Nepali Times
By The Way
Into the void


Kathmandu is witnessing a resurgence of violent attacks on civilians. The population density and gaping holes in the security mechanism make the city an easy terrorist target. The blast in Babar Mahal this week and unexploded explosives recovered by the police in several other locations have done the trick: sow public fear.

The use of violence for political blackmailing has in recent years blurred the line between politics and terrorism. The increasing trend of terror groups, brandishing political cover for a supposed freedom movement with no mass base, has unfortunately been promoted by the state's own engagement policy.

The Babar Mahal incident which took place at a time when the government is holding talks with militant groups in order to provide them a political 'safe landing', may have been carried out by another group looking to draw the state's attention. Eroding political legitimacy and fear of political backlash have made the government incapable of dealing with such threats.

Investigations so far indicate that Monday's blast may have been a case of individual anarchism. Accused Devraj Lama of Dhankuta, who calls himself 'Biswo Kranti' (World Revolution) was until recently just a local thug who extorted money from people in Dharan. If a small town goon has the capacity to take on the state, it speaks a lot about how stateless we are. Metropolitan police chief Kuber Singh Rana was blunt: "We are too short on logistics to be policing a city of this size."

At a program this week in Dhulikhel, lawmakers and activists from Dalit, Madhesi, Muslim, Tharu, and various ethnic communities unequivocally condemned attacks on innocent civilians. They had gathered to debate the contentious issues that remain unaddressed in the constitution making process. Maoist lawmaker Ang Dawa Sherpa, who is a member of the ethnic caucus in the CA, said although there are pitfalls in ethnic federalism, rejecting the proposal may lead to a bigger disaster.

The Janajati and Madhesi activists present said their movement does not seek to establish the rights of indigenous people at the cost of others, and complained that the media has misrepresented their cause. This is not entirely untrue. A section of mainstream pundits are fearmongering by demeaning the genuine aspirations of the people for a dignified presence in the national agenda. But the refusal of a few Janajati and Madhesi leaders to acknowledge that Nepal's social mosaic does not support ethnic enclaves is an even bigger problem.

Leftist intellectual Shyam Shrestha said those who are calling for ethnic enclaves must understand that except for 14 districts where there is some population density of one community, it is impossible to carve out a single ethnic state. "The demography of the country only allows multi-ethnic, multi-lingual and multi-cultural federalism,"
he said.

Even as debates over state restructuring and forms of governance linger, the majority of lawmakers say they are helpless because their party bosses call the shots. This has been one of the major fallout of Nepali politics: lawmakers are there only to vote by whip on the party diktat.

The countdown to the 31 May deadline on the constitution has already begun and the political landscape will only get murkier. If the parties cannot find mutual points for agreement, there is a real danger the ground will fall beneath them. This will not just bring a constitutional void, it will lead to more anarchism and violence like we saw this week.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)