Nepali Times
This Is It
Unfinished business



With the super jumbo cabinet in place, the formation of the State Restructuring Commission (SRC), and the extension of the Constituent Assembly, we can finally get on with the real business of constitution making.

The eight member commission has a heavy responsibility in its hands: advising the government on the restructuring of the country that reflects the aspirations of the public. But how exactly do the people want their country to be structured?

Five years ago, in the euphoria of change, we got rid of the old: including the 'royal' prefix on everything from the national airline to our embassies abroad. An ancient Hindu kingdom turned into the world's youngest secular federal republic, and an elected assembly couldn't wait to turn the country into a federation, convinced that this was what the Nepali people wanted. Most likely, the new constitution will also be written along the same lines. But time and again public surveys conducted by this newspaper among others showed a majority opposed ethnicity-based federalism. Even among various ethnic groups, three-fourths were against ethnic federalism and opposed to secularism. (See: Nepali Times, # 553)

These numbers are, however, drowned out in the din of political slogans that dominates the debate on state restructuring in the constitution. A cross party caucus has made ethnic federalism its main plank, and the political parties meekly follow. The discourse on federalism is so polarised that to even remotely suggest that ethnic states may not be the most desirable thing for Nepal at the present time can earn one a label of being a regressive, status quoist right winger. Few mainstream writers or civil society stalwarts want to endanger their 'liberal' image by even seeming to suggest this. Or perhaps it is just futile to expect anything from consultant intellectuals who get support from aid agencies openly involved in pushing their agenda.

There is no doubt that the ethnic minorities in this country have been historically excluded, that the state for many years favoured policies that obstructed their development, in many cases effectively prevented it, and that they should be given equal rights and opportunities. But what is the solution we are being offered in the name of ethnic states will bring new exclusivities, another kind of supremacy and an irreversible damage to an integrated Nepali society.

Two wrongs do not make a right. Pitting one group against another in a resource poor society is a sure fire way to ignite a multi-ethnic conflict from which there will be no going back. The leaders unfortunately have been so trapped under the weight of their own rhetoric in trying to sound more revolutionary than the rest that now they can't go back.

In private, most leaders confess that they have bitten off more than they can chew. They fear that they have opened a Pandora's Box of caste-based politics, a fear which was confirmed when 75 members of an ethnic caucus voted across party lines on the amendment bill for state restructuring, disobeying the party whips. There is no assurance that the SRC will not succumb to similar pressures.

Where does this disconnect come from? The answer lies in the way change was introduced in Nepali society. No one is saying Nepal should remain a Hindu kingdom or continue with centralised governance, but you cannot expect people who have not really changed attitude-wise to wake up one fine morning hearing their country is now secular and federal and not be suspicious. That declaration should have been backed by wide public discussion and awareness-raising. The problems of a nation are too complex, too diverse and too entrenched to be corrected by a few weeks of street uprising and fait accompli decision-making. A revolution may end a monarchy or dictatorship but emboldening values of democracy, freedom and pluralism are altogether a different issue.

What we need now is a nationwide discussion on how the governance of this country should be like, and what should be the basis of restructuring. Let the people debate and decide instead of being thrown off the deep end with imported ideas of how our country should be built. There will be dissenting voices, extreme opinions, run-down ideologies, but that is the marketplace of ideas called a democracy.

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Corrupt at the roots, ANURAG ACHARYA
The all-party mechanism grabs headlines for all the wrong reasons

1. Arthur
So, why don't you actually participate in the nation wide discussion instead of just bleating about your doubts and fears?

2. Alex Tocqueville
Rubeenaji, instead of ranting on fearfully about ethnic federalism without ever defining your terms, how about distinguishing b/n your ambiguous 'ethnic federalism' and a truly 'democratic federalism'. �

Alas, the NT seems to hire only columnists who share their anti-federalist party line, rather than truly independent, progressive and well-researched columnists...

The way that the NT poses its questionnaires is sublimely aimed at collecting the perspective it already advocates (having learned from Fox News...), then parroting it perpetually to readers, donors and fellow travelers.

Keep all power on the Kathmandu cocktail circuit, close to home, where the benefits accrue to those who cuddle up to where the money is inside Ring Road.

If you would read the CA State Restructuring Committee report you'll see the effort to balance cultural identity and economic opportunity in new provinces. �Simply diminishing the right to identity of cultural communities and languages (while insisting on one for Nepal...) reinforces the dominance of the elites who own the NT and hire the mainstream writers who, contrary to what you say, continue their polemic against a secular, federal, democratic Nepal.

Why not explore more how to compensate the Dalit or Tamang or Tharu or Magar who have been historically discriminated in Nepal? � �Simply acknowledging how repressive and manipulative the State has been for the high caste elites doesn't offer any serious commitment to allow them to compete for the wealth and opportunities that your employers take for granted.

The fact that Indigenous Caucus refused to be 'whipped' (lovely image...) by their party masters is actually a truly democratic achievement. �Why the CPN/M, NC and UML Bahun party leaders insisted that they can 'whip' their CA members on issues related to a new constitution should stun anyone who takes a moment to think about 'Democracy in Nepal'.

Not to mention that the CA itself and�many agencies�been out around the country asking for suggestions and recommendations on the draft constitution. �Across the Madhesh, among the Tharu, within many Indigenous communities, there is an eager excitement about the future of federalism in Nepal. �Outside the narrow confines of Kathmandu, there is real hope and anticipation that 10-12 states will bring pride to many of the historical identities within Nepal and open economic opportunities that have been squashed for decades in favor of looting the country for the traffic jams in Kathmandu. �Jai Nepal!


3. Rabi
Is a very thought-provoking and challenging article.
 Asking tough and challenging questions is the key to sustaining a democratic society. There has to be debate among the people. People can debate right and wrong, but side-skirting tough questions will not build a democratic society.
It is the Nepali peoples right to decide on the future of the country,and not the foolish pseudo-intellectuals and definitely not frustrated defeated Western communists.

