Nepali Times
Inconvenient truths


Peace Politics in Nepal: An Opinion from Within by Kanak Mani Dixit|Himal Books|300 pages|Rs 480
In his new book Peace Politics in Nepal, Kanak Mani Dixit captures much of what his earlier Nepali book, Dekheko Muluk, contains, but adds some new chapters and updates developments of the past year for the benefit of English speaking readers, particularly for our friends from the international community who take much interest in Nepal.

Dixit is not a diplomat. His language is blunt and straight-forward. He dares, and even relishes, to speak truth to power and
populism. For some of us--scholars, intellectuals and diplomats included--who are trained to be politically correct, sit on the fence and play it safe, his new book, Peace Politics of Nepal, makes uncomfortable reading. This book may as well have been titled Inconvenient Truths of Current Nepali Politics.

Dixit is often portrayed as a part of the Kathmandu elite, an upper-class, upper-caste Bahun, strongly anti-Maoist, perhaps a little right-wing and a status quoist. What you see often depends on where you stand. That caricature of Dixit may be accurate if you see Nepal in simple, black and white terms: as being sharply divided between feudal, conservative, counter-revolutionary stooges of imperialist, capitalist, foreign-agents dominated by the upper-class Bahun-Chhetris who purposely and deliberately dominate, oppress and conspire to perpetuate a deeply unjust, unfair, discriminatory and oppressive system against the poor, the marginalised, the deprived and you feel that you can only change it through revolutionary violence and radical restructuring of the state.

A logical corollary therefore would be, as King Mahendra said in justifying the Panchayat regime, that Western-style liberal democracy is unsuitable to solve Nepal's problems. Dixit, however, argues that it was precisely the open society, political freedoms, respect for pluralism of views that multi-party democracy of the 1990s allowed and encouraged that enabled us to bring to prominence the issues of the deeply entrenched disparities and discrimination, inequalities and injustices. It even allowed the freedom for a radical Maoist movement to rise in Nepal, at a time when Communism was collapsing all over the world. Democracy takes time to evolve and correct its own shortcomings. Dixit argues that the infant and imperfect democracy of the 1990s was not given enough time.
The populist thesis in vogue in Nepal right now, and one that seems to be subscribed even by some diplomats and donors of Western democracies, is that the 1990s Nepal experience in democracy was an utter failure. Dixit asks us to look at some of the successes of the 1990s before the Maoist insurgency derailed them.

Knowing Dixit has a reputation for being a little partisan, I read the manuscript carefully to detect how his partisanship manifests itself. And yes, I can confirm to you that indeed Dixit is very partisan. He is unapologetic and biased in favour of non-violence, liberal democracy and pluralism, which many of us would not find as big sins. He has a gripe against many members of the international community who do not have a deep enough understanding of Nepal's complex history and subscribe too easily to the populist characterisation of Nepal as so deeply divided by entrenched caste, class and ethnic divisions that to solve such problems, Nepalis should be prepared to accept, at least temporarily, some radical, less than fully non-violent and undemocratic solutions which they would not accept in their own countries.

He sees diplomats, donors and consultants of many Western countries, even some UN officials as having a rather romantic view of the Maoist agenda for social change. He faults the analysis contained in reports of organisations like the International Crisis Group (ICG) as showing a subtle bias that castigates the NC and UML as status quoist, and the Maoists as the true agents of progressive change.

I must say, when I was myself at the UN, I used to rely heavily on reports of ICG, the Carter Center and the UN to better understand what was happening in Nepal. These are all institutions that I respect deeply. On the whole, I continue to find their analysis solid and serious. So let me suggest this â�" for those who rely heavily on their reports, it would be beneficial to have Peace Politics of Nepal handy to consult as a counter-check and to provide some context. Every chapter of this book is interesting and insightful, and easy to read. I recommend that you read it with an open mind.

I want to say a few words on three chapters: one that made me really sad, one that I found very courageous and revealing, and one on which no matter where we stand on the ideological spectrum, we would all agree if we think of ourselves as just human beings with human empathy.

