic, the steps taken by the government in favor of the poor, the disadvantaged and those made victim of injustice naturally come to the fore. Social justice cannot be achieved so long as the situation of economic exploitation, social deprivation and the restriction of efficiency exist. If we evaluate the situation against these criteria nothing but misery is seen here, be it under the Rana rule or absolute monarchy. There is no substantial change in those fundamental areas even under the present day parliamentary system. The speech of freedom, which is generously dished out today, is limited only to a tiny number of urban middle class and those who are advocating this system. The fairy tale of the freedom of speech has not led to solution to any of the real problem of those rural people whose ovens rarely see fire, who do not have clothes to cover their bodies and who have never seen anything called facilities. So long as the difference which the urban middle class makes through its right to speech is concerned, though it is effective to some extent to protect its personal interest, it has not made any essential difference in the life of the general masses or of those people who are living in poverty nor has the middle class paid any attention towards it. One of its sections, which consider publishing of indignant articles in daily and weekly newspapers as their great achievement, is also using these indignant expressions as the means to inch towards happiness and comforts of power. At present there is a kind of serious illusion amid this group. It has also started to express pride about being a catalyst of social change in the Nepalese society. Even the limited amount of liberal atmosphere created by parliamentary system has been used by limited members of urban higher middle class instead of using it in the welfare of the   general masses. The middle class who is acting as a priest to perform various kinds of rituals in the field of social justice is also wholly preoccupied in misappropriating the funds provided by the government and foreigners. All the whimsical talks about social justice that we hear in the society are the rumors set afloat by this group.

                        Class, racial and gender discrimination are found in the society in an intense form as the conservative social thoughts, convention, practices and beliefs have created a very complex form of social system. The society has a system of patriarchy made up of higher class and Khasa nationality. The poor, deprived, downtrodden, and oppressed and women are experiencing an extraordinary condition of misery and are in a state to launch a united struggle against it. The voice of their protest and revolt are also rending the air. In such situation, it becomes mandatory for any forward looking progressive and future oriented forces to stand in favor of the poor, deprived, oppressed people and women’s empowerment. Similarly, questions of language, culture, religion and nationality have also been raised. Nepal is a country with cultural, religious and ethnic diversity. Only by realizing this fact, a concrete long term and appropriate solution for the people’s problem can be found on the basis of social justice.

The only positive atmosphere, which the present parliamentary system has given to the people, is the right to raise a voice on these issues. The way the government resorted to an indiscriminate firing on the people at a peaceful gathering of women at Bharatpur in Chitawan, indicates that the government is not in a mood to allow the people to enjoy these rights also.20 Similarly, the government is against autonomy for the nationalities. The government also does not appear cooperative towards bringing improvement in the life of downtrodden people through the provisions of the benefit of positive discrimination such as the status of respect, the right to reservation and reparation. These issues indicate that the parliamentary system is either indifferent or against social justice.

 

If we make a list of fundamental problems of the society, poverty, inequality, injustice and the restriction of development opportunity figure out prominently. The government has taken   “poverty alleviation” as an attractive slogan. Poverty has become a good source of income for the government. Wherever there is a chance getting grant and loan, the government reaches there with its begging bowl. While implementing the ninth plan the government said that the problem of poverty could not be solved because of failure in lessening unemployment and economic inequality. (NPC 2055 B.S.:1) The government has mentioned the poverty alleviation as the long-term goal of the ninth plan and has expressed the commitment for bringing the people living under the poverty line down to 10 percent. (NPC, 2055 B.S., 61-62) After the failure of small-scale integrated rural development projects, this slogan can only be a means to deceive the people and a vile act of the government to amass ill-gotten wealth. Lack of political wills as well as widespread corruption and all the wrong development priorities vindicate this conclusion. Poverty cannot be eradicated without structural changes and there are no basis left to hope that such structural changes are possible through the medium of the present system. (Neupane, 1999: 32-39)

In the view of Edward Mueller, if democratic system is established in a country where there is a great inequality in the distribution of income, that great inequality may weaken the legitimacy of the state and dictatorial institutions may replace democratic ones. In this way the duration of democratic practice of any country is reduced by any kind of great inequality. If such a situation is not to be allowed to emerge, democracy should be established in a country where the level of inequality is moderate. Otherwise a strong party with a commitment to redistribution should run the government during the initial years for a considerable length of time in order to lessen the inequality of income and to implement its policies. (Mueller, 1988: 66) Although, Mueller has talked about the atmosphere needed for the establishment and development of western type of democracy, what is particularly true of his statement is that such type of “democracy” is not likely to survive in the society with the type of economic inequality that exists in our society. Similarly, the inequality prevalent in the society cannot be removed without the presence of a strong political party, which has redistribution, as its   goal and is prepared to work for it. Nepal’s experiences also vindicate these conclusions.

There is inequality not only in the field of economy but also in every field of social management, every aspect of social practice and in every context of individual and collective advancement. Be it the status and right of women, fulfillment of aspirations of various nationalities or the case of  an unpardonable social injustice such as untouchability, it is always  the high class Hindu-Khasa male chauvinism that is issuing the arrays of decrees from the seat of power. The shameless and self-gratifying parliamentary leadership, which is never tired in advocating equity and justice in the society, is preventing social, economic and political advances.

In the society, injustice and corruption have been presented as part of a natural process. The government takes it with ease and the leaders earn income either through an inappropriate way under the cover of legality or get it staging a naked drama of embezzlement. By way of example, we can take the decision of importing expensive Japanese vehicles for ministers, parliamentarians and high officials in disregard for the welfare of the people living under uncommon hardship for lack of minimum provision for food and shelter. Similarly, we can take the one million rupees given to each parliament member supposedly for the development of his or her respective constituency. It is necessary to study the way the money allocated from the state exchequer has been spent. For example, we can consider the relevance of an MP from Rautahat district providing money from the constituency development fund for setting up World Hindu Center in Kathmandu. This was announced during a Hindu religious function in open theatre in Kathmandu in 2000. Is not this an act of anarchy, misuse and shamelessness?

The parliamentary system has lured the educated urban middle class. This class is also effortful for an influential position in the government. Some of them have got the chance while others have not been able to fulfill their wishes. That is why a considerable section of this class has gone against the government aggressively. Its critical role can be ascribed to its classical status, realization of responsibility, individual anger and extension and intensification of its “self-interest.” Of these critics, one section is engaged in the battle of share, the second section is indulging in the sloganeering such as “Oh King! come and save the country”, the third section is indulging in purposeless criticism out of desperation, the fourth section is a mere spectator as it considers itself weak and the fifth section has started to express support to the Maoist movement. Only a very small section of this class is aligning to the ruling class loyally. The cause of their loyalty to the government is its commitment to western values; reap benefit by aligning itself with the ruling and the opposition parties and to make their garden bloom with harvest of opportunism. Apart from these power-protected middle class intellectuals and their boon givers – the higher-class rulers, the people of middle class, workers, and farmers and the people of other classes do not have any reason to stand in favor of this system. The first, primary and important reason for this is that this system has not given even a faint signal of bringing a positive change in the life of people of various classes. The over all transformation of the Nepalese society is not possible until a basic change in the life of these people attained. This means that the life of this system can be prolonged by mounting Goebelian propaganda, merging one opposition after another in one’s own unworthy crowd by corrupting them and suppressing the rebels in a brutal way. The present day serious situation can be termed as mature a parliamentary anarchy.  Even a powerful telescope will not be able to see a faintest probability of a social change in its continuity. The shameless behaviors of the rulers are responsible for the rapid unpopularity, indignity and inaction of the parliamentary system. It will not be surprising to say that this system has been defamed beyond repair. It is, therefore, true that the continuation of the present parliamentary system means the continuation of the status quo. If viewed in the context of belief, value and progress, it means the continuation of the governance oriented towards regression. This is also a continuation of anarchy in the field of economy, society, culture and people’s security. This system is, therefore, against the need of transformation of society and its advancement. However, the end of parliamentary system alone will not bring about the social transformation just as the fall of the Ranas and the Panchayat System along with the absolute monarchy could not transform the Nepalese society. This serious fact must be admitted and the issue of change with transformational alternative should be subjected to serious thinking, analysis and review. In today’s specific time frame, individuals, community and a section of the elite supporting absolute monarchy are raising voice for its restoration whereas those supporting the Maoist movement raising the clarion call.

Experiences and Feelings-7

 

Rumors about the Maoists and the Context of Change

 

After a trip to Itahara area of Biratnagar one of my politically inactive friends working in a development organization said that embezzled money could be recovered only after a white paper was prepared and the Maoists notified about it to the embezzler. Those who were provided with money for making furniture for a school were not making furniture according to the requirement of the concerned children. People have therefore begun to tell that Maoists are required to tame corrupt persons. Similarly, a leftist leader who has differences with the Maoists told another leftist leader after coming to Kathmandu from northern Khotang that the public schools in northern Khotang had become like boarding schools. Teachers are disciplined, teaching-learning process is smooth and the parents are happy. The education policy of the Maoists and its implementation is very good. A farmer from Banke feels that the life of the peasants has already changed in Rolpa but it will take long time for their lives to change because it is easier for the police to mount operation there because of plain topography whereas the Maoists have a considerable difficulty to maintain control over the area. I had been to Holiya of Banke district on October 28, 2000 in connection with the inspection of Laxmanpur Barrage. While I was taking a photograph of the dam, four Indian cops rushed towards me, seized my camera and threatened me to bundle off to custody. This bundling off perhaps meant sending us to higher authorities. After a long discussion with my local friend working in Banke, they unloaded the film roll and handed back the camera and set us free. These Indian policemen said: “The Nepalese Maoists have threatened to blow off the barrage with bombs.” They also said that security had been strengthened in view of the possibility of clashes between the Maoists and the Indian police. Divulging the secrecy behind the success in getting the Dalits’ demand with the milk collection center at Gaindakot, one of my non-Maoist friends said that the participation of the Maoists had facilitated the fulfillment of these demands. That friend of mine is one of the   important leaders of Dalit emancipation movement.21 In this way; the Maoists have started to have some sort of link with the process of change in the society.

 

If we ask as to who is responsible for the present mess of things, we come to the conclusion that it is not any individual or a specific party but the existing ruling ideology and political system which is the main cause of this situation. It is difficult to imagine the extent of suffocation; injustice and anarchy the Nepalese people are to go through. Today, the country is amidst the dark night of parliamentary anarchy. One does not feel surprised to see ‘Parliament Members are Bandits’, ‘ Constitution protects the Bandits’ written outside the walls of Sing durbar but one feels appreciation towards the writer of these graffiti for his or her courage. What is the relevance for people to bear all kinds of meanness of this system for the right to speech for a limited educated people of the society, and the bungalow, vehicles and the increase of bank balance for leaders and high ranking officials?

The past ten years have remained extremely controversial from the point of view of judicial dispensation also. There was no doubt in past also that corruption took place even at the Supreme Court. But the anarchy seen during the present day has further exposed its nakedness. It began to be proved that judges are the peddlers of ‘justice’ and are supporters of political parties. The judges enjoying immunity against the criticism of ordinary people became armor for corrupt persons.   Be it the law suit regarding fertilizer scandal or the case on language or the case demanding that the midterm election be declared void or the giving of verdict on ordinary civil or criminal cases, there are increasingly few people who believe that the behavior of the judges was appropriate and that they were loyal to the dispensation of justice. The environment is so vitiated that there is little difference between justice and goods or services for sale. Courts are instruments of class rule.  It is natural that the courts of Nepal are also important organs of state to maintain status quo. From the point of view of nakedness, however, these courts have less scantily covered their nakedness than the courts of our neighboring countries that fear law and keep their irregularity at least thinly veiled.

When we include the plight of a Nepalese who is poor, deprived, marginalized and living under the poverty line in the review of the present situation of the country, we feel a kindness, pain, hatred and a rumbling of an erupting volcano against injustice. Anyone who sees, tries to understand and expresses sensitivity to the desolate future of the poor people living in the rural areas, the painful stories of their being made victim of exploitation, injustice and all kind of stagnation cannot but feel amazement, pain and horror and is inspired to look for the villains responsible for this plight of the people. Who, in fact, is responsible for this situation? A serious investigation reveals that the present day parliamentary rulers who represent the higher classes of society are the main hindrances of the transformation of the Nepalese society.

The monarchists who are encouraged by the rampant anarchy have entered the arena lately. This force had started to express its dissatisfaction secretly by writing anti-multiparty slogans. Gradually, they gained confidence and have become strong enough to take out processions in Kalaiya and Kathmandu. Its latest example is a seminar held in the auditorium of Tourism Board in July 2000 in which the parliamentary rulers were held to ridicule. The way the MPs in the Parliament raised uproar against this, just in the old Panchayat style, expresses the sense of their insecurity. It is clear that the parliamentary leaders understand their evil acts and reach to the conclusion that the protection of the parliamentary system is their protection. But it is clear that if on the one hand, their evil acts should not go unpunished, regression should also not be condoned with in the name of change. But the people are so impatient that he, who comes first and seizes power from these villains, will be their Alexander, the Great. This anti-thesis appears to carry too much negative trend but this is emerging as a dominant one. Investing their time in the guesswork about the turn of public opinion, the absolute monarchists with an experience of more that two hundred years of governance, are encouraged, optimistic and active. Their preparation to join the fray in the expecting people’s negative or positive support being towards them does not appear surprising. The powerful international wave in favor of multi-party democracy and the skepticism of these absolute monarchists towards India are the only factors limiting their optimism. In addition to this, the leadership of constitutional monarchy also does not appear ready to run the risk of putting its constitutional status, history and facilities at stake. These are the reasons, which make translating these possibilities into practice difficult.

Even if the change of power to the palace translates into practice, there is no possibility of its contributing to social transformation. There are three reasons for this. First, this will be, again, a high caste-Hindu-Khasa-male dominated state. Second, It does not have a background of progressive management of governance. Third, it does not represent social and cultural forces for transformation. It, therefore, cannot be a logical system to reintroduce. In reality, an alternative should encompass ideological philosophy, system of thought, social transformation and fundamental positive changes.

Socrates was killed because he was for change. Materialists Charvak and Lao-Tzu were harassed. Gangalal, Netra Ghimire and Ratna Kumar Bantawa were killed because they were for qualitative change in political system. Rana rule and Panchayat system claimed to have been without alternative. From this, it can be seen that established social life and political systems are regarded sovereign, timeless and undying, whereas the advocacy for alternative have been deemed untrue, unobtainable and condemnable. All the ages have their flatterers.  They are ready to go to any extent of nakedness and work overtime to propagate falsehood as truth. This is clearly seen being repeated even at the present context. In brief the politics of parliamentary democracy in Nepal has been degraded to, at the best, the politics of stagnation, if not that of regression. Thus, while talking about alternative, we should not be influenced by what the flatterers are saying but we should discuss in relevance with the progress and advancement of the society.

            In short, it is not a sweet dream but a compulsion to look for an alternative of the parliamentary system. Some people have started to look at the palace as the center of their hope. It is natural for the common people to become hopeful to the palace, which has been the traditional seat of power for a long time. The royalty has more than two hundred years long experience of governance gained from various levels. It has a status awarded to it by the people’s   religious and cultural value system and moreover there is a general belief that it has an unbreakable commitment to patriotism. From practical point of view, the Nepalese army is loyal to this institution. So long as its limitation is concerned, it has represented the interest of high caste aristocratic class, has misused its opportunity to rule and it has not acted for social advancement, but of long history of regressive ideas, norms and practices. It is therefore, monarchy is not likely to become a progressive alternative, though it may serve us an option amidst the misery and indignation of the people created by the anarchy of parliamentary system. In fact, the palace has been the leader of the politics of regression. If the palace captures power that would serve nothing other than taking the society backward. Therefore, that type of regressive transfer of power would be unfortunate, if it happens. Today, another alternative is also rapidly gaining credibility. That is the alternative provided by the Maoist movement. As the first alternative has already been experienced and is fairly easy to form opinion on this, we will discuss the second alternative of a new system comparatively in detail. For this purpose, I will make a review of Nepal’s Maoist movement, first, as the source of motivation and basis of change before evaluating the feasibility of the alternative they may offer.

 

Chapter Five

 

Maoist Movement

 

Nepalese politics, now, has been full of violent events, use of armed force by the holders of state power or state sponsored force, use of force by oppositions or whoever they may be. It is difficult to keep exact records of violent events that have taken place in the Nepalese history considered even only from Kot and Bhandarkhal incidents. In the modern age, Prachanda Gorkha had planned the use of violent means in 1932. Prachanda Gorkha was an underground leadership and had a central plan to overthrow the Rana regime through violent means. But all the planners were arrested before the plan had been implemented and they had to suffer torturous imprisonment.

            Later, armed struggle was launched under the leadership of Nepali Congress in 1950. The Nepali congress by its Bairganiya conference held from September 26 to 28, 1950, made a decision to end Rana regime through armed struggle. King Tribhuvan took shelter in the Indian embassy on 6th November 1950. He left for Delhi on 11th November. Armed struggle started from Birgunj on the same day. The rebels attacked Biratnagar on 5th November. The armed struggle was gradually expanded to different parts of the country. The Rana administration was defeated one after another in Jhapa, Ilam, Bhojpur, Parasi, Nawalpur, Palpa, Gorkha, Okhaldhunga, Dhankuta, and Chainpur and so on.  At the critical time when the armed struggle was speeding up, India mediated an agreement in Delhi between King Tribhuvan, the Ranas and Nepali Congress by crushing down the heightened people’s struggle through Delhi agreement. Many people lost their lives in this movement. The height of great success of the 1950 people’s movement could not be measured. This movement ended the Rana regime but strengthened the monarchy. Dr. K.I. Sing and Ram Prasad Rai led armed revolt against Delhi agreement but the revolt was suppressed even by using Indian army. Later on, in 1953, the peasant revolt, which was led by Bhim Datta Pant in far western Nepal, was also ruthlessly suppressed by inviting Indian army. As a result, King Mahendra who was playing a trick to gain strength became successful to consolidate direct rule of monarchy through military take over in 1960. The Nepali congress staged opposition through armed action. The armed action was started from 1961 but later it was withdrawn. Nepal Communist Party was also in favor of armed movement. So, it had tried to collect arms and manage arms supply system after the 1953 peasant movement in the central Terai. Much later in 1971, one section of the communist party started armed movement in Jhapa. This movement continued for about 10 years. This movement was different from the armed movement of Nepali Congress in three factors; it had an objective of capturing local state power, effecting social transformation and launching guerilla warfare. The armed movement conducted by Nepali Congress had the objective of capturing central state power, achieving multiparty system and launching conventional type of armed struggle. Nepali congress started armed movement for the 3rd time from Solokhumbu in 1975, but it ended in failure. In 1985, Democratic Front (Janabadi Morcha) also carried out some armed actions in a romantic style and helped raise a new hope in the people. All these facts show that violence in Nepalese politics is not new.

 

 

Experiences and feelings– 8

Maoist Movement: different interpretations

 

A son, whose father is an ex-minister and who had recently been released from Maoist custody, tells his experience – “I found that Maoists hold much respect to the people so much so that they take care for the human necessities of even those who they have taken in their custody for action. They handed over the money sent to my father and the other things like clothes, which they could not hand over to him due to technical reasons, were returned back to the family. With this it became clear about the honesty of the Maoists.” This friend of mine felt happy from his father’s release. Moreover, he appreciated the Maoists for not  torturing him while under their custody. 22

             One day I had gone to see one of my friends. We were talking about the Maoist movement.  The wife of my friend was also taking part in the discussion. She is herself a writer. She did not like my description about the Maoist movement as a reaction against the prevailing disorder and anarchy in the society, and she strongly reacted – “Is any one allowed to run wild butchering the people in the name of the solution of social misery?” I could not find a chance to explain that this movement might have been for the basic social transformation of the society. Another leftist leader took the Maoist movement as individual killing and claimed that the problems of Nepalese people could not be solved this way. Likewise another leftist leader expressed his fear that if Maoists got chance to rule over the country they might do more than what had been done in Cambodia. Another friend who works in an international development agency expressed his great concern for the reported child recruitment in Maoist red army and he said “his agency has taken initiative to find out the reality and solve this problem.”  Another friend from Nepalgunj said that he did not see any possibility of success of this movement. He opined, “It is only a politics of terror and murder.”  He claimed, “Maoist bracing of muscles will finish when the army comes out to the field.” The critics of Maoists are found mainly opposed to the violence.

            Now, other kinds of reactions are also found. These reactions are generally from intellectual friends. These individuals seem to have been of chameleon nature. Such individuals and forces that have made opportunism as basic norms are seen fast changing. Now they fear to speak against Maoists. Such individuals having a strong power to smell the wind of change have possibly realized the growing strength of Maoists and have become alert to this party. Moreover, the white color service providers known as “Civic Society” have begun to think such a support to an unbreakable shield for their security. Very perfect in acting and hypocrisy, these people who have earned a paradise for themselves by utilizing the disorder and confusing situation created by parliamentary System. These people who run away from difficulty and jump to grab benefits in easy situation have become successful to use short-term security cover. They become Maoist supporters and Maoist opponents alternately at many times a day, according to the changes in the surrounding politics and the strength of that politics.23 Indeed, the Maoists today have become the first point on the agenda of talks, they have become like protagonists of a story and a alternative force.  

 

            Now, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) has started ‘People’s war’ by synthesizing the historical context and Marxist arts of popular war. Its strategists with great caution and detailed plan have started this protracted people’s war. This means the thought, explanations and practices of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) prove that this party has shown commitment to protracted war. According to them, this war is a kind of holistic war in which inspiration, motivation, transformation and war activities go on together. So, it is necessary to evaluate and describe the main three aspects of the Maoist people’s war in detail – guerilla war, preliminary signs of base areas and the united front they have proposed for.

 

a) Guerilla war :

The then “United People’s Front”, the open organizational machinery of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) submitted 40-point demands to the government on January 4th, 1996 ( NeRaBuSan, 2054 B.S.: 20 – 22 ). The demands, which were presented with a general review of the real situation of the nation, were related to nationality, democracy and people’s livelihood. In the demand the condition was also categorically mentioned that “If the government does not take positive steps, we will be compelled to come out to strong struggle against the prevailing power of state” and a deadline they set February 17, 1996 for the positive response from the government. The time duration given to the government for “positive response” sounds only a formality, because the Maoists started the “people’s war” from February 13, 1996, four days before the given deadline. The demands were submitted to fulfill the formality after the party had taken decision to wage “people’s war”. About the start of the people’s war at that specific situation prevailing then, chairman of CPN (Maoist) Prachanda says – “In a semi-feudal and semi-colonial country like Nepal, there always remains objective situation for the development of strategy for a protracted people’s war. The main problem is to prepare subjective situation. Preparation of subjective situation is the responsibility of the party endowed with the virtues of revolutionary principles and the revolutionary political line. The predominant rightist and neo-revisionist forces in the Nepalese communist movement state that the objective and subjective reality in Nepal are the same as they are in imperialist countries and claim that it is necessary for a protracted people’s war. In this way, they are plunging into the dirty pool of reformism and parliamentarianism. The subjective situation became ready through intensified ideological struggle against such opportunism. When the crisis in the reactionary state–power began to be politically expressed, the CPN (Maoist) took historical initiative to lead the people’s war on 13th February 1996 after evaluating the overall situation. (Prachanda , 2054 B.S. : 5 ) He tried to clarify their side of assessment that could be summarized in the following five points.  1) Objective situation always remains ready in the country like ours, 2) Minimum subjective preparation had been fulfilled. 3) Rightist and revisionist ideas were rejected after serious consideration. 4) At that specific time, serious political crisis had surfaced in the reactionary state power and 5) The CPN (Maoist) had decided to start people’s war by assessing the whole situation.

            Several incidents took place in different parts of the country on the night of 13th February 1996.24 Among these incidents were symbolic armed actions for the people’s awareness, actions against local feudal lords and corrupt persons, actions against the presence of multinational companies in the non-priority areas for the building of free national economy, actions against the plans and projects conducted with the assistance of governmental and non-governmental organizations like (save the children) etc. The Maoist people’s war is found to have identified its allies and enemies through such actions. But the most important action was the armed attacks on the police force of the government, which gave a new birth of possibility in the analytical viewpoint of power-taking strategy. Indeed, it was the new phenomenon in the Nepalese class struggle, which had never taken place in the history of our country. Jhapa movement was limited to the armed action only against landlords. So the new situation emerged from these events. The class struggle in the rural areas has achieved the level of class war and has taken the way of protracted people’s war to capture the state power. This new situation intensified great changes, division, reorganization and polarization in the classes, communities along with social and political forces. It was said that the then feudal and corrupt persons of Jhapa would, every morning, first feel their heads to find whether that was intact or not. In the present day Nepal, the feudal lords, corrupt persons, policemen, informers and similar others have felt the same situation. After 1990 movement, the new parliamentary rulers with different flags, who have created heaven from looting the public assets, became angry at such events, began to seek new role and remained busy in dreaming how to shatter new hopes of the people through speeches. Seeing such an unprecedented “national consensus” among their political leaders, the police administration took a rash action of oppression creating a reign of terror.

On the other side, the Maoists remained resolute and active in working on its own way against the state. Many cadres sacrificed themselves in this campaign. The Maoists assessed and concluded that despite some weaknesses and limitations, the Maoists, by evaluating the situation brought about by the emergence of the new power, started this initiative to be historically successful (NeRaBuSan, 2054 B.S.: 28 ). And their politburo meeting held in March 1996 adopted second programme with the slogan of “Let’s develop guerilla war in a planned way”25

    

         In course of implementing the second plan, policemen were caught into an ambush for the first time at a place along a jungle road of ward no 7 of Tak Village Development Committee, in Rukum. Two policemen were killed in that incident. The incident had taken place on September 22, 1996. During that period the main targets of the action were secret agents, police and local corrupt persons. In Baglung district, Burtiwang based office of INF, an INGO, was also attacked.

            The first major Maoist military action after they started “People’s war” was the attack on the Bethan based police post, in Ramechhap. This attack signaled that the Maoists had gained a new level of offensive. This incident stirred nationwide reactions. After that a clear-cut polarization among political individuals and forces started.

            The plenary meeting of the central committee of the communist party of Nepal (Maoist) held in July 1997 endorsed 3rd strategic plan with the main slogan of “Let’s develop guerilla war to a new height”. The party actively engaged in educating the people with revolutionary awareness and expanding people’s organizations for the implementation of the 3rd strategic plan. With these works the party continuously marched. (NeRaBuSan, 2054 B.S.: 33). The above-mentioned works carried out during the beginning stage demonstrated qualitative stride to the party’s commitment to sustain the momentum by mobilizing support from the people and continuously working for the preparation subjective conditions. As a result, the guerilla actions of Maoists spread through out the country. The party has implemented five strategic plans until now and has clamed that it got additional success in every alternate plan. It has gained a different height after Dunai attack, in Dolpa. Not only did it attack on the District headquarters but also captured it for hours by which they proved their resoluteness, will power, strength and skill in war. The party has already overcome Nepal police, psychologically through successful military actions.

            Three new dimensions have become apparent in the guerilla war conducted by the Maoists. 1) Art of war in attacking enemy, rebellious nature and coordination of people’s participation. Such actions include huge participation of armed people, artful war led by skilled-armed military squad and participation of huge mass of people and the different roles of people’s militia seem to have been totally different from the art of war in other countries. 2) This war characterized by “sleeping deeply and getting up smartly” seems to have been a rare phenomenon. Perhaps it is very surprising kind of war technique. Several kinds of simultaneous military actions take place in different parts of the country but the guerillas or Maoists cannot be found anywhere. And, there is a period of total silence. It is not clear whether this kind of artistic war is really a part of well-planned strategy or it is only a sheer coincidence. A new method of guerilla war has been used. The art of war characterized by “sleeping deeply and getting up smartly” is used to bring slackness in the enemy camp in the preparation for retaliation. 3) Providing employment to wavering individuals and forces through talks and pacify mild opponents have become effective practices. Although this is a political work, it has helped in widening organizations and developing new skill of war by bewildering, isolating or making less offensive the forces who would go against the Maoists. In Nepal, it has been proved to be successful not only from the political viewpoint but also from the military point of view. The confusions, disputes and delay in the question of military mobilization against Maoists are successful results of their war-skill and techniques. In fact, the Maoists have, so far, been found successful in conducting guerilla war. This success has transmitted a wave of trepidation in the hearts of their enemies in the rural areas. As a result, they have established military base and a system of parallel governance.  

b) Base Area :

    The 3rd plenary meeting of the party held in 1994 had drawn a simple plan about the prospects of a protracted people’s war and building of base areas. The next plenary meeting held in 1998, adopted a concrete policy of building base areas with the slogan of “Let’s stride forward to the direction of establishing base areas.”  In establishing base areas in Nepal, the Maoists have proposed building more than one base area in different regions at the same time, to establish relationship between local and central power, to protect local people’s power by organizing the united front, to build nationalities’ autonomous regions and to handle national contradiction in an effective manner etc.

      According to their analysis in building of such areas need revolutionary people’s base, a revolutionary party, a strong people’s army, selection of suitable geographic region and sufficient economic resources. (Bhattarai, 2057 B.S.: 9, 13 – 15). The Maoists war plan to capture central state power through gradually capturing local power is the first war plan based on the new thoughts and strategy in the history of Nepal. Although the resolution for the establishment of base area is not new to the communist politics and Marxist military science, this is new in the Nepalese context.  Although, in disordered, immature and dogmatic form, signs of such thoughts could be found in Jhapa movement. Those thoughts could not get maturity in planning and implementation.  Base area is a big laboratory of new philosophy, new politics, new culture, new economic creation and new management, new norms, values, beliefs and behaviors. This new system gives the people new rays of hope and makes them self-confidant on the one hand and the people’s governments get more experiences in the art of governance on the other. The base area, whether it may be permanently or temporarily won, becomes very important not only in psychological viewpoint but also in the enjoyment of people’s rights and opportunities.

            The development of people’s war, people’s participation in it and continuous petering out of government’s presence in Rolpa, Rukum, Jajarkot, Salyan, Kalikot, Dolpa, Puthan districts of western Nepal have indicated that there is a possibility of establishment of Maoist’s administration there. The practice of proletarian governance, start of economic activities with new production relation and creation of people’s culture in these districts have also given a sign of new hope to other districts. The “principle of more than one Chingkagsang ” ( Bhattarai, 2057 B.S. : 13) and the rapid expansion of the people’s war at present make it clear that the base areas can be kept intact only on the basis of the expansion of other guerilla zones, intensification of guerilla actions in  cities, and the capacity to decentralize enemy forces. In reality, the situation has been developing in the same direction. In the present specific context, temporary base areas have been created and the influence of the Maoists is sweeping across the country. As a result the Maoists have created a wide field for popular works. It has got temporary base areas as political laboratory to work in all aspects of political power and has got opportunity to implement its policies. Many works related to social, cultural, educational and other areas have been conducted by utilizing the same opportunities. The movements against domestic violence, gender inequality, social evils like gambling, alcoholism, movements for democratizing education, the actions against corrupt persons etc. include in such works. Now these movements and works have positively affected the daily life of the people. The people are also eager to see such actions against the corruption that are rampant in the sectors of health, agriculture, administration, courts etc. This means actions against corruption and works in favor of people are possible not only in the base areas but also in other areas.

C: United Front :

      On the one hand the class aspect of united front is very important and on the other it is necessary to coordinate responsibilities with progressive forces for the participation and cooperation in the revolution. In the specific social context of Nepal, one of the major social forces is the oppressed castes and communities. These people, who have been deprived of development due to Hindu-Khasa predominance, have burning desire for changes and are eager to involve in the process to bring social changes. So it has been an urgent need to coordinate the caste and social contradiction and the movement against social anarchism of untouchability with the class struggle. Such coordinated unity with the social communities organized for the development and participation of oppressed nationalities and backward regions is found within the Maoist’s concept of united front.     

The Maoist leader Prachanda has stated that in the Nepalese communist movement there is no absence of reformist tendency of emphasizing the need for working with different reactionary, rightist and revisionist political parties by focusing only on legal movement. And, there is the tendency of narrow-minded dogmatism in forming a “united front” by involving just the party members. But, united fronts are the means of class struggle under the party leadership and the seeds of new people’s state. So the party must pay attention to establish united front of anti-imperialist, anti-feudal, patriotic, democratic and leftist forces as the means of class struggle and as the seed of new democratic people’s power. (Prachanda, 2057 B.S.: 8 – 9). In this way, the theme of the creation of united front seems to have been forwarded to make it as an effective and meaningful mechanism of patriotic and conscious people to play the positive roles of different oppressed classes, castes, nationalities and oppressed communities.  The fronts should not be formed as the mechanism of imparting ineffective corrupt political harangues of the demagogues and their self-contentment, which are limited only in the mass meetings and seminars in the urban areas. In fact, it is not necessary to have unitary central form and shape of united front. More than one united fronts can be formed on the basis of local situation, density of diverse communities at regional level, geographically limited backward areas and on the basis of special objectives. After a long period a working together, a single central united front or federation with representation of all such united fronts can be formed. The more grass-root level front there is, the more effective it can be at local level. This kind of united front can play an effective role not only in mobilizing the people and conducting united movement but also in conducting united government of different classes, communities and political parties. The united front organized at the regional level can bring a possibility of nationalities’ autonomous governance in real practice along with the role of being a laboratory of new thoughts and ideas.

The central level united front can effectively interfere in the functioning of the existing central state-system.  And, also can provide common working ground to the forces involved in the united front to work for progress and changes. In this way a necessary organizational infrastructure for the people’s government and a base for common role in the building of state culture also develop. No different level united fronts should be used as tools to implement any ready-made plan, rather they should be taken as the effective forces for playing vital role in bringing equality, justice, progress and should be taken as the revolutionary forces for social, organizational and governmental transformation. Indeed, the New Pluralist Democracy to be established in Nepal is the rule of law or the lawful administration conducted by the united front of the oppressed classes, exploited nationalities, oppressed castes and other progressive forces of the society. This should be taken in the same sense and in the same context. As for the ideas and programmes related to the united front made public by the Maoists, they have not given clear picture of the role of united front. So it is necessary to seriously study and analyze the subject of the united governance of the people during New Pluralist Democratic Phase. Moreover, the failure of different “Models” of New Democracies experimented in different countries has suggested that it is necessary to find out non-conventional way of New Pluralist Democracy and its use for social progress and justice. In view of finding out the new way and its use, it is also necessary to have studies into the possibility of the creation of New Pluralist Democracy in which the united front can be given responsibility of handling the power of state during the transition. In this way, it is necessary and reasonable to take the united front as an important element for the conduct of united movement during armed struggle, running of administration in base areas and proper management of central government after the victory of revolution. This kind of foresightedness is necessary in all the progressive classes, oppressed castes, communities and social forces for the liberation of the people.