4. who cares
i think without the backing of major party,,, this ethnic demand is not that strong..

and for you idiot arthur,, is not publishing ones view on paper a way of public discussion? 

5. Rishav
Reply to #2 Alex Tocqueville (obviously not your name)

Alex Tocqueville, funny you would use the name of a 19th century french revolutionary political writer. Says a lot about your political inclination and mindset not unlike many south-asian studies students from the west. You may think you can be all smug and put the wool over the eyes of most Nepalese people on this site, but this Nepali won't take that rubbish and will argue effectively back.

2) Rubeena has done a marvelously job with this article. All she simply was saying is that, "
public surveys conducted by this newspaper among others showed a majority opposed ethnicity-based federalism. Even among various ethnic groups, three-fourths were against ethnic federalism and opposed to secularism." Is this really so hard to accept.

In a free and fair referendum, most Nepali people even the slimey politicians know already that federalism and especially ethnic based one would not be acceptable by the people.  If that is something you find so difficult to accept or understand about us Nepali people then I'm afraid who ever you have spoken to or been taught by has given you a very innacurrate view.

3. Like many western commentators here who support federalism and even ethnic based federalism in Nepal most likely don't even come from federal republics and wouldn't even support the idea in their home countries.

Like I said to another misinformed westerner last week, Tom Paine,  a Nepali who lives within the ring road will still most probably know more about Nepal including rural Nepal than you I'm afraid.  Living amongst a rural small community for 1-2 months in Nepal doing field research, like many western students doing south asian studies have to do, does not make you an expert in national Nepali affairs common to every Nepali citizen. Unfortunately, voices like yours are very common amongst western political science students who spend some time in rural Nepal with a specific community, developing a bond which is nice but then become subjective and only see problems and solutions through their eyes ignoring the rest of the country.  This includes NGO workers and international donors as well.

5. Like I said last week to Tom Paine, the focus should be in helping those in Poverty irrespective of caste, age, race, ethnicity, sex etc...  not differentiating between groups of very poor people based on race etc.. because you will just promote another form of UNTOUCHABILITY.

6. The different groups of people who reside in Nepal today have coexisted for centuries peacefully together, irrespective of who was ruling or not in their respective regions. This is the fabric of our society, which yes also formed and created our nation.

6. Rishav
Reply #2

It's just only ocurred to me that you are the same person who left comments in the article "Now, he constitution," last week under the name Tom Paine, short for Thomas Paine, a 19th century English pro-revolutionary writer supporter of the French revolution and for American independence. I guess the French revolution must hold great meaning to your life and certainly explains the manner in which you write.

7. ushaft
Thanks Rubeena for being brave enough to say how a joke in the name of democracy is being practiced in Nepal- to argue against something has effectively been banned. We may have to pay the price in the future, but people should be told about this arrangement now, as many times as possible.

To #2, Alex Tocqueville, I have some additional questions:
1. If you are passing judgement without seeing the questions of the survey and describing exactly how the survey was manipulated- it is obvious who is acting like Fox News here. I do not know much about Himalmedia, but your argument helped me rubbish you quickly.

2. Surveys done by other organizations, eg: IDA have also shown similar results. A random sample of people who are asked similar questions by other media organizations/programs (eg: BBC Sajha Sawal) have also answered similarly. I am afraid it is you who is outdated and not in touch with the nation and people.

3. About the suggestions asked by CA: I know a massive campaign was launched a couple of years back and thousands of forms were collected. But I also know that less than 1000 of them were actually opened and read. How did you reach the conclusion you have made above? Do you even know this or about how the people have responded ? Do you know anything?

4. About the CA committee report: even Krishna Hachhethu doesn't think the report has balanced cultural identity and economic opportunity. All reliable experts also have said that the CA report is totally based in "identity" and the subject of economic opportunity has only been thrown in many places of the report to make it look serious.

5. Alex, I am sure you don't have answers to the questions posed by Rishav above too. I feel sorry for you. But I feel more sorry for my country whose fate has to be decided by voices like yours and for my countrymen- who are not even allowed a democratic debate on the subject; only a one-sided monopoly of ideas on "making New Nepal."

8. topbahadur
where do people like me hide who believes - we are all africans. 

9. Puke
#8, In Africa, we are not Africans. Nutcase theories propounded by criminals is not acceptable simply because it is asserted by a bunch of murderous fools with guns, and shameless buffoons with an attitude.

10. Alex Tocqueville
Rishavji, Thanks for your responses and insights, altho I find the ad hominem nature of many of the remarks on these blogs unnecessary and self-serving. �If the writers would refrain from castigating all they don't like and dealing w/ the level of personal attacks, rather than discuss ideas, there would be more value here.

I believe it's valid to question the NT and HM polls, given the consistent editorial biases on the issues asked in the polls. If the NT/HM would publish the questionaires, the polling sample, the identity of the suveyors and research methodology, then it would be more reliable. �Instead, the results are given that always appear to support their editorial preferences; thus the scepticism of the results.

I also simply asked Ms. Mahato to define her terms so the readers can better understand the distinction b/n ethnic and democratic federalism. �No one seems to desire to do that. �That could go a long way to clarifying what is being debated and discussed.

As for referenda on the issues, this, as you know, is a very sensitive task. �The last major referendum in 1980 left a bad taste in most people's mouths given the distortion by the government at the time and the fact that Nepal missed a golden opportunity to begin on its democratic path ten+ years earlier. �

Referenda can be the cause of increased violence and a polarization of society. �In the given situation, there is no election law on referenda, nor any consensus on what questions would be asked the general public in a referendum: federalism, secularism, republicanism, the monarchy, president vs pm governance, PR lists vs first past the post elections, division of state powers, et al. �Where to start and where to stop and who will draft the questions? �It's certainly a possibility but no panacea; in fact, possibly more Pandora's box than is imagined.

