Wednesday, July 13, 2011

"Nepali Youth" by Birat Simha (Published in the Institute of Foreign Affairs, Nepal, Bulletin, July 2011)

The proverbial brain drain has reached its heights in Nepal. The best, the brightest, the ones with the most drive are climbing over each other to seek a livelihood in countries ranging from Dubai to Malaysia. For $150 per month, a young Nepali is happy to do the most menial tasks in a plastic factory near Kuala Lumpur. Students prepare desperately for TOEFL and SAT with the hope of being able to study in the US. Nothing in their homeland seems to keep these young people from flocking abroad. But this really is no surprise. We live in a country which cannot provide enough employment to its youth, where education is subverted by politics, where it seems that the main purpose of youths is to parade in the streets shouting slogans or burning tires or worse.

The UN defines youth as those between the age group of 15 to 24. 12th August is observed every year as International Youth Day, based on a UN General Assembly Resolution. Half of the world's people are under the age of 25. This includes the largest-ever generation of adolescents who are approaching adulthood in a rapidly changing world. A common thread, however, runs through all of their lives: the aspiration for a better future. This is the critical ingredient lacking in Nepal – a better future for young people. This is why they leave the country in droves.

Almost 40% of the Nepali population is between the ages of 10 to 29. If we include the age group of 30 – 34 as well, the population assumes a large cohort of almost 50%. (Data from Demographic & Health Survey – Nepal, 2006). The volatility and aggressiveness of unemployed disillusioned and alienated youth cannot be underestimated. When youth perceive socio-economic grievances and lack of good governance, they are prone to radical and even subversive political indoctrination. Case in point – the rise of the Maoist movement in Nepal.

A few days ago, I was at a youth rally. The numbers gathered was modest but the fervor of the speakers and singers was not modest at all. The national flag flew abundantly. Banners were signed by all attendees, yours truly included though merely a youth at heart. The vast majority of those present there were young people. They raised the slogan, “Enough is enough; this is my Nepal, my responsibility” and spoke out their views. The rally was organized by a non-political coalition of youth groups calling itself “Nepal Unites”. This rally was followed up by similar ones in other locations in Kathmandu – the latter being “silent protests”. This is a novelty: protests where traffic is not hampered, where the police do not need to use their batons, where youth show their mettle. Mobilised by word of mouth and using the social networking site Face Book, it is obvious these young Nepalis are fed up with the current situation of the nation. Their frustration and disillusionment has boiled over and they are using peaceful means of protest to indicate this. They have gained international recognition. Voice of America’s internet site reports on their combined efforts and future plans in

The other phenomenon we have started accepting almost blindly are the ubiquitous “Bandhs” (general strikes). For a myriad of reasons, a myriad of groups call bandhs and the capital, often the country, goes silent sans traffic with businesses and shops all locked down. The youth have had enough of this too. Recent bandhs are met by youth rallies - on motorbikes, bicycles and on foot – plying the streets and defying the bandh. Another indication of enough is enough.

The rise of social awareness among the youth of Nepal is promising and long overdue. ‘Another World is Possible – Youth can make it.'  This is the slogan of the Campaign of Social Forum started in Brazil which went through Mumbai, Karachi, Colombo, Caracas in Venezuela, Nairobi in Kenya, and various other countries. Nepal has also been a part of this movement and had planned to organize a South Asian social forum in 2008. As far as this writer knows, nothing came from that. We know what a disruptive year 2008 was in Nepal.

After the vignette of Nepali youth above, it behooves us to consider how youth can be further supported. The future of this nation lies in their hands and the future, currently, is simmering, rather dangerously. I speak to young youths in and outside Nepal, on and off the internet. A common thread runs through our conversations. They want to do something for the country. They want to stand by their, more often than not, very correct and strong beliefs. They are idealists and nationalists who feel they must contribute to the future of their nation. BUT they need to make a living too. So they speak dejectedly from across the seven seas, always saying they will come back soon, knowing not when that will be. The pathos of the conversations with these young people is gut wrenching. I identify with them well, having returned only recently to Nepal after a career abroad. The guilt of not being able to contribute directly to the well-being of one’s motherland and the resulting feeling of helplessness haunts our youth. Until and unless they can be provided gainful employment and a life here which meets their aspirations for a better future, their frustration and the nation’s loss will continue.