 

D: Review of Weaknesses

 

It is necessary to asses the weaknesses that have appeared within the Maoists in course of leading the movement. The weaknesses are of the practical and political nature. There are mainly six types of such weaknesses.

i) Class Structure of Nepalese Society:

            Analyzing land problem of China, chairman of the communist party of China, Mao tse-Tung reached the conclusion that the rural Chinese society was simply divided into three classes. First, high class of big and middle level landlords, second, middle class of rich peasants, third, lower class consisting of middle and poor peasants (Mao Tse-Tung, 1966: 35). In his analysis of the classes in the Chinese society in 1926, Chairman Mao tse-Tung said – “Landlords and their agents, middle class capitalists, petty bourgeois class, semi proletarian class (in which include a large number of peasants who own some land and work on wages in other’s farms, poor peasants, small scale handicraft professionals, helpers in shops and small retailers) and proletarian class. In this way, there were five classes in existence in the then Chinese society. (Mao tse-Tung, 1962: 1- 9). There are no such big landlords in the Nepalese society as were in the then Chinese society. There was no such large number of estates of landlords even in the past. There were different systems of land ownership in Nepal till 1950. Among them lease hold land was 50%, revenue free land 36.3 %, trust land 2 %, free hold land 4 % and another 7.7 percentage of land was  under state/ service/tax contract etc. The number of peasants cultivating land under half-share system was 68 %. Under this system, food-grain productions would be equally divided between the landlord and the tenants. Twenty percent land was under contract system and other 3 % land was under service-contract (Zaman, 1973: 7 – 8 ). So, in modern Nepal, there was no existence of such land holding system in which the peasants work as slaves or semi slaves. This means, there were small landlords and rich peasants, but there were no big landlords as stated by chairman Mao tse-Tung. However, there were some big estates, of whose relationship was regularized by certain system such as half-share ownership contract, service tax etc. Among these systems, more particularly, under service contract system, the peasants were dealt as slaves or semi slaves to some extent, but such land was less than 3 %. So it is necessary to pay attention to the differences between Nepal and other countries while looking at the land problems of Nepal. The “land reform” enforced in 1963, made further division of land and expanded land ownership.  In this way, the number of peasants to own and till the land for themselves grew higher. Big estates were either dissolved or changed into industrial estates. The tea estates of Eastern Nepal are the examples of this process. Either the agricultural laborers were changed into industrial labors or began to work as agricultural laborers. The Nepalese society is rapidly shifting to capitalism.26 There is a great number of semi-proletarians in Nepal. Villages are linked with market system and affected by the wave of world capitalism. So, what it shows is that the conventional type of agricultural revolution will not be the central element of socio-economic transformation. So, Maoists should pay attention to make correct analysis of classes in the Nepalese society, historical analysis of the development process and ascertainment of class contradictions. Only conventional or traditional way will not help for the proper handling of contradiction of the present day transitional Nepalese society. The Maoists should make methodical study, analysis, and synthesis and should take a realistic way in utilizing them. The Maoists do not seem to have done such works in an appreciable way.

Experiences and Feelings– 9

 

Newness in Environment and Continuity in Belief

 

            I had the first meeting with a renowned leftist leader and my friend of Eastern Nepal in a paddy field near Biratnagar at a dark night. It was in 1975. After then I could meet him only three or four times. These meetings were only formal. Today, about 25 years later, in very different environment, I could get an opportunity to meet him and have serious discussions on some subjects. He said – “The country is trotting towards ruination. The so-called parliamentary leaders and parties have become awfully corrupt, worthless and ideal-less. In this new environment, only the Maoists seem to have circulated new rays of hope among the people. Now, our work should be to assist the Maoists but not to pull their legs down”. This conclusion of my friend, who has small hut in a small fallow land, has a small business for his livelihood and is advancing to an old age, did not surprise me. My friend, who was militant in his young age and was endowed with class sentiments, is good in generating ideas and in artistic creation. The conclusion of my friend, who is respected as an ideal for experience, thoughtfulness and dedication to the people, made me feel that he has represented the sentiment of both the old and the new political activists.

 

ii). Mechanical thinking in conducting local class struggle,

 

            There was mechanical or dogmatic concept in handling the violent class struggle during the Jhapa movement. Leaving aside some exceptions, the “Class enemies” who were given death penalty did not really deserve such punishment. Some of them even belonged to ally classes. In our country the wealthy businessmen look as social worker whereas their local managers (Munims) seem to be oppressors. The workers have direct contact with managers (Munims) and at the same time there also grows deep hatred and contempt for those  managers (Munims) in them. A responsible political force should have learned this reality and educate the peasants and workers with this information. But just opposite to this, the party was adversely affected by the already seated violent concept of the people due to which many inadmissible incidents also took place. For example, at a meeting held for selecting a “class enemy” the peasants made a conclusion to annihilate a person who was a middle class peasant. Their argument for such decision was that he was a “cattle trafficker”, and had troubled the farmers by trafficking oxen to India across Gorsingavitta, the village in Indian side. In fact, there were not any oxen with the poor and landless peasants. In this sense he might have been “enemy” of rich peasants or opulent middle class peasants. This case was not examined with a correct angle. Then a guerilla squad was organized and the “class enemy” was annihilated. Such types of dogmatic ideas affected the Jhapa movement. Looking from outside the same type of incidents seemed to have taken place in the beginning of Maoists’ “People’s War”. Now such incidents seem to be minimized but whether they are stopped or not has not been clear as yet. A person may be an exploiter in certain local sense, but from the class viewpoint he may be a simple agricultural capitalist or a rich peasant. In these issues, decisions should be made on the basis of objective reality, broad revolutionary approach and class-consciousness but not on the basis of momentary sentiments. The same principle is applied to those who are suspected to be ordinary secret agents. Suspicions, which are not based on genuine fact, may not be true. Examining both the nature of event and experience at a time can draw real conclusion. So the Maoists need to consider this aspect seriously.

iii) Initiative to stop unnecessary sacrifice

            Sacrifice can’t be measured or decided to be of greater or lesser in its significance on the basis of number. Rather, it is a subject of assessment and decision whether it was necessary in a particular context for the achievement of the goal or not, whether the sacrifice was really needed for the particular purpose or not and whether the sacrifice was a result of euphoric thinking or was highly valuable. However, number also can provide substantial basis to reach a decision on whether it is necessary to make judgment, to look back, and whether the purpose of the sacrifice should be evaluated or not. Today, the Maoists have established an ideal of sacrifice. It has rallied a large mass of people filled with readiness to sacrifice them for the bright future of the nation. This is undoubtedly praiseworthy. Even then, looking at the long list of the martyrs, what is urgent to say to the party is that it should check every possibility of unnecessary sacrifice by seriously thinking over what really deserves. It is said that people’s militia freely walk in daytime with arms in villages of eastern Nepal where there is little or no influence of the party. The situation of that locality might have been safe enough to do so or such fearless walking with arms might have been thought necessary to develop combative sentiment in the people or it might have been a kind of camouflage against enemies or it might have been only a guesswork of the common people or it might have been the result of militarist thinking and behavior. So it will be fruitful for such a fighting force like the Maoists to investigate and make necessary rectification in their working style. The party should see that thousands of lives may perish due to unnecessary as well as careless sacrifice in the war that may run for years to come.

iv)                       Euphoria over Success and Lack of Seriousness over Losses.

        In 1974, the Jhapa movement was suffering a heavy loss. Party shelters were demolished, many cadres were killed, and many faint-hearted party workers fled to India and many leaders and party workers were kept in prisons. The movement was on the verge of collapse. But again the cut-off connections of the party were reestablished. Some new political workers entered the party. Connection with different parts of the country reestablished. In June 1975, “All Nepal Communist Revolutionary Coordination Committee (Marxist and Leninist)” was formed. Then the movement revived again. Not only did the rays of hope penetrate the people but also the glamour of possibility began to appear. A feeling of pride began to overwhelm the leaders. The leaders and the workers, who used to feel happy to tell and hear the story of escaping from the police, of victory over the police by fighting with courage and other stories of heroic deeds, began to take heroism and courage to be the means of success. Because of such feelings and perceptions of heroism among the leaders, expansion of party works and need to use facilities (like bus riding) by the leaders and workers, the government’s campaign to arrest the leaders and workers that was started from December1975 became successful. During the one and half year’s time, out of the total eight members of the central committee including the secretary of the Coordination Committee, five were kept in prison. It was the time that the leaders could make “objective analysis” of their carelessness and weaknesses being behind the bars.

       Now,  the Maoists also have made public that  it has no contact with many of its leaders. Dinesh Sharma, Danda Pani Neupane, Matrika Yadav and Ishwori Dahal are either disappeared or killed or kept in unlawful custody by the government. There may be a large number of other leaders and cadres of different levels who may have been not known to the party or are behind the bars. This situation reminds that euphoria over success gives birth to carelessness and slackness, which becomes very costly to the force which happen to be waging war. It is not the subject of discussion whether this is a weakness of the Maoists or not. Some facts have been found to point out that there are some people within the party who are careless and euphoria takes with them some time. So the Maoists should be serious in these matters.

v)                         Dubious Operations

They have destroyed several physical infrastructures without any military significance attached to such facilities. The facilities may need to restore even when they seize political power. Similarly, it has been widely believed that they have recruited several youths forcibly. If it is the case, they may not succeed in building a disciplined armed force keeping ideology as its main motivating factor. Asking for excessive donations is another area of concern. Privately, many people complain the large size of donation they were asked for. These are a few examples of many petty dubious operations. The Maoists should listen to people rather than continuing such practices which the people do not agree with and even protest against.

Future Course:

         Diverse views are found about the future course of the Maoists, which is presently leading the violent movement to bring revolutionary change in the class-state power. Some researchers say that it will follow the same steps of CPN (UML) and enter the parliamentary politics. Some others say that it is working to strengthen its armed force and is likely to take a way of sudden armed insurrection. In present day Nepal, class contradictions are sharpening, social contradictions have developed a situation of conflict among social forces and bitterness, distrust and wrath have been growing in the relationship between the people and the government. The political, social and regional communities are in disorder. These signs show the possibility of power transition. In the same period the Maoists have been leading armed struggle. Now there are three possible ways. The Maoists may take any of them.

            a) The 1971 Jhapa movement left an experience that a communist party can make itself strong for entering into parliamentary politics. Such party begins to be delighted in playing roles as elated recruits of non-communist camp in the “luxury hall of parliament” after reaching there by inventing any magical principle and calling it by one or the other name. The then CPN (ML) changed itself into a first class parliamentary party no sooner than it became CPN (UML). In the same way, the Maoists also may enter the parliamentary arena for competition by mortgaging the strength it has gained now. This possibility has not been ended and it will not end for a long time. Due to the presence of persons from the middle class in the leadership rank, their intention and effort for going to parliamentary politics remain always natural.

            b) Today restlessness, confusion, hopelessness and frustration prevail over the society. The basic needs of the people like food and shelter are neglected on the one hand and the mainstream anarchist leaders of all levels, who have forcefully grabbed the so-called rights to reach the power through tricky game of elections, have been competing for corruption. Naturally, the people have linked the solution of their problems with the downfall of the reign of these leaders. It is not because of personal revenge against any body but because of the growing contradictions among the classes. So, the people are continuously siding with violent resistance or at least expressing support to Maoist movement. This has intensified the class contradiction even more. Currently, all the parliamentarians from those of the high echelons to the lower henchmen are shouting against the violent war of the Maoists. They are not ready to remember their own history of violent activities or they try to prove the past activities to have been done in different situation. Until now, not any fundamental social change has taken place for the improvement of the life condition of the poor families either of the far eastern Mangtewa village of Sankhuwasabha or of the oppressed families of Syadi of Bajhang or of the plight of Rajbanshi families of Balubari of Jhapa or of the indigenous families living in Rajhaina of Banke. When the people have to suffer dire poverty, deprivation, government’s inability and intensified marginalization, how can it be unnatural for their protest to take a violent form? So, it is very natural for the people to take a way of revolt and to lead such revolt by a radical political party giving it an organizational shape with plans of protracted people’s war and make a strategy to take over the central power of state by means a mix of military offensive and popular uprising.

            Although not experimented, this seems the most feasible way in the situation of Nepal. In the Nepalese history, all the movements till now are found to have concentrated themselves in capturing the central power. The 1990 movement also could take that way. But that was blocked due to the deviation that happened on one side of radical force at the critical time and insufficient subjective strength on the other. Nepal is geographically small. The society is in the condition of rapid transition in economic structure. There is a tradition of targeting the central power in every administrative change in different historical periods.  So, these facts also indicate the possibility of success for Maoist movement, if it selects this path.

            c) Until now we have found two military strategies taken by the revolutionaries to bring change in class oriented political power. The first is socialist revolutionary offensive and the second is the way of protracted people’s war of New Democratic Revolution. There are three characters of the protracted people’s war – revolutionary civil war, national liberation war and long-term guerilla actions. In general, all of these characters have been found mixed together at different stages and situation of war. In China, the revolutionary civil war had changed into national liberation war in the later period. In Vietnam, long-term people’s war was started with the character and form of national liberation war and was liberated while it was still maintaining the same character.

            In Cuba, the war was started in the form of long-term guerilla actions and the revolutionaries got victory with the same method. They did not need to wage national liberation war because of the support and commitment of the then Soviet Union to defend Cuba from American attacks. Therefore, it is necessary to consider different possible ways, character and nature while talking about Marxist military science. This kind of war starts, develops and achieves victory on the basis of objective situation. Nepalese war also becomes different from the wars of other countries because of its nature. This war either takes new way or possesses different character or at least it becomes of different style. The features of the war to be accomplished in Nepal are to be mainly based on the people. The Maoists can continue in this course of protracted war.

In summary, Maoist movement has been creating some sort of wave in Nepal. Although, the people may not be so well understanding politics of the Maoists and the political impact if they capture power, but they are very much sympathetic towards the Maoists. Perhaps, the Maoists themselves are a very confused lot regarding the political course of construction but at this moment they are very resolutely leading the movement which has created waves, generated hopes and offered an alternative, though it is still in abstract form. Therefore, the most important issue at this moment is to clarify what the system will look like, how that will function and how that would be different from parliamentary system and the conventional model of communist rule.

Chapter Six

 

Socio-Economic and Political Issues and Observations

 

                         Critics say “traditional Marxism and Leninism has become incorrigibly infamous due to its economic failure and people’s antagonism towards it” (Numberger; 1998: 105). To totally disagree such arguments as reactionary, will be against the rule of dialectics of knowledge. Communist philosophy had become very popular in the world. The communists were in power in a large part of the world and had influenced millions of followers all over the world. The communist ideology, which continuously widened its influence from 1917, began to experience defeat after the ideological difference between China and Soviet Union in 1956 surfaced. It is urgently necessary for the communists of the world over to analyze and find out the causes why communism has to face such major set back from its extraordinary height, widened influence and worldwide popularity. Instead of taking self satisfaction by pointing out that it has been so due to revisionism, it makes sense to conduct an intensive evaluation of the objective and subjective causes of the set back and the weaknesses whether they are in the fundamentals of Marxism or its implementation. The Paris workers’ revolt, which captured the state power, first gave the tiding to the world workers’ movement that workers can capture the state power. The revolution was the beginning of building of a new world. But unfortunately, the achievements of that revolution could not last long. Lack of ‘proletarian dictatorship’ was found as the cause of failure. So, Proletarian dictatorship was thought to be inevitable for the continuity of the communist led state. Wrongly, this was meant that the proletarians should be conscious against any attack on the proletarian state, ban should be imposed on any activities against such state and the proletarian state should be protected by enacting laws against any anti proletarian attempt. Indeed, the main objective of the revolution is the liberation of productive forces. The proletarians need their own class-state and political leadership for providing the strong base to the liberated proletariat for all round initiative for creating and building of a new nation. The basic character of such state must be workers’ democracy. But, while naming the character of such state, it was called “proletarian dictatorship.” Naturally this term highlighted “dictatorship” and overshadowed “democracy”. As the dictatorship, which meant for a handful of anti-people forces, was wrongly got explained to keep control over the people, communist party workers and even the communist leaders with differing views. In some countries people’s voices were not heard, nor taken into consideration. And even such an environment in which no free expression was allowed, was created in some countries. Communist party leaders began to behave as new Gods. In this way the practice of the scientific communist philosophy was degraded as religious rituals.

         In fact, the principle of new democratic rule does not support monopoly of communist party. As there are opportunities for capitalist ideology, organization and other capitalist activities to stand for competitions in the capitalist political system, there is no reason not to have the same kinds of opportunities for workers and its ally classes and even for the opponents to organize, to express and stand for any activity and competition according to their diverse interests. The communists need to act for the establishment of workers’ democracy not in the form only but to ensure the practice of competition as its main feature. The Maoists has given signs to follow the non-traditional path, however, the full sketch of it can be realized through the practice made in its base areas. There is no reason for Marxist to deny coexistence of the social peace and freedom of expression.

            Ensuring people’s sovereignty, freedom of expression and organized power are the basic needs for any kind of political system. But, in fact, all the models of socialist states that have been experimented for the transition to communism until now, could not accept people’s role as their inherent power. People’s sovereignty was taken as cosmetics. The leaders of the former socialist states non-dialectically supposed themselves to be the people’s real representatives, who understand their views and aspirations. So, the leaders who had mobilized the extraordinary power of the people during the revolution in overthrowing the old state became isolated from them no sooner than the communist party got to the power. The people were not provided with any means for control, nor they were granted freedom of expression and nor freedom to be organized in any power mechanism. That means the communist parties put themselves above the people’s control and established their rule over the people in the name of “people’s state.” As a result, the gap between the party workers and the people continuously widened due to which the party declined to be a mechanism out of the people. So, the argument that the communists lost the power due to revisionism may be partially true for some countries but the major causes of failure are inability of the communists to ensure democracy, to bring people’s sovereignty into practice and to put the leadership above the people’s control. These factors widened the gap between the communists and the people. Even, in several places these factors made them hostile against each other. So, the communist parties of Nepal should learn  this seriously as a lesson.

           The communist leaders put emphasis on the development of state capitalism in the name of new democratic economy in several communist led states. As a result, bureaucratic character developed in those countries, where feudal values, beliefs and feudal social conducts were predominant and controlled the productive forces, obstructed utilization, initiative and creation. Nationalization of the capital, bureaucratizes industriousness and controls the productive forces under a new mechanism in the society in which capitalism has not developed, especially in the comprador bureaucratic and dependent capitalist society like in Nepal. One of the influential Maoist leaders, Dr. Baburam Bhattarai, has said, “New democratic economy is organized mainly on the private ownership over the means of production. However, we should pay proper attention towards cooperatives form the beginning to organize production, mainly in the lands in the rural areas, where smaller holdings are common. And, because it needs to organize large-scale production to achieve socialism and communism, apart from this, the need of social or state sector ownership, even in the limited form should not be forgotten. “(Bhattarai; 2055 B.S.: 28). In this way, propositions for initiatives of the people, private capital, private ownership over the means of production and mobilization and limited ownership of the state have been proposed for the development of new democratic economy. This view indicated that a lesson has been learnt from the failure of the traditional economic system of putting emphasis on state’s role. The main objective of the economic policies and related activities should have been to create opulence in the society and to end the acute inequality by linking the wellbeing of life for all with the economic progress. This is more important than the slogan of romantic equality. One should accept that the creation of basic equality needs considerable time. Time can be shortened, but to try to end inequality at once is only a romantic thinking. This should be accepted and an economic system mated with justice, diversity and productivity promotion should be resolutely implemented. Experiments and creativeness are the necessary elements for such system to function well.

             Similarly, in cultural front, the fatalistic beliefs and values should be challenged. The philosophical proposition based on the Brahmanism that the God decides everything before a child gets birth and the child comes with such fate has not only affected the caste system but also has corrupted the whole society psychologically and behaviorally. A tendency of “what is destined can be obtained not what is seen or done” has developed to depend on the invisible power for the solution of any problem rather than trying to find out objective causes of the problems. A large part of the Nepalese society believes in such predestines due to which the concept of the people cannot be changed easily through a short course. It is not only the rural peasants deprived of the new knowledge and technology but also the educated and knowledgeable people of the cities are also not free from these predestines. Although, they have new knowledge and some of them do not believe in fate, fatalism has heavily influenced their values and practices. Due to the concept of predestines and its value-influences, a poor thinks poverty a natural phenomenon. In this way, the pace and progress of the society have been adversely affected. (Neupane, 1999: 19). This means our social psychologies, behaviors, cultural lives, living styles and concept building and efforts to find out proper solution of any problems have been badly affected by fatalism. Even living within such environment many people have been striving to build people’s culture.

      The main elements of the social anarchy perpetrated by the Brahmanism are the caste system and untouchability. The forces which are fighting in favor of the people must be active to end such vicious systems remained as a part of the Nepalese culture. It is necessary to be organized to fight for the rights and to assist the suppressed people to attain social liberation. It is also necessary to launch a cultural movement to educate the backward people to raise consciousness for their rights and privileges.

Experiences and feelings – 10

 

Be aware of Non-governmental Organizations

              Today, the non-governmental organizations (NGO) have become the most reliable tools of the westerners in bringing change in the society. Many western agents under the NGO banners have penetrated into communist and democratic movements. It is also said that some of the leaders and workers of different parties have unknowingly become victims of their “help”. Such organizations have deceived the leaders. It would be contextual to mention about an event before 1990 democracy movement. Some political leaders had been released from the prisons. They were like synonym of all sorts of needs. They could anyhow manage to have rented residence but no other facilities were available. A sister organization with a signboard of “human rights” reportedly got 8000 dollars as donation. Giving a receipt of an equivalent amount in Nepalese currency to the donor, the dollars were sold to an illegal currency dealer.  Although a little amount, that could become beneficial. A radio cassette player was bought and was given to a needy leader as a gift. The leader, showing a bit of reluctance, accepted that gift. Such gift accepted by the leader for the first time followed to be party wide. Later on, gift was developed to a large amount of cash. A Kathmandu based ‘non-governmental’ American organization reportedly poured a large amount of money in the name of “human rights” with the intention of shattering a communist party. Perhaps, this was the most cost effective investment of the American government that could corrupt a powerful communist party. This is an effective method used by the westerners. Reportedly, an NGO took some leaders and intellectuals to Dhulikhel in  December of 2000 for finding out the possibility of dialogues between the government and Maoists. This NGO also organized a so-called seminar recently in Nepalgunj searching for ‘peace’. “It is necessary to launch a movement against such NGOs and INGOs working as agents of western powers to psychologically suppress the emancipation movements of the people by filling pockets of some leaders and intellectuals with money. We should be careful in time from such organizations, which divert the attention from the social as well as class contradictions and forward an easy solution of all problems through implementation of programs such as knitting, tailoring, basket making, buffalo keeping etc. In fact, the NGOs and/ INGOs can easily divert the existing contradictions in the society” (Rahul, 2055 B.S.: 37.  I fully agree with this statement and advise friends to be seriously careful in time towards the role of such NGOs and INGO.

 

           Of course, Nepalese culture is the creation of the Nepalese people. It took many centuries to craft it. There is reflection of arts, experiences and special values of different nationalities in it. This culture has been continuously invaded by western capitalist norms, values, beliefs and practices. A large number of Nepalese intellectuals also have played a role in it. In fact, new social and psychological base is being created for the new cultural behavior by propagating the western model as a universal one. After the base has been created, the youths and young intellectuals can be attracted to such foreign culture and behavior. When this attraction demanded a physical base, they had to find out something by any means. In such condition, there remain three options for finding the base. They are – utilization of family resources, seeking legal medium for extra income, and illegal medium for extra income that includes corruption, swindling, cheating, stealing etc.

        Among the three options, there is very limited number of people of the first category. Those who take the second path generally become hopeless. As for the third way, it can be very easy and reliable medium for such dealings. In this way, the persuasive source for hankering after wealth, desire for highly luxurious life and grabbing any opportunity are influenced by the western capitalist life style. The Nepalese cultural life has been badly affected by the same. What is surprising is that the invasion on Nepalese culture has been made not by neglecting the feudal values, but by harmonizing it with the capitalist culture. All kinds of the feudal ‘respects’ and capitalist facilities can be found in this new mongrel culture. The urban high class culture has been widening its own base on the one side and the unscientific feudal cultural remnants of predestines of the Brahmanism can be seen everywhere on the other side. Such cultural situation has adversely affected the large number of agricultural workers, peasants and agricultural capitalists living in the villages. So, they have become the psychological victims of predestines and fatalism. Their understanding and behavior are limited, controlled and ruled by fatalism. As a result, they take any change as a reward of the invisible power but not as the fruit of human efforts. Very little part of the society has become free from such cultural psychology. So, all the progressive forces, specially the activists of scientific people’s culture and progressive intellectuals should engage themselves in building scientific culture against both the mongrel and dependent culture of the urban areas and feudal culture of the rural areas. As this is a long-term process and the most important task, it needs patience, skill in expressing artistic views and ability of grasping the trend of the age.

                 Now, in the society, there are various inequalities. So, there are conflicts. One such conflict is between a groups of people educated from highly developed educational institutions of the developed countries or from similar institutions within the country and the general Nepalese people living in the condition of marginalization, under-development and deprivation. The contradictions between the interests of urban educated middle class and urban as well as rural poor and deprived class is nothing new and surprising. Many intellectuals seem to have diverted their thought from this fact and have been hankering after their vested interests. They even brag that change in the society depends only on the efforts of intellectuals. They have remained busy in filling pages of newspapers on the topics of ‘the great role of rising middle class’. In fact, the general people are facing difficulties, poverty and marginalization on the one side and many intellectuals are hankering after luxurious life on the other side. The country needs technology, skill and high quality knowledge, services and research centers. That means, the country needs knowledgeable and skilled manpower, entrepreneurs and intellectuals. Therefore, they should not be overlooked. But, on the other side, the large section of the population is suffering misery and wretchedness due to lack of basic needs. Balancing these two contrary interests is not an easy task, but it is not an impossible one. This complicated task should be accomplished by placing first priority to the interests of the working class people. It will be possible to find out such type of contradictions of the present transitional society and solve them in a right way only after understanding the specialties of the differences and complications.

The difference in the social life between cities and villages, their economic condition, psychology, the level of physical development, pace and attitude is also one of the several contradictions prevalent in the Nepalese society. The rural life is crawling ahead with pains, infliction, difficulties, helplessness, pathos and frailty. The rural social life living under discrimination, injustice, inequality and backwardness has based on feudal social values, norms, conducts and rules. The saying that the rural life is easier than the urban life is a folly of the self styled intellectuals, where as the rural life is full of all kinds of personal, social, political, cultural and psychological affliction. It is doubtless that their priorities are clear and choice is limited. They are compelled to suppress their ambitions, aspirations and desires within the limitations of all kinds of physical and non-physical priorities of living conditions and choices. To think that they are know-nothing is just wrong assessment. Whether they are peasants or other workers, or petty businessmen, or intellectuals living in the rural areas are conscious about themselves, their environment, problems and solutions. Soon after they realize the power of organization, new signs of solution use to appear, new way opens and the huge castles of unjust activities and corrupt system starts crumbling down. Today, the quake that has come in the Nepalese society, especially in the rural society of western Nepal, is the result of the power consciousness originated from the organized mechanisms. The innumerable rural people who have involved in the movement have knowledge about feudal oppression, capitalist looting, state sponsored and protected injustice, slavery, terror, and about the state machinery engaged in the interests of urban as well as rural upper classes and the discrimination between cities and villages.

         Of course, they use different phraseology, the information filtration system is different and methods of reaching conclusions are also different. A part of those urban intellectuals who have failed to understand this reality has been creating an uproar saying as ‘Innocent people’. Disagreeing to realize this strange reality, huge groups of neo-capitalist are busy in covering their vicious deeds with the mask of favoring and working for ‘innocent people’. But now, the definition of power is changing, definition of knowledge is changing and the definition of civilization also is changing. So, it is sure that the long-standing injustices shall meet their doom and the bright days shall come. So, the major duty of all the progressive forces is to contribute to the enhancement of the momentum towards changes. They should stand firm for the people living in the undeveloped condition of rural areas who are kept socially and economically backward.  Until the power is decentralized, addressing the real problem would remain a distant possibility.

 

             

The existing supper structure in Nepal has represented centralism. Central control has been established in every sector of administration. Either it is geographical remoteness or peculiar nationality composition, in every sector central norms of upper class Khasa monopoly and bureaucratic predominance have been practiced. Local structure have been made powerless and kept under central control. Every decision, development policy and resource management have been controlled by the center. This system should be changed and powerful national autonomous regions should be established on the basis of nationalities composition, languages spoken in the area, historical background and geographical viability. Such regions with elected provincial legislature, provincial government and their own administrative machinery should be given autonomous rights. This new system does not only fulfill the nationalities’ aspirations and local necessity but also lessens the load on central management system, liberate the center from thousands of daily administrative works and provide ample time for preparing national plans. The state affairs in the 21st century can be easily conducted by using new methods and technologies but not by practicing the outdated feudalistic system. When we talk about revolution in the administrative system, in fact, that is to introduce decentralized autonomous system. The autonomy shall guarantee justice to all nationalities and shall lead them towards cooperative federal system. Also, this will discourage any ideas and activities towards disintegration and division of the country. 

Experiences and feelings– 11

 Sale of quotations

       Generally, there is a competition among all kinds of the Nepalese communists to show as them revolutionary by presenting contextual or non-contextual quotations from several books of Marx, Angels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao. The parliamentary communists are farther ahead than the others in doing so.  They use such quotations to spoil and rule the party workers and people who are weak in Marxist Philosophy .The parliamentary communists use the quotations more than the others. They have already tasted the benefits of parliamentary political system directly and indirectly. So they use the quotations to show pedantry and to intellectually dominate the party workers. Their next characteristic is to condemn all the subjects, persons, classes, events and periods, which are not in their vested interests and against their feudal thoughts, capitalist practices and communist phraseology. Similarly, their next specialty is to put themselves and their group interests above all in any negative or positive propagation. The parliamentary communists can play a role as world representatives to make hotchpotch of pure Marxist terminologies and neo capitalist’s life style. On the other hand, there are also strange patients of revolutionary romanticism and dull bookish within the communists. But their sacrificing ideal, character, sentiment and simple lifestyle are imitable. The character of the parliamentary communists is that they do not remain drowsy like the Congress Party, rather they remain active, high spirited and demonstrate rebellious nature. They do so mostly for their vested interests. Their combativeness becomes relative to the situation. When they are in opposition bench, they fight raising voice for the sovereign rights of the parliament and for the special rights of parliamentary committees and when they are in the government they fight for the prerogatives of Prime Minister. They champion the cause of the freedom of judiciary at the time when they have become successful to keep the supreme court leadership under their grip as their semi slave and they oppose the same when a verdict has been awarded against their wishes. This is their remarkable nature. They are committed and are also sincere. But their sincerity is of physical nature. They are clear towards their physical goal and the achievement of their goal is the basis of their sincerity. It is easy for them to define ‘Marxism’ as they benefit defining that way. So they have pocket full weapons of quotations from Marx to Mao to use anywhere they need.

           

One of the most important objectives is the creation of prosperity and opulence. Just behavior in the creation of prosperity is also an essential factor. Liberation of labor, making labor productive and skilful, expanding possibilities and managing opulence but not redistributing poverty should be the issues on the transformational agenda. Making of such agenda and its implementation demand enlightened new leadership and a political machinery with a large number of creative workers. This process should not derail by the nonsense artistic speeches of the leaders, and that should not be overloaded by the meaningless rules and regulations. They demand a new state system imbued with the skill, creativity and ability to lead towards radical changes. Building of such system and its proper functioning need to be philosophically rational, socially favoring equality and justice, technically be research friendly and experiment oriented. The political system needs to dedicate itself to changes and commit to the welfare of the people. Keeping in mind the need to develop such system, some points have been proposed below for consideration. Also, the following points will summarize the observations made and are presented as an executive summary of the discussions we had throughout the chapters above.

1.         There cannot be seen any possibility of social progress through the parliamentary system. This system has become just a cosmetic. In reality, the parliamentary system of Nepal has been working as the circulation channel of the interests of international capitalism. And Nepal has become a fertile land for the nefarious activities of their agents. This system could not ensure social progress, justice and equality. So, it has already died in terms of politics, morality, justice and value. It has been breathing with the help of armed forces and international popularity of multiparty system. At the best it will maintain the status quo. Therefore, this force will strive for political stagnation. So, it has been an urgent need to seek an alternative of it. The palace represents the traditional forces and if it would succeed to capture the political power, then the society will move backward. That would be nothing other than regression. In such critical situation, therefore, there is urgency and importance to design a system which can bring transformation.

 2.        There is a long history of political and class movements in Nepal. Different movements have become successful to achieve quantitative changes but the movements have not become successful to bring about qualitative changes in politics, economy and culture. Considering the present context and the situation, there is a great possibility to be successful to bring qualitative changes through such movements. The reason for this is that all the movements have been basically clustered around the movement for change or are on the process towards that direction. There is clarity about the goal, mutuality and realization of the strategic importance in the organized people’s mechanisms. The present movements have shown the possibility of establishing people’s pluralistic democratic system imbued with totally new values, foundation and social orders. Now the class and professional organizations should not be taken as the machinery to carry out instructions, but be developed as strong, capable and responsible structures of the people they represent to. They should not be kept under the grip of political leaders instead they should be left free and autonomous. Controlling them has already proved  unproductive and harmful.

  3.       The new change of today shall be as an outcome of the proper handling of the contradictions between the general people and the political power led by bureaucratic capitalism. The commission agents of multinational conglomerates and transnational private companies control Nepalese politics and economy today. The Nepalese agents are working under the cover of parliamentary political leaders, high-level bureaucrats, and non-governmental officials and in the form of big import businessman and NGO leaders. According to Prachanda, the Maoist leader, “The political power is not in the hand of feudal landlords nor is it in the hand of independent capitalists. This is under the leadership and command of the bureaucratic capitalism, begotten as an illegitimate descendents in the semi-feudal and semi-colonial country, through the insemination between feudalism and imperialism” (Prachanda, 2057: 193). As building of independent capitalism is the nearest strategic objective, it wouldn’t be possible to achieve this goal without establishing a pluralist democracy with a difference.

  4.       Not antagonism but protection of Nepalese interests through the art of diplomacy is what Nepal should follow. Making India or China angry, unnecessarily, has been the practice of Nepalese communists. This practice should discontinue and a more pragmatic foreign policy based on promotion of regional harmony and peace should be practiced. Certainly, the growing influence of communists in Nepal has become an irritating matter for India and US but overreaction from the Nepalese leftists would harm more. Keeping both of them and any other foreign power outside of the border of Nepal and reserving the right to fight against if any of them enter into should be the patriotic way of handling the relationship. The “Zone of Peace” proposal could be the sound basis for managing the foreign policy of Nepal in the 121st century and should be revived.

5.         The character of the movement shall remain within the periphery of new democracy. However, considering the clearly changed class roles of the transitional society, the developments in the communication and information technology, invention of advanced war technology and skill, the Nepalese history of the invasion on central power, the nature of the first events of the rebellious attacks and the analysis of the new experiment of the Marxist military science and art of fighting, there is a great possibility of the transition of central power through combining, both, protracted war and mass insurrections. This sounds more feasible in the context of Nepal. This conclusion accepts the continuity of the war. It also paints towards the necessity of a broad as well as strong united front. The rumor mongers and seminar attendees of Kathmandu can be provided with employment but it is worthless to hope for working together with them in a united front. Because they have no mass- base, the people do not believe in them in strategic sense. They have lost credibility as well as morality and they have more ambitions than actions. It would be proper to provide them with the employment like in the present “talks” and “dialogues” processes. But it is worthless to be optimistic to have positive results through them. The same applies to the so-called human rights workers, NGOs, and the other intellectuals engaged in fulfilling their vested interests. It would be great mistake to involve them in the united front. The united front should only be formed with the progressive classes, nationalities, communities, organizations, progressive political parties and individuals. Its main basis should be working class and patriotic people. But this doesn’t mean to deny any tactical and working unity with different forces for different objectives at different times.