Actually, the US, Canada, Switzerland, Germany and Australia (to name a few) are all basically federal republics. �Quite democratic and prosperous, too.

As for who knows Nepal best, simply being a Nepali in Kathmandu doesn't ensure a better understanding of the Karnali, kamaiya, Chamars or constitutional citizenship rights. �Mon. de Toucqville was an example of a foreigner learning more about early 19th America than many Americans have understood of their own country in the 200 years since. �'Democracy in America' isn't a revolutionary book, but a deeply democratic understanding of how local level associations, citizen's responsibility to their own communities formed the basis of that profoundly successful 18th C. American experiment. �

Thus, no matter one's nationality (which is restrictive enough in Nepal...), a wise, sympathetic and understanding mind is hard enough for any of us to achieve in defining historical trends and desires. �Ten years ago who would have believed Nepal would be a secular, federal, democratic republic? �Yet, the nation has transformed itself, once again, with more changes ahead, no doubt.

As for poverty and identity, they are two related but distinct ideas. �Caste, ethnicity, language and religion are deeply communitarian concepts. �They exist at the core of Nepali society. �Poverty is found in all communities -- but the reawakening in Nepal, profoundly homegrown and sui generis, includes the cultural identities that had been suppressed, withheld or misplaced for generations. �This, too, with the recent expansion of democracy and human rights in Nepal, is also to be embraced and respected -- not feared.

As for the French revolution... it was certainly a defining time in European history. �Much too bloody and cruel for my common tastes, leading to an even bloodier emperor -- yet that post-Enlightenment period was certainly an effort to emancipate people like us from the rigid authoritarianism of the self-absorbed royalty, Versailles, the corrupt Catholic Church and the extensive feudal, landed elite. ��

As Dickens said so splendidly, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..." �Possibly this similar to what Nepal is undergoing�during these decades, altho in�a more deliberative, calm and mature manner than the 18th C. French. �best, Alex de T.

11. ushaft
#10. Alex Tocqueville:
My first comment was made without making any assumption about your identity or nationality. The reasons being: nationality alone has very little correlation about someone's bias on Nepal's issues.

But now I can say with more certainty that you must be a white Christian male, probably a European, most probably a Scandinavian or a Swiss, employee of some donor, intelligence or government agency, who thinks of himself as the savior to the poor people of third world.

Your text formatting (what are all those special characters, what computer or programs do you use?), content and argument all point to one tendency: preaching. You have not even done your basic homework before making all those allegations. For your information, details about the survey methodology and questionnaire are available here.

Please try not to think too highly of yourself from now on, because you clearly are stupid. Being a dollar earning foreigner alone doesn't make you any better than the rest of us. Try not to confuse your agency-job with a god-sent mission to rescue the "people of Nepal." Be thankful and try to learn from this land, if you can- do not preach to us.

12. Rabi

# 10. Alex Tocqueville

The last major referendum in 1980 left a bad taste in most people's mouths�

Referenda can be the cause of increased violence and a polarization of society.


The problem with leftist intellectuals is that they believe they have all the answers,and they know what is best for the people. What the people really think  is not important from their view-point. So a referendum would be simply just a waste of time.

In socialist philosophy,people are important only as a collective  ie as the mass that needs to be educated and guided by leaders such as Prachanda,Baburam or their side-kicks,  and to be used by them to achieve their socialist goals.

The danger to a civilized society from such a viewpoint is that the value of individual persons that really make up a society gets lost. In their thinking,everything  is good if done in the name of the collective. So the sufferings, death or killings of individuals loses significance in such a liberated society.

As such,even educated leftists like Baburam, who has a PhD degree,does not think much of the killings of Ram Hari Shrestha,Ujjan Shrestha and others. He believes that the killers did no wrong because they believe in the same socialist goals as him, and the families of the victims and the people(the mass) are fools to complain.

According to these leaders,the mass should not have a brain of its own,and only needs to think and do as the enlightened leaders tell them.

 That is why a referendum which gives the ignorant mass a voice,can never be acceptable to enlightened socialists like Alex Tocqueville.

13. alex Tocqueville
Ushaftji, Tks for your comments. �I do believe that the future of Nepal is in the hands of Nepalis, your leaders, the engaged citizens, although the international community and your neighbors have more influence that most would prefer. �The elections in 2008 provided new leaders to draft the constitution and represent the diversity of the nation. �It wasn't perfect as we know, but it was more representative than any previous election.�

Of course some think that there was too much intimidation, which could have been true, but unlikely in the Valley where the CPN/M did surprisingly well. �Maybe just a case of throwing out the old to try something new. �But there was an urge to get past the war years. �

Still, it's a bit odd that you argue so passionately for the purer democracy of a referendum while equally passionately insulting someone who is just carrying on a public conversation here. �Actually, I think that there is a conversation going on in Nepal on these ideas -- altho, definitely the big party leaders control the final decisions more than the rest of us. �Hopefully they will be wise enough to balance the different opinions and ideas. �

As for Hatchhethu, I can't speak for him, but I believe that the CA report clearly denotes that identity should be the primary basis of federalism, with capability a mitigating factor. �Definitely more work needs to be done on economic opportunity, esp. given the stranglehold Kathmandu has had on the nation historically.

Again, I'm not saying 'don't go for a referendum', just that it's not quite so easy to define and clarify on what questions or issues, and has risks associated with it. �That's all.

