Monday, August 31, 2015

Nepal's Constitutional Challenges

Just finished watching a Al Jazeera u-tube video on the above subject, kindly posted on Face Book by Jan Sharma. Please watch the video on u-tube (title as above) or in his or my FB timeline.

I cannot understand how some of the Nepali panelists used "caste" and "ethnic group" synonymously. There are 4 castes, legally abolished but unfortunately socially still a work in progress. There are around 100 ethnic groups in Nepal. Fortunately, Al Jazeera showed an Ethnographic Map of Nepal to enlighten the confused. "Every major caste was promised a state" - that stung my ears loud and clear!

A major point of discussion was on the meaning of "New Nepal". One of the panelists tried to summarize it as (a) the end of monarchy; (b) secularism; and (c) centralization to Federalism (sic). Am glad that Ms. Manjushree Thapa widened the meaning to broader aspects. In any case, (a) was not a demand of the 2006 'People's Movement' which was against "ABSOLUTE" monarchy, not the institution per se.

(b) was a Maoist agenda, to which the two other major parties acceded through coercion or in the mistaken belief that secularism is a sine qua non for democracy, supported by international proselytizing interests.

(c) is the reason why Nepal is in flames now with ethnic groups demanding their own state (which was erroneously made synonymous in the programme with 'province' by some panelists). The carnage in Tikapur a week ago, a bandh in Pokhara yesterday instigated by Magars, and we have not seen the last of it. Politics 101 as well as any dictionary can confirm that the opposite of centralization is decentralization, not federalization. Federalism also arose from the Maoist insurgency where the insurgents promised ethnic groups their own state in order to garner their support for the ignominious 'people's war'. Nepal has not had local government elections for 22 years; therein lies the solution, not federalizing a unitary state, a feat never accomplished in the history of nations. The Madhesh political parties are naturally for federalism in the hope that they will get at least two or three states, if not the entire Terai, as their own. Birgunj, one of the major border cities with India is under curfew as I write. I hear rumours Nepalgunj is also in a similar fate. To add fuel to the fire, the Indian Home Minister has been quoted as proclaiming that India will safeguard its citizens in Nepal Terai, further implying, wrongly, that 30% of Nepal's population is Madhesis. Fact remains that 60% of the Madhesis are Nepalis and the remaining only are Indians, who are welcome to return to their country. Further, the Minister had better not included Nepali Madhesis as his constituency.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

As the Loktantrik Dispensation Unravels... by Dipak Gyawali

This Beautiful Game

250 million people play it in 200 countries - the Beautiful Game, as termed by the iconic Pele' . Football, also called soccer in North America, is more than a game. It is a passion, much more than a pastime for most. Wars have been fought over the game and many a riot has taken place. Twenty-two individuals take to the field and morph into a team, if they wish to win.

One such game was played last Saturday by boys from Nepal and India. The prize was the championship of the inaugural South Asian Football Federation Under-19 tournament. After 22 years, Nepal won an international championship. That too against perennial 'big brother" rivals India. But more than that, it was a victory that Nepalis needed sorely. A devastating earthquake four months ago, a heart-rending massacre of security personnel less than a week ago, the never-ending political morass of constitution making, people needed something to cheer about. Attending my first ever international football match (not via TV), I could feel the throbbing expectation of the spectators as the two teams took to the field. Played in a small stadium, holding about 3,000 people (with many more crowded in the balconies of surrounding buildings), the enthusiastic cries of "Ne...paaal, Ne...paal" resounded as if there were 30,000 fans present. Arguably, one of the oldest people watching the match, I saw the fervour and single-minded unity of the young people wishing, hoping, wanting, praying that Nepal will win.

Braving the hot sun, I stood with a few family members for three hours lost to the magic wound by the Goddess of Football. Memories of playing the game in school, in the school alumni team and finally, for UNDP, in the UN League in New York slid through my mind as if vignettes in a play. It was good to feel young again. It was good to cheer for the national team. It was good to celebrate a historical victory.