6. The belief has been changing that the administration can be taken control only after capturing a region. The difference between the administration in general and performing certain administrative functions has become clear. It becomes natural to establish administration in general in the base areas, but a specific administrative function also can be conducted in other areas of influence. Today, the educational issues, changing of national anthem, cancellation of Sanskrit language as compulsory subject, free schooling up to secondary level etc. have become the topics of nationwide discussions. This has raised a new topic of discussion that administrative changes can be attained without establishing the base areas. So a proper attention should be paid towards establishing specific and relevant administration also. It proves the importance and effectiveness of mass organizations and mass movements.

7. Until now, there seems no clarity in the communist movements that what type of political power shall be established. It needs learning from the history not to repeat failures. The history has taught that proletarian class became unsuccessful to protect the political power during Paris Commune. So, the task of protecting political power got importance and the proletarian dictatorship was practiced. As a result, the political power remained in the hands of the communists for fairly a long time in Soviet Union, China etc. but they could not be successful to achieve the strategic goal of the revolution. Now, the successes and failures of these revolutions should be as the new starting point for all the communists. That means, Marxist military science or art of war is rich enough but the communist parties have no meaningful experiences and models developed through the implementation of the Marxist political science. Therefore, giving birth to a new Marxist political state is the challenge of the day. The 21st century is certainly very different and challenging. So, considering this fact, it is necessary for the communists to boldly develop such political science and the state power in its base areas. It would be useful to pay attention to the three principles as follows:

  • The aim of such political power is to protect and promote working class interests. The state practices democratic principles giving primacy to working class interests.
  • In such democracy, the rule of law gets supremacy.
  • In this democratic state, creation, freedom, productivity and other activities can flourish without restriction until they do not harm to communal harmony, social justice and rule of law. Not dictatorship but pluralist democracy should be the frame work of political governance.

 

            In fact, one of the major responsibilities is to develop a Marxist political science for conducting state affairs in this historical period. Today, Nepal has become one of the most important laboratories of the world communist movement. So, the Maoists, who are leading the Nepalese communist movement in this period, should find out the solution of the unsolved problem, and it should contribute to the development of the political science of conducting working class’ state affairs. It is certain that if the Maoists will just confine themselves to the phrase “Proletarian Dictatorship”, the party will vanish soon after capturing the state power, if that happens. Those, who restrict freedom and choices of people will never succeed in this age of information. Pluralism is what the Maoists should practice as a competitive political system if they genuinely are committed towards people’s long term progress, prosperity and development in all social, economic, intellectual and political arenas. In final analysis, multiparty system alone can provide a full proof frame work for functional and thriving pluralist democracy including that of working class inclined.

  8.       The relations among social communities are one of the major elements of concern in the Nepalese society. The Maoists and other progressive political and social forces have become conscious towards this reality. It should be successful to properly settle the conflicts between the Khasa monopoly and other nationalities and communities, women’s struggle against the patriarchal social system and struggle of the oppressed castes against the Hindu caste system imposed on them. Unless these contradictions are skillfully dealt with, the social transformation is not possible. The better the cooperation to liberate the oppressed castes and communities, the sooner the class emancipation becomes a reality. This is not only the question related to the united front but also a sincerity of the responsible force towards people’s aspirations.

  9. Today, the activities, organized for transformation, are directed to heal the pain of the people, the very thing is more important than the growing support of the people to the movement. The movement conducted by the “All Nepal National Independent Student Union (ANNISU)” against the educational anarchy, commercialization of education and feudal culture is the most important and positive campaign in the Nepalese history for improving educational standard. The similar movements need for solving the problems of other classes. It is meaningless to use the class organizations in shouting abstract political slogans as many political parties are doing. Instead they should be left free to organize themselves, make programs of movements for the solution of their problems and the party should help them in doing so. The people of the nooks and crannies have clapped hands in support of the student organization for their contribution in the educational sector. The progressive political as well as social forces should take the positive lesson from this and should give priority to address people’s needs.

Chapter Seven

 

Constituent Assembly and Pluralism with a Difference

 

                            In the recent years, more specifically, after the historic people’s movement of 1990, the expectation was that the pace of change would be faster. The aspirations among the people heralded that the political forces should move in an unprecedented speed so as to bridge the political, social, economic and intellectual gap created by overall underdevelopment, injustices and irresponsible governance.  During the in initial phase of the euphoria of the people’s movement, the parliamentary political forces in arrangement with the monarchy drafted a document and introduced the same as the constitution of the country. After the introduction of the constitution, the nation has seen three general elections. One or the other party formed the government after the elections, but they not only overlooked the people’s aspirations and the national development agenda but also nearly all the leaders and influential cadres of the centrist parliamentary political parties accumulated unimaginable wealth through all sorts of corrupt practices.  ‘The rule of law’ continued to remain a phrase unknown to the masses. Although, there was change of governments several times, but all of them failed to change the prevailing feudal values and practices of the pre-1990 state-system. The role of the people was just to elect some ‘masters’ for that very day or for some years from a ‘galaxy of masters’. As a result, disappointment and frustration among the people run high.

                    In the mean time the Maoists took arms to attain people’s emancipation and their overall development. In the night of 13 February 1996, several violent events signaled different type of attempt to realize the dream of establishing a progressive state.  After this event, hundreds and thousands of violent events, battles, actions and many more have taken place in the country. During the past seven years, more than 7500 persons have lost their lives. The entire nation had passed through the barbaric ’emergency rule’. All political and civil rights remained suspended. The security forces and the Maoist guerillas had been involved in several battles. Therefore, the resolution of the war had become the focal point of any discussion directed towards bringing the Nepalese society to the path of development and prosperity. After the second ceasefire declared by both the warring parties, the discussion is further focused on the examination of the alternatives available in attaining the resolution.

Experiences and Feelings – 12

 

“Intellectual Community” and Intensity of Fear

 

            An extraordinary apprehension is persisting in a section of intellectual community of our country. In general, this apprehension is not due to education, knowledge, dedication to the profession, and it is not the expression of their responsibility. This community is not the least worried about responsibility. This apprehension seen in the so called intellectuals, who have been indulging in the pleasure of intellectuality for a long time, is the reaction of a sense of guilt and their response to the extraordinary sound generated by the new bands of war. This new sound has not been sweet for them to hear, but rather it has been thoroughly shaking their hearts.

            This “Intellectual” community wearing a mask of human rights has been indulging in a costly pleasure and is busy in earning dollars through the dragnet of “NGOs”. Some of them are plundering guardians of the children through boarding schools and the institutes of higher education and some others are ransacking patients’ pockets through private hospitals and nursing homes. Huge buildings have been built by beguiling western donors and their Nepalese partners in the name of human rights, torture sufferers, anti child labor, woman rights etc. Education has been ensured for their children in costly English boarding schools and several programmes have been scheduled for regular foreign trips. They think that Nepal is just for them, whatever they can grab that is their.

            The political leaders of the so-called mainstream parliamentary system and big businessmen are in the same race.  They are farther ahead than “intellectuals”. The difference between them is that, the political leaders have become infamous and are hated by the society. They have an apprehension of a danger of losing elections or being arrested due to exposure of the plots of smuggling, whereas the “intellectuals” are free from such dangers. Their dirty faces are covered with a mask of “social service”.

            They have sold the poverty, they have traded up national pride and they have mortgaged innocence and simplicity of the people. They have misused the excellence of the nation and tarnished its image. Such evil tasks of theirs have begun to appear out. It is now clear that keeping accounts of their evil deeds has begun. There is no possibility for such “intellectuals” to escape from punishment. The time shall come to line them up with corrupt politicians, cruel high-ranking officials, smugglers and black marketers and announce penalty. The fear in them is the signal of the same.

        

                    It is only natural that either one side should defeat the other side militarily, or a political process should bring all sides together in finding out the solution to restore peace. Although, the first option will continue till the parties involved accept the second option of the political process, already some steps have been taken to streamline the efforts directed to ensure resolution. These steps include the ceasefire, informal contacts between and among all major political players and the attempts to concretize the broad political agenda.

                    Today, in the Nepalese political scenario, three types of dominant political forces are bitterly competing to strengthen their power base. They are – the traditional forces represented by the king, the centrist parliamentary democratic forces represented by Nepali congress and the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist Leninist) and the leftist forces represented by the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). Furthermore, the king and the Maoists have their armed forces whereas the centrist forces broadly rely on the king for any decision-making role over the Nepalese army. In this way, they are divided into three major groups politically and into two fronts militarily.

                    In real term, the traditional political force is antagonistic towards both the centrist and the leftist forces and wants unconditional surrender of arms by the Maoists and acceptance of the effective role of the king by the centrist forces. In this situation, the king could hold the power effectively and the centrist forces as well as the leftists could be the wonderful masks of democracy. The traditional forces, therefore, will try to create a framework where the king holds power; the centrists hold positions and the leftists participate in a slow process of their own dissolution. On their part, the centrist parliamentary political forces prescribe dialogue, constitutional amendments to bring desired changes in the political system by maintaining constitutional monarchy and multiparty system.  Through this process, they try to neutralize the military might of the other two forces by immediately disarming the Maoists and gradually establishing control over the Royal Nepal Army. The leftist forces represented by the Maoists will try to maximize their area of political as well as military influence by proposing a course of dialogue, formation of an interim government, and election of the constituent assembly to draft a new constitution.

                    With different motives and objectives of their own, the proposal to organize the election of a constituent assembly may be acceptable to all the three types of forces. The traditional forces need such opportunity to legalize the traditional power they enjoy.  The centrist forces may see this opportunity favorable to effectively disarm Maoists and also to establish control over the army by introducing new constitutional provisions. The Maoists certainly have already seen benefits on such proposal, therefore, they proposed. They may succeed in expanding their power base without disarming themselves. 

                    The proposal regarding holding election of the constituent assembly is related to handing over the stick to the people who are said sovereign. Therefore, it is only natural to create the environment where ordinary citizens can decide their destiny themselves. This is the core political process. Really, this could be a great democratic exercise. By proposing the democratic way of redirecting the agenda in a civil war situation, the Maoists, in principle, have accepted that they will function in a competitive political framework. Furthermore, the democratic process will certainly help them and the entire nation to participate in the transformational agenda, actions and programs to build a just and prosperous society.

                    In reality, Nepal has been facing serious problems not only in the area of political development but also in the economic, cultural and intellectual fronts.  The society as a whole is experiencing the pain of transition. The traditional feudal values, beliefs and practices have been continuously resisting the new sets of attitudes, behavior and practices based on the new scientific values.  As a result, the opposing political, economic and cultural forces are in the relentless battle to expand their space and for this reason they put tremendous energy to gain control over the resources, both, human as well as material. Therefore, the situation is complex, which is going through a transitional process resulting to a new, transformed society. The problems, prospects and processes, hence, are related to the transformation and any actions will help resolving the complexities when holistic agenda has been adopted. In this context, only the election of the constituent assembly has the capacity, scope and democratic qualities to address the complexities. This exercise should have been carried out long ago. Unfortunately, never in the history of Nepal, the people had such opportunity. Therefore, to give peace a chance, to allow democracy to function and to take the nation to prosperity, the responsible political forces should come together and agree to hand over the stick to the rightful owner – the citizens of Nepal. Therefore, there is the need of a general debate on the political, social and economic agenda and a long-term vision. 27

        In any society, politics is one of the most important topics which should generate debate. Unfortunately, in Nepal, politics is considered as a well understood and already concluded issue and the debate centers around political rituals. In essence, politics is the collective act of one or more non-antagonistic economic class or classes to protect and promote their class interests by blending, programming and packaging their interests in a certain ideology, theory and a pattern of behaviors. Therefore, one has to understand the class-base and the orientation of the ideology, theory and behaviors that their collective act represents. The collective act necessarily relates itself with the existing reality of the society and interacts, influences and interferes by antagonistic or non-antagonistic manner with all other types of collective acts prevailing in that particular time.  Since its beginning, the class society is pluralistic politically, economically, socio-culturally, psychologically and organizationally. The plural values, beliefs and practices are not limited to the collective behavior of antagonistic classes; it has been seen within the same type of classes too. In reality, they differ and behave differently within a broad periphery of class interests. To promote and safeguard the class interests collectively, and to represent those interests more effectively, the antagonistic classes fight head-to-head, sometimes in the battlefield when the class contradiction reaches to the boiling point. This is what the Nepalese society is experiencing today.

                    In the Nepalese society, one can see the fiercest fight. The fight is multidimensional and complex. It has covered ideologies, politics, cultures, values and many more. The fight, primarily, is between the upper class ruling coalition and the working classes. The ruling classes are trying their level best to continue the political, economic and cultural dominance whereas the working classes want to radically reorganize the society including the change of the superstructure. At this moment, the palace has become the leader of the ruling upper class and the Maoists lead the working class majority. In strategic sense, the centrists are the extension of the ruling coalition, but today, in tactical sense, they are humiliated section of the upper class political coalition and use to cry sometimes when a ‘friendly-fire’ hits them or extreme hunger for power, prestige, wealth and opportunity compels them. This is what the parliamentary opposition’s protest movement is all about. Although, they cry to regain their lost glory, this process               

                    Retaining and even strengthening the existing behavioral, programmatic and operational supremacy in all spheres of socio-economic and political governance is the goal of the upper class ruling coalition whereas the leftists led by the Maoists are striving for radical socio-economic and political change. In this way, Nepalese political scene is witnessing a grand fight of unprecedented nature. The contradictions between the antagonistic classes have broadened the scope of struggle, which has entered into the superior level of class war. Now, there are two governing mechanisms. Although, two types of mechanism have been in practice, but that does not necessarily reflect the presence of two systems. The upper class ruling coalition has been operating under the multiparty system whereas the Maoists are going through an experiential course by making several experiments in the area they govern.

                    During the period of war, any experiment may work, but in a broader political canvas, a comprehensive system alone can provide the appropriate operating mechanism. The communists all over the world successfully campaigned for a new nature of state power. They were successful in capturing the power in several countries. Once, they were not only a dominant ideology in the world but also the counter-balancing military power. They failed to retain that place. The easy answer is – the revisionists and the capitalists recaptured the power. But why they recaptured the state power so successfully? Was it a policy failure or the failure of implementation? Or, it happened due to more fundamental structural reasons? It is not in one or a few countries the experiment failed. Therefore, the logic of policy or implementation failure doesn’t reflect the reality. This is structural failure of fundamental nature. In the beginning, one of the reasons for the failure of the Paris commune was stated as not effective implementation of dictatorship of the proletariat. This conclusion offered uncompromising stand in favor of dictatorship, which in later years was extended to people with differing views including the communist party leaders and cadres. In the process, most of the communist parties lost their vision, side-lined the values and degenerated as monolithic state bureaucracies. The failure was the outcome of the extension of dictatorship of the party exercised by its leadership. Indeed, the failure was the result of the negation of pluralistic socio-economic and political composition of the society and absence of a superstructure appropriate to address that reality. Certainly, that lesson should get importance, more particularly, during the phase of democratic revolution and reconstruction. Therefore, to address the need of an appropriate superstructure that ensures politico-economic and cultural pluralism with difference, the following provisions may provide the basis.

  • Constitutionally mandated nature of state that overtly favors working classes,      minorities and weaker section,
  • Multiparty,
  • Federal state,
  • Autonomous regions of nationalities,
  • New mixed economy,
  • Multiculturalism, and
  • State completely free from religious affiliation.

 

                    This is not the “Bahudaliya Janabad” as some centrists are busy selling their product under the communist banner. The important factors are the class orientation of the state power and the choice of a mechanism by which the power is exercised. When working class interests, values and visions occupy primacy, rest will fall accordingly. It is important to institutionalize those primacies in the form of constitutional provisions, and for this purpose there is the need of a duly elected constituent assembly. When there are such provisions in the constitution drafted and adopted by the constituent assembly, the armed forces and the bureaucracy need overhaul. A surgical process can insert the new state values within a new operational framework. The amalgamation of two armies into one could provide the opportunity for such surgical process. If this process gets obstructed, the course may turn again into a violent one and the mass uprising or protracted war will insure the insertion of the new vision and values. Finally, if the society has to move forward, there should be a progressive state which operates with dynamic political processes. Obviously, pluralism with difference provides the dynamic environment to all political parties, social and economic agencies and mass organizations to function as centers of excellence and also it makes them accountable as the people judge them continuously. Therefore, the consensus for the pluralism that has equity and justice as its core values, could be a turning point to ensure true democracy, lasting peace and ever flourishing prosperity in Nepal28

Chapter Eight

 

Winding Up

        Social transformation means specific condition of social and basic structural change where society enters a new, dynamic, just, scientific and progressive stage by breaking a conservative, stagnant, unjust, unscientific and non-progressive thought, norms, practices, management and structure. During such transition concrete and vague, relative and absolute, subjective and objective upheavals and division and polarization are bound to take place. It marches along the multi-dimensional way of destruction and construction, force and voice, armed and moral strength, number and quality. During this period, the meanings of recognition and rejection, good and evil and civilized and uncivilized change. This is a great campaign of organization and liquidation in which the birth and death walk together. This is the new construction of the future separated from its past.

In the Nepalese society, transformation means a radical change in social structure. The primary issues of this radical change include change in the relationship among classes, liberation of productive forces, establishing new relations of production, enriching people’s culture with scientific base, developing vision incorporating social justice and overall progress, support of fundamental values of life based on non-fatalistic and non-metaphysical objective outlook. This kind of change will transform the concepts, general social and individual emotions into practice and the inherent dynamism of social locomotion and structure into a clear, temporal and forward looking legal system. Therefore, this transformation should be taken as the advancement of the society having a wider meaning, capable of projecting a new quality in the context and superstructure of the society and having skill in ensuring change and continuity through the antithetical process of destruction and construction. Bringing about such change needs a serious, shaking and violent shock by gradually developing through simple actions. The duration of such shock constitutes a transitional period in which a very subtle difference can be noted between the past and present and the demarcation between the two different situations can be easily recognized. While looking at such transformation through philosophical point of view, it becomes full of risk to estimate new possibilities and present new proposals. Socrates’ questioning on the norms and values established in ancient Greece was dubbed as extremist. Various charges were laid on him. To say simply, he was accused of “corrupting the minds of youths and believing on his own invented Gods and Goddesses instead of those recognized by the state”. He was given capital punishment for weakening the already believed structure of the social life of his kindred citizens (McMurty, 1999: 3). The same implies for the oriental ancient philosophy.

            Here, it will be relevant to briefly mention something about Charvak’s philosophy. Charvak’s philosophy has forwarded materialistic propositions against the time honored Vedic norms, views and values. Let’s consider the following views extracted from “Sarvadarshan Sangraha” and “Prabodha Chandrodaya“. The followers of Charvak’s materialism say – “While you are living, live with absolute happiness. Enjoy life even at the cost of debt, how can a cremated body be resurrected?” The Charvakian materialists questioned the then established beliefs of heaven, hell and life after death and denied such blind beliefs. Forwarding the materialistic propositions, they questioned “Who has seen the separate existence of soul out of the body? Isn’t the life an outcome of exquisite composition of matter?” In their opinion, earthly evidence is the only acceptable truth and a philosophy. In this, only the evidences of what are known, seen and experienced are recognized as authentic. Earth, water, fire and air are the substances. Pleasure and wealth are the objectives of human existence. There is no other world. Death is the end of life. The Buddhist philosophy presented the notion that joy is mixed with misery. So pleasure should be abandoned. Refuting this view, Charvakian materialists said, “According to the notion of Buddhists, pleasure should be abandoned because it is mixed with misery. But, does a sensible man fling fine rice-seeds away saying that they are covered with husk? You cannot say that perceptible pleasure should not be the goal of human beings because of being mixed with misery. What is wisdom is to enjoy all the possible pleasures and should certainly set apart the misery that remains mixed with”. (In Radhakrishan, 1923: 280 – 283)

            According to the view of Dr. Radhakrishan, the opponents of Charvakian materialism have severely criticized the conception of Charvakian philosophy that – there is no soul separate from the body and perception is the only source of knowledge or understanding. Despite such floating weaknesses, this school of thought has deep-rooted effect on the establishment of the present beliefs. This school of philosophy has, at least, used its idea on an important question of philosophy by remaining independent from blind beliefs on religious hypocrisy and orders of the lords over it. (Radhakrishan, 1923: 284 – 285). It is wonderful to know that such materialistic concepts were developed in the oriental philosophy 2500 to 3000 years ago.

            Buddhist did not have the rigidity, pugnacity and logic like the Charvakian philosophy. However, its virtues, knowledge, good-deeds and belief on union–power etc. were undoubtedly progressive in philosophical point of view, if compared to the then context of social belief.  Buddhist philosophy is mainly a psychology, a logical and moral science, but it is not metaphysics. (Radhakrishan 1923: 353). This philosophy also had deeply influenced the Nepalese world of knowledge.

Traditional naturalism has a long history in Nepal, which has questioned monotheism. But, the then existing social and governmental structure was conservative and was against new thoughts and new applications. Although, such ancient philosophies of materialism had maintained a kind of continuity, they could not become acrimonious. At such time Marxist literature began to enter Nepal. Then onwards, began a study of the then internal structure and external shape in the new context of dialectical materialism based on the Marxist philosophy. Marxist philosophy and thoughts gave a new life to the norms, beliefs and practices established by Charvak’s materialism, Buddhist progressivism and naturalism with its concept of dialectical materialism. At that specific time appeared a change in Nepalese consciousness.  

The Nepalese new political awakening movement started from “Makaiko Kheti” is marching forward. Some time it has become slow, some time fast and some time it has become invisible, but it has not stopped. Different movements of class and community organizations have ever kept it luminous. Thousands of heroes and heroines have nurtured it with their invaluable blood. The Nepalese people have kept it speeding in every circumstance. As the new forces have appeared on the political and social scene, they have influenced the entire Nepalese society. The new forces also have provided a new destination point to the movements of all the class and professional organizations. This new force has raised question marks on the established norms, values, understanding, and realizations. It has also raised questions on economic, social and political practices and has been searching for new alternatives. Today, the Nepalese society is speedily advancing towards transition in all branches like in understanding, values, practices, structural realignments etc. Social values are changing. The powerful castes and nationalities are crumbling down and those who were supposed to be helpless are championing the building of nation. There has come a quake in outlooks and ideology. There are intense actions and reactions in political field. The people are no longer the passive onlookers. They have come to the forefront to lead the movements towards changes. The country has been full of new thoughts, new events and new prospects. In this, the Nepalese society seems like an untiring pilgrim marching on his or her endless path. Its speed is extraordinary. The time has really shortened. A great distance has appeared between yesterday and today. Looking such unprecedented speedy changes in ideological, philosophical, intellectual and practical arenas, the total transformation seems inevitable. Every one favoring progress has naturally felt ecstatic. Indeed, this wave in the Nepalese society towards transformation has become clear to the eyes of all, it has become easy for all the progressives forces to involve in this historic process. The makers of history can be seen advancing on the path of creation and construction. The march will continue till the society gets transformed politically, socially and economically. Those who participate in this process and help others to participate in will certainly contribute for a better tomorrow. This is nothing other than a grand fight among the forces of regression, stagnation and transformation. All progressive political, social and economic forces should understand their historic responsibilities and align themselves to the needs of a new Nepal – democracy, prosperity and social justice. 


Notes:

1. On September 1, 1940, all 1500 prisoners kept in the central jail in Kathmandu boycotted ration protesting against injustice, disorder and oppression. The Rana officers went there in the night time and assured the prisoners by telling them “your complaints shall be looked into and demands shall be fulfilled”, and then the prisoners began to take their ration from the next day. This was the first historic strike in Nepalese prison. (Singh, 2031 B.S., 147- 153).

2. See my article “Baicharik Kendrikaranko Prasanga” published in “Dishabodh”, monthly, (Asar – Saun,  2057 B.S.)

3  Also please read my book “Samajik Vikasko Vivechana “.

4. Also please read my book “Nepalko Jatiya Prasna” .

5. Supposed to be nearest to Tulsilal group.

6. Supposed to be nearest to Sahana – Balaram group.

7. Supposed to be near to Rohit group.

8. Nearest to “Proletarian workers organization”

9. Nearest to CPN (ML)

10. Supposed to be near to CPN (Fourth congress)

11. The Points include:

1) Report of the commission related to salary and other facilities be published and implemented.

2) The recent amendment of the government employee regulation and code of conduct be cancelled and a regulation is formulated to allow all the employees of all the levels to be members of the Government Employee’s Organization.

3) The registration of the so-called “Nepal Employee’s Union” is cancelled.

4) The decisions made by the first national convention of the Employee’s Organization are implemented.  (Rijal et al, 2054 B.S.)

12. See my article “Sambidhan Ra Rupantaranko Rajmarga ” published in “Spacetime Dainik” (15 Mangsir, 2057 B.S)

13. The priorities specified by the ruling Nepali Congress were as follows:

  • To provide primary health service in all the villages of the kingdom.
  • To provide pure drinking water in all the villages.
  • To eliminate illiteracy, expand primary education facility and gradually make secondary level education free for all children.
  • To provide postal service to all the villages of the kingdom
  • To develop necessary infrastructure to provide primary education in nationalities’ mother tongue.
  • To conduct special programmes to uplift the life standard of the helpless people living below poverty line.
  • To provide land to the landless squatters for their settlement.
  • To link the headquarters of all 75 districts with metallic roads and build roads to link villages and markets in all the districts.
  • To establish industries in the country maintaining regional balance.
  • To manage irrigation facility for the dry lands of both the hilly and Terai region.
  • To provide electricity facility to all the villages by developing the hydropower.
  • To conduct programmes of industrialized farming, cottage and small industries, women development, food for work, elimination of illiteracy, rural bank, cattle raising, etc. for the creation of employment opportunities in the rural areas.
  • To give priority to building of bridges, culverts, postal service, roads etc. in the Terai and to metallic roads, suspension bridges, roads linking the villages to towns and cities etc.
  • To establish tillers’ ownership over land by abolishing duel ownership and turn the trust land to lease–hold land.
  • To provide economic and social justice to the economically, educationally and socially backward and suppressed communities and classes.
  • To provide facilities to the disabled, old, unable and helpless people.
  • To enable the local bodies to identify local projects and plan as well as implement. And, to decentralize power for the solution of local problems. (Nepali Congress; 2052: 12 – 13)

 

14. This word was first used by the RPP leader Lokendra Bahadur Chand when he had to quit the Prime Ministership due to change of sides several times by the lawmakers of his own party.

15. See my article “Nepalko communist Andolanma Naya Dhrubikaran ra Sambhavanaka Sanketharu” published in “Janata”, (Bhadra, 2057 B.S.)

16 Ibid 15, Janata, Bhadra, 2057 B.S.

17. See my article “Napalma Samsadiya Sashanko Varga Sima Ra Shakti Sankramanko Sandarvikta” published in the “Kantipur“, 28 Push 2057 B.S.

18. The following points have been mentioned in the “Zone of Peace” proposal. Late King Birendra had proposed this on 25 February 1975.

  • Nepal shall always remain effortful to develop friendly relationship with all the countries of the world and especially with the neighboring countries having different political and social systems on the basis of equality and mutual respect of independence and sovereignty by following the principles of peace, nonalignment and peaceful coexistence.
  • Nepal shall not resort to any kinds of activities, which would harm peace and security of other countries.
  • Nepal shall seek peaceful solution of any disputes between herself and other countries as well as other international disputes.
  • Nepal shall not interfere in internal affairs of other nations.
  • Nepal shall not allow using her territory for any activity against the countries supporting this proposal and these countries also shall not allow any activity in their soil against Nepal.
  • Nepal shall fulfill its responsibilities by respecting all the existing treaties and agreements signed with other countries till their expiry dates.
  • Nepal shall not enter in any military pact as per her policy of peace and nonalignment, nor shall provide her territory to any country to establish military camp. In the same way, the countries supporting this proposal shall not involve in any military pact against Nepal, nor shall provide their territory to any country to establish military camp against Nepal.

 

19. See my article “Netaharuka Paketma Basne Garchha Nepali Prajatantra” published in “Prakash”, weekly, on 26 Mangsir, 2057 B.S.

20. The police intervened in the area, where the convention of “All Nepal Women’s Organization (Revolutionary)” was in progress. This was happened in Chitawan district on 27th Mansir, 2057 B.S. The police used gunfire and Gauri Sapkota was killed and many others received bullet injuries.

21. Also see my article “Nepalko Rajnitima Sashakiya Arajakta Ra Maobadi Vikalpa” published in “Spacetime Dainik” on 1 Mansir, 2057 B.S.

22. Ibid 21 “Spacetime Dainik”, 1 Mangshir, 2057 B.S.

23 See my article “Samanantar Sashanko Arambha Ra Samaj Rupantarko Abhiyan” published in Kantipur Dainik, 18 Kartik, 2057 B.S. )

24. The communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) started people’s war from 13 February 1996 with the slogan “Let’s march forward on the path of people’s war for the establishment of New Democratic Republic by destroying the reactionary state.”  There were three objectives of the first plan of the people’s war as mentioned below:

1) To establish the politics of armed struggle,

2) To bring into practice that the main form of organization is military and the main form of struggle is war, and

3) To prepare for establishing guerilla bases, (NeRaBuSan, 2054 B.S.: 25)

The type of events that took place on 13 February 1996, the first day of the declaration of the people’s war, not only revealed the new possibilities in the political situation of the country, but also heralded that class struggle entered into a new phase of armed struggle. The following events paved the way for the people’s armed liberation. Some of the events that took place on the first day of the people’s war are as follows.

  • A massive pamphleteering was made at the night of the 13th February as the first propaganda work of the people’s war.
  • Armed attacks were made on the police posts at Radi of Rukum, Holeri of Rolpa and Sindhuligadi of Sindhuli by guerilla squads. Attacks were also made on the Agricultural Development Bank  and small peasant development project based at Chiangli in Gorkha. All the debentures and other documents were destroyed.
  • A guerilla squad exploded a bomb at Manakamana Distillery of Gorkha.
  • An attack was also made on the house of Daulat Bahadur Dong, which resulted in the capture of some amount of money and the burning of debentures.
  • A petrol bomb was hurled at the Pepsi Cola factory based in Kathmandu. There was an attack on the regional office of Save the Children, an INGO The events that rapidly took place for three weeks included the statement made by Baburam Bhattarai, Chairman of the then United Front Nepal, advocating need of the people’s war, the attacks on the houses of the feudal lords, actions taken against the government, etc.

 

25. The main objectives of the plan were,

1) To mobilize the people in favor of people’s war,

2) To capture different items including weapons and

3) To concentrate armed force in order to change the main areas into guerilla bases.

26. According to Lenin, there are two ways for the development of agricultural capitalism. The first provides way for the feudal land system to gradually develop to the economic system of Junker landlords. It keeps intact the feudal slavery and bondages by changing them into capitalist form. The second way is that feudal economy no longer exists or it is destroyed by a revolution. Big feudal land estates are snatched and the land is redistributed. Peasants change into capitalist peasants. (Lenin, 1908; 239-244) What makes it clear that be it the first way or the second as mentioned by Lenin, the Nepalese society is in transition and it is moving ahead through the process of the rise of rural capitalists and the process of proletarianization is seen everywhere.  In general, in this transition, the feudal land system, production relation and the landlords themselves are disappearing in the rural areas. As it is still in the initial process of proletarianization in the context of Nepal, the proletariat neither constitutes a dominant class of the rural area nor does it have a significant presence numerically. This class is speedily appearing in the Terai region and especially in a specific ethnic people (such as Musahar, Dushdh etc.). (Neupane. 1999: 13-14)  Even then a concrete class analysis of the Nepalese society has not been made until now.

27. See my article “Democratic Resolution of Nepalese Political Impasse” published in “The People’s Review Weekly”, Kathmandu, April 3-9, 2003.

28. See my article “Pluralism with difference: A prerequisite for peace and prosperity” published in “The People’s Review Weekly”, Kathmandu, June 12-18, 2003.


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  • Yakha Rai, Durgahang (2053 B.S.), Brahmanbad Birudhdha Jajajati + Utpidit Barga, Dhanarani Yakharai, Kathmandu. 
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The Nationalities’ Question in Nepal

                          The Nationalities’ Question in Nepal

(Social Convergence and Partnership Building through Multiculturalism and Federalism) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By

Govinda Neupane

 

 

 

 

Published By

Center for Development Studies, Nepal

Kathmandu 

 2005

 

Year of Publication: 2000 (In Nepali language)

Publisher: Center for Development Studies, Kathmandu

Internet Edition (In English language) – 2005

(This internet edition is slightly revised translated version of the first Nepali edition)

Revised Second Edition – 2005 (In Nepali language)


Table of Contents

Chapters

 

1 Evolution of Nepalese Society: A Brief Historical Account

2 Nationalities in Nepal

3 Access to Power and Opportunities and the Gaps

4 Process of Khas Domination and Obstacles for Partnership

5 Emergence of National Liberation Movements and Response of State-Forces

6 Federalism: Management Structure of a Multicultural State

7 Observations

 

 

 

Note: In Nepal, the Bikram calendar is in use instead of Gregorian calendar. Therefore, in this book, particularly in the publication date of the references, the Bikram Sambat (B.S.) is quoted. The difference between B.S. and A.D. is 56 year 7 month and 17 days in ordinary year and 56 year 7 month and 18 days in leap year. Therefore, the calculation is – A.D. + 56 year 7 month and 17 days = B.S. in ordinary A.D. and + 1 day in leap year.  All dates used in this book without mentioning B.S. are in A.D.


The Nationalities’ Question in Nepal

 

(Social Convergence and Partnership Building through Multiculturalism and Federalism)

 

 

Chapter One

 

Evolution of Nepalese Society: A Brief Historical Account

 

The human settlement in Nepal has been believed one among the oldest as the evidences support this belief. A fossil tooth of Ramapithecus, believed to be more than a million years old, has been found in Butwal. Also the chipped stone tools, believed about thirty to forty thousands years old have been found at Nawalparasi and Kathmandu (Bista, 1991:14, Sharma, 2039 V.S.: 26, 29). In the great epic, the Mahabharat, the mentions of Biratnagar as one of the princely state and the participation in the war of a Kirat tribal chief also leads to the conclusion that Nepal has a long history of human settlement.