Rabiji, Thanks, again, for your thoughtful comments. �There is a serious schism b/n rhetorical flourishes of who is labelled a pancha, democrat, socialist or communist and actual realities. �I don't really see myself as leftist intellectual (much less a white, Chistian or Scandinavian...) or the like, but it seems easy to be labeled as such here. �

Of course, the parties don't help retaining socialist ideas they don't believe in or calling their party names that have no reflection in reality ('United Marxist Leninist'??). �But that is politics here, I suppose... �

14. Rishav
Reply #10

Ad hominem nature of attacks hey! well your the trying to pass yourself off as a 19th century french revolutionary political observer, which quite clearly does say alot about your mindset, very twisted, nothing Ad hominem about that am afraid.

 "I believe it's valid to question the NT and HM polls, given the consistent editorial biases on the issues asked in the polls. " Just because you can't accept that Federalism especially ethnic based one are not popular by the Nepali people, you just have to come up with excuses. You start talking about research methodology like it's suddenly a thesis or paper, it's a newspaper articile asking people their answers to straight forward questions. But I'm sure if you were that concerned about the format of the research I'm sure you could have directly contacted NT for that material via email rather than just trying do Ad Hominem on them, " NT seems to hire only columnists who share their anti-federalist party line, rather than truly independent, progressive and well-researched columnists..." This statement is extremely arrogant and insulting to a very decent, brave, young journalist. So you deserve a good earful for that!

Besides, ushaft #7 mentions quite clearly NT are not the only one who have come to this conclusion. "2. Surveys done by other organizations, eg: IDA have also shown similar results. A random sample of people who are asked similar questions by other media organizations/programs (eg: BBC Sajha Sawal) have also answered similarly. I am afraid it is you who is outdated and not in touch with the nation and people."

"Referenda can be the cause of increased violence and a polarization of society." Really so this should be the reason for the people to not have their say on very important issues such as state structure, so the views of the few polticians should supercede the views of the general public because of the possibility of violence and polarisation. I think we have had enough violence in the last 15-16 years because of a militant few who couldn't accept what the majority of the people wanted.

The question/s for the referedum is not the hard bit here, it is bravery of the politician to request it on behalf of the people and to the task of carrying it out free and fairly.

"Actually, the US, Canada, Switzerland, Germany and Australia (to name a few) are all basically federal republics. Quite democratic and prosperous, too." Well actually most of the western nations are not federal states, and the ones you have mentioned are pretty much it. The examples you have given have mostly centralised control e.g. Australia quite similar to the 5 economic development zones structure adopted previously in Nepal.

"As for who knows Nepal best, simply being a Nepali in Kathmandu doesn't ensure a better understanding of the Karnali, kamaiya, Chamars or constitutional citizenship rights." Well being foreigner who only studies specific groups , or topics doesn't make them have a better understanding than a Nepali about his/her own country Nepal.

"As for poverty and identity, they are two related but distinct ideas" Really, I would like you tell that to a poor Nepali farmer, he/she is just a distinct idea. Is that what your research has really taught you.

but the reawakening in Nepal, profoundly homegrown and sui generis, includes the cultural identities that had been suppressed, withheld or misplaced for generations." So when you see two equally very poor groups your going to stay to one of them because you are supposedly historically been a suppressor or suppressed to only a certain level you don't get help or assisstance, we will give to the other equally poor group instead, that's real christian of you, yet again your promoting another form of UNTOUCHABILITY.

Sorry your No alex de Tocqueville for Nepal. Besides we don't need political obervers who just observe at the time of the action , and then prophersize later, we need your Benjamin FranklinsAbraham Lincolons , George Washingtons, and the people who are like the father's of the American Constitution.

15. ushaft
Alex-ji, I wish you could use some of your enthusiasm in jumping to conclusions in understanding things and learning instead. It is hard; maybe futile to argue with you- because I cannot see what your point really is. Let me state my case point-wise:

- Although it could be a nice idea, I didnt talk about referendum in above comments. Not even dispassionately.

- You started comparisons with Fox News and I asked you what were the basis for such comparison- if you have seen the questions or the methodology and why all opinion polls present almost similar results? You replied by saying that since the conductors of the poll don't publish the survey methodology, it is easy to guess from their editorial stance about how they were. Then I exposed the hollowness of your argument by pointing to a public webpage detailing the survey methodology. You comfortably ignored this.

- It is not difficult to see that your stance is not only based on lack of information but also on a preconceived idea of what is right and wrong for Nepal. The writer is asking for a broader spectrum for debates. She wrote that the scope of current discussions have been confined inside a space determined not by popular will or democratic means, but by several unseen, possibly vested and harmful interests and some visibly suspicious groups. What is wrong in this argument? Your original logic was that this very proposition was based on faulty opinion surveys, the bias of the newspaper and it's writers. Can you tell me how?

- Your belief does not matter. Reliable experts of federalism in Nepal have gone on record saying that the CA committee report is based primarily on ethnicity only. On what basis or credentials do you claim that they are wrong? I quoted Hachhethu because he is one of the most vocal advocates of ethnic issues in Nepal and even he has the same opinion on the CA committee report.

- You seem to be unaware of many things. You seem to know of only developed countries that are federal. And you do not seem to know of the real issues in Nepal. Nepali people want services, opportunities and facilities to be rapidly and effectively decentralized. They want access and participation in governance. Some ethnic groups want a greater acceptance of their culture, language and identity. All of these are achievable without federalism. Even in federalism, these are achievable via non-ethnic modes. So, what really is the justification for a country like Nepal to adopt what white Christians "assume" will be good?

16. not really an indian
Someone told me that foreign parachute experts of Nepal are so obsessed with ethnic issues especially regarding "Janajatis" because they usually get good, usually god-like treatment while visiting Nepalese villages. Additionally, they get to drink and merry with "Janajati" men. They love it. Suddenly they appear "suppressed, withheld or misplaced" to them.


Alex's passionate advocacy for ethnic federalism in Nepal might have ulterior goals, but it looks more personal to me.

