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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Challenges Ahead

The challenges of building Nepal as a stable and prosperous country were expected to be less ostensible once the CA polls were held in remarkably ordinary circumstances. Indeed the political developments would have led Nepal to the dead end of disaster had the obstacles been successful in subverting the polls. That said, we are now in far more favorable position compared to the chaotic conditions that were once imaginable. This never negates the reality that the challenges to the nation building have kept multiplying with each passing moment ever since the polls were held. As each opportunity goes unnoticed from our hands the unpaired challenge that comes next always terrorizes us.

In the background of the increasing social turmoil on the context of the restructuring the nation in unprecedented scale, a degree of disorder is to be expected. But avoiding that anomaly from reaching the extent when the state structure is decompensated has now been the challenge. The warmth-of-urine kind of pacts that succeeded to transiently satiate the agenda of the Madheshi and other ethnic revolts in the past are sure to come under intense scrutiny now. For a disproportionately multi polar power balance in the CA and the cabinet, implementing even a simple resolution in the sensitive issues like state restructuring is going to be like chewing the stone.

The contentious issues of the integration of the maoist combatants as agreed earlier have just entered the ring of political marshal arts. The delay in making the CA even start its main job of writing constitution has now been extreme with six months already passed. All this has puzzled the masses and an uneasy sense of impending political disaster has reminded people the calm of early post-1990 years which was followed by the eruption of the maoist rebellion. Ineptitude of the leadership in handling the sensitive issues has now been conjugated with the threatened social harmony that is changing the demography of the nation in unprecedented scale.

The repetition of failure

As depicted diligently by a respected writer and politician Narayan Dhakal in his insightful account of the impact of the change of 1990 in his novel ‘Durvikshya’, an utterly unfortunate trend in the history of Nepal has been the practice of taking the means of the transformation as the goal of it. The changes of 1950 and 1990 were the promising events and could have been the catalyst in the process of transforming our lives. This could have been accomplished by a leadership with will power and endurance to see the change as the dynamic process where a derailed process of positive change instantaneously gives place to negative or undesirable change. The enormous frustration among the people, especially the young ones after the change of 1990 finally erupted with the insurgency which cost us the most in the history in terms of the lives lost, property destroyed and development processes stalled or reversed.

Thus here comes a critical question: So to what extent is the change after the revolt of 2006 different from the similar changes earlier? Is the chain of failures breakable now, given the political leadership?This question now needs a serious examination. The tragedies in the past may not replicate now but we have already witnessed a spectrum of new road-blocks that the process of nation building can hit. Indeed why the momentum of positive changes loses its consistency in almost all the third world countries making any positive change quite challenging? Why it takes little time for devastation by political disasters like military coup? Why is it that our aspirations to prosper like the Europeans or the Americans never materialize?

While even the prosperous and stable democracies now face so many challenges from the stiff competition with the emerging economies and the security threats from the so called terrorists, the challenges to Nepal which is trying hard to gain a degree of normalcy and stability are enormous. Thus there is the need of thorough introspection of our past and current state of affairs.

1990 vs 2006

The social landscape of Nepal has changed enormously in the last decade, particularly in last two and a half years making the challenges now significantly different from those of post 1990 years. The conflicts then were almost exclusively the ideological ones be it the monarchy vs democracy conflict or the Congress vs communist conflict. But now, the identity based clefts have insinuated deeply even within the major political parties making them less cohesive and more vulnerable to the non-ideological threats.

The grossly disturbed communal harmony creating the crisis of trust has now led to the changing demography in the Terai belt. Has all this occurred overnight with the effort of some evil force? Or has everyone of us contributed more or less to leading the nation to the disaster? All the major forces in Nepal have got their own answers to these questions that favor their political goals. What remains a distant possibility is a devoted introspection on the issue, the vote bank politics further aggravating the state of affairs. For many pahadi political as well as apolitical intellectuals it were the seeds of ethnic politics sown by the Maoists during their venture to capture power that are blooming now. For the Maoists, it is the interference by some arbitrary foreign power disliking their rise who have played foul in the Madhesh politics undermining Nepal’s sovereignty. Though the NC and the UML have less defined party stances on the issue, the leaders seem to agree with the first perception mentioned above. For the madhesi political parties it is the decades long semi-colonialism and ethnic oppression by the pahadi elites that has led to these inevitable consequences.

Similar issues have now arisen in case of the other ethnicities like the indigenous nationalities though not quite to the same extent. The political mess where healthy and devoted discussion on the sensitive issues is next to impossible due to the apprehension of losing seats in the next poll is thus adding to the problems.

First examining the Madhes issue, the enormous shift in the people’s sentiment about one another needs the attention. Though few events like the first Madhes revolt followed by the rise of MPRF and the Gaur massacre had forthright impacts in the dynamics of Pahadi-Madhesi relationships, the roots of the evolving crisis reach far away in the past. The triumph of the Madhesi political parties in the CA polls led by the MPRF when compared to the stagnant performance of the then NSP in the parliamentary polls earlier shows the evolution of the perception among the Madhesi masses. This radical shift can not be explained by any of the light-hearted logics given by the political parties mentioned above.