While identifying the plight of youth, there are steps that can and must be taken to help them in their quest for a better future. Urban Nepali youth, the shakers and movers (though only a small proportion of the youth population), have fair access to mass media. At least 72% watch television, 35% listen to radio, and 25% read a newspaper or magazine at least once a day. In total, four of every five urban youth are exposed each day to at least one of these media sources. The opportunities provided by this fact to promote youth awareness on social issues through mass media programmes are immense. (Thapa, S. and Mishra, V., Asia-Pacific Population Journal, March 2003. These figures are dated and must have increased noticeably.)

Another generally ignored aspect is the education of our youth. That their education is disrupted often due to bandhs is one side of the equation. On the other hand, has anything been done to disseminate among youth Nepali cultural and religious values and civic sense? Often, in the name of so-called modernity, the youth ape the worst habits of the West – gross materialism, alcohol, drugs. What they need to be taught are the “9 Principles to live by”: 1. Ethics; 2. Integrity; 3. Responsibility; 4. Respect for laws and rules; 5. Respect for others’ rights; 6. Love of work; 7. Thriftiness; 8. Belief in the will to act; and (absolutely relevant for Nepal) 9. Punctuality.

To sum up, let us support our Youth – our future and the nation’s destiny.

(The writer served internationally with UNFPA and UNDP, 1978-2007)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

"Emerging Realpolitik Contours" by Dipak Gyawali

This article deals with military matters and what the author refers to as the "facebook crowd". My comments below, which precede the article, focus on the latter.

I have highlighted the references to the "facebook crowd" towards the end of the piece. Having attended a number of rallies organised by this "crowd", which is really a coalition of youth groups unattached to any political party with the motto "My Nepal; My Responsibility", I cannot overemphasise its potential to really bring about change. 50% of the Nepali population is already between the ages of 10 and 35 and the future of this country lies in their hands, not in the ossified callous hands of the current political leadership.

I would urge all of you to befriend "Nepal Unites" in FaceBook, keep track of and participate whenever possible in its initiatives, and help it in any way possible. This piece ends with an exhortation to the "facebook crowd". This group, so far, may be limited to urban educated youth; but it has every intention to bring together all Youth of Nepal. The future must indeed be theirs if this country is to have any future. A "Facebook Spring" has begun in Nepal - may it continue to fruition.

p.s. Nepal Unites and the singer Abhaya Subba and her band have released a new song "Hami Sabai Nepali" (We are all Nepalis). Please buy the CD and listen to what Nepali Youth is saying. No matter your age, the song will inspire you.

p.p.s. My apologies for some of the uneven line breaks below. I received the article in an email, and though I have tried to format it as best I can, there remain some discrepancies. The full text, however, is there.


"Emerging Realpolitik Contours" (published in Spotlight)
by Dipak Gyawali

Nepali ship of state is adrift, rudderless on the political high seas, even as the rocky shorelines it is set to crash into loom ahead in ominous silhouette. Meanwhile those on the cabinet and Constituent Assembly decks are fighting over chairs and spoils as is their wont, but those antics will hardly have any impact on the drift to impending doom. What matters are the deep undercurrents that are roiling the ship on the surface. What are these dark upwelling forces from the deep? Some recent incidents give enough indications, even as the political adventurism of 2006 plays out its tragedy to its logical farcical end.

Sometime back the Chinese PLA chief came to Nepal, completely ignored the Nepali Maoists PLA and signed billions worth of support to its nemesis, the Nepal Army and not a squeak of protest was heard from the parties, their civil society mouthpieces, Maoist or otherwise, and even from the nosybody UNMIN failed EuroAmerican lefties that equated a national army with the insurgents. A few weeks ago, when the political leadership failed to end the deadlock over the future of Maoist combatants, the Nepal Army proposed its own modality – and all the leading lights of the 2006 movement against the King and his army, including the Maoists, lined up in the race to praise the army.

The Nepal Army has just these past weeks completed the one-year staff training course it runs in Shivapuri for its new crop of senior officers and among the graduating officers were foreigners from China, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. The graduating Indian Sardarji officer even received the best thesis award for his research on Indian Naxalites and their threat to India's security! It is said that the upcoming new batch will include Americans, Canadians and Malaysians. What makes Shivapuri so attractive to super and regional powers who have their own
West Points, Dehra Duns, Abbotabads and Sandhursts? Nepal's peace-keeping expertise abroad and counterinsurgency experience at home, said the army chief in his commencement speech.

There were news reports indicating that the Americans proposed a SOFA agreement with Nepal, essentially a treaty that allows extraterritorial right to members of the American armed forces in Nepal similar to the ones the US has with the allies it provides its security blanket to such as Japan, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia. Instead of the Nepal government and the parties leading it deciding on such a momentous foreign policy issue, the draft was sent to the Nepal Army who said, Nepal is too politically unstable currently and now is not the right time to sign such
agreements. And that was that!