The inscriptions carved on stones and metals and the archeological excavations provide grounds that there was the possibility of existence of several tribal republics during pre-historical and early historical days. These republics (tribal system of primitive governance) may include but not limited to Yalakhom in Kathmandu valley and Kapilvastu, Koliya, Mithila and Kichakdesh in the southern plains. During the final years of the tribal republics, agriculture had become the major economic activity. In the course of change in the economic outputs and introduction of division of labor; social behaviors and relationships got new shape, and as a result the class society emerged. When agriculture replaced hunting and gathering as the primary occupation of the society, the old tribal republics based on such economic behavior disintegrated and the feudal states evolved. Through the process of reorganization of Kirat tribal republic ‘Yalakhom’, Tharu tribal republic ‘Koliya’, Brata-Chhetriya Lichchhivi tribal republic ‘Videha’ and many other tribal governance mechanisms; new transitional feudal states came into existence. These new feudal states included Khasan in Karnali region, Magarat in Dhaulagiri region, Nepal Mandal between Gandaki and Koshi rivers, Bijayapur in Koshi region and Makwanpur in the southern region. These new feudal states had the problems of ever changing boarders, strategically doubtful existence and never ending transitions. Hence, with its superior military strategy, leadership quality and skilled management of state resources; one of the Khasan principalities called Gorkha invaded and captured several smaller feudal states. The Gorkha rulers’ move was not a national unification campaign. This was a military endeavor. They invaded, captured and annexed the territory, and in this process a greater and more powerful feudal state came into existence. Hence, Nepal was the product of this military endeavor lunched to establish a Hindu theocratic feudal state. Three factors contributed to achieve this goal. First, cohabitation of the people for several centuries in the past provided the base. Second, development of a common administrative mechanism by the Gorkha rulers helped to create a new political superstructure. And, the third, The collective bond created by the war fought against the British colonial invasion initiated the process of social convergence. In this way, the making of the greater Gorkha theocratic Hindu state provided the ground for the emergence of Nepal as a geographical, economic, psycho-emotional and administrative unit. Still, this was not the result of a national unification campaign as some Hindu-Khas historians and politicians say. Even today, Nepal has not developed as a nation-state and in the near future too, such possibility does not exist.   

Nepal is a multilingual, multinational, multicultural and multi-religious state having a diverse geo-physical composition. The people of Mangol-Kirat, Arya, Austric and Dravid origin inhabit. Similarly, the people speak more than 69 languages of Tibeto-Burman, Indo-European, Austric and Dravidian families. The major faiths include Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Bonpo and Kirat. Besides, Christianity, Lamaism, Jainism and Sikh also are the faiths, people follow. There are followers of folk-faiths or animism and shamanism (that include worship of nature Gods, tribal Gods and Goddesses such Masto, Bhuwani, Kuldeuta etc) and such believers could be in large number. But in absence of a scientific research, it is difficult to draw any conclusion. Unavailability of data has benefited the ruling Khas, more particularly the Bahuns to project the followers of folk-faiths including animism and Shamanism as Hindus.

The socio-economic and cultural foundation laid down by the ancient inhabitants, the Kirats, was further strengthened by the new comers – Mangols, Aryans, Austric and Dravidians. The Nepalese society as it exists today is the result of several factors briefly discussed above such as geo-physical composition, human interaction of different races, their cultural specialties and coexistence of several centuries.

The internal political, economic and cultural relationships among different forces within a society depend largely upon the class composition and the nature, characteristics and intensity of the prevailing contradictions among them in any specific time. In essence, the struggle between nationalities is an extended form of the class struggle. It has been, essentially, related to controlling the state power. The important factors are the character of classes who lead such struggle, their purpose and the context. If the bourgeois or petty bourgeois classes lead the movement, necessarily, its successful accomplishment will establish a capitalist state. Instead, if the proletariats in collaboration with the peasantry will lead the movement, the success may result in the form of establishing a socialist state.  Therefore, it would be necessary to understand the relationships among classes, nationalities and the state (James Blaut and Albert Sizamanski in Berberoglu, 1995: 4, 5). Indeed, the study of nationalism and national movements is not possible, de-linking them from the structure of the society and its class composition (Berberoglu, 1995: 2). Hence, any attempts or analysis remain incomplete if the existing relations among classes have not been taken into consideration. At least, a brief overview may be helpful to know the fundamentals of the class composition of Nepalese society, the contradictions among them and their impact on the problems of nationalities. With this limited objective, a brief historical account has been presented below.

Baburam Acharya, respected Nepalese historian, criticizes his fellow historians for their absence of objectivity and says:

The Nepalese and foreign historians, who tried to study the pre-historical and Kirat-era Nepal, have followed a strange path. With temptation to bringing the historical facts to light of that unknown period, they put forward the exaggerated stories about the imaginary supernatural actors such as Manjushree, Bodhisatwa, Krakuchchhanda-Buddha, Ne-Muni, the serpent king – Karkotak nag, Vanashur and king Dharmakar as historical facts. But, such exaggerated stories which have no objectivity and normal course could not be accepted as the basis for scientific history (Acharya, 2054 V.S.: 23).

The ancient historical accounts could be summarized in the following points:

  • A fossil of a tooth of Ramapithecus has been found at Butwal. It is generally believed one million years old.
  • Chipped stone tools have been found in Kathmandu and Butwal. Researchers believe these tools are thirty to forty thousand years old.
  • About eight to ten thousands years ago, the human race (nomads) had a spread in the mountain valleys and southern plains. These nomads, afterward, might have been called as Kirats. This ancient tribe sounds the indigenous tribe of Nepal (Acharya, 2054 V.S.: 9-10).
  • The Kirats might have started domesticating the animals and primitive agricultural activities. In this way, they could have developed settlements around six to seven thousand years ago (Acharya, 2054 V.S.: 10).
  • Around four to five thousand years ago, in this region great social upheavals had taken place. Several groups of people of Tibeto-Burman origin came to this region and assimilated with the Kirats (Acharya, 2054 V.S.: 10).
  • The Aryabartiya Aryans had arrived in Butwal region around 750 B.C. In this period the Kirats of Kathmandu called Nepars got some influence of Aryan culture through their Kirat cousins of the southern plains called Danuwar, Darai or Kumhal (Acharya, 2054 V.S.: 15).
  •  The word “Nepal” has been used by Kautilya, the minister of Chandragupta Maurya (321-297 B.C.) in his book “Arthashastra” (The Economics). This is the first evidence of the use of this word. Kautilya has mentioned that in Magadha, “Bhingshi”, a woolen material and some other woolen products were brought from Nepal to sell (Acharya, 2054 V.S.: 63).
  •  In the Hindu epic Mahabharat which was composed around 250 B.C., it has been mentioned that Bhimsen won seven Kirat chiefs. The event may or may not be true, but the epic gives some glimpses of the political situation at the time of writing. Out of these seven chiefs, one could be the Nepar ruler of Kathmandu. Among the others, one could be the Tharu ruler of the southern plains and rest five could be Thami and Khambu tribal chiefs in the eastern hills (Acharya, 2054 V.S.: 21, 65).

 

In Nepal, the nomadic life might have ended around 700 B.C. The hunting and gathering age itself, conceived a new age. At the early days of that new age, the division of labor appeared in the society.

The Kirat tribal republics took shape. They were called “Gopal” (those who keep herd of cows) and “Mahishpal” (those who keep herd of buffalos) dynasties. These were the first tribal governance mechanisms in Nepal. The tribe was none other than the Kirats. The coin as a medium of exchange was developed during that period. Three coins believed that of around 700 B.C. have been found in Kathmandu and are kept in the collection of British Museum (Bhandari, 2046 V.S.: 28-29). This evidence provides enough ground to conclude that around 700 B.C. the ancient tribal republic had existed. The republics of three tribes might have been in existence. Among them, there could be one or more Nepar Kirat republics in Kathmandu and around it, the Lichchhivi republic in the middle Terai and the Tharu (Shakya) Kirat republic in the western Terai. These ancient tribal republics played progressive role up to 5th century.   

From the period covering 700 B.C. to 5th century AD, religion had been originated as the ideological base of feudalism.  In the Kirat -Tharu tribal republic of Kapilvastu; Buddhism emerged. The Lichchhivis brought Hinduism when they moved northward from the Gangetic plain called Aryabarta. They entered inside the present boundary of Nepal from the south around 700 B.C. It took a long time for them to overthrow the Kirat rule and to establish their own administration in Kathmandu valley. The Lichchhivi chief Jayadev (1st) established his rule in Kathmandu in 250 AD. The chief of the Lichhivi tribe was called king, but there was no monarchical system. The king was an elected tribal official. Up to the end of 4th century, the Lichhivi tribal republic continued and the chief was a Buddhist. The last elected Lichchhivi chief (king) Brishdev changed the tribal republic into a monarchy and also he declared his son Shankardeva as the crown prince. The successor of the thrown was converted to Hinduism from Buddhism (Acharya, 2054 V. S.: 15, 26). From this very event, Nepal started to enter into the transitional period to move to an era of feudal system. During this specific period, the agriculture system evolved and gradually developed as the major economic activity by replacing the hunting and gathering activities. Animal wealth became secondary source of livelihood and land got importance. As a result, individual ownership over land appeared. The Swayambhu inscription, believed as the oldest available inscriptions, has the mention of donation of land to individual from the state (Joshi, 2030 V. S.: 3). The Lichchhivi king Mandeva invaded the eastern tribal republics and the western one in Gandaki region and created a sound base for a unified feudal Hindu theocratic state. In the initial period of his rule, he used to be addressed as “Samanta” (feudal lord) but after these invasions and the victory over other tribes, he declared himself a “king”. This has been mentioned in his Changu inscription. He had been addressed as “Bhattarak Maharajashree Mandeva” (the great king Mandeva) during the days of later part of his rule (Joshi, 2030 V. S.: 58). In his inscriptions, many important information in regard to the construction of temples and management of land (such as donation, provision of irrigation, land rent) are available. The system of land rent was introduced, first time.  It has been mentioned, in the inscription of Pashupati, that to continue the regular religious rituals in the temple, a plot of land was donated to use on rental basis (Joshi, 2030 V.S.: 13-49). After the development of all these new production relations, the ancient tribal republican system was finally replaced by feudalism in the sixth century AD. More specifically, this change of the nature of the society occurred during the rule of Manadeva (463-506 AD). At this point, feudalism effectively developed and became governing ideology and system of production. Hence, Nepalese society changed fundamentally to feudal society. During that period, mostly the tribal faiths were replaced by religion; hunting and gathering activities were replaced by agriculture and animal husbandry; the tribal chief was replaced by a king and the animal wealth-base was replaced by agricultural land. In principle, all the land was owned by the feudal state. In practice, its total or partial ownership used to be transferred to the individuals, families or communities through donation, reward, rental arrangement and tax-contracts. The provisions also were introduced to govern the production relations between the landlords and the peasants. The autonomous organizations of the landlords such as Panchalis also appeared. These organizations were effective vehicles for local rule. The Lichchhivi rule created the basis for feudal socio-political mechanism and strengthened the monarchy. In summary, Nepal had entered into the phase of ancient tribal republic around 700 B.C. These tribal republics continued till the 5th century AD and from the 6th century, feudalism evolved as a progressive economic and political system.

The feudal social and political system had a history of more than 1400 years. Only, after the establishment of industrial as well as financial institutions such as Biratnagar jute mills and Nepal Bank Ltd in 1937, the capitalist mode of production appeared as an alternative to feudal system. The new capitalist production relation changed the role of different economic classes. Their nature also changed accordingly. From this period, feudalism and feudal relations of production started to play reactionary role.

Today, the Nepalese society has been experiencing the transition from feudalism to capitalism. The political, social and economic upheavals are the result of this transition. The entire society is passing through unprecedented pace of transformation. The transformation is dominantly taking the society forward. But, there has been no serious attempt to understand its pace. Even today, class composition of the society has not been studied properly. Also the political parties, who claim as the advocates of class politics, go by the conventional phraseology and are satisfied with chanting the age old slogan that “Nepal is a semi-feudal state”. This phrase has neither any objective justification nor it reflects the ground reality (Neupane, 1999: 12-16). Also, in the rural areas, the rental arrangement of land has nearly disappeared. The wage system is in practice. The landlords are seen only in exception. The wage is the governing basis for labor-employer relations even in agriculture. The low wages and extended working hours are the means of exploitation of the agriculture workers. Just being agriculture as the major occupation in the society is not a valid basis to conclude that feudal relation of production is dominant. Indeed, the major character of the relation of production in Nepal has been the capitalist relation, though it is in its final stage of transition. Accordingly, the roles of different classes and the contradictions among them have changed. In reality, in the Nepalese society, both, the essence and the form of class struggle have changed. Now, the major contradiction is among the classes of capitalist society and they are fighting against each other. Of course, the progressive political scientists, thinkers and the practitioners should study the society more objectively. .

The struggles in the society in areas of ideology, politics, attitudes and behaviors, have influenced the relations among classes. Now, Nepal is experiencing the struggles between antagonistic classes. The forms of struggles include the legal or non-legal and peaceful or violent. The people’s war also is in progress. Now, the new phenomenon of consolidation of power through protracted war and capturing state-power through a final assault of mass rebellion seems a feasible option. Today, the availability of multiple options and expansion of possibilities have widened scope for the movements. Therefore, the forces committed to attaining equity and social justice in relation to nationalities; also have several centers available to form a united front.  The unity of all oppressed is the most important factor. Hence, the oppressed nationalities should have alliance with the oppressed class and oppressed section of the society such as women. The alliance will emerge naturally. The combined working class power, women power and the non-Khas nationalities’ power, will dethrone the upper class male chauvinistic Hindu Khas rule. In such movement, the progressive elements within the Khas nationality also will certainly participate.

Chapter Two

 

Nationalities in Nepal

 

The society in Nepal is multicultural as several nationalities reside. They have different cultural traits, faiths and languages. But, Khas rulers negating this reality and try to project Nepal as a nation-state and arrogantly strive to impose their Khas-Hindu theocratic ideology, codes, values, faiths and practices over other nationalities. Different nationalities came to existence through a long process centered on collective behaviors, cohabitation, common language and social interactions resulting to a common economic life. The feeling of a nationality has been expressed either through common aspirations of unity within a state or alternatively, that can be seen in the attempts to selecting a course of total independence (Tamang, 2054 V.S.: 11-12). The aspirations and attempts vary depending on several factors that may include harmony among different nationalities and the social convergence among them. Also, the feeling of exclusion and isolation contributes largely for independence whereas the process of inclusion and participation strengthens cohabitation and convergence.

In Nepal, there are differences on the definition of the terms used to refer to different nationalities. The classification of nationalities is another controversial area. One school of thought divides the people into two broad categories – Aryans and Mangols. But, these are the human races and not nationalities. The second division puts people in two baskets – Tagadhari (those who wear Hindu “sacred” thread or upper caste Hindus) and Matwali (those who consume liquor). These, also are the social groups and not the nationalities. The third classification divides the people into, again, two groups – Pahade (people who reside in the hills) and Madhese (those who reside in the southern plains). These are the location specific groups. The Central Bureau of Statistics has prepared a list of 59 communities calling as “Caste/Ethnic Groups” (CBS, 1993: 1-2). Indeed, these are the custom groups or sub-nationalities.

In the beginning of the nineteenth century, Francis Buchanan Hamilton has written extensively about Magar, Tamang (Murmi), Kirat, Khas (the words such as Khasiya, Parbate, Parbate Hindu are also used as synonyms) and Newar. He has used the term “nations” while explaining about them. He has not stated clearly what he considered about Gurung or Lepchas, though he has mentioned about them too. He has stated that Bhote nationality has a spread in Tibet and Bhutan also. Although, he has written about Tharu, Rajbanshi, Gangai, Meche and Batar of Terai, but he has not stated the status in regard to their nationalities (Hamilton, 1819: 9-60).

Tony Hagen has also divided the Nepalese people into two categories – Nepalese of Tibetan origin and Nepalese of Indian origin. He has again divided the groups into two sub-groups each. The first group of Tibetan origin has been sub-divided as Tibetan group (Bhote, Sherpa, and Thakali) and indigenous Nepalese group (Newar, Tamang, Gurung, Magar, Sunuwar, Rai, Limbu, Budha, Ruka, Tharu). The Indian origin group has been, again, sub-divided into two – Nepalese group (Bahun, Chhetri, Khas, Thakuri) and Indian group (Gadhawali, Kumai and other “Indians in narrow sense”) (Hagen, 1980: 110). It sounds that by the term “Indians in narrow sense”, he refers to other people of Terai.  

Although, it is not clear where the classification is the result of a thoughtful analysis or it is used spontaneously, the Janajati Vikash Samanwaya Kendra (Coordination Center for the uplift of Nationalities) has put the people in six categories while analyzing the caste/nationality analysis of the government officers. The six groups are – Bahun, Chhetri, Newar, Janajati, Madhise and Muslim (Gurung et al, 1999: 4).

Another type of classification suggests that in Nepal there are Khas, Kirat (Limbu, Yakha, Rai, Hayu, and Sunuwar), Langhali (Magar, Thami, Chepang, Lapche, Kusunda, and Raji), and Tangan (Newar, Tamang, Gurung, and Tharu). Besides them a few Himalis and Tarayalis are also present (Pokharel, 2055 V.S.: 633).

While grouping the data, the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), has put 29 sub-groups of people from Terai and after that it has mentioned a few smaller groups as “the other Tarai groups”. Tharu, Dhimal and Muslims also are included in this Terai group. The CBS seems just afraid to give a name to this group. In the same grouping, it has stated as Pahadi (Hill people) and Uchcha Pahadi (mountain people), but has given no names. In the Pahadi group Bahun, Chhetri, Thakuri and Sanyashi are in a row. (CBS, 1993: 1-20).

Janak Lal Sharma has said that there are the descendants of six groups of people in Nepal. They are – Negritos, Austro-Asian, Mangolkirat, Dravidian, Brityamunda and Aryans or Nordic. (Sharma, 2039: 40).

Perceval Landon has accepted the complexities in determining the nationalities in Nepal. He finds complications initiating the study adopting any approach, either taking the physiological commonalities or differences or the languages they speak or religions or custom or their bravery in battlefields. For him, the Newars in Kathmandu are the easiest to differentiate. But, because of assimilation of Thakurs (Rajputs) with other nationalities, it has been difficult to classify from Khas of Aryan origin to Murmis of Mongol origin. After accepting all such limitations, he has mentioned that there are Newar, Khas, Gurung, Magar, Murmi, Sunuwar, Rai and Limbu nationalities in Nepal. Among these nationalities, he has mentioned Gurung, Magar, Sunuwar and Murmi as Mangols and Rais and Limbus as Kiratis (Landon, 1928: Appendix xvii).

The brief review presented above signals the difficulties in determining the composition of the nationalities and their classifications. The nationalities question in Nepal has remained so complex due to the absence of extensive socio-cultural studies and analysis. Indeed, the understanding of this composition would lead to unearthing the factors related to inequity and pave the way to redress.

Basically, five factors play roles in the development of a nationality. They are – common geographical setting, common language, common culture, common economic relations and common mind-set. There is no rigidity that all these factors should be present to call some community as a nationality, but at least the differences should not hinder common economic, cultural and psychological aspects of their relations. If these five factors are in a supportive phenomenon, there would be the need to consider on two more critical factors. The first one is common decent or assimilation of a longer time period and the second one is the feeling, if any, generated through resistance against a common aggressor.  Therefore, the study of several groups of people by using the above criteria that five primary common basis and two other factors of common descend and common feeling generated against foreign aggression reveal the characteristics of a nationality. Indeed, nationality provides a specific group of people a distinct identity.  The studies specific to the composition of the society by using the above mentioned criteria as yardsticks, with some exceptions, there are five nationalities in Nepal. They are – Khas, Madhesi, Mangolkirat, Dalit and Newar (Neupane, 1999: 73, 74, 152). But, there has not been a general agreement of this fact. One major contributing factor that complicated the understanding on nationality is the Hindu social code of division of castes. The Nepali word Jati (nationality) is very close to Jat (caste). Hence, there is lots of confusion and misunderstanding between nationality (Jati) and caste (Jat).

People of some of the nationalities, due to inferior psycho state, feel defensive while saying the name of their nationality. One of the contributing is that due to the divisive psycho-cultural influence of the Khas, they rather say their sub-nationalities. Therefore, an analysis to establish the historical facts behind the naming of the nationalities becomes relevant. The analysis of their evolution as nationalities will follow the brief review of evidences on their naming.

Even after the assimilation of Aryabartian Aryas and the Aidi-Khas Aryan, the nationality was called Khas. Baburam Acharya says:

In Sanskrit literature, the Aryans always put them above the Kirat, Hun, Yawn and Sak . Due to its influence, the Khas kings of Baisi and Chaubisi principalities started to say “Thakur” or “Thakuri” for themselves. Other Khas, who were not related to the ruling dynasty, also got influence from their royal cousin. … Rana Prime Minister Jang Bahadur Kunwar asked people to say Chhetriya and Khas not only to his clan but also to the clans of his relatives such as Thapa, Basnet, Karki, etc . From now on, the feeling in using the word Khas, they feel inferior. Although, Kunwar, Thapa, Bista, Karki etc  claim themselves as the “Rajputs from India”;  that is not true. The same is true for the Brahmins (Acharya, 2054 V.S.: 54-55).

The above conclusion simply revels that the Khas at the helm of absolute power started to say themselves as Thakuri, Chhetri and Rajputs. This was initiated by the Khas sub-groups – the Shahas and Ranas, and that spread to other sub-groups also. They started to say themselves as Bahun, Chhetri, Shahi, Giri, Puri etc.

The noted linguist Balkrishna Pokharel has put forward four reasons why the Khas do not like to say themselves as Khas. He says:

“The first reason could be that the word “Khas” in its shorter form or “Khas” is a Nepali word meaning “to fall down” or ” to die”. The second reason could be the members of the Khas society forgot their glorious past. The third reason could be that many other people were assimilated into Khas linguistic group who were not willing to identify themselves as khas. The fourth reason could be that in the Sanskrit literatures, the Khas nationality was projected as inferior one” (Pokharel, 2055 V.S.: 1)

Similarly, the people of hills such as Khas, Newar and Mangolkirats use an inferior term “Madhise” while addressing the people of Madhesi nationality. These people of hill origin use the word “Madhise” to humiliate them. The Madhesi intellectuals still believe that the people of hill origin have such psycho-state and use the word with that purpose (Nepali, 1995: 35). Therefore, the Madheshi nationality has shown reluctance to use the word “Madhesi”.

Mangolkirats have been lured to a nationality-neutral word called “Janajati“. Janajati has been translated as “nationality” into English. If the word is used in this way, then a question arises that why Khas, Newar, Dalit or Madhesi are not accepted as Janajatis (nationalities)? In Nepali, the word Janajati is used to refer the indigenous community of people. Some prominent organizations of Mangolkirat nationality have been attempting to familiarize the word limiting its use for some specific sub-nationalities or custom groups. The federation of nationalities is the leader among them. Either this organization should be a federation of all nationalities in Nepal or they have to rename the federation as “Federation of Associations of Oppressed Nationalities.”  The narrow sub-national vision might have played a role to attract the leaders of Mangolkirat nationalities to this innocent looking neutral word. Indeed, the people of Mangolkirat nationalities have no inferior feeling in the use of the word “Mangolkirat”. They are not using the word that frequently only because they have no clarity and also the confusions created by the diversities originated from the differences of characteristics of different custom groups among them. When they use the term, again, there is the difficulty in defining and the classifying the term in right perspective.

Newars also introduce themselves through the name of their sub-groups or surnames. The Khas address them as “Nyar” to humiliate them. Perhaps, Newars thought better to create distance with this word. Another reason could be that the introduction of Hindu caste system among the Newars created the superior-inferior feeling among themselves and there was the  need to differentiate the ‘high caste’ Newar from the so-called lower castes. Therefore, the so-called high caste Newars thought to have a better replacement and started to use the surnames. The so-called lower castes also tried to find out some words which may hide their sub-group’s name. With a negative load created by such attitudes and tendencies, the Newars tried to escape from using the word.

Only the Dalits feel good while using the word of their nationality. This could be so as the word was selected by themselves for them. More recently, by taking the advantage of the similarity in their surname with the Khas, some educated Dalits have shown a tendency to project themselves as Khas. In such a way, they hide their own nationality, more particularly to escape from the pain created by Hindu social order.

This is interesting that all nationalities with exception of the Dalits try not to identify with the name of their nationality. But, this type of situation would result to more confusion. The complex situation originated from the confusion would be helpful to the clever Khas to continue  harvesting the benefits. Therefore, the Khas will attempt to magnify differences within a nationality and also among oppressed nationalities. They will feel never tired to talk about assimilation. These Khas acts will help them to prolong their control and domination. The artificial situation created by the escape of the word identifying the nationalities would not change the lives of the people of oppressed nationalities and that will not help to improve relations among nationalities. They will understand the truth, may be, belatedly.

The above analysis signals to the complexities created by the presence of different linguistic groups, diversity in cultural practices, different types of sub-groups based on descend and the multiplicity of definitions, classifications and groupings. Also, different sociologist, anthropologists and other researchers name them differently which added more confusions and complexities. The government structures are under the control of the Khas. Therefore, all the time they promote divisions. The mass psychology has also been created in such a way that by introducing with the surname, an individual feels comfort. Such influence can be seen in the use of the words as “yonjan”, “Bomjan” etc. They do not prefer to say the name of their sub-nationality which is “Tamang” and will not use the term of their nationality, which is Mangolkirat. The same is applicable among Limbus, a Mangolkirat sub-nationality. They use the surnames such as “Lawoti”, “Linkha” etc. The use of the word what they like is very good. But, the divisive tendencies are harming their interests.  All this has contributed to strengthen and continue the Khas domination. Therefore, the discussion on the silent features of different nationalities becomes one of the most important tasks. In such analysis, the similarities among them need deeper study. It has to be made clear that in this analysis the different nationalities will be addressed by their original name. The intention is not that the names should be imposed on them; rather this is the acceptance of the reality.

Nationalities

  • Mangolkirat
  • Khas
  • Dalit
  • Newar
  • Madhesi

 

Besides, the nationalities mentioned above, another 1.1% of the population is categorized as “the other”. During the census of 1991, several very small groups were put together. A large majority of them or around 1% might belong to Mangolkirat nationalities. In such scenario, the Mangolkirat population may increase by another 1%. In this study, their number is kept separate as “others”.

a. Mangolkirat:

 

According the reputed historian Baburam Acharya, Kirats were the first inhabitants and the indigenous people of Nepal. They belong to Austro-Asian groups. Some of the early trends of the movements of the people signal that about four to five thousand years ago, groups of people of Tibeto-Burman branch of the same Austro-Asian origin might have come to Nepal via Burma. These people did not come in one group but they came in several groups taking a time spread of several centuries. Therefore, they could not continue their separate identity and assimilated with the indigenous Kirats (Acharya, 2054 V.S.: 9-17). In this way, the assimilation of the Mangol immigrants with the indigenous Kirats provided the basis for the Mangolkirat nationality. The process of assimilation took centuries.

Noted scholar Janaklal Shrma says “up to second century B.C., Kirats were the ruling tribe. ….. Mangols also influenced the Nepali culture. It is better to say Mangolkirat, rather than Mangol. …..There is Mongol influence on Rai, Limbu, Gurung, Magar, and Tharu and also the Kirat influence is visible among the Mangols. Therefore, we have addressed the entire nationality as Mangolkirat” (Sharma, 2039 V.S.: 39, 45, and 46).

According to historian Prem Bahadur Limbu, though the Kirats lost control over Kathmandu valley around 266 B.C. to Lichchhivis, the territory east of Banepa was under their control (in Yakharai, 2053 V.S.: 216). The Kirats of the east lost several territories to the Sen Kings of Palpa during sixteenth century and they were defeated by Gorkha king Prithvinarayan in 1831 V.S. He annexed the territories in the Nepal. Similarly, the Mangolkirat (Gurung and Magar) principalities in Gandaki region lost to the Khas kings of Gorkha. In this way, Mangolkirats did not only loose control of their territorial rule, they had to struggle hard to protect their culture, values, means of survival and the resources from the invading Khas.

The Kirat historian and scholar Imansingh Chemjong has stated that during the 4th century, a Mongol invading force of 50,000 fighters attacked the Kirat territories. The Kirats defeated the Mongol invaders. After the defeat, the Mongols spread in the hills and mountains and assembled with the Limbu-Khambu sub-groups of the Kirats. They transformed into a single nationality after a long process of assimilation (Chemjong, 2026 V.S.: Ka to Cha).

According to the reputed anthropologist Dorbahadur Bista, Tamangs, Rais, Limbus, Magars, Gurungs, Sherpas, Thakalis, Bhotes, Sunuwars, Chepangs, Thamis, Jirels and Lepchas are the descendants of Kirat (Bista, 1991: 17).

In the beginning of the nineteenth century, Francis Buchanan Hamilton has written extensively about the people of Nepal. He has stated the following:

  • In Nepal, Khat-Bhotes had their rule before Newars.
  • Magar are Tibetan descendants.
  • Gurungs have been residing together with Magars. They are same as the Magars except their movements. As they raise ships, they go to the hills during summer and come down to the low lands during winter.
  • Lepchas could be Murmies by birth. They eat beef.
  • The Rajputs compelled the Kirats to adopt the Hindu rituals after defeating them. They also had to give up those practices which were considered contraband to Hindu practices. The Kirats had to utilize the services of Hindu-Bahuns to perform their rituals. The Kirats had a major disagreement with the Gorkha Hindu Khas victors in regard to the prohibition on eating beef. The chief of Kirats was in exile.
  • Murmi and Bhotes may not have the common descent.
  • The Gorkhalis use the derogatory term “Siyane Bhote” or “Bhote” addressing to the Murmis. Due to the ban on cow slaughter, they can only eat the beef, if a cow has died naturally. They eat the delicacies with great taste when they get the opportunity of eating beef.
  • Before the migration of Rajputs; Magars, Gurungs, Jariyas, Newars, Murmis, Kirats, Limbus, Lepchas and Bhotes had inhabited on the east of Kali River (Hamilton, 1819: 25, 27, 52, 53, 54, 55, 59).

 

Janajati Vikash Samanwaya Kendra (Coordination Center for Uplift of Nationalities) has published a booklet more recently. The authors of the booklet have defined the term “Janajati” as mentioned below:

“Generally the words Janajati (nationality) and Adibashi (the indigenous people) are used as synonyms. Of course, Janajati is related to social composition and Adibashi has its relation with time period. The word Janajati or Jati refers to the group of people outside of caste system and Adibashis are the ancient inhabitants or the indigenous people. In the context of Nepal, Janajatis are the groups of people who have their own specific territory,  language, religious custom and culture, whereas Jat (caste) refers to the people who have a division of lower or upper social hierarchies, who speak Indo-European language and who believe in and practice Hindu religion and culture.   Another notable difference is that the majority of Janajatis are the Mangol/Kirats whereas all the people of Jat have Caucasian descent.  …. The invasion of Janajati’s territory, expansion of Nepali language, Hindu domination on religion and culture and politico-economic exploitation of Janajatis are the facts in Nepal today. These are the reasons that the majority of Janajatis have been in a state of backwardness (Gurung et al, 1999: 1)

The definition above accepts that the majority among the Janajatis are Mangol/Kirats. The definition has analyzed very well the development of common feeling and the common political, economic and cultural reasons behind the development of Janajatis (Mangolkirats). Indeed, the Khas invasion of their ancestral land, the suppression of Tibeto-Burman languages, Hinduization of the society and politico-economic exploitations of centuries are the reasons behind the evolution of Mangolkirat as a nationality. Indeed, the origin and development of Mangolkirats as a nationality is the psychological, political, economic and cultural response to the all out invasion of the Khas. Although, the infrastructures in the form of common ancient history, commonality of cultural practices, common racial origin, and common source of their language were already present. The factors that existed already in the form of social infrastructure and the originated out of the Khas invasion, contributed together in the formation of a modern Mangolkirat nationality. Therefore, the contributors in the formation of Mangolkirat nationality include the common historical backgrounds and the common feelings of the people against the Khas invasion.  

The above analysis provides the background of its origin and evolution as a Nationality. Most of the custom groups within the nationality are the ancient inhabitants of Nepal. All of them have experienced the atrocities committed by the invading Khas. All of them have faced the cultural domination of Hinduism. All the custom groups had the matriarchy for a certain period of time in the past. All the custom groups have descended from Mongols or Kirats. The process of assimilation continuing for centuries, took them to the stage of full fledged nationality after the Khas invasion on all aspects of their life including language, culture, custom, eating habits etc. Now, due to confusions created by Khas’ divisive actions and narrow vision originated from the deference seen on their observance of some cultural practices, they are trying to find out a neutral name for their nationality and some of the leading scholars and organizations have put forward the term “Janajati”. With some exceptions, all the groups which they say “Janajatis” are the Mangolkirat custom groups. All the custom groups within this nationality have passed through century’s long assimilation process and, basically, they assimilated with the indigenous Kirats. Therefore, if they say just Kirat instead of Mangolkirat, might be, that would be even better. They have to make the decision themselves. Harshabahadur Budhamagar, a Magar scholar, has given the name of his book “Kirat nation and the Magars”. In this book he has presented the study on the Magars. He proudly says “… Kirats have their own glorious history, culture, literature and custom. They have their own past and future” (Budhamagar, 2049 V.S.: 450). Such assessments certainly strengthen the bond among different custom groups of Mangolkirat nationality. The percentage of Mangolkirats in the population of Nepal is 22.2.

As discussed earlier, Mangolkirats have been influenced by deferent languages they speak, custom group centered narrow perspectives and some differences seen in the observance of some cultural practices. Due to such influences, many people of this nationality do not say themselves as Mangolkirats. Janaklal Sharma has placed Tamang, Magar, Gurung, Limbu and Rais within Mangolkirat nationality. Rahul Sankrityayan also has put forward his conclusion closer to that of Sharma. Sankrityayan says that Lahul, Malana (Kullu), Kanaur, Marachha (Gadhwal), Magar, Gurung, Sunuwar, Tamang, Rai, Limbu, Yakha (Nepal) and Lepcha (Sikkim) are the Kirats of hill areas who speak their own languages. The Tharus of the plains forgot their language (in Sharma, 2039 V.S., 2039: 291). Newars grouped together within Kirat nationality by Rahul Sankrityayan have developed as an independent nationality. 

The custom groups within the Mangolkirats include Gurung, Tamang, Magar, Limbu, Rai, Sherpa, Thakali, Sunuwar, Bote, Danuwar, Chepang, Thami, Majhi, Kumal, Darai, Jirel, Lepcha, Raji, Raute and Byashi. They have several languages. Among their major languages, which are spoken by more than 1% of Nepal’s population include Gurung, Magar, Tamang, Limbu and Rai languages. All these languages belong to Tibeto-Burman language group. Thami, Raji, Bote, Chepang, Majhi and Danuwar are the most backward custom groups among Mangolkirats. Their illiteracy rate in 1991 was above 75%. The women illiteracy rate was even worse, and that was 85% and above (CBS, 1993: 325-328). 

