No end in sight

  • The path taken by the ruling elites is likely to exacerbate the current crisis

Oct 16, 2015-

For over a month, Nepal’s ruling elites have been touting the new constitution as a major step towards bringing peace and prosperity in Nepal. But the ongoing political turmoil in the southern plains tells us a different story. Some groups, like the Samyukta Madhesi Morcha and Bijaya Kumar Gachhadar-led Madhesi Janadhikar Forum-Loktantrik oppose the new constitution. They maintain that the new constitution negates the 2007 Interim Constitution as well as the mutually agreed clauses of the draft constitution, which were prepared by various committees of the first Constituent Assembly (CA). Further, they criticise that the new constitution is contradictory to the various agreements between the Nepal Government and opposition forces. They also complain that the 16-point agreement signed by the four-party alliance along with the whip issued by the parties on their CA members to vote on the draft constitutional clauses violates the sovereign rights of the CA.  

The Nepali ruling elite is thus perceived as an occupying force with a neocolonialist mindset  that has managed to undermine the aspirations for emancipation of the excluded, marginalised and deprived communities, both of the Terai-Madhesh and the hills in the new constitution. The Morcha also accuses the hill-based Aryan elites of treating the Tarai-Madhes as an internal colony.

Acknowledge discrimination

There is a general impression in Terai-Madhesh that Nepal’s politics is inherently sectarian, paternalistic and domineering, and that the government exploits excluded communities. Therefore, Nepal’s political leaders, who see themselves as guardians of national sovereignty and integrity, feel no pressure and need to pursue peace in the excluded regions.

Political leaders of the Tarai-Madhesh recall that Nepal’s ruling elites have a track record in breaking promises as they have failed to implement the 8-point and 16-point agreement with the Tarai-Madhes. Even the ruling elite’s invitation to the excluded groups is seen as part of the propaganda of the Nepal government. The government’s hidden agenda, the Morcha believes, is to institutionalise hill-based racial supremacy in all organs of politics and governance. So, if the major political parties are indeed serious, as they claim, about peace and prosperity they must abandon this oppressive majoritarian mindset. They should also acknowledge the racial and ethnic discrimination without any inhibitions and narrow down political differences to create a win-win situation.

Meanwhile, the people of the Tarai-Madhes have adopted a tactical approach

by relocating the anti-constitution movement from no man’s land to the Nepal-India border. After the bloody massacre of innocent civilians by the Nepali security forces, the Indian government has become embroiled in Nepal’s ethnic conflict as leaders of the major parties defied its request to make the constitution as inclusive as possible.  

Geopolitical realities

Nepal lies in between two giant Asian nations. To its north, the Han Chinese dominate the politics and economy of China while to its south, India is focusing on the rise of the inclusive middle class under its liberal democratisation process. It is important to remember that Nepal still falls under the global security system led by the US while India maintains its clout as a regional power in South Asia. The relations between India and China—one as regional power, the other as emerging world power—may be the most contested issue in South Asia for the next decade as Nepal sees an increasingly assertive China. However, domestic considerations in Nepal as well as its increasing political and economic dependency on India compel Nepal to maintain close relations with India if it wants to save multiparty democracy and come out of its self-inflicted economic mess.

This is despite the fact that Nepal has turned its multiparty system into cottage industries. The Nepali Congress (NC) and CPN-UML, for instance, control 20 sister organisations each while the UCPN (Maoist) has 15 sister organisations. The Tharus and Madhesis remain excluded while the ruling elites control 99 percent of the financial institutions and 90 percent of the aviation and transportation system. On top of that they have centralised all political power and resources in the new constitution, apart from politics and governance. They had the power to buy votes and to influence the constitution-making process as they control most of the print and electronic media.

Trouble ahead  

Going by the current state of affairs, merely rebranding the monarchial authoritarian regime as democratic institutions is likely to bring anarchy instead of democracy. It would further weaken national unity. The governing majority does have the power to pass legislation but it cannot implement it. It is too late for the ruling elites to cow down the resurgence of the excluded groups. If the people’s movement is not addressed, political unrest in Nepal can evolve into insurgency. Likewise, the media cannot continue to ignore the issues of the marginalisation of the Madhesis and Tharus. Sadly, the Indian strategy to push all warring factions to work together may not work as it seems as though the ruling elites of Nepal would rather do away with democratic regime instead. Furthermore, Nepal is likely to continue blackmailing India by playing the Chinese card.

Thakur is an information analyst at Jaghrit Nepal

Published: 16-10-2015 08:24

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