The chapter that made me really sad was the one dealing with the UN Mission to Nepal (UNMIN), which Dixit rather unkindly titles "Uncivil Mission". As someone with a long association with the UN, my natural instinct was to disagree with Dixit's harsh judgment of UNMIN. But, it must be said, UNMIN was not as conducive to pressuring the Maoists to give up violence and intimidation, to convince the other parties that it could be counted on to firmly stand on the side of democracy, and that its reporting would provide the most objective basis for the Secretary-General and Security Council to understand Nepal.

Kanak makes some sweeping remarks about UNMIN's bias, but does not quite document it. I would commend to you a Note Verbale that the Permanent Representative of Nepal circulated to members of the Security Council last year documenting point by point how the report of the SG and the statement introducing it by the SRSG was biased and inaccurate. Coming from a very seasoned professional diplomat, it was an unusually blunt and bad indictment of the SRSG's analysis. Dixit also alleges that the UN's Department of Political Affairs was very dismissive of all views that were critical of it and of UNMIN. I saw this in a very curt letter that was written on behalf of the Secretary-General in response to a joint letter by four former Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Nepal. Knowing the Secretary-General personally, as I do, I can tell you the S-G would have shown greater respect for those Foreign Ministers if he were asked to personally clear such a letter on his behalf. So sadly, even if I like to disagree with Dixit, and I do so in some of the choice of his words, I do agree with the substance of his critique of UNMIN.

In the chapter on federalism Dixit dares to address an issue which most sophisticated Bahun-Chhetri intellectuals consider taboo for fear that it will draw the wrath of the advocates of ethnicity-based federalism. As we know, of all the subjects on the drafting of the new Constitution, none is more emotionally charged than the issue of federalism. While fully supportive of economically viable federal structure that ensures greater inclusiveness and better representation of marginalised groups, Dixit questions the rationale for ethnic Bantustans.

There is a lot of hypocrisy on the discourse on federalism in Nepal. Many leaders â�" including some Maoists, and not just Bahun-Chhetris but many thoughtful Madheshis and Janajatis, privately tell you that they do not consider ethnic federations or Ek-Madhesh-Ek Pradesh as a sensible idea, but they keep mum in public. Dixit is to be thanked for opening up this subject for a thoughtful, dispassionate debate which is what we need, on all subjects, in drafting a national constitution.

The book argues that Nepal's peace process cannot be considered complete so long as the thousands of victims of conflict do not get justice. There is a real fear, Dixit argues, that both the Maoists and the Nepal Army would rather that we "forgive and forget" the terrible atrocities committed during the conflict.

This is an issue we must look at from the victims' perspective, not that of their victimisers who will find many reasons to justify their actions. Instead of "forgive and forget", Dixit argues, "forgive perhaps, but investigate, prosecute, and never forget" should be our message to both Maoists and our national security services. Beyond "Truth and Reconciliation" , we must go on to genuine help for the rehabilitation of the victims of violence, and a massive post-conflict reconstruction and development that will help Nepal recover from 15 years of economic stagnation. That has been the real curse of the "People's War" and response to it, of which all of us Nepalis have been victims.

In the last chapters of the book Dixit concludes on an optimistic note that in the end the Nepalese genius for finding sensible solutions will prevail, and we will have a progressive, democratic constitution. But he worries about some continuing, undemocratic revolutionary romanticism. And he insists that the new constitution must be an advance from the 1990 constitution, and not a further regression. He  worries about some continuing, undemocratic revolutionary romanticism. He insists that the new constitution must be an advance from the 1990 Constitution, and not a further regression.

When reading that, I said, "Come on, Kanak, is there a real fear that we could have a less democratic Constitution than that of 1990, after the great people's movement and revolution we have gone through? You must be kidding!" Then I re-read the 1990 Constitution, juxtaposing it with this draft "Constitution of Peoples Federal Republic of Nepal â�" 2067" that was presented by the UCPN (Maoist) as containing the most progressive ideas for a 21st century "Peoples" constitution. And yes, I can see that, God forbid, it is possible for us to go backwards even as we recite progressive slogans.