It is clear that a ceremonial army under the King has emerged in these five years to become a political army under Loktantra, and not just national political forces but also foreign ones are de facto recognizing it as such. What will this oldest, most disciplined Nepali institution do in August 28 as the self-perpetuating CA fails again, as widely believed it will, to deliver anything meaningful?

Another bit of forensic news was the Maoist leadership finally dispensing with the dual security they enjoyed, and sending their combatant-bodyguards and their weapons to the cantonments. What accounts for this unasked for alacrity when other even more critical issues of demobilization and constitution-making are deadlocked? The answer probably lies in the four rival factions that have emerged among the Maoists (five if you count the previous breakaways such as Matrika Yadav and others). Their hatred towards each other is more than what they feel about other parties including the monarchists. That they promise physical threats to rivals and deliver them effectively is something everyone in the politburo and central committee is only too aware of. Even a senior leader such as Baburam Bhattarai was threatened with liquidation at his very party headquarters recently, not that he is without previous experience in surviving such dangers. This intolerance of opposing views and the urge to destroy rivals before they destroy you is something that Leninist-Stalinist parties have genetically encoded in them as part of their historical upbringing. Could it be that the Maoist leadership that lived by the sword feels more threatened by its own sword-wielders than by its erstwhile foe, the disciplined and rule-abiding Nepal Army?

Against the backdrop of these undercurrents, the CA extended its own life, mercifully by only three months instead of the proposed twelve thanks to the Supreme Court's intervention. It pledged itself to a 5-point agreement re-agreeing to do what the parties agreed to do three, even six years ago with the 12-point Delhi deal. The prime minister, who put his signature to the deal promising to resign to clear the way for a consensus government, is now a lame duck. But consensus is an impossible mirage: even the interim constitution did away with the consensus
provision to allow for the political reality of a majority government. What unseemly circus will we see in the days ahead as this lame duck government proposes the budget for the coming year? Most of the 601 CA members slept away May 28 before their electorate, proving that they are no political leaders but initiative-bereft,
well-paid rubber stamps, to be used as desired by the roughly dozen party warlords who matter. Why does the civil society and facebook crowd demonstrate before this inept body to deliver a new constitution, when it should do so before the homes and party headquarters of these dirty dozen! One never expected much from the old, discredited civil society that is a prisoner of its highly partisan past, but one does hold hopes that the freshly political aware facebook crowd will put their stamp on coming events to stop the drift to doom. In doing so, they should first of all stop taking their lead from the morally sterile civil society and desist from flogging a dead horse that CA has become.

What is the CA deadlocked over in delivering new a constitution? The answers lies in the politically divergent philosophies that cannot be reconciled by the partisans themselves, and in Nepal's historical socio-political ground realities into which the imported Nineteenth Century utopian thinking of hirsute European males, or the narrow fancies of international interests, have run aground. Where should the facebook crowd start from? They may begin by looking at what worked, what were the strengths of the 1990 multiparty as well the 1962
Panchayat constitutions. Then they may look at the weaknesses and political failings therein to understand how the Panchayat failed to meet the broader mass aspirations after the 1980 referendum and how the votaries of the 1990 dispensation destroyed their system by self-inflicted infighting and corruption. Their cardinal sins were corruption that came from not sufficiently separating the executive from the legislature, as well as the failure to devolve development powers to the local village and district bodies. Can we just get at least those two structural mistakes corrected and move on? These political alternatives need approval by a higher body, the sovereign people of Nepal, through a fresh mandate, and not by an incompetent CA whose mandate has run out. The billion rupee question is: does the young facebook crowd have that staying power? If they do, the future is theirs.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Three Years After

The following was published in a weekly three years ago on the occasion of the King vacating the Narayanhiti Palace. It seems as relevant today as it was then. Whither "New Nepal"? As an ardent believer in multi-party democracy and constitutional monarchy, I weep for my country...

