Nepali Times
By The Way
Caucus chaos



When the first sitting of the CA declared Nepal a secular republic on 28 May 2008, it had vowed to draft a constitution to ensure an inclusive¬ state by May 2010. We are nearing two years of the extended period, and the Supreme Court has ruled there will be no more extensions after 28 May.

The newly formed State Restructuring Committee has been given the task of proposing a viable federal structure, but its mandate is being dictated by a caucus of CA members from indigenous groups who all want their ethnic fiefdoms.¬

Recent public opinion polls by this newspaper and others have shown that a majority of respondents from indigenous communities themselves have misgivings about carving out provinces along ethnic lines. A poll in June 2011 by Interdisciplinary Analysts shows that the number of people who want to define their identity as 'Nepali' first and their ethnicity second has risen to 71 per cent.

We are trying to correct past mistakes by making an even bigger blunder on state restructuring. The way to address marginalisation and discrimination is by inclusion not by whipping up ethnic exclusion. We protect our national unity by recognising our diversity, not by fragmenting an already fractious state. By taking the path of ethnically demarcated federalism we will reinforce the same divisions in society that we have fought so hard against. Some super intellectuals see ethnic federalism as a viable and scientific move towards inclusion, but it is a case of an overdose of the wrong medicine.

Looking at the historical marginalisation in Nepal only through the prism of caste and ethnicity¬ is a failure of imagination. There are other forms of exploitation, including the plight of the religious minorities, dalits and women who are not separate identities but disempowered sections within all ethnic groups.

We don't have to go too far to see the perils of a culturally divided society. After India's independence in 1947, the country adopted a linguistic federal structure taking into account demography of language. Sixty years later, states have failed to protect minorities within their territories. The slaughtering of Muslims in Gujarat, dalits in Orissa and the prosecution of Biharis in Maharastra by the 'maraathi maanus' (a crony title given to invoke a linguistic identity) are only a few examples of what linguistic federalism has done to India.

The purpose of having a political caucus is to ensure effective bargaining, it is not a tool for political blackmailing. The indigenous caucus in Nepal's CA, generously supported by well-meaning but naÔve donor groups, is using the cross platform to hold the nation hostage to irrational demands. Even more worrying is that these pressure groups are now out of control of parties, the organized elected entities supposed to find political solutions to the country's problems.

Yes, particular sections of Nepali society prospered more than others in the past due to their¬ access to political centers of power, education and opportunities. But, geographical remoteness of the¬ country coupled with feudal governance that sustained illiteracy and¬ socio-economic backwardness are the main reasons why Janajatis, Dalits, Chettris and even Brahmins, in the remote areas of the country were historically wronged.

Affirmative action policies are needed for the underprivileged, but such policies have to be forward looking and embrace inclusive identity, not create new, multiple barriers in society.

It is no more just the Maoists, who originally brought in the ethnic debate as a mobilisation tactic during the years of war, the entire political landscape has been dominated by issues of ethnicity and¬ identity.

In the last few years, the identity debate made people more aware, they have shed the traditional fatalistic mindset and started asserting themselves. To see women, Dalits, Madhesis and indigenous communities celebrate their diversity and help in nation building is an¬ achievement of the 2006 movement. But using identity politics to drive a wedge in society for divisive politics is short-sighted and self-destructive.

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1. ushaft
This is a good piece. You have touched many dimensions of the problem and raised the right issues.

Let's see why we don't have a constitution yet or will not have it on 14th May too. We think that since we voted for our representatives, they're answerable to us. In reality, our democracy is limited only to voting, the fairness of which has also been questioned. Is the constitution being written in the interest of the people? Do the leaders fear that if they don't write a good constitution or a constitution at all, they'll be rejected by the people? No. Because we allowed foreigners to meddle so much that our leaders feel more answerable to them than to the taxpayers. Their vehicles, liquor, meeting costs, the library and almost everything has been paid by the donor agencies, many of whose track record isn't very good.

Take for example the political records of UN, the European and esp Scandinavian countries- I respect their development agendas, but when they mix in their political (and often religious too) preferences in them, all hell starts breaking loose. They have been responsible for ethnic wars, and even countries breaking apart. More on this later. But we should make sure our political process runs with our money. If we don't have enough money, we should feel responsible and donate money so our constitution can be written the way we like. The FNCCI, Nepalese industrialists and other rich people should also realize that leaving in the hands of politicians alone is dangerous.

If we make our leaders answerable to us because we pay for them and can stop doing so, we can get a good and timely constitution. The way things are going, we will get only one of these two. The ethnic caucuses are shameful- they work to push the agendas their donors want them to.

2. Dino Shrestha
Statistical data is only correct if it can be reproduced with the same result. The reliability of every data should be completely replicable, everywhere. In a society such as ours, in my 15 years of career in statistics, I have not seen a replication result for such difficult a question asked in a callous way. If you isolate the results into geographical locations and tally the people who didn't want to answer these questions, you'll come to know that majority of the people who are in the caucus are naturally more like to remain reserve and not answer it. If such loaded questions have suggested answers, secondary question must clarify the findings, which only select breed of statistics know. I hope the statistical data is not the result of overgeneralized and discarded of unfavorable data. 

3. thapa
Indigenous in nepal have been systematically and culturally excluded from powers for centuries while brahmins, chettris, and other high castes have continuously prospered. This needs to be corrected in the new constitution. Also we should nationalise many of the key sectors in the country for the benefit of all -- not just a few trading castes.

"The indigenous caucus in Nepal's CA, generously supported by well-meaning but na√Į¬Ņ¬Ĺve donor groups".¬†
Perhaps Anurag is Zealous of being IP caucus so strong and now is  aware of their own rights by defying their party whips. When the government is itself unaware of the fact of the country, when certain elites of chhetri and Bahuns are not willing to share power of the government in terms of other people's existence, and those excluded when start to raise their voice up for their rights, become strong by any means, does Anurag Acharya, an elite of Bahun write up in his column that those CA are stirred by some naive donors,  not by their well intention and meaning? 

Next, the proposed 14 federal state is not divided on the base of ethnic line. To make them ethnically divided you should confer with all the rights to the ethnic people. The given names like tamasaling, tamuwan and limbuwan don't encompass the states having full of power. The state restructuring was imagined as to make power devolution to the federal structure. Anurag, you should go critically in your write up. Your knowledge on surface really goes landslides to the commoner. The IPs are also not really going to gulp the rights of  nepalese but, of course yes, they are fighting for their rights being as genuine citizens having their own language, culture, tradition and recognition or Identity. Until they are not recognized in terms of their identity by the new state structure, Nepal and Nepalese won't be in peace. Don't ever fear of federal structure of the country. The federal structure should not be defined as the geographical fragmentation, rather it's sharing of power, commissioned by local people on the base of  the use of local resources,man  power, formalization of taxation and make labour for development. The thought of inclusion is just like the present parliamentary system where people from different parts represent the parliament, talk and fight there, not needed to go back to their constituency. Then people suffer from diarrhea in Jajarkot where no hospitals, they die but the development is always in Kathmandu or the city centers. No one becomes responsible for the place from where they represent the power. So, without the power exercise for local development, our nation remains the same for the centuries. You can write in Nepali Times doesn't mean that youths like you are getting the same opportunity. So, better write how we can manage federal state.    

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)