Then, just for comparisons sake, I went on the internet and read the 1998 Constitution of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea which I found very revealing. Let me quote a couple of articles from that Constitution:

- Article 66 says: "All citizens who have reached the age of 17 have the right to elect and to be elected irrespective of sex, race, occupation, length of residence, property status, party affiliation, political views or religion".
Wow, although I have been to North Korea many times, somehow I had missed that it allowed different party affiliations and political views ….
- And I quote article 67 that says, "Citizens are guaranteed freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, demonstration and association. The State shall guarantee conditions for the free activity of democratic political parties and social organizations".

Please note, North Korea too apparently allows multi-party system, provided they are "democratic", as determined by the ruling vanguard Party, of course. This is the danger I see in a multi-party system suggested in the UCPN(M) draft, without the acceptance of pluralism. We cannot really address issues of social justice, equity, inclusion and all the other advances we seek in our new Constitution, in a sustainable manner, if we do not accept pluralism.

I hope this book will inspire us to strive for and insist on, a model of New Nepal that seeks both socio-economic justice and political freedoms, in a non-North Korean style and substance.

Kul Chandra Gautam is a former Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations and this review is adapted from his presentation at the launch of the book, Peace Politics in Nepal, on 19 April.



1. B2B

Come off it! Are you hoping it will have a snowballing effect?

First off, you've got to admit that the Maoism in Nepal in on its last legs.

Those who are commies since the year dot have become doting old fools.

Rest is nothing but pleonasm and trite news!?!

2. who cares
i admire mr.dixit for his straight forward pro democratic, pro people, pro nation views. 

every one should be straight forward both in talk and action, unlike double talker, deceptive like commies. 

by the way, what is diplomatic approach? cause i was lost in some of the above paragraphs. 


3. who cares
wow, is that the real n korean constitution. 

bloody commes... are all commies similar?

even a few weeks ago during football qualification, n koreans said they had three players from their world cup squad but actually they had 7 (media said). 


4. sameer
I wonder if this review is on his book or on Kanak M. Dixit's controversial political (civil society) image.  I did not see any point in spending 50% review on how "great and misunderstood Kanak is" part. To use post-1990 fiasco to say "oh, look, it did allow the Maoists and many other grass-roots to express their view."  Duh!! what about all the sense less killings, 100 armed groups, banana law and order that followed not to mention Nepali politics being a playground for whoever and whatever.   Kanak should have come and accepted bluntly; yes, the post-1990 political fiasco was deplorable (12 PM in 12 years, and massive corruption, and dictatorial Girija's role in destroying his party, pushing his daughter, Presidential greed, and a collective greed and incompetence so on so on...)   If you do the cost-benefit, the clean verdict on Kanak's biasness is questionable. Admitting all of these as well would have made this book a real Inconvenient Truth.  Disappointed reader.  

5. Anjan Panday
Very nice and eloquent review of the book; surely good enough to make me buy this one. Without even reading the book, I can agree with the criticism of the ICG, in particular, and very specifically, of Mr. Ian Martin and Ms. Karen Landgren. 

On the issue of state restructuring, there is no doubt we can have any meaningful step taken unless a complete technical analysis is completed; the risk however is that in a politically muddled environment some groups will surely come out against this approach and stall it. 

6. Arthur
So Kul Chandra Gautum recommends a book by the publisher of Nepali Times in Nepali Times.

Isn't liberal democracy wonderful.

7. jange

He faults the analysis contained in reports of organisations like the International Crisis Group (ICG) as showing a subtle bias that castigates the NC and UML as status quoist, and the Maoists as the true agents of progressive change.

Really? And at the same time the Nepali Times was saying the same thing too!!

Well, I suppose Kanak and the NT are two entirely different entities and so they would have different views. But has Kanak castigated the NT?

8. Nirmal

Arthur or you have smoked the green herbs quite a lot or you are completely unaware of who the publisher is of Nepali Times.? Tell me what's the case? Or you are again demonstrating how lost you are when it comes Nepal and nepali issue. After a long time contributing here, still you don't know who is the Publisher of Nepali Times? Or are you kidding or it might be an irony of yours to say, look who controls Nepali Times? I don't doubt it is Kunda Dixit and If you do, better formulate him a question, perhaps he will have the right answer.