The foremost reason of the evolution is the realization by the Madhesi masses the perception of the usual Pahadi folks that they are inherently superior to the madhesis and the humiliation resulting from this. Exemplified by the infamous Hrithik Roshan scandal, the bitter experiences of being the second citizen inside the country could be articulated nowhere better than in the Madhesi revolts. This consolidated the major chunk of the Madhesi population for a purpose. The geographical location of the Terai in Nepal and its political importance both inside Nepal and with respect to India played role to make the issue more contentious.

By this I never try to undermine the importance of other factors that have played significant role in the issue. The role of the ethnic card played by the Maoists during the insurgency can not be thus denied. Indeed it was their inability to tame the extremism growing out of their strategy in the later part of the conflict that gave rise to another insurgency with dimensions different from the other Madhes movements. Disengagement of the NC, UML and other parties with the Madhesi masses at times other than the polls also played an important role as they kept pretending not to have heard the genuine grievances of the Madhesi people making them feeling deserted. In the question of the ethnic oppression by the hill elites, it was one among many based on the gender, class, race, caste and many others, prevalent all over Nepal.

The Federalism Debate

The real discussion on the structure of the new state of Nepal has not actually started yet though the broad consensus on transforming the unitary state to a federal one has been already made. Though the arguments against the federalism itself have been heard, of late, the major altercation is now going to be about what kind of federal republic Nepal should be. While every madhesi party is determined to throw all its weight behind the ‘one madhesh’ formula all other forces are firm to resist it. The language and caste based formula proposed by the Maoists is bound to draw stiff resistance from the NC, UML and other parties, which have , however, not dared to propose their own concrete formula for the transformation.

The paradoxes in the political, economic and other plans of the Maoists and their implementation are already enough to decelerate any of the much needed transformation in the transition period. Further complication by the multi-faceted interests of the other stakeholders has made it likely for the process to be altogether stalled or reversed.

Of course the federalism can’t be the cure of all the ailments, nor can it be an obvious devil in disguise. The mischievous leadership in the non federal Nepal unknowingly created such a circumstance where at the end every major player was compelled to abandon it in favor of the federal set up. The background for the federalism can be traced as back as to the supreme court decision not to allow the local offices use the local language in the early post-1990 years. The issues that could be easily marginalized then can now threaten the process of constitution making.

The federal structure to Nepal comes with its own challenges and the opportunities. A balanced approach to this is the only way out now. The devoted interactions are most at the moment to avoid the pitiable to and fro movements of the decision-taking as in the past.

4th nov 2008, 19 Kartik 2065

1 comment:

Indra Dhoj Kshetri said...


You have wonderful analysis about the current situation of the country and well detected the challenges ahead.

I have also created another blog for my theses in media studies and also listed your blog as my favorite. So, when you have any updates, I will be informed and will make time to read the posts.

Keep up the good job.

विजय कुमारको खुशी पढेपछि

जीवन, खुशी अहंकार

जीवनमा अफ्ठ्यारा घुम्तीहरुमा हिंडिरहँदा मैले कुनै क्षणमा पलायनलाई एउटा विकल्पको रुपमा कल्पना गरेको थिएँ, त्यसलाई यथार्थमा बदल्ने आँट गरिनँ, त्यो बेग्लै कुरा हो त्यसबेला लाग्थ्योः मेरा समग्र दुखहरुको कारण मेरो वरपरको वातावरण हो, यसबाट साहसपूर्वक बाहिरिएँ भने नयाँ दुख आउलान् तर तत्क्षणका दुरुह दुखहरु गायब भएर जानेछन् कति गलत थिएँ !

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I do not know why I often tend to view people rather grimly: they usually are not as benevolent, well-intentioned and capable or strong as they appear to be. This assumption is founded on my own self-assessment, though I don’t have a clue as to whether it is justifiable to generalize an observation made in one individual. This being the fact, my views of writers as ‘capable’ people are not that encouraging: I tend to see them as people who intend to create really great and world-changing writings but most of the times end up producing parochial pieces. Also, given the fact that the society where we grow and learn is full of dishonesty, treachery, deceit and above else, mundanity, it is rather unrealistic to expect an entirely reinvigorating work of writing from every other person who scribbles words in paper.

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Somebody has said: “I was born intelligent but education ruined me”. I was born a mere child, as everyone is, and grew up as an ordinary teenager eventually landing up in youth and then adulthood. The extent to which formal education helped me to learn about the world may be debatable but it definitely did not ruin me. There were, however, things that nearly ruined me. There came moments when I contemplated some difficult choices. And there came and passed periods when I underwent through an apparently everlasting spell of agony. There came bends in life from which it was very tempting to move straight ahead instead of following the zigzag course.

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