Maybe Himal Media can do one opinion poll on how parachute experts acquire the biases they have.

17. Rabi

13. alex Tocqueville ji

I don't really see myself as leftist intellectual.

My apologies for thinking you believed in the principle of socialism/communism. There probably are not that many educated people left nowadays in the West that still believe in the discredited and failed ideology.

It would be interesting if you could share with the readers what you find objectionable about socialism/communism?

You are critical of the UML. The Maoist party has been involved in significantly more numbers of murders,kidnappings,extorsions than the UML ever was. Even now we see reports that they have been defrauding the country and the people for their personal and party's benefit.

What do you have to say about that and to the people who were misled by the Maoist leaders?

It is also good to note that you are not objecting to a referendum, and depriving the people of their right. I think we all agree on that. Every option has some limitations,but letting the people speak would be the right and the best way to so get out of this muddle.

18. alex tocqueville

Rabi, Rishav and Ushaft, Thanks, again, for your thoughts. Altho, I think you're getting bored w/ me, so I'll try to end my responses here. Each of us has made many points, good and bad, for the benefit of ourselves and, possibly, a few others reading. But no decisions can be made here, so time to leave it for others to voice their opinions.

1. de Tocqueville was not exactly a revolutionary. He was a well-educated aristsocrat w/ a passion for observation, social science and democratic values. I include him up there w/ Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton, Adams et al. He taught us much about ourselves.

2. We still haven't defined the distinction b/n democratic and ethnic federalism, so I'm still not certain what some of our debate is about. As for federalism with some cultural identity attached (not necessarily special rights for any ethnic group). This will be debated for years to come in Nepal as it's likely that at least 4-5 of the future provinces will carry an ethnic (Limbuwan?) or geographic (Madhes) cultural name. But, that doesn't, in itself, mean 'ethnic federalism'.

3. As to what 'the people' want. That will always be a good question. There are the polls done by some media houses that have a clear political bias. There are the 'random samples' by BBC or MIREST that have no scientific basis. (Well, as much as our opinions...) The 2008 elections, as serious a reflection of popular opinion as possible at that time, gave a party firmly committed to identity federalism a plurality of seats.Â

A study done by Prof. Krishna Khanal ('An Analysis of the 2009 Public Submissions to the CA') stated that: 'There is no disagreement on the federal structure. However, there is much disagreement on the carving out provinces... The major submissions of indigenous nationalities put special emphasis on the need to ensure provinces are demarcated and named on the basis of ethnic, linguistic and historical backgrounds of indigenous nationalities.' At least that's what Khanal observed. Not scientific, but from quite a large sampling of 1,538 VDCs and over 120,000 people.Â

This debate is divided by ethnicity and caste, as Khanal also noted. The IP largely want recognition of their cultural identities while the non-IP insist otherwise. Somewhere a compromise may be possible, I hope.

4. Nationalism: I suppose I should just agree that any Nepali knows best, especially those who agree with you. If there is a Nepali who disagrees with you, I'll let the two of you decide who is more right. Is that ok?

5. No, a specific individual is not a 'distinct idea', but concepts are. Being 'Nepali' or 'Indian' or 'Thai' is a conceptual frame as there are uncountable varities within each concept. Same with Bahun, Magar, Dalit or westerner... No insult was intended to either a poor farmer or a rich professional. (Altho there are alot of excessive insults flung here based on proposed cultural, religious or geographic identities...)

Nor, seriously, is the past harsh reality of historic 'untouchability' comparable to proposed, temporary proposals on 'affirmative action' or 'positive discrimination' for marginalized communities. (A separate debate...)

6. Re: HM survey methodology: I'll get some more information on that to respond later. I had asked someone to translate that page for me.  A political sciencist survey specialist colleague had raised questions on the diversity of the HM questioners and their sample survey techniques. Sorry if my queries are too academic, but such instruments do need peer reviews to be taken seriously by social scientists or us. Tks!Â

7. As for broad public debate: that's what we are doing, as well. In the English and Nepali press, there is a constant, fascinating discussion going on w/ regard to state restructuring. Also, hundreds of thousands of people have participated in discussions and civic education seminars around the country over the past 2+ years. To say that there has been no debate or, as Rubeena states,  that the country 'is being thrown off the deep end with imported ideas' is rhetorical, fear-mongering and untrue. No final decisions have been made and there is a loud, serious and passionate marketplace of ideas among a wide-range of Nepalis on these issues all around us.Â

8. Yes, I agree w/ you: the CA SRDP Committee report has clearly placed identity as the defining factor in their proposed 14 model federalism; economic viability or opportunity is second. I'm simply proposing that a reasonable compromise b/n the two ideas is found.

9. As to what 'white Christians assume', I can't say as I'm not one and I certainly doubt that they all speak with one voice, as I rarely find a diverse group of Nepalis speak with one voice on the subject either. As they say about Israelis, 'two people, three opinions...' It's true of many other intelligent, opinionated, serious, concerned people, as well...

10. My own experience is that the 'parachute' bideshis who are here for a couple of years are mostly opposed to federalism, especially identity-based federalism. Most foreign countries find it easier to work with a centralized government (corrupt tho it may be...), than want the complexity of a federal Nepal. Some probably miss Sri Panch, as well...

11. As for all the great 'isms' of the world... I'm not a true believer or fellow-traveller of any. Actually, I'm an optimist against my better judgement -- which is another way of saying a sceptic about most things. I think both socialism and capitalism have certain verities that accurately describe the realiteis of human nature. But politics twists most good ideas into forms of greed and self-interest. Communism for me is another form of totalitarianism. No thanks!Â

Also, I didn't mean to pick on only the UML as hypocritical, there's plenty of room for the ersatz Maoists, the flag-waving Kangressis and the royal panchas. In fact, we each have a solid dolop of hypocrisy and self-interest. You may think I'm trying to 'preach' but I ain't no missionary, just another solitary soul lost in this century trying to find the common good for more people than less. Not very revolutionary, actually, just observing Nepal, caring for Nepal and hoping that it finds its feet again in the maelstrom of a new century. My best. Signing off.