Regarding the book: I'd simply ignore Kanak Dixit and likes of Kul Chandra Gautam because for me these personalities are seasonal ones(in nepali we have a very descriptive word to say it -CHALANCHALTI KA NETAHARU- and they are not freethinkers as I'd have liked to see many in Nepal so that our Nation could thrive in Democracy and Modernity in true sense. Although, I respect their freedom of expression I'm unable to understand their whole idea so sharing their idea for me is to abandon myself from being a freethinker. This is not the matter of choice ladies and gentlemen.........

9. Dg
#6 Arthur.
This Book is a must for you Arthur. 
Your wise comment is solicited by all of us.
 W ill you Arthur?

10. Gole
North Europeans , United Nationals, DFIDs,  French Diplomats, must read this book, in particular the International Crisis Group,and Political Department of the UN Headquarter people.
Secondly, thethe Nepali  Off-centre Left s.should also go through it.
Last but not the least the Congreesites and the Communists.

11. Bikas T

I always saw the international community in Nepal as a clueless, mealy-mouthed lot. But if people like Mr. Dixit and Mr. Gautam  are so virulently against certain internationals (ICG, UNMIN, etc.) then these organizations must have done something worthwhile. I already respect them for being in Mr. Dixit's bad books.

12. Arthur
Nirmal #8, my comment was based on an assumption that Kanak Mani Dixit has rather similar views to Kunda Dixit and Kul Chandra Gautum ie that all 3 represent much the same outlook, even though there are differences between them. I am aware that there are differences among them, eg Kanak Mani being even more hostile to the ICG etc than Kunda, but if the differences between the two Dixits are wider than the differences between either of them and Gautum then I was indeed ignorant of that.

Dg #9, the book has only just been released so when I googled I could not see any way to order it yet.

13. Battisputali
 It's on amazon. Here:

14. NepaliPundit

Arthur#6 is the Dr. DK. He used to be MaoDai in old days before moved from Israel to US.  As soon as he moved to US, he gave up his MaoDai avatar and now in NT, he is Arthur. He wanted to avoid any IP addresses tracked because he needed to remain clean in US to get government jobs as soon as he gets US Citizen and gets security clearance.

Well, I am not surprised he has changed his mode of delivery at NT. He is as usual anti-Democracy element in the world. I stopped reading NT regularly after I found Arthur invaded the NT discussion forum with silly logics. I am leaving again because it is him make me feel ashamed to read this news portal. He should be gone for greater good.


15. Vija Srestha

If international community s a clueless mealy -mouthed lot, that must been the reason for Nepali government and individuals as such to have made it a priority to invite them.I wonder why?If they were worthless,there must be other reason to do so,otherwise they wouldn't be invited,in every field we go.Why do we invite them?Let the answer be yours,because it is too obvious to me.

Any article ,or book that is presented to us ,is not about individuals who wrote them ,it is one persons view and only.I consider it as an invitation to think,to use our critical thinking skills and express our views,and it is hardly coming out from Nepali society.This is the reason and the ability of Mr.Dixit, to pull out from us our thoughts,this is the reason we are all participating.This is the reason ,we may come to cristalize and learn in the process.Only this is the attitude we should be keeping,then it is a successful book or the article. There are millions of people who just sit and are present at the meetings and conferences,half of them dosing of and the other half blinking eyes and in the end raising their hand to vote.Everyone is so diplomatic ,for the sake of their chair,the generation and power mania in every office and that is the reason many of us are not using their real names,to sit on the fence and be on the safe side when needed.

My request,could someone forward me the book by Mr.Dixit or let me know where to buy it.Thank you Mr.Dixit for the invitations.I am looking forward to more discussions.

16. Budabaaje 1

My, my, my. Talk about transformations!