Eleven Nepali boys, with emphasis on NEPALI, brought an almost forgotten joy to the people of this struggling country. They did not play as Gurung, Magar, Limbu, Tamang, Newar, etc., but as Nepalis united as a team, keeping the "raato chandra ra surya" flying high proudly. Therein lies a lesson which really does not have to be spelled out here.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Tikapur Revisited

Yesterday's blog was from the heart. This one is from the head, after the shock and despair has more or less dissipated.

While paying sincere condolences to the families of the police and the two year old boy who lost their lives during that afternoon of carnage, one has to question the judgement and preparedness of the police who walked into a crowd armed with spears and axes with an almost suicidal over-confidence. One also wonders why the authority in charge had apparently ordered the Armed Police Force not to fire their weapons. True, that authority has been removed and recalled; is any action being taken against him? Or, in the 'true spirit of Nepali tolerance', has a mere slap in the hand been administered? Security forces have not been attacked and killed in this manner since the Maoists specialized in it over a decade ago. The national trauma reverberates.

On the other hand, there have been reports that the mob was infiltrated by others espousing the politics of violence and the Tharus, generally known as a peaceable people, were used by these culprits for their own nefarious purposes. Regardless, the Tharu mob did come out armed with the implements mentioned above; it is unclear whether they meant to use them or they were just for show; even if it was the latter, it was not prudent at all.

The Army has been mobilized in Kailali and two other districts to maintain law and order. Curfews are the order of the day. The people cower or are even more emboldened, resulting in shootings by the security forces. The area is aflame. The conflagration will spread as the seeds of federalism bloom.

In Kathmandu, it seems the Big Three political parties, at least for now, intend to proceed with the constitution drafting process. Even read in yesterday's paper that 'secularism' remains in the constitution as insisted upon by the Maoists, while a huge majority of the people want a Hindu State. Should the triumvirate not pause to think and promulgate the constitution as drafted now, I can only shudder at what will happen to this country. It's not just the secularism issue. More importantly is the federalism issue where 6 states have been increased to 7 to mollify the folks in western Nepal, but leaving the Tharus out in the cold. Meanwhile, the Madhesh parties, not popular usually with the Tharus, are instigating the latter for their own purposes.

What in heaven's name are the politicians doing trying to federalize a unitary state, ahenomenon that has never occurred anywhere in the world? Yes, social injustice remains as regards the marginalized groups. The solution though is not federalization but strong elected local governance. Mind you, there have been no local elections on this country for over two decades!

The politico pundits have declared this country the "Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal". Forgive them, Lord, they know not what they do. We are not federal and will/should never be. Our democracy is a combination of oligarchy and kleptocracy. Republicanism was never an agenda of the Jana Andolan of 2006; it was sneaked in by self-serving politicians whose ambitions

Something Happened

Something happened last Monday, at a place I had never heard of, to people I did not know. There must have been many such incidents during the decade-long insurgency, but I never experienced the news first-hand as I was out of the country. I did not expect the force with which this incident touched my psyche. Sure, I love my country as much as the next person. Sure, what happened was an absolute mockery of governance, law and order and mob control. Every Nepali, without personal agendas, will likely agree.

Almost in a daze of anger and sorrow, I turned to FaceBook as an outlet for my feelings. Calling  for a military coup, posting u-tube videos supporting my feelings, exhorting young people to save the country, did I over-react? After all most of my posts are to FB friends, a measly 200 or so, quite a few expatriates and NRNs. Over-reaction or not, it was a catharsis of sorts. It helped me a lot, the situation not at all. Just a selfish act, only to help myself.

I am posting this rather personal statement as I try and revive my blog which has remained dormant for almost two years. I posted mainly my articles which had been published. It has been a ego trip of sorts. Not planning to publish anything now. Maybe just put my thoughts into the blog, not only personal ones like this one, but also addressed at the political and social environment.

Welcome back to the Chiya Pasal.