Mangolkirat people are famous for their rich culture. The Dhannach of the Limbus, Chandinach of Rais, Rodi of Gurungs and Chabrung of Tamangs are some of the fine examples traditional folk dances. The Thankas (unique form of painting) and carpets are the master pieces of their creative art work. Their individual, family and community relations are free from complications as they are liberal, flexible and have an attitude which promotes mutual respect. Women are more independent and enjoy better position compared to Khas and Madhesis. Due to extravagant custom (for example Ghewa, a ritual performed after the death of a person, among the Tamangs), too simplistic approach towards own situations, luxurious life styles and ultra heroic behaviors; they have become much sought after targets for exploitation. The Khas, Newars and Khas state and foreign colonial governments (example Gurkha brigade in British army) exploit the energy and resources of the people of Mangolkirat nationality.

Generally, they inhabit in the mountain and hill areas. Their dresses include Bhoto-Kachhad (short shirt and plain cloth covering their body from waist to knee), shirt-trousers and Bakhkhu (thick jacket) for men and Lungi-cholo (blouse and colorful cloth which covers the lower part of the body) and Sari-cholo (mainly colorful, long, unstitched garment covering the lower part of the body and full sleeve blouse) for women. Some men also wear Daura-Suruwal ((waist-folded, long sleeve shirt and tight trousers).  In towns and cities and also in rural areas, Kurta-Surwal (long frock and loose trouser) among girls and Shirt-trouser among boys have become popular, more recently. Even, a few girls could be seen wearing shirt-trouser in urban areas.

On religion, they are quite tolerant to other faiths. They perform traditional rituals. They believe either in animism or in Kirat religion or in Bonpo or in Buddhism.  A few among them are Hindus and atheists. The Khas state has projected a large number of the Mangolkirat people as Hindus just to justify the Hindu theocratic nature of Nepali state.  This is a conspiracy of the Hindu-Khas state.

Agriculture is the major occupation of a large majority of people. Collection and processing of forest products, production of traditional agricultural implements, labor work, recruitment in the army (including in British and Indian army) are other occupations. A small number of people have started to appear in the civil service, private sector and academic areas.

The Hindu-Khas classification places this nationality at the bottom of the social hierarchy. They are grouped together as Sudras. But the provisions applicable to other Sudras such as untouchability have not been implemented for them. This may have happened due to either the Khas did not dare or they did not found it fit to implement. Therefore, they were clustered as touchable Sudras or Sudras of a higher status. The reasons contributing to such arrangement may include the fear factor among the Khas originated from ultra heroic tendencies and behaviors of the Mangolkirats, the attraction among the rulers of the beauty of Mangolkirat girls and a few Mangolkirats’ (Gurung, Magars) participation in the Gorkha-Khas rulers’ military campaign launched for the expansion of Gorkha state. Therefore, by calling them Sudras of higher status, in practical sense, the Hindu-Khas Bahuns have put them in the place equal to that of Baishyas. Today, a large majority of people including the progressive elements among the Khas reject such classification and are firmly standing in favor of equality among nationalities.

Mangolkirats have more objectivity in regard to their outlook whether that is the reality of their own life or something which is related to the larger outer world. The Khas in Majhkirat (a region in eastern Nepal) use to tell a story to show the stupidity of the people of Manolkirat nationality. According to them a Rai (Mangolkirat) lady was weeping in the month of January. One Bahun (Khas) lady asked the reason of her weeping. The Rai lady replied that her husband died in the month of August. But, that was a busy month for planting paddy. Soon after, several festivals followed. Then, the time of harvesting kept her busy.  Therefore, she could not get time to mourn and now she is doing so. Although, this is an imagination of Bahuns to project the Rais as arrogant, but this revels the thought process among the Rais which is free from hundreds of rituals introduced in the society courtesy to fatalistic beliefs of the Bahuns. At least the story above proves that the Bahuns have accepted this reality. Similarly, women have a better status among them and they are liberal, tolerant and joyous people.

b. Khas

 

The area of Kashmir and the region to its north west was called Idabritta. The people who were called Khas-Arya, who came from Idabrita to inhabit to the area east of it are believed a branch of the people of Aidi-Aryans. The mentions about Khas are available in Mahabharata, Manusmriti and Purans (Acharya, 2054 V.S., 50-51). The Aryabartiya Aryans who developed the system of Varna-Byavastha or caste system migrated from the southern plains to Nepal and came in contact with their hill cousin, the Aidi Khas Aryans. These two branches of Aryans assimilated for centuries and formed the modern Khas nationality. According to Janaklal Sharma the Khas entered inside Nepal at the beginning of the first century AD. After adopting Hinduism they not only got the status of Cherty but also became Bahuns (Sharma, 2039 V.S.: 85).  Therefore, the term Chhetri-Bahun is widely used, but this does not represent the total Khas nationality.

Baburam Acharya says “the group of people who speak Khas or Parbatia or Nepali language and does not consider as Kirats or Austro-Asian, could be called Khas. The ancient social system has divided Khas into three groups such as Bahuns, Chhetris and Sudras…. The first two groups are called Tagadhari as they wear Janai (‘holly’ thread) and the third is called Matwali as the people of this group drink liquor (Acharya, 2054V.S.: 54).

Francis Buchanan Hamilton has also used the terms “Khasiya”, “Parvate” and “Parvate Hindu” as the synonyms for the Khas (Hamilton; 1819: 10, 18, 19, 23).

B.D. Sanwal has stated that the Bahun and Chherties of the hills whose origin is Aryan are the Khas (Sanwal, 1993: 17).

Bal Krishna Pokharel has classified the Khas into three categories – 1. Mahanta, Pujari and Bahun (priest) group,  2. Chhetri and Thakuri (rulers and warrior) group and, 3. Gharti, Pawai and Pahani (service provider) group. The terms Mahanta and Pujari also include Sanyasi and Jogi. Pawais are in Karnali region and also called Matwali Chhetri (Pokhrel, 2055 V.S. 653-55).

The Aryabartiya Aryans entered inside the boundary of present-day Nepal about 750 BC. They came to Butwal-Lumbini region and from there moved to Kathmandu valley around 2nd century. The first new comers to Kathmandu were the Bijjis or Briji or Lichchhavis. They established their tribal republic in Kathmandu by overthrowing the Kirat tribal republic from the valley. Similarly, Aidi-Khas Aryans had made a strong presence in the far western region of Nepal during the 10th century. Nagraj, an influential Khas king established a monarchy in Jumla region making Senjapuri, its capital. In this way a Khas kingdom came into being around middle of the 11th century. The kings of this dynasty have introduced themselves as “King of Khas” or “King of Khas kingdom”. The Khas had their control over a large territory which had a boarder with Nepal (or Kathmandu valley) in the east and Gadhwal in the west (Acharya, 2054 V.S.: 26, 51, and 52). Bahun, Chhetri, Thakuri and Sanneshi are the custom groups of Khas nationalities. They are 31.6 % of the total population of Nepal.

Hamilton has stated that during his field study in 1802-3, the Parvate or Khas language which the inhabitants of surrounding areas of Kathmandu spoke, was spreading fast and other local dialects were disappearing. The Khas language originated and developed in Khasan region got fast expansion as the Gorkha-Khas rule spread. Gradually, by replacing several local dialects, it developed as a lingua franca of the hills. The Rana Prime minister Chandra Sumsher, through a royal order nullified the legitimacy of any written document if they are not in Khas or Nepali language. Before this order, Nepali language was not compulsory in legal and administrative use (Malla, 1979: 143). The government started organized effort for the promotion of Nepali language by establishing “Gorkha Bhasa Prakashini Samiti” (Gorkha Language Publication committee) in 1913. Nepali art and literature had the opportunity to develop fast after the establishment of Royal Nepal Academy in 1957. For the expansion of opportunity, the protection and promotion of their mother tongue, Khas language or Nepali as it is said today, offered advantages for the Khas to leave behind other nationalities. The use of their mother language for legal, administrative and communication activities, the Khas got unequal advantages and had competitive edge. Not only it helped in expanding the opportunities for them, but also created mass psychology of their superior social status over other nationalities.   Some of the Khas historians claim that “the people including the Bhotes and Sherpas who reside in the far northern mountainous region and the people who are in the far south and whose mother tongue is either Bhojpuri or Avadhi or Maithili understand and speak Nepali language correctly (Bhandari, 2046 V.S.: 13). This statement does not reflect the reality. This is just the expression of Khas chauvinistic mindset. Among the Khas, more particularly in Khasan region, some people speak local dialects such as Doteli and Baitadeli which are local forms of Nepali.

In general, the Khas believe in Hinduism. But, not all are Hindus. Many Khas, mostly in Khasan region, worship either a nature God or believe on ancestral Gods, called “Mastos” and “Bhuvani”. Still, a large majority of Khas excluding Thakuri custom group, do not celebrate “Dashain”, the main Hindu festival in Nepal. Some people say that Dashain, is not celebrated due to the fear of local feudal lords (Pandey, 2056 V.S.: 1). Such conclusion has no basis to believe. The Khas have projected and propagated “Dashain” as the “Great National Festival”. But, their so-called national festival has no meaning for a large number of people in Khasan. This fact leads to the reality that many Khas in Khasan region have nothing to do with Hinduism. In this region “Masto” has widespread influence. Of course, “Masto” is a popular village God. “Masto” has no idol. They are worshiped in two places – Gharthan (place of worship in the village) and Banthan (place of worship in the jungle). They do not have any daily regular rituals. The nature-God worshiping Khas believe that there are 12 “Masto” brothers and 9 “Bhuvani” sisters. They worship at least one “Masto.” The names of the “Mastos” and “Bhuwanis” differ. The Khas believe that these “Mastos” have a destructive nature (Joshi, 2035 V.S.: 127-33). The tradition of “Masto worship” sounds a specific indigenous practice of Nepali Khas (Pokharel, 2055 V.S.: 644).

Although, a large number of the Khas of Khasan region have been influenced by Hinduism, they have not converted to Hinduism. Therefore, they worship the popular village God – the Masto and they do not believe in the story of heaven and hell. The other Khas, who have been influenced by the Hindu Aryabatiyan Khas, have adopted these “Mastos” as their local Gods. This is the continuation of their act of sponsoring Gautam Buddha as one of the incarnation of their own God Vishnu. Therefore, the religious beliefs of the Khas of Khasan region needs further study. Probably they practice animism (worship of inanimate objects and natural phenomenon) and shamanism (the use of shamans or priests to influence these gods of nature). The study will not only establish facts about the beliefs of the people, but also will help to enrich the understanding on the values and cultural specialties of this region.

The culture of the Khas, except in Khasan region, is highly influenced by Hinduism. In Khas region, the ancient Aide Khas practices are common.

Daura-Surwal (waist-folded, long sleeve shirt and tight trousers) is the dress of the Khas men, whereas women wear Sari-Cholo (mainly colorful, long, unstitched garment covering the lower part of the body and full sleeve blouse). Combination of Daura-suruwal and jacket has been given the status of a national dress for men. But, as it is not comfortable to wear, more particularly in the hot climate of the southern plains, now it has got just refugee by covering the bodies of the ministers, bureaucrats and the other infamous personalities. Indeed, the progressive Khas who know to wear cloth for comfort and style have adopted the shirt and trouser. Mostly, women wear Sari-Cholo, but the recent trend is that they have been moving to Kurta-Salwar (ladies’ shirt and trousers). A few educated women in the urban areas wear the western dresses too.

A large majority of the Khas depend on agriculture for their means of survival. The Khas have much larger access to and control over government and nongovernmental jobs. They have been in areas of industry, commerce and service sectors. The people of Bahun custom group are self-employed as priests all over Nepal and the Chhetri custom group has a large presence in the army, including its access to British and Indian army. Although, the Khas have access to opportunity and control over resources, there are a large number of poor and marginalized people among them. Mainly, the Khas people who reside in the Khasan region are in such situation of misery. The low income and marginalized Khas people in this region are subjected to political and economic exploitations primarily by their Thakuri cousins. The difficulties due to the geo-physical composition of the Khasan region have added to the misery of the low income Khas people.

According to Hindu caste hierarchy, the Khas are at the highest level of social order. But the Khas nationality is sitting over a volcano as it has imposed its superior status and has totalitarian control over the governance which has earned enemies in the form of all other oppressed nationalities and its own progressive section. If the Khas will not change the attitude and do not accept the path of partnership with other nationalities, they may have to see the dark days.

The Khas philosophy regarding life, death and larger world is primarily influenced by Hinduism. The Hindu system of social order, geo-physical compositions of their habitat and inter-nationality effects have contributed to the Khas outlook.  Although, the Khas culture originated in the Khasan region in the Karnali belt had a strong influence of native faiths, after the contact with their Aryabartiya cousins, the Hindu beliefs and values started to dominate their cultural lives. Therefore, among the ancient Aide Khas, some adopted Hinduism and some got just influence of it.  Hence, the everyday life and thinking of Hindu Khas has been highly influenced by the Hindu belief of fatalism. The rituals, custom, practice and festivals have been influenced by fatalistic beliefs. Hence, may it be the occasion of celebration or victory or defeat, a fatalistic Khas sings glory of his or her master – the God, who has all the power, joys and compassion. In this way, a conservative Khas prays the God and gets refuge in fatalism.

c. Dalit:

According to the Hindu code called Manushmriti (8/415), seven types of people have been put together as Sudras, the lowest level in the social order. They are:

1. Prisoners of war,

2. Slaves who have accepted slavery as means of survival,

3. Sons of a slave women servant,

4. Purchased individuals,

5. Individuals received as part of a religious gift,

6. Children of a slave father, and

7. Those who are declared as Sudras as a punishment by the king.

(Yakharai, 2053 V.S.: 124).

The so-called lower caste among Aryas and the defeated non-Aryans were called Sudras. They had been put in two categories – touchable and untouchable. The touchable Sudras were called Satsudra and untouchables were called Asatsudra. Satsudras included the custom groups such as Rais, Limbus, Gurungs, Magars, Tamangs, Tharus etc and the Asatsudras or the so-called untouchables include Kami, Damai. Sarki, Pode, Chyame, Kasai, Gaine, Badi, Musahar etc.

The dalit nationality is, in essence, the group of people clustered as untouchables. According to Baburam Acharya the Aryans use to bring in their fold to the defeated Kirats as untouchables in the beginning (Acharya, 2054 V.S.: 14). This statement leads to the conclusion that the Dalits are not only the descendents of the Khas-Aryans but also they have Mangolkirat blood too. The custom groups who have been suffering from the inhuman practice of untouchability based on Hindu caste hierarchy called Varnasharam include Kami, Damai, Sarki, Badi, Gaine, Pode, Chyame, Chamar, Musahar, Dushad etc. They are also called as “Pahani“. Among the Pahanis, there are several occupational sub groups such as Sujero (tailors), Gaine (Musicians and singers), Badhi (dancers), Damai (tailors) and Sarki (Shoemakers) (Pokharel, 2055 V.S.: 656). The Pahanis are the untouchables descended from the Khas whereas some of the other groups such as Chyame and Pode belong to Newar nationality and Chamar, Musahar and Dusadh are the people of Madhesi nationality. Therefore, in this study the so-called untouchables of Khas descend are analyzed separately as Dalits and the other so-called untouchables are included in the respective sections of their  nationalities. The so-called untouchables have been deprived of all sorts of respect from the larger society.

The reasons behind the study of the evolution of Dalits as a distinct nationality are as given below:

  • Their numerical presence
  • Special social position and the psycho make up, and
  • Their history of common struggle.

 

Indeed, the common basis for the formation of the Dalit nationality includes the Khas-Hindu atrocities against their survival, development and choices as an individual, family and a community. The Khas crushed every desire of their independent social existence. Therefore, they had no choice other than to fight against all sorts of Khas cruelties. In this way, the common bond developed through the participation in the process, and they developed as a distinct nationality.  The Dalits are 8.7% of the population of Nepal.

The mother tongue of Dalits also is Nepali. It is astonishing that on one side the Nepali speaking Khas control the resources and govern the society whereas the same language speaking Dalits have been facing all sort of difficulties, miseries and atrocities. The fact revels that though the language plays an important role in the progress of a nationality, but that alone could not ensure progress. Bahunbad[1], the cruelest form of the ideology of Hindu social order, has influenced the Dalits too, to create feelings of social inequality even among themselves. This type of divisions created distance for a long time and the Khas-Hindus had the opportunity to rule over them even more inhumanly. As a result, it took long time for them to get organized and to fight collectively against the Khas-Hindu slavery.

The Dalits who are kept extremely busy and have been given no choices, could not make their cultural life rich. Therefore, they do not have any festivals, joyful days or cultural riches. The provisions made by the Hindu-Khas prevented them even to touch the water pots, compelled them to develop distinctly inferior psycho-state and limited their social roles to the desires of their upper class Hindu masters.  Of course, they are rich in cultural skills, but are in a position just to utilize their skills on the need of the Khas masters. They perform to satisfy the need of Khas by dancing, singing or staging the dramas.

The Dalits differ with the Khas in the area of food habits. The Khas refrain from eating beef or drinking alcohol, whereas the Dalits enjoy such drinks and delicacies. The Dalits make artistic metal wares, agricultural implements, leather goods, and they also design and stitch dresses. They compose music and perform dances. But, unfortunately they make all such wonderful things and offer entertainment items for others, more particularly the Hindu-Khas masters.

Although, the dresses the Dalits wear are similar to what the Khas wear, but the quality of cloth is greatly inferior. Now-a-days, the educated Dalits, more particularly in the towns, wear western dresses.

The Khas say that Dalits are the Hindu untouchables. They keep them at the bottom of the religious hierarchy and prohibit observing any of the Hindu rituals. The great need here is to conduct a research to determine how the Dalits feel about being Hindu slaves. By judging through an independent viewpoint it is hard to believe that the Dalits think themselves as Hindu untouchables as Hinduism has not offered anything for them other than disrespect, inhuman torture, unimaginable difficulties and a way of self-destruction.  Of course, Hinduism has closed the door of self-esteem, progress and equality for the Dalits. Therefore, until the Hindu-Khas conservatives do not appoint a Dalit as the high priest of Pashupatinath (a highly revered Hindu temple in Kathmandu), nobody believes the propaganda of the Bahuns that Dalits are the Hindus. Collectively as a nationality, Dalits are secular. Further study on this issue could help to understand new aspects of their secular values and belief systems.

As their origin has been related to specific occupation, they are very much skilled in specific skills. Every custom group has its specific area of specialization. The people of some custom group design and stitch cloths some make shoes, some perform dances and some of them are composers and singers. This has not been continuing as that is their choice but as the Bahuns created compulsions for them to continue the specific task and on the long run this became a hereditary occupation. Due to difficulties to meet their survival needs by just confining in their traditional areas of specialization, they have started to work as agriculture laborers. Also, a few of them have just entered in the government and nongovernmental jobs.

The Hindu caste system has been a curse for them and their whole life has just been under the control of high caste Hindu-Khas. The Hindu-Khas legal system, which was part and parcel of the state legal system till 1960, had provisioned strict punishments for them if they dared to disobey the Khas or if they commit even minor crimes. They had to face more severe punishment for the same crime than a Khas. For centuries, they had to live for the Khas, according to the desire of the Khas and by doing the job asked by the Khas. That was their destiny. Also today, strange type of discriminations against them exists. For example, in Chainpur, the district headquarters of Bajahng, a major annual festival cum market activity used to take place for 15 days regularly. The place is very close to Chainpur Bazaar. During the days of the festival cum annual market, no Dalit is allowed to walk on the foot trail keeping the market place in lower height. The Khas believe that if they will walk through a higher altitude, the food items in the market could be impure. So, the Dalits could not walk on the regular trail as it is on higher altitude. Therefore, they have to take a longer and difficult pathway along the bank of a river. This was still in practice in 1998 AD. This strange practice reveals the atrocities the Dalits have been suffering. The interventionist and destructive Khas attitude and behaviors have made the survival of the Dalits very difficult even at this modern age.  The Dalits themselves also have become accustomed to accepting inferior treatment as they are in such environment for centuries. Therefore, they have to fight against, both, their inferior thinking and Khas atrocities. They have to wage struggle against the Hindu-Khas bondage, more particularly the most conservative aspect of Hinduism in Nepal – the Bahunbad (the Varnasram as prescribed in Manushmriti, and inhuman provisions added by the Bahuns). They have to destruct the unjust social order created by the Bahuns to benefit themselves and their other Hindu-Khas cousins.

d. Newar

 

Although, Lichchhivis defeated the Kirat tribal republic of Kathmandu, but they were a tiny minority and were not able to dominate the indigenous Nepar-Kirat (or Newar) culture. So, they adopted several Nepar-Kirat cultural practices and their language and become some type of semi-Kirats. In this way, assimilation of Aryan and Kirat culture provided the foundation of a new Newar nationality. The second invasion from the south, this time by the Vaisya Thakuris, defeated the Lichchhivis and prohibited them to get employment on government services. The Lichchhivis, who had adopted Buddhism long ago, were skillful in several life skills and commercial activities and had established control in such areas. Therefore, the Lichchhivies who were overthrown by the Thakuris had to go for agricultural activities. It is highly probable that the Jyapus of Kathmandu are the descendants of these Lichchhivis. Till today, the Jyapus who are Newars and have agriculture as their major occupation (Acharya, 2054 V.S.: 26-71). The term “Newa” or “Newar” has been used since 15th century. Although, there is no unanimity regarding the origin of the term “Newar”, it is certain that the nationality was the result of the process of assimilation of several centuries of different tribes (Nepali, 1965: 18, 34).  Hamilton also has stated the presence of several custom groups within Newars and has written on their culture. He has appreciated the Newar architecture, more particularly the wood carvings of the windows (Hamilton, 1819: 38). The Newars are 5.57% of the population of Nepal.

The Newars speak their own language. Although, they have the script called Ranjana, but that is not in use. King Jayasthiti Malla (1382-1395) introduced the Hindu caste system among Newars and created several social layers.[2] In the caste hierarchy, the priests (Joshi, Bajracharya etc) got the highest level followed by people of several trading groups. The third level was given to the Jyapus and at the bottom the people involved in cleaning services and butchery were placed and were considered as untouchables. These so-called untouchable custom groups include Pode, Kasai and Chyame.

The Newars are rich in their culture. They have festivals to celebrate spread all over the  year. Some Newars are Buddhists and some are Hindus. Generally, they live in the cities, towns or rural centers. Their dresses are similar to that of Khas and more recently the trend of wearing western dresses has gained momentum. The traditional community organizations called “Guthis” and art work play important roles in the lives of the Newars. The architectural riches of Kathmandu seen in the temple-buildings and palaces and artistic idols and cultural expressions seen in the art works are some of the fine examples. The Newars are at the front in creation arts and production of handicrafts.       

Although, a large majority of Newars are involved in agriculture, they have strong presence in the civil service and nongovernmental jobs. They also occupy primary space in commercial and industrial sectors. The non-agricultural sectors of Nepalese economy have been controlled by the Newars and Marwaris (a Madhesi migrant custom group).  They not only run relatively larger industrial or commercial enterprises, they own thousands of small stores all over Nepal.

The Hindu caste hierarchy has not only created social divisions among Newars, it has influenced the psychology of the people. Baburam Acharya says that they have so many steps of this system that could be compared with the steps of a stair (Acharya, 2054 V.S.: 78). Although, the Lichchhivis have brought the caste system with them during the third century, that was not effective among Newars. Jayasthi Malla implemented the notorious system for which the Hindu-Khas historians, the advocates of Bahunbad, say that he was a “great reformer”. Of course, Jayasthi Malla’s division of castes was a heinous crime against humanity. As a result of this criminal division, several custom groups among Newars, more particularly the so-called untouchables are suffering immensely. The social status of the Newars (excluding the so-called untouchables) as per Hindu-Khas traditional interpretation is equal to that of the Mangolkirats.

Generally, the Newars are peace-loving and hard working people. They like joyful life. Hundreds of Jatras and feasts are the expressions of it. If the war against the Gorkha-Khas has been considered as exception, they have sacrificed several things to preserve peace and tranquility. Entrepreneurship is one of the most important qualities which has played important role in determining the economic life of Newars. The economic behaviors of the Khas and the Newar could be compared with the two large powers of global economy – USA and Japan. USA includes hooliganism and hegemonism to protect and expand its economic interests whereas Japan has emphasized to strengthen its competitiveness. The Japanese style is best known for bowing politely and safeguarding their interest in a unique way. The similarity between Japanese and Newars might have been traced in their similar history of defeats. The Japanese were defeated in the Second World War and the Newars had the similar experience when they had to swallow the defeat on the hands of Gorkha-Khas. The Newar tendency of preserving peace is most of the time misinterpreted by the Khas, who use to spread rumors that Newars are cowards.

e. Madhesi

No authentic and detail study is available regarding the historical background of the southern plains. One of the reasons for neglecting the history of the entire Madhesi region or the southern plains could be that most of the area was covered with thick forests for centuries. In exception, a few mentions could be found about Janakpur, Kichakdesh, Kapilvastu and Bijji or Simaraungadh in the pre-historical epics such as Ramayana and Mahabharata.  During early historical days, there are no major historical events documented.  During 6th century BC, Buddhism originated at the southern plains, more particularly at Kapilavastu. The Shakya price Siddartha, known as Gautam Buddha, propagated new religious faiths, which was called afterward as Buddhism. The Hindu-Arya-Bahuns confronted against and defeated Buddhism in the southern plains and gave the area a new name called Madhyadesh, which covered the land from Ambala in the west and Prayag in the east. The word “Madhyadesh” became “Madhesh” after distortion of centuries. The hill people of Nepal also started to call the area covering the plains of Nepal, Bihar and Avadh as Madhesh. But, presently the word “Madhesh” has a limited use which just refers to the southern plains of Nepal (Acharya, 2054 V.S.: 8). Inhabitants of this region started to be called as “Madhesi”. Gopal Sing Nepali has called them as Madhesi cultural group (Nepali, 1995: 36).

The foundation in the formation of the nationality include the common bond originated from the economic as well as social difficulties originated due to the new immigrants from the hills and northern India and the unfair treatment of the Khas state which considered the Madhesis as second class citizens. The Madhesis had been subjected to several atrocities which include the serious doubt expressed by the Khas regarding their loyalty towards Nepal and their patriotism itself. The Mangolkirats and the Newars also treated the Madhesis unfairly under the influence of Khas practices. Such unfair behaviors from the Mangolkirats and the Newars helped Khas to divide and rule.

The Madhesi nationality has a diverse descend. They include the Tharu, Dhimal, Koche of Kirat origin, Jhagads of Dravin origin, Yadav, Kushwaha, etc of Aryan origin and Muslims of Arya-kirat mixed origin. The Madhesis are 30.9% of the population of Nepal.

Similar to Mangolkirats, the Madhesis also have different linguistic groups and native groups. Their major languages include Tharu, Maithili, Bhojpuri and Avadhi. The other languages are Hindi, Urdu, Bengali, Marwari etc. The custom groups include Yadav or Ahir, Kayastha, Kumhar, Baniya, Dhobi, Sudhi or Kalwar, Kurmi, Brahman (Madhesi), Rajput, Tharu, Teli, Kuahmar, Muslim, Halwai, Mallah, Rajbanshi, Dhimal, Gangai, Marwari, Bangali, Dhanuk, Sikh, Dushadh, Chamar, Khatwe, Musahar, Kewat, Rajbhar and Kanu. There are some very small groups also, such as Meche, Kishan, Satar, Jhangad, Tajpuria etc. The Central Bureau of Statistics has grouped these smaller groups together as “the other Terai groups”. Here, some people may raise the question of grouping Tharus and Dhimals as Madhesis as their origin was Kirat. In the beginning, the Aryans included the defeated Kirats in their community as slaves and made them untouchable Sudras. But, in the later stage, they included them without making them slaves and untouchables. Tharus were one among such groups. On the long run, the Tharus started to speak the language of the Arays, forgot their own cultural practices and adopted Aryan life-styles (Acharya, 2054 V.S.: 14). The Aryans mentioned here were the Bijjis or the ancestors of several other people of Madhesi custom groups. The same is true for the Dhimals.

The Madhesi nationality has several cultural traits and social divisions.[3] Some of these differences are related to the different religions, cultural practices and languages to a specific community of the other side of the boarder.

The main Madhesi festivals include Maghi among Tharus; Chhath, Holi and Diwali among Hindus Eid among Muslims. By religion, they are either Hindus or Jain or Muslim or nature-God worshippers (Animism and Shamanism). There are a small number of Sikhs too. Madhesis are rich in culture. Their cultural basket is full of folk dances. A large menu of folk dances among Hindus related to pleasing different Gods or Goddesses exists. Among them the prominent once include Jijhiya (to making Goddess Bhavani happy), Sama-Chakwa (performed during Chhath festival to please Sun God), Kirtaniya (in praise of Lord Krishna), Bhagata (in praise of Kali or Sokha Goddess) and Nachari (in praise of God Shiva). There are some other dances performed as occupation to make their livelihood or performed just as folk dance without any religious aim. These dances include Kaharwa (among Hindus performed for livelihood), Mungrahaha (Tharu folk dance), Sakhiya (performed by girls), Jhumar (performed by women) and Phugwa or Hori (during Holi festival) (Rakesh, 1994).

Dhoti (long, unstitched garment which covers the lower part of the body) or Kachhad (short unstitched garment which covers from waist to knee) together with shirt is the Madhesi dress for men. The educated men wear western dresses also. Blouse and Sari is the women’s dress. The Muslim women, occasionally, cover themselves with veil. Now-a-days, the women can be seen wearing Kurta-Salwar and a few have started to wear western dresses.

Agriculture is the main occupation of a large majority of people and a small but influential group (Marwaris) has a strong presence in the industrial and commercial sectors. More recently, the Madhesi people also have started to occupy positions in civil service and non-government sectors.

The Madhesi Hindu society has been divided into several social layers as prescribed in the Hindu code – the infamous Manushmriti. Social evils such as upper-lower caste, touchable-untouchable, pure-impure and many more have compounded the life of people. Traditionally, the Hindu society puts Dhobi, Teli, Sudhi or Kalwar, Chamar, Khatwe, Musahar in the groups of untouchables. But, Tharu, Dhimal and Muslim communities have no such divisions.

The over all outlook of the Madhesis has been guided by their religious beliefs. The Hindus are rained by the beliefs originated from Hindu orthodoxy. Their philosophy of live is determined by fatalism. They have a dependant mindset. The difference between Khas and Madhesis regarding the impact is observed in their superior and inferior psycho-state. The Khas with state power believe that they are there to rule and that is their fate, whereas the Madhesis too accept the Khas servitude as their fate. This type of psycho-state can be seen among the non-Hindus too. This could happen as an affinity syndrome. Perhaps, the state power plays a major role to govern the state of mind.

3. A Note on “Other Groups” and Religion

The above classification covers 98.9% of the population. Still, there is 1.1% population left out. In this 1.1%, there are a few small groups. They include Dolpo, Lhapa, Siyar, Barhagaule, Holung, Tangve, Marphali, Chitan, Chhairotan, Lhomi, Larke, Mugali, Manange, Thudum, Tapkegola, Thimtan, Syangtan, Byashi, Dura, Chhantyal, Pahari, Kusunda, Baramo, Kushbadiya, Hayu, Hyolmo, Bhujel, Surel, Fri, Bankariya (Mabuhang, 2056 V.S.: 95), Churaute etc. Their nationality has to be decided and for this purpose a separate study is to be carried out.  But, the classification above and the analysis which will follow will have no effect by this study as their percentage is too small.

In the above analysis, religion has been discussed in relation with every nationality and custom groups. This scenario may lead to a false conclusion that everybody in Nepal practices one or the other religion and there are no religiously neutral or secular minded people or atheists. Such conclusion does not reflect the reality as day by day the number of secular minded or religiously neutral people is increasing. universal humanity and total respect for human dignity are replacing the traditionally prescribed sectarian, unscientific and socially immoral systems established by organized religions.

The panorama presented by the presence of different nationalities in Nepal is the very foundation on which the wonderful society stands. Hence, the society has a unique feature of unity in diversity. Indeed, Nepalese society is the whole sum of the cultural values, viewpoints, life styles, social interactions, belief systems, languages and economic behaviors of all nationalities. Therefore, the introduction and identity of a Nepalese society could be seen in the colorful amalgamation and convergence of cultures and not in a single set of values and social practices.

Chapter Three

Access to Power and Opportunities and the Gaps

After the analysis of the composition and presence of different nationalities, it is natural to examine their role as leaders of the state and the society. The role of leadership, more particularly in the governance of the state, influences the quality, dynamism and orientation in each and every level. The leadership is the small but most important mirror where each class, nationality or community wants see its reflection. If his or her image is not there, naturally, he or she raises questions. For instance, a case of the composition of a party could be presented.  Before the people’s movement of 1990, the organizational structure and the occupiers of higher level positions were kept secret by one of the influential political party of today. One fine night, one important cadre of that party got opportunity to see the galaxy of the leaders as the central committee meeting was called in the area of his responsibility. The fortunate cadre was of a non-Khas nationality. He was astonished seeing nearly all Khas (more particularly Bahuns) faces. The party, which was publicly declaring as a champion of equality, the leadership composition did not reflect it at all. Therefore, that particular cadre raised the issue of Khas (particularly Bahun) domination in the party. The leadership could not tolerate and he was summarily dismissed from all positions of the party. Now, that particular cadre is playing an influential role in the movement launched for equality for all nationalities. The example here amply proves that any nationality looks at the leadership and tries to see its image there. If it is absent ask questions, if it has a weak presence takes the path of research to find out the reasons. Therefore, in this process, anybody can take the responsibility to find out the facts, evidences and reasons and can help to resolve the inequalities. This is not only a need but an obligation for them who claim as advocates of social equality. These undertakings will help to unearth the problems and the causes and help to build foundation for resolving them. With this aim, a study has been carried out to know factually what the governance scenario in regard to nationality presence in the leadership is there in Nepal.

The analysis covers the important areas such as judiciary, legislature and local government bodies, central cabinet, civil service,   political parties, private sector organizations, education and cultural sector, civil society, women’s leadership etc.

Primarily, the study focuses on the top layer of leadership positions and the nationality of the occupiers of such positions. Also, some positions of middle and grassroots level have been included in the study with the purpose of cross verification of the composition at top level. The examples include the study of the officials of judiciary other than that judges, local government bodies and nongovernmental organizations.  For a few occupiers of the positions, whose nationality could not be established by surname, direct verification or other reliable sources are kept out of the study and their number is mentioned in the notes.

1 Judiciary

 

Judges and officials of judicial administration, constitutional bodies and commissions:

The judiciary has a long history in Nepal. It goes back to the ancient times (around 7th century B.C) during Kirat tribal republics.[4] Judiciary as one of the most important organ of governance which has so long history in Nepal not only reflects the presence of several social groups in its top positions but also influences the cultural practices of the society through the judgments it delivers. Therefore, the composition of Judiciary represents directly or indirectly the values, belief systems, cultural traits and perspectives of particular nationalities too. The judges occupy prime space among them. The statistical presentations below speak about the nationality composition of the judiciary, constitutional bodies and commissions.

Table -1  Analysis of the nationalities of the Judges        
               
Courts Khas Mangolkirat Madhesi Dalit Newar Other Total
Supreme court 16       2   18
Appellate court 74 2 16   15   107
District court 91 2 2   15   110
Total 181 4 18   32   235
Percentage 75.7 1.7 7.6   13.6   100
population percentage 31.6 22.3 30.9 8.6 5.6 1.1 100
Supreme court (1959) 8   1   1   10
Percentage (1959) 80   10   10   100
               
Note: 1 Two judges of the district courts have not been included due to inability to determine their nationality.