Here's a man (Dixit), who himself played an instrumental role in bringing the Maoists into power and government. This is the man who helped to "romanticize" the Maoists' "undemocratic revolution", and make them palatable to an international community that, otherwise, was quite suspicious of them. This is the man who Robinhood-ized the Maoists and legitimized their violence. And having succeeded at it very well, he now sermonizes the international community to unlearn all that he himself taught them!

What name should one give to this 180 turnaround? A Houdini act, a chameleonic act, a turncoat act? ..No, no, of course not. As Gautam would have it, it is a Heroic act. A courageous act that we, the Nepalis as well as the international community, should be grateful to the great Dixit for undertaking on behalf of "non-violence", "pluralism" and "liberalism". Did the world ever have a better champion for these worthy ideals? When all are cowering away in the corner, too careful even to breathe, the Great Dixit is the only one with the guts to speak "truth to power"!

17. BB 2

...Away with the bullshit.

Was this man, Kanak Dixit, unaware of the Maoists' aims and ideals when he lost his voice screaming out for them? Was he ignorant of their "revolutionary romanticism", their violence and terror and authoritarian and illiberal ways? And yet he promoted them. He knew full well about the Maoists' program for ethnic federalism. Yet he kept mum abt it. Instead he joined forces with the Maoists and welcomed them into our cities and government without first seeking any serious commitment from them to give up violence. This is the man who prodded us, Nepalis as well as foreign, to warm up to the Maoists, and sat quietly by even as the Maoists went into elections with full capability to intimidate and terrorize the electorate.

And now it is all UNMIN's fault that the Maoists 'continue' to be retrograde. Dixit himself is unculpable. He is the true "democratic champion", always fighting for the right causes, pure and white as the Himalayan snow! Did anyone suggest this book be called "inconvenient" something? Well, it's convenient enough for Mr. Dixit's image-building, isn't it?

The real inconvenient truth abt Dixit is why he waited this long to speak truth to power? Why wait this long to speak against the Maoists' belief in violence, non-pluralism and illiberalism? More so, when until a few years ago he himself supressed all these truths abt the Maoists and helped build their image as agents of progressive change in Nepal? What's the reason and interest behind this "sequentialism"? That, really, is what's inconvenient abt Dixit's activism!

18. Arthur
Battisputali #13, thanks for the link! I will try to arrange access in order to understand this viewpoint (though I think Gautum probably summed it up quite well as both liberal democrat, pluralist and simultaneously elite, upper-class, upper-caste, strongly anti-Maoist, perhaps a little right-wing and a status quoist).

It is characteristic for such people to simply regard every other viewpoint as "biased" etc. It becomes comical when this is extended to groups such as ICG and UNMIN who would be naturally inclined towards sympathy with liberal democrat, pluralist, elitist, upper-class status quoists, .

I suspect the Dixit's are correct to see themselves as among the most liberal democratic and pluralist and among the least feudal and right-wing of Nepal's elite. (Some confirmation is provided by comments here from more feudalist people who demand a more consistently reactionary posture).

The extent of the gulf between the Dixits (and Gautam) and what might have been their natural allies internationally seems a good indicator of how absurdly backward Nepal's elite is compared with the rest of the world. They have about as much sympathy from other elites outside Nepal as Gautum got in votes at the UN - basically none at all.

Since the Dixits are able to express themselves articulately in terms addressed to other, more modern elites, unlike the more primitive noises from others in Nepal's elite, it should be an interesting read.

I am especially interested to see whether they have any insight into why their views have not been persuasive to people like UNMIN and ICG. Do they actually appreciate what it is like for modern people from developed countries to encounter the more typical representatives of Nepal's elite?

My guess is that since they do not find such people utterly disgusting themselves, they find it difficult to understand the revulsion felt by others. So they expect glib words to change the impact of seeing how Nepal's elite actually treats the large majority of Nepalese.

#15 see link, (from #13)

19. BB 3

In other words, Kanak Dixit is the 'aafai bokshi, aafai jhankri' (both witch and witch-doctor) of Nepal's Mess, also referred to as its "peace process/politics".

Nepalis and our foreign friends would do well to retain a critical attitude towards this man and his activities.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)