"A Crown Forsaken"

The king departs the palace today
Unsung and unlamented some say
But the Crown remains where it belongs
In the hearts of true Nepalis

Misjudgments three years ago
Drove foes to coalesce
Foes of every colour
Seeking power, not the nation’s good

Jammed between two big powers
Hostage to one especially
We became a pawn
In the game of geopolitics

A bloated assembly supposed to be over six hundred
With twenty-six members glaringly absent
Declared the nation a republic
Sans debate, sans referendum, sans justice

The army stood by silently
Perhaps not called to save the crown
Perhaps bought off by all and sundry
But it did stand by silently

Peace, peace – everyone wants this
And peacefully has the king left
And at what cost peace?
Maybe by selling our nationhood

A New Nepal is the call of the day
So let us see the novelty of a new government
If they can only stop haggling for power
To give the people what they seek

Democracy, unity, independence, development
Will construct a New Nepal
Not the mindless demolition of a useful institution
But the crown remains where it belongs.

29 Jaystha 2065/11 June 2008

Friday, June 3, 2011

Thoughts on the 29 May Extension of the Constituent Assembly

(As published in People's Review Weekly, 2 June 2011)

My last published article was in People’s Review Weekly 10 months ago; and it was titled “Enough Politics - let’s talk development”. I have tried to keep my word and restrained myself from writing on politics these past months. But the events of the past few days have driven me to pen the following thoughts. As a citizen of this country I feel I have as much right as anyone to vent my disappointment, disillusionment and frustration.

The CA has been extended for 3 months with the following 5 provisos:
1. Completion of fundamentals of the peace process within 3 months.
2. Preparation of the first draft of the new constitution within 3 months.
3. Implementation of past agreements with the Madhesi Morcha by developing Nepal Army as an inclusive institution.
4. Extension of the CA term by 3 months.
5. PM’s resignation to pave way for formation of a national consensus government.

Already the Prime Minister and the NC leadership are wangling about whether a national consensus government is formed before or after the PM resigns. If the man had any honour and feelings towards his country, Mr. Khanal would resign his prime ministership immediately; but he is a mere politician not a leader or statesman. Surely the 3 Big Parties have already reached an agreement on which party the new PM will come from. Point 5 seems to be in trouble already.

Looking at Point 1, certain conclusions can be drawn even by a naive non-political neophyte like yours truly. The parties will most certainly start quibbling over what “fundamentals of the peace process” means. Nothing can be more vague. Does it mean the “logical” end (that over-used phrase which makes me laugh) -- no more Maoist ex-combatants in cantonments, all 19,000 (or whatever) integrated and rehabilitated, all arms from the cantonments with the government, and (dare we dream) all Maoist arms (the real functioning ones hidden all over the country, not the 3,000+ antiques in the cantonments) handed over to the government? If not, point 1 is null and void, placed there to fool the People and appease UCPN-M.

Point 2: interesting if this can be achieved without the Left and the so-called “democratic parties” quagmired again in the fundamental nature of the new polity.

Point 3: even with absolutely no military background, I daresay that no army worth its salt will get dictated to by unprincipled, unscrupulous cunning politicians (mind you, I did not refer to them as leaders). Were 10,000 Madhises and 5-8,000 (the number varies depending on who is talking) Maoist ex-combatants are to be inducted en masse into the Nepal Army without consideration for stringent army standards, not only would the size of the Army go over the one hundred thousand mark, but its efficacy would be doubtful, to say the least.

Point 4: the less said the better!

Therefore, in effect, this extension of the CA based on yet another (9th) amendment of the Interim Constitution - for whose benefit is it meant? The People’s or the CA members’? The masters’ or the servants’? You figure out who the masters and servants ought to be and who they actually are. Is the concept of “public service” even known to the CA?

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Proposals for Post-28 May 2011

Let us observe the Fourth Republic Day of Nepal, 29 May 2011, appropriately by starting a 'Thappadtantrik' initiative, since 'Loktantrik' has not worked.

Simple procedure for this initiative - (a) spot a CA member who voted for this futile 3 months extension; (b) ask him/her why he/she voted in that manner; (c) if you are not satisfied with the answer, SLAP the honourable member (number of slaps to be determined by the level of stupidity of the answer).

Be prepared to be arrested. The arrest will be your badge of honour.

Besides civil protests, whether they be on cheeks or from the streets, let us also now MONITOR every member of the CA on their performance, on a daily basis. A "CA Watch" needs to be urgently established for this purpose. Let us not take this travesty of democracy and peoples' rights lying down. They are there to serve us, the People, let us make sure they do so.

Thoughts in the morning of 28 May 2011 (as written in FaceBook)

7.15 am in Kathmandu. CA term lapses at midnight today. A soothing rain is falling, an auspicious sign in Nepal. RPP-N rally begins at noon. Listening to 103.6 FM interview programme. Deadbeat politicians implying that non-extension of the CA, per se, would create an Emergency thereby allowing 6 months extension. They MUST NOT get away with fooling us, the PEOPLE, again!!! Lord Pashupatinath watches us closely today.