Jai desh!


19. Arthur
Thanks Alexis, the rabid hatred provoked by your reasonable remarks in the spirit of a moderate conservative aristocrat impressed by democratic energy sheds a lot of light on the semi-feudal mentality still so prevalent in one section of Nepalese "society".

Its easy to forget what really lies behind the "civilized" doubts, fears and sneers about federalism and any other aspect of progress expressed in Nepali Times until one sees the raw form spewed out in comments.

20. Rishav
Reply #18

Notice that your tone has calmed down,... well thats a start..

Unfortunately, you are typical of a foreigner who has your own preset ideas, agenda and level of understanding of Nepal and won't be able to budge even when meeting other ordinary Nepali people. The fact that you are not able to communicate with every day Nepali people, and only those who are attached to your NGO or place of study and therefore reliant on their assisstance makes it unlikely for you to really get a true perspective of Nepali opinion. Instead you come out with a statistical arrogant hat on, when you see various national or international media outlets getting people's views which goes against your preset views and ideas.

You forget that Nepal, has experimented with a form of Federalism in regard to the 5 economic development zones, they were present during the Panchayat as well as the post 1990 democracy era. They were not successfull for various reasons, but do you really think in creating 14 new states the same problems if not more will occur. Unfortunately, Nepal is one of the most corrupt nations in the World and as you say the central government is corrupt, so then what would you think will happen with 14 small states, the buerocrats and the corrupt politicians must be wetting their mouths.

Nepal is an interdependent country , we rely on each other as well as from outside but when these states form that harmony will break and I can see fighting for essential resources, where do the rivers start and flow for hydroelectricity? Also they will be far too expensive to run, I can see duplication and worsening of an already extremely difficult buerocractic system. Unchecked corruption and more foreign unchecked interferance than ever. Also the big ethnic debate, as you have mentioned the idea of federalism has only come to the table due to ethnic militant uprisings not because of economic, developmental or so called democratic reasons. The questions of who are truly Adibasi? and who are truly Janajati? will become more vocal and create a rise in ethnic tensions.

From what you are saying, you remain very flippant on the idea of calling states after ethnicities and what impact it will have if not already on our nation.

I don't care about your conceptual frame work, poor is poor irrespective and effects all societies, castes, religions, sexes, races, etc help them regardless and not to ignore groups because of some strange domestic or hidden agenda foreign INGO policy who only want to help certain groups. So your view of how historical untouchability should be reversed for a little while for temporary measures can go up in smoke. You call yourself someone from the modern , developed west. Eye for an eye is it?

Your Alex de Tocqueville, reminds me of a pathologist in Medicine, they always seem to get the correct diagnosis but they are always a bit too late.... We need doctors and surgeons for constitution and country building.. Your fella also reminds me of film critics, good at talking about movies but if you give them a paper to write a story, or behind a film camera they will urniante in their pants. George Washington, can not be talked about in the same breath as your Alex fella the french observor. .. Besides you aint no Alex de Tocqueville of Nepal , your understandings and failure to grasp Nepali opinions would be something more in comparable to George W Bush understanding of the Middle East and Afghanistan.Â

21. ushaft
In case we are talking democracy here, then if Nepali society contains feudal, elite, bourgeois or other people who you do not have a liking for, they should still have a place and their voices still matter. Some people make big statements by overlooking this basic requirement. They ought not be taken seriously.

22. Gopal J
Isn't it instructive that only know-it-all farangs like Arthur and Alex want federalism in Nepal? Leave us alone, comrades. Go and experiment in your own countries.Â

23. ushaft
For the very eager-looking but obviously not much-knowing (apparently not much interested in learning/knowing too) experts of Nepal and the ones who claim to know the people and problems of Nepal: I had mentioned IDA's survey in my first comment (#7) too, here's one more try.

IDA is a research institute based in Kathmandu that has been conducting public opinion surveys for over 7-8 years now. They publish the survey results alongside the methodologies, questionnaire and error margins. Here is a summary of the results of one of their past opinion polls.

24. Arthur
ushaft #21 and #23, please think about the implications of Gopal J's #22.

It seems plausible that he actually BELIEVES that only a few foreigners support federalism in Nepal.

One could easily get that impression from reading Nepali Times and its comments.

But one would also have to be completely isolated from large sections of Nepali society.

Certainly the voices of the "feudal, elite, bourgeois" still matter. But they don't matter as much as they used to matter. Yet they still think that if they only listen to each other they represent everybody who matters.

This has a somewhat comical effect. For example Rishav in #20 genuinely appears to be attempting to express some rational arguments against federalism instead of just shouting abuse (although he still cannot just present arguments instead of also attacking the person he is disagreeing with).

But he has so little experience of really discussing federalism with anybody that supports it that he thinks the 5 economic development zones under the Panchayat are an example of federalism.

Likewise your link to the IDA survey claims:

"A survey by Interdisciplinary Analysts (IDA) finds that 26.7 percent of the population thinks that Nepal should not be a federal state"

This means that the overwhelming majority think Nepal should be a federal state. Yet the article repeatedly mentions that the 26.7% minority is the largest or "first" among the various options. An english language newspaper article cannot be aimed at people who are completely illiterate or innumerate. The people the author is trying to convince against federalism with this "argument" could only be people who already agree with him. If he was trying to convince anybody else he would not use such pointless arguments (and would not do a survey of only 30 districts out of 75).

Just for your own sakes, you need to actually seek out and talk to people who hold opposite views on federalism to your own. At the very least you would learn how to argue better, even if your views remained unchanged.

