Some Janajati leaders have left their parties recently saying they want to struggle against ingrained discrimination against ethnic groups in Nepal. In fact, they quit because they didn't get due opportunities from their senior leaders. Politics is a social service that aims to provide rights to people, all people, Janajatis and non-Janajatis. If you serve the people well, the Janajatis will also benefit. Once the citizenry has access to sovereign rights, it will automatically benefit indigenous people as well. After all, how can Janajatis get what nobody else in Nepal has?
People like Ashok Rai, who was the deputy chairman of the UML, have even formed a separate party to establish their rights. But did he enter politics in the name of Janajatis, or as a UML leader? The public did not vote for him because he was a Janajati, but because they trusted him to lift their living standards.
I did not enter the Nepali Congress because I was a Janajati, or whatever. Never in my 60-year political career at various positions in the NC did I work under the halo of a Janajati. My colleagues, Bal Bahadur Rai, Yogendra Man Sherchan or Bhim Bahadur Tamang did not join the NC to wear the Janajati label but to be public servants. And the public admired them not because of their caste or ethnicity, but because of their principles and their commitment to helping people.
When the Maoists and UML formed ethnic factions within their ranks, I had raised my voice in the NC and said this should never happen in our party. We should not be in the business of identity politics, but using politics for the betterment of all Nepalis who are disadvantaged and downtrodden. The NC must establish itself as a party of principle and not as a Janajati party. If the NC follows the Maoist and UML lead, it will weaken itself just like they have.
It was King Mahendra who started identity politics during the Panchayat by tempting Janajati leaders away from the NC and other democratic parties. It did not work then, and it will not work now. These days, the question of identity has been defined in wrong terms. This will be to the detriment of the entire nation, of the Nepali people and of the Janajatis themselves.
I have been in the NC from its heydays when BP Koirala was our leader, and I have never found the party to be discriminatory. In fact, BP made it a point to go beyond tokenism to make a diverse party that encompassed representation. Today, the NC must make policies that will ensure ethnic harmony and prevent social tensions from erupting.
Nepal's Janajati movement is being directly influenced by foreign interests. It is being fuelled by INGO and donor dollars from outside.
My Janajati colleagues are on the wrong track. They must work for the interests of the whole country, and must include everyone not just fragments of society. We must be Nepalis first, and then maybe NC, UML, Maoists later.
We must not carve our boundaries as Gurung, Magar, Rai or Limbu. Other parties have not dared say this, at least the NC should.