 

Source: Analysis of nationalities of the Judges mentioned in SC, (2053 V.S.), SC (2054 V.S.), SC (2055 V.S.) Kanun Patrka, (2015 V.S.).

Table – 2 Nationality of officers of judicial services who were posted through a gazette  
order of 20 Paush 2055            
Particulars Khas Mangolkirat Madhesi Dalit Newar Other Total
Number 260   6   7   273
Percentage 92.5   2.2   2.6   100
               
Note: Eight officers have not been included in the study due to inability to determine their nationality.
               
Source: Nepal Gazette, 2055 V.S. (Ka)          
                       

 

Table – 3,  Nationality of officers who were assigned in the duty of returning officer during 1999 GeneralElection
Particulars Khas Mangolkirat Madhesi Dalit Newar Other Total
Number 180 2 8   9   199
Percentage 87.8 1 4   4.4   100
               
Note: Six officers have not been included in the study due to inability to determine their nationality.
               
Source: Nepal Gazette, 2055 V.S. (Kha)          

 

The above statistics present a clear picture of Khas rule in the judiciary of Nepal. No Dalit occupy any positions and the Mangolkirats have a nominal presence. Even the presence of Madhesis is like that of a malnourished child. Newar hold more positions in relation to their presence in the total population, but their number is like that of a dwarf comparing the numbers the Khas hold. The inequality in judiciary is striking. This inequality has been reflected in the limitation of the understanding of non-Khas culture, values, beliefs and custom among the judges and their nationality neutral judgments. The insensitivity of these “super human” called judges who enjoy immunity from public criticism may create more alienation of the nationalities they give verdict against. The verdict of the supreme court in relation to prohibit the use of languages of nationalities in the local government bodies is one notorious example of the insensitivity of these Khas judges. In the countries like Nepal where professional morality and loyalty to the cause of justice are in their infancy, the immunity enjoyed by the judges protects them from all sorts of misdeeds including materializing their personal interests and maintaining status quo. The immoral work ethics, practices and insensitive verdicts in Nepal further support this conclusion. In such context, the Khas monopoly in the judiciary has to be brought to end. The reforms may not be enough to break the centuries old system, and this may call for a movement for transformation. The Khas with all their repressive design, reactionary efforts and misuse of state power may delay the process, but they will not succeed to prevent the radical change.

Table – 4 Nationality of the chief of constitutional bodies and commissioners of the commissions
               
Organization Khas Mangolkirat Madhesi Dalit Newar Other Total
Public Service Commission 3 1 1   1   6
Election Commission 3   1   2   6
Abuse of Auht Prev Comm 3 1     1   5
Planning Commission 3   1   2   6
Attorney General 1           1
Auditor General 1           1
Total 14 2 3   6   25
Percentage 56 8 12   24   100
Population 31.6 22.3 30.9   5.6   100
               
Analysis of nationalities of the officials mentioned in NIMD, 1999.      

 

The commissions and the constitutional bodies mentioned above play vital role in areas of transparency in governance and insuring equal opportunity for all citizens. In composition of these organizations, once again, is highly dominated by the Khas, which makes equal opportunity a hollow slogan in Nepal. The Dalits, as usual, are absent and a few Magolkirats and Madhesis show up as cosmetics.  Once again, the Newars occupy too many positions.

2. Executive

The council of ministers, civil service and royal palace bureaucracy, army and police administration

Indeed, the developing countries are primarily governed by the executive branch of the state power. The policies and programs of the government and its implementation heavily influence social justice. The partnership among nationalities in this important state mechanism helps to insure equality and social harmony in the society.

Table – 5, Nationality analysis of the members of the Council of Ministers

level Khas Mangolkirat Madhesi Dalit Newar Other Total
Ministers 13   3   3   19
Minister of State 5 1 2       8
Assistant ministers 2 3         5
Total 20 4 5   3   32
Percentage 62.5 12.5 15.6   9.4   100
First elected  govt 1959 10 5 3   1   19
Percentage 52.6 26.3 15.8   5.3   100
               
Source: Gupta, 1964: 275; The Kathmandu Post Daily, July 01, 1999, Kathmandu.  

 

Table – 6 Nationality of higher echelon of civil service, royal palace service, Police and army  
               
Description Khas Mangolkirat Madhesi Dalit Newar Other Total
Civil service (secretaries) 29   3   7   39
Royal P service (Sec. Joit 20       8   28
Civil service ( joit sec sp .Sec 69 1 3   21   94
Army (Maj Gen and Above 7           7
Police (IG/AIG) 3 1     1   5
Chief Dist Officers 62 1 3   6   72
Total 190 3 9   43   245
Percentage 77.5 1.2 3.7   17.6   100
Secretaries (1959) 7   1   3   11
Dist. Officers (Badahakim) 21 7 2   2   32
Total 28 7     5   43
Percentage 65.1 16.3 6.9   11.6   100
               
Source: Analysis of nationalities of the officials mentioned in Devkota, 2033 V.S.: 239, 274; NIMD, 1999.

 

Note: Three officials of royal palace service and three Chief District Officers have been excluded due to difficulty in determining their nationality.

The executive branch of the state power revels, once again, the domination of the Khas. The council of ministers was more balanced in 1959 in comparison to 1999. The same is true for other administrative positions except for the Newars. This comparison expresses the negligence of social justice during the period covering the last four decades. The leadership of the police and army is also no different. The Mangolkirats are renowned for their fighting ability and are considered as martial race. The strange reality is that only a Mangolkirat officer is there among the 12. This fact just reinforces the common belief that in Nepal to be on the top ability, bravery and intelligence are not enough and they could be very much neglected if someone has no Khas origin. For a long time, Madhesis, Dalits and Newars were barred from the recruitment in the army.  According to Eden Vansittart, who wrote “Notes on Nepal” in 1895, at that time all army officers above the rank of Lieutenant were only Khas (Vansittart, 1993: 68). There is the continuation of the same practice with some exceptions. Another striking feature is that the royal palace service is full of Khas and Newars. Khas and Newars together form 37.2 % of the population whereas 92.2% positions in the royal palace service they have occupied.

3. Legislature

Legislature is such type of institutional mechanism which shapes the future of a country and also reflects the will of the people. Therefore, this branch of state power occupies important place. The social, nationality and class backgrounds of the representatives make differences and influence the consequences seriously. In this context, the statistical picture of the composition of the legislature makes sense to study.

Table – 7 Nationality analysis of the members of parliament      
               
Chamber Khas Mangolkirat Madhesi Dalit Newar Other Total
National Assembly (1999) 35 6 7 4 8   60
House of Representative (1999) 124 30 39   12   205
Total 159 36 46 4 20   265
Percentage 60 13.6 17.4 1.5 7.5   100
National Assembly (1959) 23 4 3   6   36
House of Representative (1959) 64 17 24   4   109
Total 87 21 27   10   145
Percentage 60 14.5 18.6   6.9   100
               
Source: Analysis of nationalities of the members mentioned in Devkota, 2033 V.S.: 79-111 & 200-202; Khanal, 2055 V.S.: 45-95; NTC, 2056 V.S. and NIMD 1999.

 

The picture at local level may avail the opportunity for verifying the above scenario.

Table – 8 Chairmen of District Development Committees and Mayor and Deputy Mayors of Municipalities
               
Level Khas Mangolkirat Madhesi Dalit Newar Other Total
DDC Chairman 50 13 7   5   75
Mayor/Deputy Mayor 57 23 31   30   116
Total 106 23 31   30   191
Percentage 55.4 12 16.2   15.7   100
               
               
Source: Analysis of nationalities of the officials mentioned in NIMD, 1999.    

 

The Khas presence in the parliament is 60%, which was in 1959 too. This fact reflects the continuation of Khas domination in legislature. Khas and Newars control large number of local bodies. The Khas domination has influenced the social sector priorities and played role in persevering their privileges. The news broadcast in Sanskrit language and the signature campaign in the parliament in favor of Sanskrit has reveled the same fact. That role was further reflected in the proposal of intent submitted in the parliament to prohibit drinking liquor in the country. Both, these attempts amply reveal the Khas-Bahun attempt to make Nepal a heaven for Khas at the cost of all other nationalities.

4. Political Parties

Table – 9, Nationality analysis of the central committee members of national parties  
Parties Khas Mangolkirat Madhesi Dalit Newar Other Total
Nepali Congress 22 3 4   2   31
CPN (UML) 28 1 1   2   32
CPN (ML) 18 5 4   9   36
RPP – Thapa 15 8 9   2   34
RPP – Chand 14 8 7   3   32
Total 97 25 26   18   165
Percentage 58.8 15.1 15.7   10.9   100
Population 31.6 22.3 30.9 8.6 5.6 1.1 100
Leadership of major parties (1959) 50 11 7   11   79
Percentage 63.2 13.9 8.8   13.9   100
               
Source: Analysis of nationalities of the officials mentioned in NIMD, 1999.; Gupta, 1964: 285-287

 

The table above reaffirms the general belief that every aspect of Nepalese political power is under the control of Khas. All parties have a heavy load of Khas. Among them the Communist Party of Nepal (UML) appears as an extra-ordinary Khas (88%) party followed by Nepali Congress (71%) and the Communist Party of Nepal (ML) as third (50%). The twin pro-palace rightist parties – Rastriya Prajatantra Party (Thapa) and (Chand) both have 44% Khas among their central members. It is interesting to note that the Communist Party of Nepal (ML) has 25% members from Newar nationality. Compared to their strength in the population (5.6%), it is astonishing. The other factor which makes situation crystal clear of the Khas-rule in the political area is expressed through the bitter fact that Khas are the defacto head of all national parties. Only the Communist Party of Nepal (ML) has a Newar lady as its chairwoman, but this position has no real teeth to chew the nuts as all the executive powers are exercised by the General Secretary. The Dalits are nowhere in the picture and Mangolkirats have a limited presence. If critically examined, their position sounds a bit better only because of their number in the twin Rastriya Prajatantra Parties, which is less influential anyway. The Madhesi nationality is in a bit better situation as they have their own national party (Nepal Sadbhawana Party) too. Khas and Newar together have grabbed double of the positions, they could have reasonably.

5. Private Sector

Commerce and Industry

Table – 10 Nationality analyses of the officials at organizational leadership positions in Commerce and Industry.
               
Organizations Khas Mangolkirat Madhesi Dalit Newar Other Total
Nepal Chambers of Commerce 4   11   11   25
Federation of Commerce and Industry 4   4   9   17
Total 8   15   20   42
Percentage 16.7   35.7   47.6   100
               
Source: Analysis of nationalities of the officials mentioned in NIMD, 1999.;FCIN, 2056  

 

Note: Three officials of Nepal Chambers of Commerce have been excluded due to difficulty in determining their nationality. All 11 Chamber members and 4 Federation members of Madhesi nationality are from Marwari custom group. The total Marwari population is 25265 (just 0.14% of the total population).

The Nepalese economy, more particularly non-agricultural sectors, is controlled by the Newars and Marwaris (a small immigrant group, one among the Madhesi custom groups). This is the only area where Khas have no effective control. But this does not ensure justice as the second most powerful nationality the Newars (5.6% of the population) hold a large number seats in the leadership (47.6%). The Dalits, Mangolkirats and non-Marwari Madhesis are absent.

6. Education, Culture, Science and Technology

Table 11, Education Sector, Nationality analysis of the officials at leadership positions of academic
and administrative wings of Tribhuvan University          
Positions Khas Mangolkirat Madhesi Dalit Newar Other Total
Vice-chancellor 1           1
Academic Leadership – Deans 4   1   4   9
Research Centers – Executive Directors 5           5
Higher Administrative positions 15 2     7   24
Professors 87   23   59   169
Total 112 2 24   70   208
Percentage 53.8 1 11.5   33.7   100
               
Source: Analysis of nationalities of the officials mentioned in NIMD, 1999.    

Note: Two professors are excluded due to difficulty in determining their nationality.

The Khas domination is reflected in this area also. Again, the Newars occupy large space (33.7%). Although a Sanskrit university in Dang in western Nepal[5] has not been included in the study, still the Khas enjoy a privileged position. It is surprising that a university has been established to teach Sanskrit language and literature whereas that could be done by establishing an institute within Tribhuvan University. Interesting to note could be that this Sanskrit university is just for the Khas, more specifically only Bahuns.

Table – 12, Education sector – Nationality analysis of the officials at leadership  positions of  
the University Teacher’s Association, School Teacher’s Associations        
Organizations Khas Mangolkirat Madhesi Dalit Newar Other Total
Nepal University Teacher’s Association 16   2   3   21
Nepal Teacher’s Association 24 2 3 1 1   31
Nepal National Teacher’s Association 25   1   3   30
Total 65 2 6   7   82
Percentage 79.3 2.4 7.3   8.5   100

 

Source: Analysis of nationalities of the officials mentioned in NIMD, 1999 and Contact details, Officials of seventh central committee, Nepal National Teacher’s Association, Kathmandu (2055 V.S.).

The above picture is another evidence of the domination of the Khas closely followed by the Newars. The data on the number of graduates also supports the same finding.[6]

Table – 13, Literature and Culture: Royal Nepal Academy and other cultural and literary organizations
               
Organizations Khas Mangolkirat Madhesi Dalit Newar Other Total
VC and Academy members (RNA) 37 4     16   57
Cine Artiste Association 15       2   17
Nepal Progressive writer’s Association 33 2     4   39
Total 85 6     22   113
Percentage 75.2 5.3     19.5   100
Note: RNA academicians include the council, assembly and honorary members.  
               
Source: Analysis of nationalities of the officials mentioned in NIMD, 1999 and PRALESA (2052 V.S.)

 

In cultural institutions too, the Khas-Newar domination continues. Together, they control 94.7% of the leadership positions. The Gaines and Badis among the Dalits who are the champions of folk dance and singing and the Madhesi nationality which is rich in traditional form of art, literature and culture is totally absent. The Mangolkirats also have a nominal share. The cultural hegemony is highly questionable. But the Khas chauvinists may just label such people who raise questions as secessionists and communal elements.

Table – 14, Scientific and technical sector          
               
Organizations Khas Mangolkirat Madhesi Dalit Newar Other Total
Royal Nepal Academy for            
Science and Technology 8   2   10   20
Nepal Medical Association 8 1 2   3   14
Nepal Engineering Association 10   2   3   15
Nepal Nursing Association 10 1     2   13
Total 36 2 6   18   62
Percentage 58.1 3.2 9.7   29   100
               
Source: Analysis of nationalities of the officials mentioned in NIMD, 1999.    

 

The Khas and Newars, together, occupy 87.1% positions leaving 12.9% positions to a combined population of 54.1% Mangolkirats and Madhesis. There is no Dalit face at all.

7. Civil Society

Table – 15, Civil society Leadership          
               
Organizations Khas Mangolkirat Madhesi Dalit Newar Other Total
Nepal Bar Association 15   1   1   17
NGO Federation 9   3   3   16
Federation of Nepalese Journalists 17 1     4   21
Total 41 1 4   8   54
Percentage 75.9 1.6 7.4   14.8   100
               
Source: Analysis of nationalities of the officials mentioned in NIMD, 1999.    

 

The intellectuals talk about equality. Many people, who are with the civil society organizations, make noises that they favor equity and justice. In such organizations, a combined total of 91% leadership positions are occupied by the Khas and Newars. An irony!

Table – 16, Occupiers of the top level professional positions in the civil society organizations  
               
Types of Organization/Number Khas Mangolkirat Madhesi Dalit Newar Other Total
Nepalese NGOs                         (72) 104 13 11   85   213
Human Rights organizations      (27) 29 2 1   7   39
Editors (Weeklies, Dailies)       (104) 77 4 4   25   111
Total                                         (203) 210 19 16 1 117   363
Percentage 57.8 5.2 4.4 0.3 32.2   100
Note: Twelve officials of the NGOs, 2 of human rights organizations and 13 editors are not included in the
study as their nationality could not be determined.        
               
Source: Analysis of nationalities of the officials mentioned in NIMD, 1999.    

 

Not only the leadership of the civil society organizations is under the control of Khas and Newars, they have captured 90% top level professional positions.

8. Women’s Leadership

Table – 17, Women at leadership positions          
               
Organizations Khas Mangolkirat Madhesi Dalit Newar Other Total
Members, Advisory Council (1953-1959) 13 2 1   1   17
Parliament members (1959-60) 2           2
Rastriya Panchayat members(1963-1990) 15 3 2   1   21
Parliament members (1991-1999) 21 2 2   3   28
Chairwomen, women’s associations (1999) 10   1   2   13
Central members, national parties 9   3   4   16
Ministers (1959-1999) 11 2     1   14
Total 81 9 9   12   111
Percentage 72.9 8.1 8.1   10.8   100
               
               
Source: Analysis of nationality of women leaders mentioned in Ashmita, Issue 50 (Thapa, 2056 V.S.: 20-35)

 

In general, the patriarchal Hindu social set-up has made women’s life miserable. A few women are fortunate to make them visible. Again, most of them are from the Khas and Newar nationality. They hold 83.7% positions together. By cultural upbringing, Mangolkirat women have a better chance to develop as they are comparatively face less burden imposed by Hindu orthodoxy. Comparatively, women of indigenous community (Mangolkirats) are more independent than that the women in Hind social set-up (Bhattachan, 2056 Ka V.S.: 76-79). But, that has no tangible impact in their role as leaders.

9. Development Planning, Funding, Research and Sports

Table – 18, Members of important communication, development, sports and research councils
               
Council Khas Mangolkirat Madhesi Dalit Newar Other Total
Press Council 14   1   6   21
National Development Council 10 1 2 1 6   20
Nepal Sports Council 9 4 1   1   15
Nepal Health Research Council 4   1   3   8
Total 37 5 5 1 16   64
Percentage 57.8 7.8 7.8 1.6 25   100
               
Source: Analysis of nationalities of the officials mentioned in NIMD, 1999.    

 

The policy makers and researchers are no different. The Khas and Newars together hold 82.8% such critical positions.

Table – 19, Nepalese professionals at leadership positions in foreign donor agencies in Nepal  
               
Agency type/number Khas Mangolkirat Madhesi Dalit Newar Other Total
INGOs/112 23 10   1 14   48
Multilateral agencies/21 15 5     7   27
Total 38 15   1 21   75
 Percentage 50.6 20.0   1.3 28.0   100
               
Note: Six officials on INGOs and 3 of multilateral agencies have not been included due to difficulty in determining their nationalitySource: Analysis of nationalities of the officials mentioned in NIMD, 1999.

 

The INGOs, self proclaimed champions of social justice, and the multilateral agencies, both, behave not so differently compared to other Nepalese institutions. The Khas and the Newars hold together 70.2% top level professional positions in these donor agencies. 

The Khas domination is seen in all areas. Beyond doubt, the figures above simply reflect the inequalities.

To draw a general picture by analyzing the nationalities, who occupy the most important positions in the governance of the country, a Primary Nationality Index of Governance (PNIG) has been presented. In this index, the nationality of judges of the Supreme Court, ministers and parliament members (lower house) has been analyzed as they together hold the state power.

10. Summary – Nationality Indexes

Table 20, Primary Nationality Index of Governance – 1999        
               
Agency Khas Mangolkirat Madhesi Dalit Newar Other Total
Supreme Court 16       2   18
House of Representative 124 30 39   12   205
Council of Ministers 20 4 5   3   32
Total 160 34 44   17   255
Percentage 62.7 13.3 17.3   6.7   100
Population 31.6 22.2 30.9 8.7 5.6 1.1 100
Difference (percentage)      + 31.1            – 8.9     – 13.6    – 8.7      +1.1      – 1.1  –
               
Source: As mentioned in Table 1, 5 & 7 above.          

 

The index shows that Khas is the ruling nationality in Nepal. The Mangolkirats, Madhesi and Dalits have been kept out of the opportunities. Although, they are also subjected to humiliation culturally, the Newars are in a better position and have grabbed the opportunities otherwise should be going to other deprived nationalities. The Khas occupy double the most influential positions of critical nature than what they could occupy proportionate to their percentage of the population.

The assessment of all major comparisons presented above in an integrated picture will more accurately reflect the nationality presence in governance in la larger context. Therefore, below an Integrated Nationality Index of Governance (INIG) has been presented.

Table – 21, Integrated Nationality Index  of Governance – 1999      
               
Agency Khas Mangolkirat Madhesi Dalit Newar Other Total
Judiciary 181 4 18   32   235
Constitutional bodies/ Commissions 14 2 3   6   25
Council of Ministers 20 4 5   3   32
Civil Administration 190 3 9   43   245
Legislature 159 36 46 4 20   265
Political party leadership 97 25 26   18   165
Local bodies (DDC Chairmen, Mayor/deputy Mayor) 106 23 31   30   191
Industry and commerce sector 7   15   20   42
Education Sector – Academic & Administrative leadership 75 2 7 1 11   97
Cultural Sector – Academic & Administrative leadership) 85 6     22   113
Science & Technology Sector 36 2 6   18   62
Civil Society leadership 41 1 4   8   54
Total 1011 108 170 5 231   1520
Percentage 66.5 7.1 11.2 0.3 15.2   100
Population 31.6 22.2 30.9 8.7 5.6 1.1 100
Difference (Percentage)       +34.9          – 15.1     – 19.7     – 8.4     + 9.6    – 1.1  –
               
Source: As mentioned in Table 1 – 18 above.          

 

Once again, the integrated index also reveals the same situation. The Khas and Newars occupy more than 81% of the important positions. They control all areas of critical governance – state power, private sector, public sector, communication, academia and civil society.

11. Trend Assessment – Comparison between Primary indexes of 1959 and 1999

Table – 22, Comparison between Primary Nationality Index of Governance – 1959 and 1999.        
               
Agency Khas Mangolkirat Madhesi Dalit Newar Other Total
Supreme Court (1959) 8   1   1   10
House of Representative (1959) 64 17 24   4   109
Council of Ministers (1959) 10 5 3   1   19
Total (1959) 82 22 28   6   138
Percentage 1959 59.4 15.9 20.3   4.3   100
Percentage  1999 (see Table – 20) 62.7 13.3 17.3   6.7   100
Difference (Percentage)        + 3.3            – 2.6         – 3.0        + 2.4    –
               
Source: Analysis of nationalities of the officials mentioned in NIMD, 1999 and Devkota, 2033 V.S.:79-111, 239, 274, & 200 -202

 

The trend is discouraging as the gap is ever widening. The inequality in 1999 is wider than in 1959. In these 40 years, Khas and Newar together have increased their hold on critically important positions by 5.7%. Therefore, in Nepal, not only social justice has been denied, the injustices have been increasing.

12. Observations

The facts analyzed above lead to the following observations:

  • The Khas were the ruling nationality, they are still ruling and their control has been strengthening.
  • The Newars have moved up in several areas. Now, they have become junior partner of the Khas in governance. But, the Khas continue to dominate them culturally, which is most visibly seen in the persecution of their language.
  • Madhesis were the nationality ruled and they are in the same position today. Over all, their status has not changed though their presence in political parties has increased and in administration the same has decreased.
  • Since the expansion of Gorkha kingdom in 1768, the Mangolkirats position has changed from a ruler to a subject. In all areas of governance, they continue to be weak. If the same trend continues, they also may have the same status as that of Dalits.
  • Dalits were extraordinarily marginalized, they are still marginalized and their presence in the governance is basically non-existent.
  • The centralization of power in the hands of Khas is the outcome of a long historical process. This process created favorable situation for the Khas and marginalized other nationalities.

 

Chapter Four

 

Process of Khas Domination and Obstacles for Partnership

 

1. Process of Khas Domination

The process of propagating Hinduism in the society had begun in the 3rd century BC during the time of entry of Lichchhivis to Nepal from Aryabarta. Although, some type of Hindu hierarchical system was in practice from the beginning of the Lichchhivi’s arrival, the word “Varnashram” (caste system) has been seen, first time used, in the inscription at Pashupati temple. The inscription was inscribed by Lichchhivi king Jishnu Gupta (Joshi, 2030 V.S.: 416). In the seventh century, Lichchhivi king Shivadeva not only agreed the proposal of the aggressive Hindu high priest Shankaracharya to appoint only Bahuns as priests at Pashupati temple, he also increased the power of Bahuns immensely. As the result of implementing Sankaracharya’s pro-Brahmin ultra Hindu religious doctrine, several non-Hindu literatures were burnt publicly. Therefore, the ancient glorious cultural riches were destroyed. As a result, no valuable cultural and literary works other than the buildings and the ruins up to the first half of the first millennium are available. It is highly likely that during this period the ancient social organizations were also destroyed (Bista, 1991: 22).  During Mall Rule, efforts to consolidate “Varnashram” (caste system) and Hindu religion got impetus.  Jayasthi Malla reorganized the Newar society according to the religious-cultural code of Hinduism. Spread of the notorious Hindu caste system all over Nepal happened much later when the Gorkha Khas rulers established their control over the territory of today’s Nepal. Therefore, in Nepal expansion of Gorkha khas kingdom and spread of Hinduism took place simultaneously.  Prithvinarayan Shah, the powerful king of Gorkha who envisioned a greater kingdom, declared Nepal as “Asali Hindustana” (real Hindu homeland). All the Khas-Hindu rulers, including the Shah and Rana clan, used the introduction of caste system, cultural invasion and Hindu administrative as well as legal system as basis for suppressing the cultures of other nationalities.

a. Introduction of Caste System

The Hindu-Khas invaders prepared the ground to introduce the caste system by making the status of all the vanquished nationalities as Sudras (the lowest in the Hindu caste hierarchy).  Ram Shah and Jayshiti Malla introduced such provisions. The Khas historians never feel tired praising their crime against humanity as social reforms. Jayasthiti Malla (1295-1382) divided the Newar society according to the Hindu code, called Manishmriti. In a copper inscription of 1926, attempt had been made to introduce caste system among the Gurungs by mentioning two types of Gurungs – Char Jat (four upper castes) and Shora Jat (sixteen lower castes). The Gurungs opposed such classifications. The Royal Order of 1868 nullified the caste divisions. It was stated in the Royal Order that all Gurungs are equals and if somebody attempts to create superior or inferior status, the person would be punished (up to a maximum penalty of 20 Rupees). The Bahun scholars like Shikharnath Subedi did not agree with the Royal Order. In his book “Thara-Gotra Pravaravli” (Description of surnames and clans), he wrote that the four upper caste Gurungs (Ghale, Ghotane, Lama and Lamichhane) are royalties and the other sixteen castes are the slaves. Sarbajit Gurung, a Gurung leader, filed a case against him and the Royal court called Bhardari decided this as crime in 1922 and Shikharnath had to pay a fine of 20 Rupees (Pignede, 1966: 491-92, Sharma, 2039 V.S.: 439-41). Hence, after a strong protest and a legal battle, the Hindu-Khas, more particularly the notorious Bahuns could not succeed in implementing their criminal caste system among Gurungs. Among Tamangs too, the Khas tried to create divisions to insert their caste system by introducing an idea of Barha Jat Suddha Rakta (twelve castes of Tamangs as pure) and Shorha Jat Mishrit Rakta (sixteen castes of  Tamangs as mixed) (Sharma, 2039 V.S.: 366). But this idea could not attain a level that creates feeling of lower caste and upper caste.  Even today, some Hindu priests and their stooges are active in converting the Kirats into Hinduism by placing Janai, a so-called holy thread around their neck. The Khas-Hindus are free to convert any body from any faith to Hinduism, but the believers of any other faith can’t exercise the same right. They are prohibited by law and if they will try to convert, they will land inside the prison.  The Khas impose their religion on anybody, whom they can control and place them as Sudras. There is no need of consent of that person. The example includes the representation made by person or persons of Mangolkirat nationality for Sudras in the coronation ceremony of a king. According to Hindu ritual, all four – Bahun, Chhetri, Vaisya and Sudra, have to accept the king by offering a silver coin during the coronation ceremony. In this way the Khas used the caste system as a mechanism to create a social psychology that they are superior.

b. Cultural Invasion

King Rajendra Bikram introduced Dashain, the Hindu festival, by bribing the Kirat elders and village heads. He issued a Royal Order and rewarded them the ownership of the heads and leg pieces with prime meat of any slaughtered animals during Dashain in any household of their jurisdiction. In the same Order he also authorized them to collect donations in the form of cash or kind to organize Durga Puja (worship of Hindu Goddess Durga during Dashain). By these lucrative provisions made for the benefit of the elders and village heads, the Khas-Hindu rulers in Kathmandu prepared the ground for their cultural expansion in the Kirat region (Yakharai, 2053 V.S.: 265). Beef was one of the regular dishes of the indigenous people. After establishing their rule over the Mangolkirat areas, the Khas rulers made eating beef a punishable act. They banned slaughter of cows in Solukhumbu area in 1805 and King Rana Bahadur Shah issued a Royal Order for the Limbus offering amnesty for any act of killing cows in the past and prohibiting the same and making it a punishable act from the date of issuing the Order (Tamang, 2054 V.S.: 63, Yakharai, 2053 V.S. 348). Till today, the Hindu-Khas have made the cow a national animal. Hindu religious songs, dances and festivals also helped the  cultural invasion. Furthermore, the cultural invasion was nurtured by the military service, including the British one. The British and Indian army had provisions for Nepalese priests in their Nepali (Gurkha) brigades. These Bahun priests were instrumental to spread Hindu rituals among the Mangolkirat youths of these armies (Pignede, 1966: 492). After working 34 years in British army and spending lot of those years with Gurkha brigade, Lieutenant Colonel J. P. Cross has mentioned that in each and every larger units of Gurkha Brigade, a Bahun priest used to be employed as religious teacher. His responsibility was to ensure observance of the Hindu rituals. He has mentioned that Dashain, Tihar and Holi are the most important Nepalese festivals (Cross, 1986: 189). Indeed, the “White British Sahibs or Masters” not only promoted the spread of Hindu religion and culture, but also provided legitimacy and respect, probably, unknowingly and unintentionally. Similarly, the Mangolkirat youths adopted Hindu custom without any critical examination or even awareness. When they came back to their homes, they not only brought money and some new ideas due to the exposure but also brought the Hindu rituals, custom and practices. As the ex-army men had money and due to that reason a superior status in their community, the others followed them. Therefore, the recruitment of Mangolkirat youths in the foreign armies not only expanded the scope of exploitation for the Khas as, now, the youths had resources to grab from, but also played as a fertile ground for their cultural invasion. More or less, the same was true for army men in Nepalese and Indian army.

The provision of making the Khas mother-tong “Khas Kura” or “Nepali” as the only official language of Nepal made the Khas very strong culturally.

The Khas rulers projected non-Khas custom, beliefs, eating habits etc as uncivilized, shameful and inferior. These acts created some sort of illusion. After repeated attempts that illusion created fertile ground for spreading a belief of Khas superiority. The Khas became more confident whereas the other nationalities faced the suffering rooted at inferiority syndrome. The practice of drinking alcohol could be one good example. By going through tradition, only the so-called high castes among Khas and Madhesis do not drink liquor. All others have a tradition of consuming alcohol in different forms. The Khas-Bahuns eat bread, whereas the Madhesi-Tharus drink locally brewed beer, which is thick and rich in carbohydrate and go to the field to work. Both are made out of grain flour. The difference of the dishes depends upon the choice of an individual or a community. But the Khas-Bahuns not only propagate consumption of alcohol as an inferior practice, they blame that this alone is responsible for all sorts of backwardness among Matawalis (who drink liquor). Even, the Khas members of parliament dare to register in the parliament a proposal of intent to ban drinking of alcohol all over the country. If alcohol would be the primary reason for backwardness, the high alcohol consuming Europeans and the Americans should be some where at the bottom of Pacific Ocean. They should be in a situation of extinction. Therefore, the Khas rumor is not true and has no worth. But, the rumor provides basis for camouflaging the exploitation of other nationalities. It also suppresses the fact that the Khas are responsible for their exploitative practice which is the primary reason of underdevelopment of other nationalities. A new trend has been seen in Nepal. The bilateral and multilateral agencies have been replaying the role of the old “Gora Sahib (white masters)” of the Gurkha brigade by supporting the Khas rumor. The International NGOs and their Nepali counterparts are busy selling the Khas product that drinking alcohol has been creating all sorts of miseries among the Matwalis. They are playing the role of a new “Gora Sahib”. The old “Gora Sahib” unknowingly promoted Khas values and Hindu beliefs among the army recruits, whereas the new “Gora Sahibs” are contributing to introduce the Khas values and Hindu beliefs in the larger community of people. Indeed, alcohol drinking is not the primary reason of underdevelopment; they are upper class exploitations, atrocities of a nationality (Khas), suppression of marginalized section of people by the state and unjust social codes.  In summary, the cultural invasion played significant role in the process of establishing Khas domination in the society.

c. Hindu Administrative and Legal System

The influence of state in the expansion and consolidation of Khas domination has been seen in different administrative measures. One among the examples could be the tax and land tenure system applicable to the Gurungs. In the Gurung tradition, the women and the male widows had to pay a tax when they marry and the tax was called “Chak Chakui”. Similarly, the ownership of the childless couples’ land was not transferable. By the Royal Order of 1809, if a Gurung family employees Bahun priest for religious services instead of Gurung Lamas, such tax and land ownership provisions won’t be applicable for that type of families (Pignede, 1966: 491). The Order was a clear attempt to promote Hinduism among the Gurungs and, thus, expand the control of the Khas.  The other efforts include the words “Shree Bhawani” ( a Hindu Goddess) and “Shree Shree Shree Gorakhnath” (the Khas-Hindu God) while minting the coins and printing the same in the currency notes, writing “Shree Ganeshaya Nama” (salutation to Hindu God Ganesh) on the upper most part of any official letter, bonds and documents etc. These advertisement sponsored by the Hindu-Khas state helped them to project Khas as a superior nationality. Similarly, the Birtapratha (system of land donation by the state to Bahuns) and Jagirpratha (system of land donation to the courtiers and army officers) made the Khas powerful economically. Introduction of Hindu legal code as the backbone of the state legal system created most favorable situation to establish Khas domination. The penal code of 1954 made strange provisions of punishment. For the same crime the different castes had different types and durations of punishment. The lower the caste, the severe was the punishment.

The use of state resources, such as broadcasting an hour long Hindu religious program from Radio Nepal, helped to establish Khas monopoly.  They also declared their festivals as “national festivals” and their “holy” cow as “national animal”. They have established a Sanskrit university just for the benefit of Khas. And, finally they dared to declare, even in the latest constitution of 1990, Nepal as a Hindu kingdom.

Finally, the process of Khas domination had started long ago and the state provided the leadership. Therefore, the role of the state in creating favorable environment for Khas domination and consolidation and centralization of available resources, opportunity and power around them is the primary reason of all sort of inequality among nationalities. The facts and figures presented above in “Chapter Four” support such conclusion.

2. Obstacles for Partnership

During the expansion of Gorkha kingdom, the imposition of one nationality’s culture, authority and control was the major trend. Although, in the beginning there was no clarity, gradually they generalized the key process leading to establishment of a Hindu-Khas dominated society all over Nepal.   Their vision of Nepal was centered on a state which could function as a single religious, political and administrative unit. The Khas rulers promote the efforts directed to destroy the rival cultures and blocked any possibilities of partnership among nationalities. These attempts encompass cultural, political and economic thrusts and cover all areas of human endeavor.