"Ma mare' pani mero Desh banchi rahos" playing on the radio. Something to think about very seriously today.

"जननी जन्मभूमिश्च स्वर्गादपी गरियसी” (जन्म दिने आमा र जन्मभूमि स्वर्ग भन्दा पनि प्यारो हुन्छ।) Do the leaders of the 3 big parties remember this as they continue chattering away fooling us that they are trying to reach consensus? They had three years to reach consensus. The next 15 hours will make no difference. CA cannot be extended legally. Period. Stop your consensus talk, go home, and enjoy your Saturday.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

25 May 2011

"Verdict of the Supreme Court of Nepal on Writ No. 066-WS-0056 submitted by Bharat Mani Jangam along with the Constitution Assembly Secretariat" (Summary)

1. The Interim Constitution Article 64 specifies that the Constitution Assembly’s (CA's) term is for two years. It can be extended for a period of six months only, should there be an emergency situation in the country. It cannot be extended indefinitely.

2. Given the above stipulation of Article 64, it is not possible to extend the CA for more than 6 months simply stating that the constitution could not be readied for various pedestrian reasons, as was done in May 2010.

3. Therefore the one year extension of the CA last year, 8th amendment to the Interim Constitution, was illegal. Since that extension ends in three more days, there is no practicality in overturning it at this late stage. (This may yet be challenged by anti-extension advocates.)

4. Article 83(1) of the Interim Constitution specifies that the CA must not confuse its constitution drafting functions with its legislative ones, since it serves as the legislature also. This confusion has prevailed extensively.

5. Conclusion: There cannot be an indefinite extension of the CA as has been occurring and as has now been further requested by the government. A 6 months extension is possible if emergency is imposed on the country, with valid reasons. (This may yet be challenged by anti-extension advocates.)

On 26 May 2011, Mr. Jangam has submitted another writ arguing that another extension of the CA is simply not possible. There is no emergency; and last year’s one-year extension has already over-stepped the 6 months extension allowed by the Interim Constitution.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

This morning I received a Press Release from UNN (United Nationalist Nepalese), a non-profit organisation registered in Houston, Texas, with a world-wide membership of nationalist Nepalis and others who support Nepal. The web site is

UNN is not alone in its call to restore the 1990 Constitution. That constitution was a democratic one, considered one of the best in the world. Ironically, our ex-PM, Madhav Kumar Nepal, was also one of the architects of that constitution. The current Constitution Assembly has failed, even after 3 years, to come up with a constitution. The Government, led by the Maoists and UML, is tabling a proposition today before the CA to extend the CA for another year. A 2/3 majority in the CA would get the proposition through.

As of now, the Nepali Congress and 2 of the Madhesh parties are opposing the extension. A 2/3 majority in the CA without them is not possible. But, knowing how politics works here, there may already be backroom horsetrading among these major parties (Maoists, NC, UML and MJF) and everyone will agree to the extension at midnight 28 May 2011. Perhaps there is already a deal where CA will be extended and a new government formed with a NC Prime Minister? (just guessing)

The people of Nepal are fed up with this CA. How can this extension be prevented? Legally, should the Supreme Court rule that an extension is not legal, given that CA extension can only occur if there is a 'national emergency'? In the streets - mass protests with the potential always of violence?

What is the way out? Presidential rule from 29 May with elections within 3 months? As the old adage asks, 'Who will bell the cat?' All fine and good for someone like me to sit comfortably in my study and spew out the above words, but who really will bell the cat? Should the CA cease to exist as of midnight 28 May, which government institution remains with any legitimacy? I can only think of the Nepal Army. Ideally, an army does not govern. It, simply put, has the express purpose of eliminating those considered enemies of the State. But there have been cases, in Africa and elsewhere, where the Army stepped in to restore democracy (e.g. Flight Lt. Jerry Rawlings' coup in Ghana).

Post-28 May, whither Nepal? Do we continue with our complacency and the fabled "ke garne" attitude? Or do we take our fate in our own hands and let this CA know: 'Enough is enough. You were elected to draw up the constitution within 2 years. Even after 3 years, you have failed. You cannot keep extending yourself indefinitely. Neither an extension of 6 months nor of 1 year will give us a constitution. You have shown us clearly that the constitution is not your priority - staying in power and making money is. So go home. We will elect a new parliament/CA that truly represents our aspirations. GO HOME!"

Jai Pashupatinath!