But in order to do that you would have to move outside the social circles you are part of.

25. B2B

All attempts to explain to the readers of NT what actually meant by the Federal Republic of Nepal seem actually failed so far, thanks to the deficit of real knowledge about the intricacies and problematics they could engender if the Pandora's box is opened. Would that be so devastating that those Maoists who were the initiators of the ethnicity based federal republic will have to eat their words in public? Who knows?


Arguably, I'm left gaping as well as it makes me cringe to go through the comments of @Alex Tocqueville alias Alexis Tocqueville ( pun intended!). The latter really revolutionized the then middle of 19th century by his bold rundown of options about the Democracy in American Society which served as an example of advanced democracy that they were experimenting and that could serve as the future guidlines for the then France struggling between the Monarchy and those others who called themselves as neoliberals and socialists. I'd beg the fake Alex Toqueville not to apply the same magic potion for today's Nepal because we are completely in a different context and a different epoch. By the way, if there is one Nepalese Alexis Tocqueville, he could be no other than C.K. Lal, mind you!


The other point is about the secular state. Since the time I've been living in a secular state of the Republic of France where secularism exists since 1905 AD, I could understand all the benefits of being secular the citizen lambda can profit out of. The reason behind the secularism in France was to get rid of the Vatican tutoral in every aspect of civil rights. Before 1905 AD almost all administrations were flanked by a clergyman/woman who would scrutinize even a simple thing like a simple operation of vasectomy in order to have no more babies an individual was entitled to ask for a due permission from the Vatican. All that became so tough and lousy for the common folks that the politicians availed themselves of the opportunity to separate the affaires of the state and the religion which became more and more anachronostic by nature. It gave at last a secular Republic of France where henceforth an individual should be known only by his citizenship, neither by his religion nor by s/her gender. Whereas in the US the slogan like 'We Trust in God' and the glorification of God is highlighted in all circumstances - that means they are secular in other sense.


Next, what I wanted to plead on this thread is those countries that are now federal republics around the world were at the beginning all small states dispersed in the nature like it was the case of Nepal when erstwhile Prithivi Narayan Shah did impose his umbrella of a centralized kingdom. Look at the case of the US, Canada, Germany, Brazil and India, to cite a few. They were all scattered over in small states or kingdoms. Later on when the central government became more reliable and strong enough, it could impose its authority on those small entities, then they were federated into the federal structure of a new nation in order to facilitate the external relationship with the foreign countries as well as the better management of territorial defense.


 That means it is evident that the federalism came into being when the diverse states decided to fusion into an ensemble by choosing a convenient city as the capital for all different states as a whole, which they tagged as federalism, not the federalism decided by a party that imposed the division of the country into several states may that be ethnically or otherwise.


Arguably, I think those who think Nepal should be a federal republic based on ethnicity mustn't be surprized to confront a wall of furious opponents because what they are suggesting has never been tried anywhere before and shall possibly never be tried in Nepal anytime soon thanks to the lack of treasury to increase the number of new civil servants to govern the newly created states.


The Maoists are now before their own creation of a Frankenstein. And if some immediate decision to slow down the pace ain't undertaken at the earliest convenience their creation will bury them alive anytime soon.


I don't know how to move past it!?!

26. Rishav

Honey, you must really miss me.... talking about me like that.

Unfortunately you lack any real understanding of Nepal still despite your endless encounters with Nepali people.

Your tone is still condescending as usual, so does deserve a good earful as usual.

Attacking people No! Ceratinly not , educating the foreigners like yourself about Nepali ways, we as your Gurus of Nepali affairs.

Federalism is a political concept in which a group of members are bound together by covenant (Latin: foedus, covenant) with a governing representative head.

This is wiki's definition, but as you know there are different types of federalisms, some more centrally controlled or regionally controlled. Each of the countries who have adopted the system have implementated it according to their own likes and needs. federalism is actually a far looser term and form of government than you actually give credit for in your fixed mindset.

Yes in Nepal did try flirting with decentralisation the major apsect of federalism, during the Panchayat time and also used during the post 1990's pro democracy time which you so conveniently tried to ignore, a model inspired by federalism in developing the 5 economic developmental regions, even though officially the country was not a federal state. The regions were thought over very carefully, into vertcial splits which had an emphasis of the involvement of people from the Madhes and Pahad from their respective region to sit over issues together. They were named after land marks to not offend any particular groups.

 By using the definition of federalisim this is exactly what it was, with an emphasis on central government control like alot of present day Federal nations do have. Like all great ideas it is the implementation which always lets it down, just like communism hey Arthur. We can argue about whether it was federalism or not it doesn't really matter but an attempt in the past ,not too different from circumstances presently, for decentralisation was made and failed. And what is to say that those very same reasons for failure won't resurface or possibly even more seen or unseen problems are to occur.

Also, I know you think you might have found a new friend in this fake Alex fella, but unfortunately he doesn't seem to share your political views it seems.
"Communism for me is another form of totalitarianism. No thanks! "

O'dear and you both could have made such a lovely couple.

P.s. do you really have any friends.....with your consecending manner probably not!

27. ushaft
Both #25 and #26 have made very valid points.

Arthur, who doesn't even know how sampling and surveys work, and considers someone's social circle very limited and unrepresentative just because he can write and read English doesn't need to be taken seriously. After all, he seems to think of the average Nepali as someone who can't read NT- unmindful of all that has happened with Nepal's population, education and youth over the years. Maybe that's what keeps the "Nepal-experts" so motivated- a strong sense of responsibility, validation, influence and superiority.

#25: Apart from the remark on CK Lal, your comments are nice. I agree with the point both you and #26 have raised, that of the origins of federalism.

My following remarks are little lengthy, but worth reading I hope.