The strategies and functions undertaken to carry out in establishing the Khas domination created a situation of exclusion and isolation for other nationalities. Hence, these strategies and functions prevented the development of a harmonious society based on participation and partnership. Primarily, the Khas state based its strategies on the following thematic as well as functional areas as prime obstacles in the path of building partnership.

  • Enforce and strengthen the practice of Khas Chauvinism
  • Propagate the belief of fatalism and Hindu supremacy
  • Exploit labor and resources and take advantage of the misery of the people who are in a state of absolute underdevelopment
  • Enforce the practice of untouchability
  • Exploit divisions among oppressed nationalities created by narrow custom group perspectives
  • Destruct socio-physical infrastructure of oppressed nationalities.

 

  • a. Khas Chauvinism

 

Promoting the psychology of Hindu superiority, imposing Hindu yardsticks as criteria to judge the level of civilization in regard to core human values, establishing control over all branches of state power and capturing all available opportunities and resources are the main characteristics of Khas chauvinism. The wholesale dealers of this domination are neither the marginalized Khas of Khasan region, nor they are the low income Khas families spread all over Nepal. Indeed, they are a tine minority of upper class Khas, who are suffering from hydrophobia of super-being. They have gathered wealth through the practice of exploitative behaviors spread over many centuries. They are sick of greed of power and wealth. They are seen in clean dresses, whereas their hearts and minds are dirty, corrupt and criminalized. Although, a large majority of Khas families have been living in pathetic conditions due to extreme poverty and underdevelopment, but they too, have some venom under their chest that they feel, they are superior to other nationalities. This is the result of the infectious Khas behavior of the upper class. This is the area what makes Nepalese society more complex to understand its dynamics.  More particularly, the Nepalese Marxists have failed to recognize such complexities.  Indeed, the psychology originated from superior or inferior status of a nationality makes difference to its overall positioning and collectively looking at society and its fundamentals. The superior Khas mindset aggressively propagates as civilized and attains confidence, whereas the other oppressed nationalities lack the same. It also affects their self-esteem and potentials. The multicultural social composition of Nepal has been affected because of the control of Bahun and Chhetris (Khas) over Nepalese politics due to idealization of their values in the society (Baral, 1993: 195-196).  These idealized values, beliefs and practices are continuing as ideals till today and the Khas state is supporting the continuation. Therefore, the cultural monopoly of the Khas and their over all domination has been an obstacle for building partnership among nationalities.

b. Fatalism

Fatalism is a core ideological concept of Hinduism. It prevents open philosophical discussion among different faith systems and imposes the basic Hindu beliefs on the society. These beliefs have influenced the cultural behaviors. Knowingly or unknowingly, religion affects the social relations too. Hindu Religion, in essence, is the art of artificial survival in an imaginary world.  Every organized religion has a certain pattern of rituals. These rituals support many unreal human imaginations with a real behavior in attaining power, wealth and a so-called means for washing sins.  The Khas, more particularly the Bahuns, cleverly tide people by a rope of fatalism and governed them. In this way, they expanded their sphere of influence and collected harvest in the form of power and wealth. Therefore, Hinduism provided the philosophy and rituals to empower the Khas, more particularly the Bahuns. As a result, the Khas and their state played the lead role in widening the scope of Hinduism in Nepal. For this purpose, they actively propagated the ideology of fatalism as everything they did unjust could be legalized by fatalistic interpretation that this was the outcome of their fate. A large majority among Hindu-Bahuns consider their religion as a milking cow. They are ritualistic. The state also played with facts to project Nepal as a Hindu majority state. According to the state sponsored “statistics”, in Nepal the Hindus are 89% of the population.

The analysis of public holidays reflects the Hindu theocratic nature of the state. The government had declared 25 days in 1999 as public holidays for everybody. Among these days, 18 are Hindu religious days and one day is Buddhist religious day. Remaining six days fall under social function category. Besides, another 10 days are provisioned as public holiday for specific region or community. Among these 10 days, 5 are Hindu religious days whereas one is Buddhist religious day and 4 come under social function category (Department of Information, HMG 2056 v.s.). The analysis shows how the state has been behaving in a Hindu theocratic mode.

A significant size of population believes in nature worships, including the worships of fire, water and ancestors.  These could be called as folk faiths. The patterns of thought process, beliefs and practices have been deeply rooted in their centuries old traditions. Therefore, the source and rituals of folk faiths are the traditions. The large majority of Khas in Khasan region worship Mastos and Bhuwanis. That is not a Hindu system. Nearly all custom groups among Mangolkirats, some groups among Madhesis (e.g. Koche, Meche, Tharu, and Dhimal etc.) and the Dalits could not be labeled as practitioners of any organized religion and all of them have their own folk faiths. The names of their faiths may differ. Some of them may say that their faith could be a sect of an organized religion, but they differ in the ritualistic aspects and observe the traditions and are not part of any organized religion. Folk faiths are not the same and similar in observance.  They differ place to place and community to community. One important trick of the Hindu state system is that they concluded if anybody is neither Muslim nor Christian nor Buddhist nor Jain nor Sikh, then that person is a Hindu.  In this way all practitioners of folk faiths are included as Hindus in the statistics collected, processed and presented by the state.

Since its presence in Nepal, Hinduism attacked and tried to sideline Buddhism and the folk faiths prevalent in the society.  The Aryans initiated all out efforts to replace these cultures by their own Hindu culture. They succeeded to a large extent not primarily because their culture was superior but because they established control over state power. The use of state power in the promotion of Hinduism and repression of other religions and folk faiths was instrumental in creating a psychology of superior Hindu culture. Fatalism, the ideological foundation of Hinduism, justified all Hindu atrocities in the name of fate. This mysterious fatalism offered opportunities for oppressor to oppress ruthlessly and created miseries for the oppressed. Therefore, Hinduism and their Khas believers practiced social anarchy as their birth right. They also propagated that the king is the incarnation of Hindu God Vishnu. This concept might have been originated in the time of Lichhivi king Jayadeva as he had mentioned the term “God” before his name (Joshi, 2030 v. s.: 557). This divine status of the Hindu kings made it nearly impossible to disobey him. This was more true to those who were not Hindus. The Khas-Bahuns employed themselves as the sole contractor of the VISA to go to the heaven. They projected the real world as sea of misery and showed the green grass of unreal heaven but at a cost that their clients should pay for. They declared themselves as pious guides, philosophers and judges and pretended that they have the monopoly for sending anybody to hell or heaven based on their fate and the rituals they perform on their instructions. In the process, they collected fabulous gifts and donations as part of the rituals and placed themselves in a superior status. They declared the believers of other religion and faiths as barbaric and also successfully inserted such beliefs among them. Several renegades were created among the people of other faiths to carry out the mission of Hindu supremacy. The new converts propagated the Hindu culture aggressively and they are doing the same till today. The thinking and practice of Hindu supremacy based on fatalism negates cultural pluralism and limits the possibilities of multiculturalism.

c. Absolute underdevelopment

The development and prosperity are still far away from Nepalese society. The picture of those nationalities suppressed by Hindu-Khas state is even worse. And, among them some custom groups are in a situation of extreme poverty and absolute underdevelopment.

Badi is a custom group among Madhesis living in a situation of hopelessness. If someone visits Badi families in Gaganjunj, a neighborhood of Nepalgunj feels sad seeing the small match-box type family dwellings with a single room. They practice prostitution as traditional occupation. Their community has accepted it as a means of survival. They offer their services to their clients in the same room where other members of the family also have to stay. The police is all the time after them, not primarily to prevent them from practicing prostitution but to get enjoyment free of cost and also to collect money as bribe from them. They take advantage of the provision of practicing prostitution as illegal and loot them. The neighbors throw stones on them alleging that they gave bad name for their neighborhood. These disturbances have created problems to carry on their work. They, including the children in the family, have to spend several nights without meals. Neither they have any other resource base for adopting another occupation nor is the state or the society supporting them. 

Many people believe that Chepang, one of the most marginalized custom groups, is still in an age of hunting and gathering. This is not true. Although, a small section of them resides in the caves but many others are no different from the people of other custom groups or nationalities. They have their own lifestyles. Women are quite independent and effectively participate in production activities and family decision making process. They tend to stay away from the outsiders. But, now their economic and social life has been affected tremendously. The change in the system of ownership over communal land and the government control over the forest land utilized by Chepangs has influenced heavily on their tribal autonomy (Bhattarai, 1995: 1-16). In this way, their livelihood, culture and autonomy are passing through a difficult phase. Similarly, the miseries of Chamars and tragedies of Dushadhs reveal the threat to their basic survival. They are the victims of subjugation and domination. These are  a few custom groups among others.

The statistics to differentiate the custom groups who are in a situation of extreme underdevelopment are not available other than the rate of illiteracy. This is a very critical indicator and can reveal the reality very much with some limitations. Some careful participatory appraisal exercises supported the relation between the illiteracy rate and absolute underdevelopment. Therefore, if 75% and more illiteracy rate as accepted as indicator of absolute underdevelopment, then sixteen groups fall under this status. They are Badi, Thami, Raji, Bote, Chepang, Majhi, Danuwar, Dusadh, Chamar, Khatwe, Musahar, Kewat, Rajbhar, Dhanuk, Muslim and Dhobi.  Similarly the above 75% illiteracy rate of the people of different nationalities gives a picture of their condition. The illiteracy among Madhesi (82%), Mangolkirat (78%) and Dalit (78%) has created limitation for their progress.  Indeed, the situation of absolute underdevelopment has contributed negatively in the process of building partnership as the Khas and Newars feel themselves developed and civilized and alienate the others.

d. Untouchability

 

The division of labor during pre-historical days or at the beginning of the primitive tribal republics was made the basis for the caste system by the Hindus. The infamous Hindu code called Manushmriti made this arrangement as a permanent social feature relating it with birth in a specific level of social hierarchy. Bahuns were placed at the highest and Sudras at the lowest level of the Hindu hierarchical division. Chhetries and Vaishyas were at second and third position. This is the caste system. The lowest caste was responsible for all sorts of services and had to live in servitude. They were considered as untouchables. They were restricted to touch any person of other three higher castes. The Sudras had several other restrictions such as reading Veda, a holy Hindu book, touching drinking water kept for the use of upper castes etc. As a result, the so-called untouchables had been prevented from any kind of intellectual discources and entrepreneurships. The longer the system continued that created some sort of acceptance as a normal social practice. People, including the so-called untouchables became accustomed to such social behavior. In this way, the social anarchy of caste system and its all inhuman atrocities become part of the social code.  The expansion of Hindu theocratic state provided fertile ground to implement this code in newly annexed territories and societies. In the Manushmriti, they have made seven provisions to consider somebody as Sudra (please see Chapter-Two, section on “Dalit”) and one among them was the punishment by state to declare him or her as Sudra (Manushmriti, 8/415 in Yakharai, 2053). This provision was used to terrorize many non Hindus that if they will not accept what is said to them to do, they could be easily declared as Sudras. In the first Civil Code of 1854, the Hindu social code of out-casting somebody and declaring them as Sudra was included. Hence, the state laws legalized the Hindu anarchy of inhuman caste system and also provisioned the punishments relating it to the caste of a convict. The lower castes had to face more severe punishments for the same crime.  In state laws, the strange provision of untouchability was included and if a person of higher caste touched somebody among the untouchables, that person of the higher caste had to go through purification rituals. The 1854 Civil Code classified the Sudras in two categories. The first category included the group, whom if touched there was no need of going through purification ritual but they were not allowed to touch water or any other cooked food or enter inside the houses of higher castes. The second group was that of untouchables. The first group included Muslim, Telis, Dhobi, Kasai, Kusle, Kulu, Mlechha (loosely referring to Christians) and Chudara. The second group included Sarki, Kami, Sunar, Chunar, Hurke, Damai, Gaine, Badibhad, Pede and Chyamekhalak. In the first category there were 8 custom groups and in the second 10.  

Although, some attempts have been made more recently to bring to notice the worse situation the so-called untouchables survive in regard to their physical quality of life, but there have not been any significant efforts to apprise and understand the emotional state of their mind. Not only their feelings have suffered immensely but also their total human existence has been affected.  Therefore, the Hindu-Khas rulers and the entire oppressive Khas nationality have to bow down and beg for pardon for the excesses they themselves, their ancestors and their state have committed. This is their primary responsibility. The act alone can initiate a process of assuaging their feelings and the repentance may create a foundation for genuine forgiveness and partnership. Respect is the prime concern here, which has to go to a next level by ensuring social justice. But, the Hindu-Khas rulers may not take such course willingly. Their ego of superiority, the power intoxication and the arrogance among the Bahuns will prevent them taking the path of healing and reconciliation. Therefore, the so-called untouchables have to confront the Hindu social code. They have to fight against the injustices. Also, they have to demand reparation and compensation. The Hindu-Khas rulers may enhance their understanding after feeling the heat of the confrontation and will be forced to surrender their privileges.

e. Narrow custom group perspectives

 

The divisive tendencies promoted by the Khas engulfed all the nationalities and motivated them to find out the differences whatever smaller they may have among different custom groups. Such exercises not only prevented in understanding commonalities but helped to widen the gaps. The Coordination Center for uplift of Nationalities has raised the issues of getting rid of inferiority complex and inward-looking nature among oppressed nationalities (Gurung et al 1999: 15). The disunity of different custom groups within a nationality and absence of solidarity among oppressed nationalities created blocks for partnership. The custom groups have their own backgrounds and also possess some cultural specialties and think that they are different. This is true to Mangolkirats and Madhesis both. The Madhesis have been in a more complex situation and are influenced by narrow sub-group perspectives due to division created by Hindu caste system, religious diversities, and cultural influences of the community of other side of the Nepal-India border. A numerically larger group among Dalits has also helped to widen the gaps among other custom groups. Further more, they also have been affected by the Hindu system of lower and upper social divisions within their own nationality also. The Newars are not only divided in Hindu and Buddhists, but also have several caste layers. The crux of the problem is that the Hindu-Khas have spread a net of division, hate and arrogance and each and every custom group or nationality has been affected. Therefore, the custom groups and nationalities have to chart a new course and have to come out of the negative tendencies of the past. Most often past has been the source of division not that of unity (Murray, 1995: 72). Who will ring the bell and how the ringing will be activated are the prime questions of today. Until, the oppressed nationalities overcome the divisive tendencies originated from the narrow perspectives and do not fight collectively against the Khas domination, the partnership will remain remote.

 

f. Destruction of socio-physical infrastructure

 

Every nationality had their social infrastructure. Among them, the prominent ones included Rodi of Gurungs, Dhukur of Thakalis, Chumlung of Rai-Limbus, Bheja of Magars and Guthi of Newars. Presently, these social organizations are not much active. Similarly, the change in land ownership and management system also made tremendous difference in the roles of some of the nationalities. The example is the abolition of Kipat system of Limbus brought the communal land under individual ownership. The provision of transferable ownership provision of such land offered opportunity to the Khas to grab the fertile land of the indigenous people.  In the same way, the naming of administrative districts and zones replaced the names of the area popular among the people. The example includes Ollo Kirat, Majhkirat and pallo kirat were replaced by new names such as Khotang, Bhojpur, and Dhankuta etc. In this way, the name ‘Kirat’ attached to the area had been taken out. The Khas were champion in renaming and making the original names disappearing from the beginning of the expansion of the Gorkha kingdom. Hamilton has stated that the Gorkha rulers changed the names of the conquered principalities in an unbelievable speed, Till 1767, in Kathmandu valley there were three Newar principalities called Yin, Yala and Khopo. Before 1802, these names were replaced by Kathmandu, Lalitpatan and Bhadgaon (Hamilton, 1819: 11). Also In the same way, in Marshyandi valley, the several Mangolkirat names of the settlements were replaced by Sanskrit names.[7] Such exercises were undertaken all over the country.

The internal migration had gained momentum after the control of malaria in the southern plains. In 1961, among the population of Terai, the percentage of people born in the hills and migrated to Terai formed only 2.5 %. But in 1971 that percentage reached to 9.8% (R.S. Rana & Y. S. Thapa in Shrestha, 1981: 77). Although, the primary cause for the migration was economic but at the same time the Khas state encouraged the people from the hills to southern boarder areas with the intention that they will be a buffer between India and the Madhesis in this side of the border. The patriotism of the Madhesis was questioned and their loyalty was doubted by the rulers. Similarly, the administrative division called zone was made north-south which was not a natural division considering the inhabitance of nationalities.  In this way, the destruction of such nationally infrastructures had played a role which obstructed the building of mutual trust, respect and harmony.

 

Chapter Five

Emergence of National Liberation Movements and Response of State-Forces

1. Nation-States and State-nations

 

In Europe, new types of classes came into existence due to the emergence of capitalism. The industrial revolution provided the foundation for nation-states which replaced feudal theocratic states. The ideological basis of capitalism in regard to formation of the state was nationalism. Therefore, in Europe, during the eighteenth century the new concept of nationalism provided the new bourgeoisie class a basis for establishing nation-states to protect their economic interest and consolidate their class rule. During nineteenth century, nationalism served the bourgeoisie class as their political concept to expand their control over a large part of the world. Contrary to the expectations of the colonialist bourgeoisie class, in the twentieth century, nationalism served as the foundation for national liberation movement against the European colonizers (Berberoglu, 1995: 1). And, gradually nationalism became part and parcel of national independence movement.  From the beginning of the twentieth century, several states continued to emerge and they were called as nation-states. With some exceptions, all of them were multinational states or state-nations. The ongoing reorganization movement in several European state-nations supports this conclusion.  Many of the reorganized states also are, again, the multinational or united national states.

The state is a political organization, whereas “nation” expresses the special characteristics of the people. These characteristics provide basis for the establishment of their own independent state (A. Cobban in Parker, 1998: 59). The word “state” has been originated from the Latin word “status” which means “appointed” or “fixed”. Hence, state has been defined as an organized sovereign political structure in a given territory. The word “nation”, also has originated from Latin word “natio” which means “birth”. In general, the word “nation” refers to a group of people having common origin and characteristics (Parker, 1998: 60).

According to Joseph Stalin “a nation is a historically formed stable community of people arising on the basis of common language, common territory, common economic life, and a typical cast of mind manifested in common culture.” (In Postiglione, 1995: 60)

The modern Greece is one of the better examples of a nation-state.  The people rebelled against the Ataman Empire in early ninetieth century and Greece came into existence as a result of the general revolt against the externally imposed cultural identity (H.C. Darby in Parker, 1998: 69). Similarly, Hungary is an example of a state which played significant role in the formation of a nation. Inside Hungary, there were several non-Hungarian speaking regions. Efforts were made to introduce Hungarian language all over Hungary and also make the place of the people of Hungarian nationality important as well as effective (Parker, 1998: 69).

In reality, in the formation of a nation-state, the feeling of common bond among a large section of people and threat of foreign aggression or suppression play major roles. On the other hand, state-nations make one of the most influential nationality or a custom group as a means to establish control over the larger region. Then, they create environment to evolve new set of cultural values. On the long run, a new nation may emerge through this process. This type of nation, generally, identifies and aligns with the state. Hence, the state implements the new identity as a common one in the entire territory it has established sovereign control (Parker, 1998: 69-70)  

The state-nations have attained successes in maintaining control over the territory when the core nation has its spread all over the state, it is powerful economically and it has a larger size of population. The examples include Britain, France and Spain. If the core nation is either weak or has no spread, the success of the state-nation becomes difficult. Yugoslavia is one of the fine examples of failure. The relation between nation and state broke down immediately after the ideological basis of communism collapsed.

In reality, the most effective structural relationship is seen between state and nation (Parker, 1998: 69-72). The national identity is a dynamic phenomenon and never remains static. The identity evolves gradually in response to internal and external developments in a longer period of time (Lynch, 1999: 1).

As the thinking was that the establishment of states would be on the basis of a nation, the world organization formed after First World War was named as “League of Nations”. After the Second World War, the institution was revived as “United Nations Organization.”  Therefore, the word “nation” was commonly used in place of a “country” or “state”.

In the present context, the idea of formation and continuation of a nation-state have raised several questions. Leaving out the death and destruction during the two Great Wars, the battles in course of establishing nation-states have been the major causes for the loss of lives

and property. In the contemporary world, the concept of nation-state sounds an idea having no future. Now, the influence of transnational corporations, the obligations resulting through the contractual arrangements between states,  globalization of information and information technology and the enhanced aspirations for local self-governance have been raising questions on the power and capacities of nation-states (Castells, 1997: 243-308). Therefore, from now on, the political movements may not have nation-state as their goal. The future is that of multinational states or state-nations which may have the collaboration and partnership of more than one nationality.

 

In Nepal, the Rana government, first time, used the term “nation” in its “Nepal Government Constitutional Act – 2004 V.S”. In that Act, there was the provision for two chambers of the nominated legislature. Among them, the upper chamber was named as “National Assembly.”  This was the beginning of the use of the word “nation” in the constitutional and legal context. In the political arena, Nepali Congress used the word, first time, during its first incarnation. The political organization which they formed in Varanasi in India was named as “Nepali National Congress.”  B. P. Koirala, leader of Nepali Congress, has stated:

“We were working as Nepali National Congress and they were working as Nepali Democratic Congress. …. At Kolkata convention, Nepali Congress was formed by merging Nepali National Congress (the committee formed by the cadre in Varanasi) and Nepali Democratic Congress (the committee formed by the cadres in Kolkata. (Koirala, 2055 V.S.: 42, 109.)

Indeed, the word “nation” was used as synonyms of “all”, “country” or “state”. Further, the naming of the group might be influenced by the name of the Indian political party, called “Indian National Congress.” The idea is supported by B. P. Koirala’s interview dated June 24, 1971. In his famous but most controversial interview with the “Sunday” magazine, he has said that Nepal has not become a nation-state, it is only an administrative unit (in Tamang, 2054 V.S.: 13). This is the partially true. Nepal has not become a nation-state even today. But, saying that it is just an administrative unit, does not reflect the reality. Nepal is a sovereign united national state. The Communist Party of Nepal, in its first Manifesto, has stated:

“Many feudal lords ruled Nepal during the time of Malla dynasty. Since 1769, Nepal has been a centralized feudal state ruled by Ranas and their collaborators” (Rawal, 2047 V.S.: 172)

Of course, Nepal had not been a nation-state as rightly said by B. P. Koirala and it was a centralized feudal state as stated by the Communist Party of Nepal. The first proposition is still valid, but the change in the society has resulted in changing the nature of the state.

The Communist party of Nepal has used the terms such as “nation”, “national interest” etc. in its Manifesto and some other occasions. But, these terms also are used as the synonyms of “state” or “country” or “all”.  In 1951, the Communist Party of Nepal and the Praja Parishad, one of the oldest political parties,  formed a “National Democratic United Front.” But, the word “national” was not related to any groups of people. This could be just the expression of influence of the Bengali communists over Nepalese communist leaders as they were residing in Kolkata at that time. In 1963, the Communist Party of Nepal organized its third party congress. In the same year in Moscow, 81 communist and worker’s parties had participated in a conference organized to talk on “National Democracy.” Hence, the Nepalese Communists, in their third congress, christened their program as “National Democracy.” In that congress a 10 point program of national democracy was adopted (Rawal, 2047 V.S.: 183-84). But, the 10 points are related to the transformation of the society and transfer of political power, and they have no direct relation with the issues of nationalities. 

In 1952, a new political party, “Nepal Nationalist Gorkha Parishad” was established. Its nationalism was like that of pre-1948 Britain. According to this school of thought the essence of nationalism was the loyalty towards the crown (Enoch Powel in Lynch, 1999: 45). The nationalism of the Gorkha Parishad was guided by the same interpretation. The overall nature of the party was regressive. After the royal take over of 1960, the new rulers distorted the meaning of nationalism by overly using it to meet their narrow political interest.

Indeed, the Hindus who control the state power use nationalism as a means to promote Hindu supremacy. The same is applicable to ordinary Hindus. They believe that they are even more “pure” Hindu-nation than India (John Whelpton in Adams, 1998: 32). This was the expression of Hindu superiority. Therefore, the nationalism of the rulers was the Hindu nationalism. If it had any relation with the nation or the ethic relation, then it was Khas nationalism.

It is important to differentiate between nationalism and patriotism. Since the political change of 1950, nationalism has been in use as a synonym for patriotism. The merger of Sikkim in India, division of Pakistan with Indian interference, and the Indian regional hegemony in political, economic and defense areas, Nepal experienced the depth and intensity of patriotism. The rulers found it appropriate to serve their own interest and propagated as nationalism. This scenario created confusion and in this opportune moment the Khas ultra-nationalism got a cover of Nepalese nationalism. This camouflaged ultra-Khas nationalism created confusion among progressive individuals, thinkers and leaders too. The confusion was so deep that one among the leading thinkers on ethic issues and national equality, Parashuram Tamang also proposed to find out a new concept and definition of Nepalese nationalism (Tamang, 2054: 116). When Nepal is not a nation-state, what is the need of a new concept and definition of Nepalese nationalism?

Modern Nepal has no history of its formation as a federation of several states as that of USA. This is not unified by the colonial power as the case of India. This is not the result of unification of several smaller states. Nepal came into existence as the greater Gorkha theocratic Hindu state. In the course of time, the capital was moved to Kathmandu and the name of the country become popular as Nepal. So, some of the Khas historians try to glorify this whole process as “national unification”. But, this fact should not negate the reality that the feudal principalities, which were not capable to maintain their independence, vanished. In that age, this was a normal and natural phenomenon. The Nepalese state, which exists today, is the result of the same phenomenon. Therefore, glorifying the feudal theocratic military campaign as “national unification movement” on one side and interpreting this endeavor as Gorkha reactionary military machine’s ruthless attack on the independence of smaller states on the other, both, are the incorrect conclusions.  

Nepal is a country of people of several nationalities. The feeling of love of Nepal is nothing other than the Nepalese patriotism. The feeling of such patriotism provides the foundation for a Nepalese identity. The people of several nationalities who reside here may have their special features, and Nepalese patriotism reflects all such features as its own characteristics. The basis of all efforts including any movement, struggle or war directed towards defending the Nepalese sovereignty and territorial integrity is patriotism. Therefore, rather than using the term ‘nationalism’, it would be more realistic and nationality-neutral to use the term ‘patriotism’. If the Nepalese will have to go on war for the defense of their sovereignty that would be a patriotic war and its character would be that of a united national liberation war.

The term “nation” is widely accepted to refer as a country or a state. The use should be continued. In Nepalese context, the word doesn’t reflect the reality if used to refer the people as a whole. There is no Nepalese nation and there is no Nepalese nationalism. This confusion should be cleared. Therefore, what the nationalism today is talked about, in essence, is the patriotism and that should be addressed accordingly. The Nepalese state should be interpreted rightly as a united state of several nationalities. The Khas chauvinists, who talk Nepal as a nation-state, have no future. This conclusion may be contested but the reality is that even in future Nepal will remain as united state of several nationalities. It may not develop as a nation-state rather would evolve as a socialist or nationality-neutral state. 

2. Aspirations of Nationalities and Responses of State-Forces: A Brief Review

 

a. International Arena

 

The nationalities have been fighting either for cultural autonomy and social justice or for political autonomy or for right to self determination. The first types are primarily the minority nationalities, the second type are residing particularly in clusters and the third type may have both the characters.   The entire world is passing through a phase of upheavals caused by the rise of nationalities’ aspirations.  Here, some representative cases would be presented. A brief analysis of these cases will help to validate the assumption that the nationality issue has been at the fore front of social contradictions in a large part of the world.  China, former Soviet Union, Canada and a few national liberation movements, briefly analyzed below will provide glimpses of the movement and the response of the state forces.

China 

The Chinese government is managing the most populous state in the world. Although, 55  minority nationalities reside in China, they have a combined population of 8% or 90 million only. Han, the single largest nationality forms 92% of the population.

Sun Yat Sen had opined that in China there are five nationalities. The Kuomintang party under the leadership of his successor Chang Kai Sek concluded that in China there is just one nationality and every single group is only the branch of Han nationality.  In its second party convention in 1922, the Communist Party of China had supported the Leninist policy of establishing republics for national minorities. In principle, these republics could be independent if they desired so. The Kuomintang Party’s manifesto which was written by Sun Yat Sen in 1924, states that “Kuomintang declares that it recognizes the right to self determination of all nationalities. After the success of the anti imperialist and anti-warlord revolution a United Chinese Republic (independent federation of all nationalities) will be established. The Communist Party of China had supported this policy (Mao Tse-Tung, 1966: 104).  In its 6th Party convention held in July 1928, the Communist Party included the provision of unification of China and recognized the right to self determination of nationalities in its 10-points program (Mao Tse-Tung, 1969: 303).    But, in 1935 the party dropped the provision of right to self determination stating that that was not appropriate to Chinese condition and proposed regional autonomous rule. In the constitution promulgated after the capture of state power by the communists in 1949, the Chinese republic was described as a great fraternal cooperative family of all nationalities (Postiglione, 1995: 259-279).

The national minorities in China have different types of spread.  In Tibet, the Tibetans form 90% of the population, whereas in Inner Mangolian autonomous region, the population of Mongolians is just 20%. Although, the Hui nationality has an autonomous region, they are spread all over the country. Hui and Manchu Nationalities have no language of their own and speak Mandarin, a Han language. Other several nationalities have their own languages. Some nationalities have different mother tongues. For instance, people of Jingpo nationality have more languages and some of them are quite different. Some nationalities are multi-lingual. Mangolian and Manchu had ruled  over China for centuries. Korean, Russian, Kajakh, Kirghiz and Tajiks are the majority nationalities in China’s neighboring countries. In this way, the nationality composition in China is complex.

After capturing the power at the center, the government led by the Chinese Communist Party appealed the people to enlist their nationalities. In response to the government call, more than 400 groups submitted their claim as a distinct nationality. After investigation, the government accepted to recognize 55 nationalities.  Although, language, dress and custom of several groups were distinctly different, they were considered as a branch of a specific nationality. After finalizing the issue of nationalities, still there were more than seven million people whose nationality could not be determined.

There are 5 autonomous regions, 31 autonomous prefectures, 105 autonomous counties, 141 autonomous areas and 3000 nationality townships in China. At the central level, the Nationality Committee of the National People’s Congress and the Nationality Commission under the Council of State (central government) have been assigned the responsibilities on nationality affairs.   “The regional autonomy for national minority act -1984” had specified the provisions of autonomous institutions and their rights, central government assistance for the training and capacity building and establishing and strengthening relations on the basis of socialism among nationalities. The policy on nationalities is stated as “one state, multi-nationality policy” or “policy of political integration with cultural diversities”. There are four policy themes on nationalities in the drive of Chinese modernization. They are – social equality, economic development, cultural autonomy and national integration (Postiglione, 1995: 259-279). But, these attempts have not been enough to solve the Tibetan issue. Similarly, the sate failed to prevent the unfortunate happenings of Kazakhs’ migration in a big number to former Soviet Union in 1962. Also, the government is blamed for promoting the large scale migration of majority Hans in the minority’s ancestral land. Therefore, the national question in China has far from been resolved.

Former Soviet Union

Russian empire came into existence through the battles of several centuries against many non-Russian nationalities. After capturing political power by launching a successful revolution in 1917, the Soviet communists (Bolsheviks) had to concentrate in three priority issues. They were – 1) face resistance launched by reactionaries against newly established socialist state, 2) fight against the attack of western capitalist forces led by the Americans in the west and Japanese in the east, and 3) solve the problems of non-Russian nationalities.  The Soviet communists got success to solve the first two issues by the middle of 1920’s but failed to find out a satisfactory solution of the problems of non-Russian nationalities ( Chorbajian, 1995: 227). During the period of turmoil originated due to the First World War, Bolshevik revolution and the attack of the western powers after the revolution, some nationalities got opportunity to declare independence from Russia. Some of them established their own nation-state. Finland was one among them. During this period, for a while (about one year), Georgia, Armenia, Ajarbaijan, Belarus, Ukren and Crimea also enjoyed independence. Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia stayed independent during the period between two great wars. In the initial years, the Bolsheviks had proposed federal system on the basis of regional divisions. Their understanding was that the regional structures will be nationality neutral. The class conscious will be the sole basis for the formation of the regions. But, they changed the policy immediately as they had to listen to the voices of the nationalities. The Bolsheviks afterward took stand in favor of political and cultural autonomy. The right to self determination and secession were granted to the minority nationalities (Postiglione, 1995: 259-279).  

For the major national minorities, socialist republics such as Ukren, Ajharbaijan etc had been established. Small national minorities had their sub-republics within the republics including Russia. The republics had their own national flags, national song, national anthem, political parties and legislatures. The republics with many qualities of an independent state provided foundation for strengthening the bond of nationalism. Several political parties came into existence due to the feeling of nationalism. Armenian National Integration Party established in 1966 is one of the examples. The Helsinki Watch Committee in Georgia had been organizing demonstrations since 1977 for the promotion of language and its history. The Soviet authorities proposed a constitutional amendment to make Russian as official language also in Georgia in 1978. There were several protest demonstrations against this amendment all over Georgia. The proposal was forced to drop. In 1988 another attempt had been made by the Soviet authorities to curtail the autonomy of republics. Protest movements were organized in several places against the proposed constitutional amendments. It was widely believed that the amendments would curtail the sovereignty and power of the republics. The students sat on hunger strikes. From this agitation the Georgian independence movement became intense and the slogan that “Georgia belongs to Georgians” became the battle cry. The same type of incidents and movements began to appear in Baltic region too. The nationalist movements created new waves also in the central Asian republics. The Kazakh’s demonstration of 1986, their decision to prohibit nuclear tests in Kazakhstan, the establishment of a political organization called Birlik in Ujbekistan and their demand for Uzbek independence, the Tajik demonstration of 1989 and the Kirghiz’s demonstrations of 1989 for independence and sovereignty were the expansion and replication of the Georgian movement (Chorbajian, 1995: 227-254). As a result of all these independence movements, the Soviet Union disintegrated and the republics got their sovereign statehood in 1991.   

Canada 

Canada has become a puzzle of the right to self determination. The French, British and Dutch colonialists were busy grabbing the North American territories during 17th century. The French colonialists established their control over Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick and called it New France. Britain captured New France in 1760. Britain organized the territory under a council in 1763. The British made English language compulsory in all businesses of the council. The French speaking people of Quebec opposed this arrangement. In 1774 through Quebec Act, the French Civil Law got recognition in Quebec. By introducing a new constitutional act, Britain divided Quebec into two provinces – Lower Canada and Upper Canada. Lower Canada covered more or less the same territory what is called Quebec today and Upper Canada had covered the territory which is called Ontario today. The Canadian independence movement started in 1837-38 developed to the level of armed confrontation. The movement was suppressed. In 1840, Britain proposed the formation of a federation constituting both parts of Canada.  As a result Canadian state came into existence in 1867. Immediately after this, effort was made to form a federation with a single legislature covering the area from Nova Scotia in the east to British Columbia in the west.  The French speaking people of Quebec opposed the proposed federation. Finally, provinces with a higher level of autonomy were established and Canadian federal state came into existence as their union. The central government had the economic and repressive rights whereas the provinces had rights over natural resources. They had been granted autonomy to formulate cultural and social policies and to implement them.  But, the division of rights between center and provinces could not establish amicable relationship, rather they opposition each other even more. The Acadians, Métis and Canadian natives also started to raise questions about their rights.

