A history of neglect
- The challenge is to make the Nepali state genuinely plural, where there is equality of opportunity for all
Nov 12, 2014-
The Nepali Congress (NC) and CPN-UML presented their joint proposal for the constitution to the international community yesterday. Why? To show how enlightened their draft proposal is for future Nepal? To persuade the world how unreasonable, ridiculous and stubborn Pushpa Kamal Dahal and the UCPN (Maoist) have been? To remind the world that if a constitution does not get written in Nepal even by a second Constituent Assembly, Padma Ratna Tuladhar is to blame—‘the extremist’, in the eyes of one US-educated editor—and the extremist organisation of Janajati groups that Tuladhar is leading to launch a movement against the NC-UML’s joint proposal?
Give us a break, Congress and UML! As you deceived the Nepali people successfully by selling your slogan of multi-this and multi-that Nepal and tarring the identity proponents with the extremist and single-identity brush, this new plan, too, seems to be an attempt to whitewash the international community. You aren’t the pluralists and multiculturalists that you claim to be.
The world is not so dumb about what’s been going on in Nepal. The world has read Dor Bahadur Bista, Rishikesh Shah, Mahesh Chandra Regmi, and many other Nepali and non-Nepali scholars in multiple disciplines to know what has gone on in Nepal. The only question is, what have you—centrist, reasonable, moderate, non-communal, non-Jatiya combine—done to correct and amend what has been going on in Nepal in the past few centuries, especially the last 50 years? You have to show how Janajatis (both in the hill-mountains and Tarai), women, Madhesis, and Dalits are going to have the equality of opportunity that they have never had over two and a half centuries. The events of the past few months show that not much has changed. In fact, it has gotten worse.
In Sijuwa village of Morang district, a village I used to visit as a child to attend Rajbanshi weddings and fulfil wedding formalities of my Rajbanshi kinfolk to fetch or escort brides, a 60-year-old Rajbanshi teashop vender, Madhu Tajpuriya, died from being beaten in police custody after he was arrested by a police inspector for getting drunk. In Simraungarh, Jaya Narayan Patel was shot dead by the Armed Police Force for demanding better road conditions. CK Raut, arrested in Rangeli for a speech in which he spoke of an independent Madhes, now languishes in prison. These were all people of the Tarai—one getting drunk for pleasure, another asking for better roads, and an intellectual exercising his right to free speech in response to injustice, humiliation, and discrimination. All these were peaceful, non-violent men engaged in peaceful, non-violent activities. CK Raut did not deserve mistreatment and arrest; Patel and Tajpuria did not deserve death. But the present government, and the system it has inherited of the top-down unaccountable exercise of brute force, could not even stop a non-violent fasting satyagraha, Nanda Prashad Adhikari, from dying of self-starvation.
And, then, the deaths from the recent road accidents. My fellow columnist Deepak Thapa last Thursday offered a wrenching analysis of how deaths from road accidents have exceeded the number of deaths during the insurgency.
What is the cause of all these deaths if not arbitrary exercise of power and gross neglect of people’s well-being?
An incompetent state
The callousness of the law enforcement mechanism in the country and gross incompetence of the Home Minister and the Home Ministry speaks of the general bankruptcy of the Nepali state and particular enmity toward the marginalised groups.
Why have such callousness and gross incompetence occurred? It is because Nepali governments, even now, in the open era of democracy, remain unaccountable to the people. How could Irom Sharmila of Manipur, India, continue living while on an indefinite hunger-strike since November 2, 2000, against the killings of her fellow Manipuri folk by the Indian military while Nanda Prasad Adhikari died in 11 months? The Home Minister and Home Ministry’s job has been not so much to protect people but to kill them or let them die through mismanagement and sheer incompetence. The courts, the other branches of government, and the security forces—in a nutshell, the state itself—have all been callous in this sense, perpetuating the legacy of the Ranarchy and the Panchayat system, indeed, the legacy of the Nepali state since it came into existence over two centuries ago.
How is the Congress-UML proposal for the constitution going to address this structural single-identity of the Nepali state that has marginalised and victimised most Nepalis, but especially the Janajatis, Madhesis, women, and Dalits?
To be sure, single-identity federal states in response to the 250-year-old single-identity central state may sound attractive to the marginalised but single-identity cannot be a solution to anything anywhere, whether in the federal states or the central state. The challenge is how to make the central state genuinely plural and multicultural while creating a structural equality of opportunity for all inhabitants of Nepal and enabling equal access to the resources of the central state.
Who is Nepal named after? Nepal may have been named after the sage ‘Ne’ or the house of wool but it is at present a single-identity state of Nepali-speaking caste Hindus. Naturally but mistakenly, the marginalised groups, too, want their provinces named after major groups based on historical and traditional claims. The question KP Oli, Krishna Sitaula, Minendra Rijal, Mahesh Acharya and other Congress and UML leaders from Morang and Jhapa need to ask themselves is—how is it that they became ministers while Rajbanshis and Dhimals are nowhere to be seen? How is it that Dikendra Rajbanshi hangs himself in Balkhu and KP Oli crows from Singha Durbar? And how exactly did Rajbanshis and Dhimals become minorities and marginalised in Morang and Jhapa? Once they study the process of marginalisation of these Tarai Janajati groups and understand it, they will understand the rest of the country.
Just saying that such and such district does not have such and such Janajati in majority and therefore cannot be named after a group does not cut much ice in matters of restorative justice. So, if the Congress and UML do not want their opponents’ single-identity state proposal, they, too, should present a plan to dismantle the regime of single-identity from the central state. Then, both groups should work to make an identity-inclusive multi-ethnic, multi-lingual Nepal at all levels of the state. Until then, their proposal will not persuade anyone, let alone the international community.
Published: 13-11-2014 09:17