Nepal's formation was essentially as a nation state. The amount of disinformation notwithstanding, Prithvi Narayan Shah shaped this country. Nepal's early rulers sensed the imminent danger from attackers and preserved this amount of land for us to call a country today. Amidst all the mistakes of the Shah Kings and Ranas, it is important not to forget how all other states of the Himalayan belt: Bhutan, Sikkim, Tibet, Kashmir, Afganistan have failed to protect and govern themselves. In the entire region, the hostile environment created first by the colonists and later by the cold war and Indira Gandhi asked for unusual arrangements.

It is easy to blame the present day ills on the erstwhile rulers because it is convenient to attack the weak. In reality, most ills like the corrupt bureaucracy; feudal society; hierarchy based on status, language and color; centralized, secretive and servile government can be attributed to the British legacy in South Asia. So, if the "new Nepal" of the fairy tales should be created, it makes more sense to vilify the colonials rather than the weak conglomerate of people who ruled Nepal. I fail to understand how everything of the "old Nepal" is wrong and solely responsible for Nepal's ills. So much so that the neo-elites criticize Prithvi Narayan Shah for not being a Marxist or a democrat. The only motive behind such propaganda is to disintegrate the society, make us feel guilty of ourselves, strip us of our identity and the sense of pride in our history and heritage. This has been tried and tested in many places- people who do not learn from history will be condemned to repeat them- and we shall be condemned if we don't too.

Also, the Maoists' and chiefly BRB's sketch of federalism stems from their inspiration from the Soviet Union. BRB's language clearly smells of this. They repeatedly use the term ‘Ganarajya’, meaning republic (like the czech republic) for federal states of Nepal. Soviet Union, United States, India and so on have distinctly different origins and history from Nepal's. BRB is the principal architect of the Nepali part of the team that created this myth called "new Nepal" that they want us to flock to like moths to flames. Look at the irony of this myth: BRB dreams of being the new Prithvi Narayan Shah by "unifying Nepal into different federations." The plan looks too elaborate to be true. But observe the small hints available to us everyday, and it will appear more obvious. For eg: it is not hard to see from all the hate for history and some of Nepal's people they have instigated among some other people in order to achieve this order of things.

Did other countries that solved their problems take similar path? For example, did the blacks kill, displace or spread non-stop hatred against the whites in South Africa and the US?

Where is the attempt to create understanding, integration, compassion and solidarity in the "new Nepal" we are being led to? Why is an overwhelming share of Nepal's population not convinced but afraid, furious and resisting? Is it not because all this is being done via trickery, fear, coercion (as I said in my previous comment: in invisible and visibly suspicious ways) and almost non-existent attempt to consolidate a broad spectrum of ideas and democratic practice?

So if some Nepalis who know history and the distinction between myth and reality, who can read and write say they will not accept this arrangement- very good. We have survived throughout history despite all odds because of people like them. It is a different story how "experts" from different hemispheres and continents altogether have been succeeding in engaging us in a fight for survival. But with the days of their style of world-order seemingly numbered, we can hope to work towards solving our real problems sooner than later.

28. para
Thought it would be relevant:
There's a Magar village (Magar Gaam) nearby my ancestral home in Lamjung. The Magar community had a fight over a petty issue related to a festival celebration a few years back. Since then they are divided as Upper/Lower Magar village. The two don't interact with each other or celebrate any festival together and try to differ in ways while performing some rituals. This could be seen as an example of offshooting of new ethnic lineages.

29. Pranab
Rubeena ji,
You did it again! Another well balanced and thought provoking article! You are the best reporter the NepaliTimes and I would argue Nepal has to offer! Thank you for your insightful reporting and please keep it coming. The hand picked "experts" do not represent what the silent majority of Nepalis want and represent. We do not want ethnic based federalism and secularism. This is primarily being stoked by foreign forces who want to impose their religion and culture on us (the ethnic angle is just a part of it; they are trying the time tested divide and conquer strategy): Divide us and impose their religion and culture on us. This is a recipe for ethnic and religious violence like seen in other countries. Nepal has always been very peaceful religiously and minorities have never been persecuted against. You cannot say the same about other countries like Bangladesh, Pakistan and even many western countries, where Hindus are regularly harassed and ridiculed. What they do not realize is that the Vedic knowledge is the source of all religions in the world. Jesus traveled to Nepal and India for 18 years and learned from sadhus and went back and preached in Middle East. The Vatican knows this but strongly denies this because they want to appear superior.

At a time when tens of millions of people in the west are finding the knowledge in our Scriptures so appealing (Yoga for example) and practicing it daily, it is sad to see that people in our country and India do not appreciate and take pride in our own rich heritage, but rather sell their souls to whatever the NGOs and INGOs preach for small gains. I say to them - Read the Gita and the Buddha's message and you will realize the knowledge contained there is incomparable to anything in the world. Om Shanti!!!

30. B2B
Please Pranab, for god's sake do not bring this topic of religious superiority as an all time albatross around the fragile neck of Nepal. The caste system has already eaten up all our stamina to rise our heads above the fog of apartheid and hypocrisy.

There is a lot of hemming and hawling and throat cleaning and pronouncements about how something concreate really must be done.

But Nepal requires to have an up-close view of the concept of future building which we really are missing for the time being.

31. Pranab
B2B - No one is talking about religious superiority. The point is that a drastic change to secularism while ignoring the views of the majority will invite religious conflict and religion based parties. If that happens, guess who will be the losers: it is the minorities!  It is also known to many that our own BRB and his family have been effectively influenced by missionaries so they are pushing this agenda. Reminds all of India doesn't it? Where the minorities effectively rule the country while demonizing the majority, even long after their imperial masters have left. Only Hindus and Buddhists are tolerant enough that they allow this. No other country in the world does this. The point is that don't take too much advantage of this.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)