More than 80% people speak French as their mother tongue in Quebec. Therefore, French language has become the major factor in the Quebec national movement. In 1960s, the French-Canadians developed as a new nation. The formation of the new nation was the result of a protracted nationalist movement started during the early years of 20th century. Due to the rising feeling of French-Canadian (Quebec) nationalism, the Party Quebecois won the majority seats in the provincial legislature. After coming to power the party put forward its opinion in favor of sovereign Quebec. A referendum in 1980 organized by the provincial government did not endorse the proposal of sovereign Quebec. Only 40% people voted in favor of independence.

Canada had had a colonial constitutional provision and under this provision any change in Canadian constitution could be effective only after the endorsement of British Privy Council. The strange provision was taken out by the new constitutional law in 1982. The new constitution provisioned several rights to the provinces. Such rights also could not satisfy Quebec as it was asking for a special status. More importantly, the provincial government was still in favor of sovereign Quebec. The French speaking people of Quebec believe that they can protect themselves against being assimilated in English speaking Canada if they can establish their own sovereign state (Bourque, 1995: 213). 

The Mitch Lake agreement signed in 1987 recognized Quebec as a distinct society and proposed amendment in the constitution. According to Canadian constitution, the amended clauses could be implemented if all provinces accept the amendments. Manitoba did not agree with the change in the constitution. So, the provisions could not be implemented.

The pro-independence political party called Party Quebecois came to power again in the province in 1994. As promised, the new provincial government organized another referendum. But, this time also it was rejected by a thin margin of less than one percent. Although, the proposal has been rejected second time, there is no sign of resolution of the issue. As long as no satisfactory solution is found for the people of Quebec and indigenous Canadian nationalities the movement may continue.    

Some major national liberation movements

 

Irish movement is one among the most prominent and sustained movement for national liberation. A violent struggle had started in Ireland in 1641 against the emigrants from England and Scotland. More particularly, after the introduction of “The Act of Union” in 1801 that annexed Ireland in Great Britain, the protest movement took shape as a movement for the right of national self determination of Irish people. In the course of the protest movement a political party called Sinn Fein came into existence in 1905. The party demanded establishment of an independent Ireland. The movement continued. Ireland was divided into Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland in 1920. Independence was granted just for the Southern Ireland in 1949 (Orr, 1995: 159-160). But, Northern Ireland with a catholic majority continued the struggle to establish a unified Irish republic.

The Basque movement in Spain is another European nationalist movement with a long history. The Basque people who speak Euskera language demanded an independent nation-state and launched a movement in 1894. General Franco tried to eliminate everything which could be related to collective Basque identity. He used excessive force against Basque people after capturing power (Letamendia, 1995: 180-196). Once again, the Basques got reorganized during 1960s and the struggle is continuing.

Puerto Rico was a Spanish colony befor America attacked and captured it in 1898.  The Puerto Ricans started independence movement in 1904 and the anti-America movement is continuing. The Spanish speaking people participated in a referendum in 1991 to determine the status of Puerto Rico. But it failed to resolve the problem (Carrion, 1995: 133-153). The Puerto Ricans have not been succumbing to American might. Also, the American hyper-power is not willing to listen to the Puerto Ricans.

The Palestine movement for nationhood is one of the longest movements in history. From 16th century to the First World War, Palestine was under the control of Ataman Empire. During the rule of Atamans, the Jews residing in Palestine were treated badly. They were discriminated and they had no other way than to come together politically. The Jews started provocative actions against the Palestinian Muslims and the Muslims also become politically aware that they also should be united (Welty, 1995: 15-16).  The British colonial control after the First World War created favorable environment to establish a Jewish state of Israel, but the Palestinians had been denied the same right and still they do not have their homeland. The armed conflict between Jews and Palestinians which started in 1920 is still going on after passing through the phases of devastations of four wars in the Middle East.

According to Abdul Rahman Ghassemlon the area of Kurd inhabitance is spread over 409, 650 Squire Kilometers.  And, Ferdinand Henebichler has estimated the Kurd population about 22 million. The Kurdish territory has been captured in pieces by Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria (in Ibrahim, 1995: 36). The Kurd defeated by Ataman in the 16th century came under the rule of the British and the French colonial powers in the beginning of the 20th century. After the colonialists disappeared from the Kurdish territory, the states mentioned above controlled their land by making several pieces.

Sheikh Mahmud Barjanzi, a resident of southern Kurdistan, declared himself as the ruler of Kurdistan in 1918. This was the beginning of the present Kurdish national independence movement. Similarly, the independence movement in the area controlled by Persia (Iran) also got impetus. After crushing the movement for sometimes, a conference was organized in 1921 in Cairo. The conference annexed southern Kurdistan to Iraq (Ibrahim, 1995: 39). The Kurds are fighting to establish a sovereign Kurdish nation-state. They are not successful till today but they have not been defeated either.

Besides the movements mentioned above the struggle between black and white in South Africa, between Hutu and Tutsis in Rwanda, between Eritrean and Ethiopians and Christians in the south and Muslims in the north of Sudan are the African battles. In Afghanistan, the Sunni majority Taliban and minorities under the banner of Northern Alliance are fighting. Indeed, the world history is full of struggles of nationalities.  

 

b. South Asia Region

None of the South-Asian state is a nation-state. These states are the federation of different nationalities. They are passing through a process of building state-nations. Therefore, the entire region is full of national, ethnic, religious and local conflicts. In the context of such conflicts, a brief discussion would help to understand the future course, the region might venture into.

India is not only largest in size among the south Asian states but also it inhabits largest number of nationalities and ethnic groups. Although, Hindi, Malayalam, Tamil, Telagu, Kannad, Marathi, Gujrati, Rajasthani, Panjabi, Urdu, Udiya, Bengali, Nepali and Asami are the major languages, there are hundreds of other. In 1920, the Indian National Congress proposed the reorganization of provinces on the basis of language. The reorganization was basically completed by 1960 (Gupta, 1995: 82-83). With this arrangement, many smaller linguistic groups and nationalities were not satisfied. Some major nationalities too, were not happy staying as part of India and started to lunch struggles for independence.  The Nagas, Mizos, Assamies, Manipuries etc. fall under this category. The minority nationalities in several provinces raised their voices for national autonomy. The Bodoland, Gorkhaland and Jharkhand movements are some of the examples. The Indian government is following a policy of either co-option or suppression of such movements. The co-opted ones include the movement of Assam Gana Parishad, Mizo National Liberation Front and the suppressed ones include the Kashmiri independence movement, Khalistani movement in Punjab, United People’s Liberation Front’s movement in Assam and Naga United Socialist Council’s movement in Nagaland. Even during the independence movement, India was facing such situation and the same trend is continuing. The proponents of “Akhand Bharat” (undivided India) are not only launching an ultra-rightist Hindu chauvinistic campaign, they even succeeded in capturing part of the state power in the center and provinces. These developments are contributing negatively towards enhancing the feeling of antagonism among nationalities and disturbing communal harmony in India.

Pakistan had to face the problem of partition due to its failure to bringing equity among different nationalities and linguistic groups. As a result of inequity, Bangladesh came into existence in 1971. Pakistan was formed on the basis of religion. But the same was not enough to keep it united. Even today, among Panjabi, Sindhi, Mohajeer, Baluch and Pakshtuns the relations are full of contradictions and distrust. The Punjabis have a greater control over the bureaucracy. Their numerical presence in the army and civil bureaucracy out numbers other nationalities. The refugees settled in Karachi who came from India during the time of partition in 1947, are in a fighting mood against the Sindhis. The Sindhis consider themselves treated unfairly by the Punjabis in regard to their role in governance. The Baluch and pakshtuns talk about autonomy and have organized political movements. The Pakshtuns, once, raised the flag of united Pakshtunistan. No serious attempt has been made in Pakistan to address the grievances of different nationalities and it has not done enough to establish a functionally federal system of governance (Mallic, 1998: 155).

In Bangladesh, the Hindu population is ever declining. In 1951, in East Pakistan (today’s Bangladesh) the population of Hindus was 22%. Their percentage decreased to 12.1 and 10.5 in 1981 and 1991 respectively. During the period between 1981 and 1991 alone 1.7 million Hindus disappeared. A good number among them might have fled to India (Harry Blair in Mallic, 1998: 178-179). The Chakmas, a Buddhists nationality, waged war against the government forces in the Chitagaon hills. Many of the Chakmas fled to India as refugees. The indigenous Chakmas were 90.91% in 1951 in the area, whereas their percentage declined to 59.16 in 1991 (Aditya Kumar in Mallic, 1998: 178-181). The migration of Bengalis to the hills created difficulties for the indigenous people. Their resources, culture and means of livelihood have been at constant threat.  

Sri Lanka, one of the most developed countries in South Asia, is facing a worst civil war. Sinhalese and Tamils are 74 and 18 percent of the population respectively. In 1956, the Sinhalese majority imposed the Official Language Act, which provided superior position for Sinhali language. This act not only alienated the people of other linguistic groups and nationalities but also hurt them.  The “Tamil Language Special Provision Act – 1958” was introduced to assuage the hurt feelings of the Tamils. To some extent, this Act helped the reconciliation process and cordiality between the two linguistic groups but could not succeed to restore the relation as it was in the past. Once again, in the beginning of the 1970’s, the government made Sinhali as the only official language. This step nullified the previous attempts made to bring the nationalities together. The result was terrifying. The civil war of unprecedented scale is its evidence. Although, too much blood has already been shed, the resolution of the conflict has not been attained. The war is continuing.

In Bhutan, the Dukpa rule has brought misery to Nepali speaking people of southern region. Now, more than 90,000 Nepali speaking Bhutanese have been living in the refugee camps in eastern Nepal (AI, 1998).  The misery begun in 1958 when Bhutan’s National Council passed a resolution calling the Nepali speaking people as “Lhotshampa” (the southerners) and making a mandatory provision for them to reapply for citizenship. It was a strange provision. The provision created identity crisis for the Lhotshampas. The people, who have been residing for centuries, even before the establishment of Wangchuk dynasty in 1907, faced all sorts of suppression and humiliation. Under the banner of “one nation, one culture”, the government initiated ethnic cleansing campaign. The state attacked non-Dukpa culture. For this purpose a state structure was created. This was called “National Council for Social and Cultural Affairs”. After the creation of this structure, Dzonghka, the mother tongue of less than 16% people, was made the official language. The Sarchop and Lhotshampas are 31% and 52% of the population respectively and they have their own traditional dresses. But the rulers imposed a uniform dress code for all the Bhutanese. The Dukpa dress was imposed to all non-Dukpas too. It was made mandatory that all women should wear “Kira” and men “Ghoh”, which are the traditional Dukpa dresses. (NSEC-ICLD, 1992: 7, 144, Himal, 1992: 7-39).  The cultural dictates gave birth to a resistance movement. The Bhutanese government tried to suppress. As a result, many people had to flee from their own country. The political parties like Druk National Congress and United Front for Democracy are fighting for establishing democracy in Bhutan. They are strongly protesting against the government’s ethnic cleansing program. The people of Bhutan are continuing their struggle to restore democracy and to solve the problems faced by the suppressed nationalities.

Nepal is also no different. The ancient Bharatbarsha or the Aryabarta was the source of the inhuman caste system and several other unjust social codes. The descendants of the Aryabartiya Aryans or the Hindu Bahun-Chhetris are the sole importer of the infamous caste system in Nepal. The Khas nationality is a highbred of these Aryas and the Aidi Khas Aryas of Karnali region. The same Khas overpowered the indigenous inhabitants – the Kirats. Gradually, by using their military might and cultural invasion, the Khas succeeded to establish cultural, political and economic control in the area. But, this act also created an environment for resistance movement from other nationalities. Their feeling of injustice and subjugation got expression in the forms of protests and rebellions. Therefore, Nepal is also like a store house of explosives in regard to the question of nationalities.

The Kashmir problem has not been resolved. India and Pakistan have already fought wars on this issue. This has been seen as a flashpoint which could jeopardize world peace. India and Pakistan, both, have earned bad names for poverty, underdevelopment and corruption and both of them possess nuclear arsenal.  India has been heavily influenced by Hindu ultras and in Pakistan, religious fundamentalism is ever increasing. In both the countries, the system of governance has been effectively influenced by these religious ultras. This situation has heavily restricted the progress, prosperity and development of the entire region.

The brief analysis above reveals that the South Asia region is one among the volcanic areas in regard to nationalities’ problems. Such problems have not only disturbed the peace within a country, rather it has been fueling intra-country conflicts as well. 

c. Nepalese Amphitheatre

Nepal has witnessed a long history of struggles and cohabitation of different nationalities. The Kathmandu invasion of the Lichchhivies was the start point. Another struggle was between Khasan principality a Khas feudal state and Magarat, a Mangolkirat state. The Khas took control of Magarat and established their 24 princely states. Gorkha was one among these princely states which succeed to establish a greater Hindu Khas state by invading and merging the smaller feudal states. King Prithvinarayan Shah was the leader of this military endeavor. Prayagraj Sharma has said that King Prithvinarayan and his successors had taken four principles for the campaign of establishing a greater feudal state. They are – unquestionable power and authority of Hindu king of Gorkha, superior status of Hindu system in national life, social integration on the basis of Varnabyabastha (caste system) and recognition of Nepali language for all official purpose (Sharma, 1992: 7).

The greater Gorkha feudal state, which was called Nepal afterward, was a Khas theocratic state. The state since its inception was actively promoting Hindu religion. The examples include king Prithinarayan’s assertion that the new state was an “Asli Hindustana” (real Hindu homeland), his Royal Order that “every court should have a Bahun as judge” and the deportation of all Newar Christians from Kathmandu valley after he captured it (Tamang, 2056 V.S.: 28).

The war between Gorkha-Khas state and Newar state of Kathmandu was so fierce that it generated hatred and feeling for revenge. As a result, after winning the battle, the Khas army cut noses of Newars of Kirtipur. The hatred is still can be seen between them in several forms of cultural practices. The consequences of the fierce battle had been deeply rooted and they were instrumental in determining the mutual relationships full of suspicions between these two nationalities.

In summary, the Khas feudal rule in Nepal had adopted the following principles to expand and consolidate their rule:

  • Hinduism as an ideological basis,
  • Creation of social psychology that Khas culture is superior,
  • Making Khas Kura (Nepali) compulsory in all official works,
  • Expanding Khas control over arable land through the provisions of Birta and Jagir.

These principles were followed religiously. On the long run, Nepal emerged as a strong upper class Hindu theocratic feudal state controlled politically, economically and culturally by the Khas.

The theocratic Hindu Khas state had to face challenges and rebellions from the early days. The war between Kirat principalities of Chaudandi, Hatuwa and Bijayapur and the Gorkha kingdom, called Nepal afterward, was not only a war between sates but that was also a war between nationalities. Some custom groups among Mangolkirats such as Magars and Gurungs have been included in the Khas army. Therefore, some Khas historians try to project this military move as a national unification campaign, whereas the facts speak differently. In 1806, by a Royal Order, the government made it compulsory to send one person from each Gurung household to fight in the war at Kangada. Many Gurungs reached there after covering a long distance. But they had no knowledge of the political reason behind the war (Pignede, 1966: 490). During the early days of Gorkha rule, the local leaders in Majhkirat started a rebellion in 1808. According to Gyanmani Nepal the rebellion  was crushed and Atal Rai, Bharat Singh Rai and Kanthbir Rai got capital punishment, whereas other 15 persons got life imprisonment for staging the rebellion (Yakharai, 2053 v.s.: 345). Quoting Harka Gurung, Mahesh Chandra Regmi, Janaklal sharma and Durgahang Rai, Parshuram Tamang states that there had been several rebellions against the Khas rule. Among them the prominent ones include Kirat expulsion of 1770, Tamang and Limbu rebellion of 1793, Lakhan Thapa Magar’s rebellion of 1870 and Supati and Sukdev Gurung’s rebellion of 1877 (Tamang, 2054 v.s.: 122).

For a long time, the Dalits had remained in the situation of hopelessness in relation to their organized effort for national emancipation. Only after the overthrow of Rana dynastic rule in 1951, the Dalits started to raise their voices. National Dalit People’s Uplift Council was among the first Dalit organizations.

The Khas rulers of Kathmandu distributed the fertile land of Terai among their relatives, army and civilian officials, priests, courtiers and servants of royal households. In this way the Khas grabbed the prime land. After a concerted effort to control malaria in the southern region, the  Khas land owners either moved to the Terai region or send their Khas cousins to that region. The other hill people also migrated to Terai as the land was fertile. The Khas rulers also promoted the trend of hill people moving to Terai as they were suspicious of patriotism of the Madhesis as they had close socio-cultural links to the other side of the boarder.  All this accelerated the process of marginalization of Madhesis. Now, their resource base had been grabbed by the Khas and other hill people, their patriotism questioned and opportunities denied. This helped to alienate the Madhesis further. As a result, they started to organize themselves and raised voice against all sorts of atrocities and inequalities. The Terai Congress was the first Madhesi political party which came into existence raising the problems faced by them.

The mass movement of 1950 was very much based on the aspiration of people to establish democracy in the country and autonomy for the nationalities. This feeling was reflected in the event which had happened when B. P. Koirala, the then home minister at that time, visited Majhkirat. In 1951, B. P. Koirala says:

I saw a crowd of 10 to 12 thousand people the other side (of the river close to Bhojpur Bazar). I had to go. I went by riding a horse. Because it was climbing down, I got down from the back of the horse and walked. I crossed the river by boat. The crowed was highly agitated. We just were in front of the crowd. The Bahuns and Chhetris were afraid of the crowd and had gone underground. The people under the leadership of Bhudev and Thulung were asking for their authority over the area. The voice for self-rule was also raised (Koirala, 2055 v.s.: 163).

The Mangolkirats were asking for autonomy under the leadership of Kirat leaders Bhudev Rai and Naradmuni Thulung. The Khas (Bahuns and Chhetris) of the area were very much apprehensive and had been hiding.  Although, the movement subsided that time but it reappeared. In 1970, the Kirat leaders revived the demand by distributing pamphlets and appealing the Kiratis to come out against Tagadharis (Bahuns and Chhetris or the Khas).

During the 1980’s, organizations like “SeTaMaGuRaLi” (Association of Sherpa, Tamang, Magar, Gurung, Rai, and Limbus) appeared in semi underground form. Limbuvan Liberation Front came into existence by raising the slogan of autonomy for Limbuvan. Similarly, Khambuvan Liberation Front, Magar Liberation Front, Mangol National Organization, Newar National Organization etc were formed. The Madhesi political Party – Terai Congress reappeared with a new name as Nepal Sadbhavana Parishad (Nepal Goodwill Council) which changed its name after 1990 when the ban on political parties lifted and became Nepal Sadbhavana Party. People of Mangolkirat nationality formed several political parties. They include Rastriya Jana Mukti Party (National People’s Liberation Party), Nepal Jana Party (Nepal People’s Party), Jana Mukti Morcha, Nepal (People’s Liberation Front, Nepal). They started demanding political rights and equity for nationality in power and opportunities. The Dalits also came together under a political umbrella called “Nepal Dalit Shramik Morcha” (Nepal Dalit worker’s Front). Hence, Nepal became the new play field of several political and nationality organizations giving hope and providing opportunity for new initiatives. As byproducts of the democracy movement, several cultural organizations emerged or reorganized or expanded or strengthened more particularly during 1980s and 1990s.[8]

After the formation of Nepal Federation of Nationalities, it has been playing the role of a cultural-organizational backbone of the oppressed nationalities. The newly established think- tank called “Janajati Vikash Samanwaya Kendra” (Coordination Center for the Uplift of Nationalities) has been meaningfully participating in research pertaining to finding out solutions to the problems of nationalities.

Indeed, the history is to be rewritten focusing not on the autobiography of kings and their courtiers, but on the political, social and economic processes of the society. This will help to understand the basis of the relations among nationalities. This process also will help to reinterpret the role of social classes in right perspective (Tamang, 2054 v.s.: 112). Unfortunately, the autobiographies of the kings and their relatives, their luxuries and adventures are called history today. These fantasies should be replaced by the real socio-political and economic documentation of the past in the form of history.

The democracy movement of 1990 created new hopes and aspirations for independence and liberation among the oppressed classes, communities, groups and nationalities. The movements and organizations discussed above are the expressions of such aspirations. But, the absence of moral and ethical character among the mainstream parliamentary political parties, their misconducts, corruption, and price hike of essential commodities beyond the purchasing power of ordinary citizens and the insensitive cultural policies and practices of the government frustrated the people deeply. The continuation of the previous constitutional provision of declaring Nepal a Hindu kingdom, the continuation of the prohibitory Hindu practices in regard to eating code, more particularly, restriction in eating beef, making Sanskrit a compulsory subject for study in the school curriculum, broadcasting news on Sanskrit and continuing hour-long Hindu religious program in the state run radio, prohibition of the use of nationalities’ languages in the local government bodies by the supreme court etc created environment for further alienation of non-Khas nationalities.

To garner popular support through the distributions of some cosmetics, in 1998, the government gave birth to a structure called “Rastriya Janajati Vikash Samiti” (National Committee for Uplift of nationalities). The structure has been an instrument to make some of the honest leaders of oppressed nationalities running after the ministers and the departments in several ministries. The committee will never work for fundamentally changing the relations among nationalities and transforming them as just and equal. Rather, the committee is deeply involved in production of a new “Directory of Surnames and custom groups”. The task of compiling a list of 61 (Janajati, 2056 v.s.: 122-123) so-called Janajatis (nationalities) is just the proof of its irrelevance.   The need was to find out the resolution of the Khas domination, whereas it is compiling a makes-no-sense list. It is strange that some of the well known and honest leaders of the oppressed nationalities, scholars and activists also are trying to milk this he-buffalo. The committee, which has no teeth, no jurisdiction and depends on the wish of a minister for its composition and survival, will not contribute in finding out any resolution. Indeed, the committee which is suffering from scabies from its inception, will keep busy to those who come closer to it in the work of gently massaging its scabies affected skin.  As it is said, every cloud has its silver lining, at the maximum, the committee could be pressurized to use its resources for some research and publication. The example includes the publication of the journal called “Janajati”. But, everybody should be clear that such acts of marginal impact will not resolve the complex issue of Khas domination. Indeed, the government is not honest, and has not shown any commitment and political will to resolve the issues related to social justice and equity.

As stated in Chapter Three above, Khas in Nepal is the oppressor nationality. It has been seen in areas of exercise of power and the monopoly in utilization of opportunities.  The others have been forced to have an identity of oppressed nationality. The exceptions are the Newars. They are also oppressed culturally, but they enjoy the same privileges in regard to access of opportunities.

In summary, one of the major social contradictions in Nepal is related to Khas chauvinism. The Khas are on one side and the other nationalities are on the other. Therefore, together with Hindu patriarchal social codes, Khas chauvinism has been responsible for all sorts of evils, dominations, grievances and social conflicts. If the feeling of derivation and injustice will not get a peaceful resolution, it could take a violent course.

d. Major Nepalese Political Parties: Awareness and Actions

Nepalese political parties differ in their approaches in regard to issues of nationalities and prescribe solutions as per their own political philosophy, theoretical stand and class base. Some of the parties even lack basic understanding of the issue, a few others talk about some leap services in a very generic way and a few others have a good grasp of the problem. The difference reflects the degree of awareness among the political parties and also has been influenced by their nationality base and class interest. Therefore, a brief assessment of their basic stand on the issue will be helpful in finding out the solution and recommending strategies.

Nepali Congress

Nepali Congress is one of the oldest parties and is also one among the largest with a history of long struggle. But, all the time and on most of the fundamental issues, making ad hoc arrangements has become the lifeline of the Congress party. Other than talking about constitutional monarchy and multiparty democracy, the party has no strategic political theme. In ritualistic manner, the party also mentions “democratic socialism” in its official documents. Its strengths include the charisma of some of its leaders and the flexibility it allows to the cadres. From saintly workers to political thugs and from liberal democrats to diehard conservatives, all enjoy life and act as they desire within the party structure. The functioning style of the party makes it a joint front rather than a political party.  Now, when peace in Nepal has been disturbed, the party claims that it will work to bring peace in the society back. But, when it was in power it used brutal force to quell violent movement led by the Maoists. The inequalities, injustices and inhuman social codes prevailing in the society have made the people restless and the tranquility has been disturbed. The absolute peace without addressing the fundamental issues originating to major contradistinctions is impossible to attain and Nepali Congress is busy in this impossible political business. Therefore, it is not in a position which could play the role of a vanguard in transforming the society.  The party is advocating for quantitative changes and that is its limitation.

The composition of the leadership of Nepali Congress is heavily dominated by Khas. In 1959, there were 18 members in its central committee.  Among them, there were 11 Khas, 3 Mangolkirats, 2 Madhesis and 2 Newars (Gupta, 1964: 285). In 1999, the percentage of Khas in the central committee was 71 (See Table – 9 in Chapter Three above) which is 10 percent higher than the 61% in 1959. This trend reflects the widening gap.

In its Election Manifesto, the party had raised non-transformational and non-critical issues related to nationalities in 1959. They are as following:

  • Nepali will be recognized as national language and other languages will get support to develop.
  • Guarantee of religious freedom and protection to people’s religious beliefs and practices.
  • Abolition of Birta system on land (donated land to Bahuns), Jamindari (feudal lordship) and system of feudal princely privileges.

(Gupta, 1964: 144)

In its Election Manifesto published in the General Election of 1999, the party has included some of the conventional proposals with addition of some cosmetics. They are summarized in the following points:

  • Establish cultural centers which will give expression to cultural characteristics of different nationalities.
  • Religious freedom.
  • Establish an independent council to conduct research and protect as well as promote the knowledge, skill, art and culture of indigenous people and nationalities.
  • Table a Bill for reasonable representation for the Dalits in the process of political decision making and for their overall development.
  • Provide proper representation to Dalits and marginalized sections of people in different level of the party organization.
  • Establish an independent council for uplift of Dalits.
  • Provision of scholarship and training for Dalits.

(Nepali Congress, 2056 v.s.)

The proposals mentioned above do not raise the fundamental problems the oppressed nationalities are facing. There are no transformational agenda to create a new society based on partnership of different nationalities. Simply, these provisions mentioned above offer nothing mare than the superficial remedies. Therefore, the party either is in the cloud of confusion and ignorance or by design it is trying to mislead the people.

Rastrabadi Gorkha Parishad/Rastria Prajatantra Party (RPP)

Although, Rastriya Prajatantra party is not a direct descendant of Rastrabadi Gorkha Parishad organizationally, but it inherits the political philosophy and program thrust. Both, talk about nationalism loudly and they represent overtly or covertly the interest of the palace. Also, they represent the same section of the upper class. In its first incarnation the party had 11 Khas, 4 Mangolkirats and 1 Madhesi in its central committee in 1959 (Gupta 1964: 285). The Election Manifesto of 1959 had included the following agenda related to nationalities.

  • Support monarchy as inseparable part of Nepalese culture.
  • Religious freedom.
  • Attention to overlooked districts of Terai.

(Gupta, 1964: 144).

In its second incarnation as Rastriya Prajapantra Party, it had twin organizational set ups – RPP and RPP (Chand) at the time of General Election in 1999. Therefore, the main points related to nationalities are summarized separately.

RPP

  • Stopping discriminations against Madhesis.
  • Recognition of languages of nationalities.
  • Finding out solutions within constitutional framework.
  • High regard to constitutional monarchy.
  • Uplift of Dalits and backward sections.

(Khanal, 2056 v.s.: 11-18)

 

RPP (Chand)

  • Safeguarding national interest in Mahakali, Kalapani etc.
  • Strengthening constitutional provisions.
  • Uplift of Madhesis, Janajatis (read Mangolkirats), indigenous people and Dalits.
  • Equal treatment to the languages, culture and literature of all nationalities.

(Khanal, 2056 v.s.: 11-18)

The issues what RPP’s have raised simply revel their indifference on fundamental social issues of oppressed nationalities. Either they overlook the issues entirely or raise the non-critical issues only.

Communist Party of Nepal (CPN)

Since its establishment, the Communist party of Nepal has not been raising issues of nationalities in a conscious way that makes change happening. In its third convention organized in 1962, the party in its program of “National Democracy”,  stated in its 7th point that the languages, literatures and cultures of different nationalities will get support to develop (Rawal, 2047 v.s. 184). The party was influenced by the generalization of the understanding that the solution of class issues will solve all other social issues.

The central committee elected in the second party convention had 12 Khas, 4 Newars and 1 Madhesi (Gupta, 1964: 286). The Khas had dominated (71%) in the leadership heavily.

The party experienced several divisions.  Mostly, it had splits and a few times some of its splinter groups also had merged.  Now, there two communist schools in Nepal – the follower of parliamentary path and the practitioners of armed struggle.

The Communist Parties which follow the parliamentary path include the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist – Leninist), the Communist Party of Nepal (Marxist – Leninist) and Nepal Worker’s and Peasant’s Party. Although, these parties differ in the use of jargons, fundamentally they take the same position on nationalities. Their general pattern of behaviors can be summarized on the following three points:

  1. Beam confusing signals and sell jargons: Either these parties are in a state of severe confusion or are under the disguised influence of Khas interests. They pretend as friends of oppressed nationalities and have opened wholesale shops of pro-oppressed nationality jargons without making any attempt to address the complex issues of social justice and equity. On uplift of nationalities, languages, religion and culture, the statement of the Marxist – Leninist faction of the Communist Party of Nepal serves as wonderful example of such behavior. The statement states “The feelings of nationalism would be strengthened by emphasizing on national unity, communal harmony and equality.  Fight against the forces which promote divisions in the name of nationality, language, religion and region and strengthen the feeling of nationalism on the basis of eternal unity of nationalities, languages, religions and cultures. On the districts where feasible, autonomy with the right to self determination will be implemented on the basis of nationality and geographical composition, diversities and local characteristics (CPN-ML, 2055 v.s.: 39). The above statement does not accurately say what the party will do but beams confusing lights for all of them –  who are in favor of ultra Nepalese nationalism based on ‘eternal unity’; who support right to self determination and who stand for autonomy based on nationality or geographical region.  One can imagine that this statement includes the threat of force and distribution of a slice of apple pie to everybody, but nobody can say what the party will exactly mean.  Perhaps, only the party knows. In such business, the other two parties also are holding a good number of shares.

 

  1. Words for oppressed and deeds for dominants: All these parties talk loudly about multiculturalism. But, the loud talk is one among the cosmetics added in the political phraseology of these parliamentary communists.  For example, a text can be reproduced here. The text was finalized to submit at the sixth party convention of the CPN (UML). In the draft proposal on nationality, language, religion and culture, the party says “in the society, the religious discrimination and prejudices still exist. Hinduism has been declared as state religion. It has been receiving favors. Therefore, the believers of other religions are feeling neglected” (CPN-UML, 2054: 14). These are the words for the oppressed. The same party when it was in the power started the broadcast of news in a dead language called Sanskrit for the benefit of Bahuns. The party which accepted that there is religious discrimination neither brought any amendment proposals in the constitution nor tabled any statement of intent in the house in eight long years of its presence in the parliament. Therefore, this is not the commitment of the party rather a cosmetics. The other two parties also are involved in the same practice.

 

  1. Grab votes either way: Their dubious character is solely motivated by votes. They try to grab votes either way – by supporting one issue somewhere and opposing somewhere the same. The fine example is CPN (UML)’s movement in Kathmandu against the Supreme Court decision prohibiting the use of local language of nationalities in the local bodies. The party as a whole, including its central committee remained silent, but the local Kathmandu committee was calling for a movement. Again, there was no mass movement it effectively organized. Therefore, they were not after opposing the decision but were pretending it keeping in mind on the Newar votes of Kathmandu valley.

 

In the general election held in 1999, the above parties had proposed the following in their Election Manifestos.

The Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist)

  • Local autonomy (not clear whether it is based on nationality or geographical region)
  • Equal rights for the people of all nationalities, languages, religions and cultures.

(Khanal, 2056: 11-18)

The Communist Party of Nepal (Marxist-Leninist)

  • Upper house of the parliament should be converted to house of nationalities.
  • Secular state.
  • Decentralized system of governance and administration.
  • Promotion of languages, cultures, religions and art of all nationalities. and castes.

(Khanal, 2056: 11-18)

Nepal Worker’s and Peasant’s Party

  • Protection of religion, art and culture.

(Khanal, 2056: 11-18)

Now, when the contradiction between the oppressed nationalities and the Khas has been visible in all areas of socio-political processes in the society, the parties mentioned above which are playing a noncommittal, dubious and ambiguous role, will face lots of difficulties. The heightened level of contradictions and the organized nationalities’ movements will compel them to clarify their stand.  The subjective approach of these parties oriented to appease all and supporting to maintain status quo may alienate large majority of people. Alternatively, they may be compelled to stand in favor of social justice.

The communist parties follow non-parliamentary path include the Communist Party of Nepal (Masal), the Communist Party of Nepal (Unity Center) and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). During the General Election in 1999, they had brought the following issues in their election manifesto.

The Communist Party of Nepal (Masal)

  • Secular state
  • Autonomy of local bodies (not clear whether this refers to nationality or region)
  • Uplift of Madhesi, Janajati and  Dalits

(Khanal, 2056: 11-18)

The Communist Party of Nepal (Unity Center)

  • Equal treatment to all nationalities and linguistic groups.
  • Secular state.
  • Autonomy to nationalities.
  • Convert National assembly (upper house of parliament) to House of Nationalities.

                                                                                                            (Khanal, 2056: 11-18)

The Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist)

The party had boycotted the general election in 1999. It has taken a radically different position on nationalities’ issues than those parties mentioned above. It supports the right to self determination. The party in its pamphlet of September 22, 1999 has specified its policies and stated that “the present state is against the right to self determination of nationalities, whereas such right is the legal basis for strengthening national unity. Rather than allowing national autonomies, the state even opposes the linguistic rights and brutally represses them.  The state is a communal state under the influence of dominating nationality chauvinism. The entire southern plains and the Karnali region are suffering from the regional discrimination and suppression of the state. The Dalits, as the most exploited grassroots communities are continuing to be the victims of exploitation, oppression and discriminations (Janadesh, 2056 v.s.: 7). This statement clarifies the basic stand and political positioning of the party regarding the issue of oppressed nationalities. It favors the national unity based on democratic rights of the people including the right to self determination.

Nepal Terai Congress/Nepal Sadbhavana Party

The Nepal Terai Congress had raised the problems of the people of Madhesi nationality. This was its core theme and had demanded autonomy for Terai region. It had proposed to make Hindi an official language for that autonomous region. Providing equitable employment opportunities for Madhesis in the government services was it’s another key demand. Indeed, Nepal Terai Congress was the first political party in Nepal which raised the issues of discrimination against oppressed nationalities and had tried to put forward the remedial measures to rectify the situation. The Hindi language that it had proposed fo