Nepali Times
By The Way
Asking the right questions


For a sign of things to come, go no further than the spectacle on Tuesday of Sherpa CA members blocking the entry of the State Restructuring Commission as it tried to go to the prime minister's office to hand over its majority report.

When the Commission was formed in November, there were already serious doubts about a group of political appointees delivering a fair solution to the vexed issue of federalism that would be acceptable to all. The partisan winner-takes-all attitude of some commission members, extended deadlines and failure to produce a joint proposal did little to appease people's skepticism. Now the public seems to have accepted the futility and the short shelf life of the reports. They will make the headlines for a week, NGOs will publish glossy pamphlets in English for the benefit of their benefactors and there still won't be a compromise consensus on state restructuring.

There is no point going into who dominated the proceedings in the commission. The ones who are crying foul wouldn't have done anything differently if they had the majority in the group. What is of bigger concern is that even after squandering two months and precious resources on hotel and conference bills, we are back to where we began.

The political leadership is once again the main culprit. The Maoists who were the first to use identity politics to mobilise fighters during the war, must acknowledge that ethnic autonomy is not a viable option in a diverse society like ours. Privately they already do, but they can't say so publicly for fear of a backlash and losing face. Similarly, the Madhesi parties ratcheted up the rhetoric of One Madhes so much that they can't back down now. The demarcation of the boundaries are going to be so complicated that appeasing one janajati group is sure to anger another (see map).

Dalits, Madhesis and Janjatis are not marginalised only due to their ethnic identity. Poverty, illiteracy and exclusion from the national mainstream reinforced the fatalistic outlook with which the powerful class looked down upon them for centuries. Just as high caste groups in remote areas are also marginalised and underprivileged, this 'brahminical' mentality is not exclusive to Brahmin and Chettri leaders alone.

The way upper caste Newars treat 'lower caste' Newars, the way upper caste Madhesis treat Madhesi Dalits, the way Tamangs in Rasuwa exclude other poor sub-groups in their own community prove that feudalism is not just the character of the dominant group. Then there are unaddressed questions of gender and sexual minorities. Will the ethnic practices of the state impinge upon the rights of women and the sexual minorities in the name of culture and traditions?

We have repeatedly argued in this page that exclusive enclaves cannot make an inclusive state. Ethnic federalism is not the answer to the historical exclusion faced by millions of Nepalis. Rather, what we need are policy interventions at various levels of governance with a strong democratic base. Nominating Madan Pariyar to the SRC was fine, but what about policies to educate thousands of Dalit children in the hills and Madhes, ensuring their rightful stake in nation building?

Federalism based on population, geography and resources along with policies of positive discrimination including reservation and quotas for the marginalised are the best ways to level the playing field in the long run, provided the state invests on quality education, health care and employment. The NC and UML must overcome their fear of 'losing out' to the Maoists and support radical changes in state policies that address social imbalances.

The parties must remember that offering ethnic lollipops to appease their vote banks will only lead to multiple exclusions in the future. Why should a Newar in Dharan be forced to live in a Kirat state? And does it mean all Newars should seek refuge in Kathmandu while the non-Newars of the capital head towards their respective states? What about the ones without a state? Do they no longer belong in Nepal?

Those who are adamant that an ethnically divided state is still the best solution for Nepal should look to our southern neighbour for answers. Ask a Bihari in Maharastra or a Manipuri in Delhi why they are unable to register their complaints at a police station about abuses they face in public buses and workplaces. Let's learn from the mistakes of others, it's not too late to stop ourselves from making hasty, populist decisions based on identity politics that we will rue for generations to come.

The ball is back in the court of the parties. Instead of running after the Supreme Court for another CA extension beyond 28 May, if the parties honestly engage on points of contention, the constitution can be drafted in a matter of weeks if not days. They can begin by asking the right questions.

Read also:
Identity crisis

See also:
Caucus chaos, ANURAG ACHARYA
A political caucus is not a tool for political blackmailing

Unfinished business,RUBEENA MAHATO
The problems of a nation are too complex and entrenched to be corrected by fait accompli decision-making

1. jange

Right question:

Do we need a new constitution?

2. dipti Sikha
Ethnic/Identity based federal structure is inevtitable now. Don't try to make any illusion by any means. Unacceptance of federalism will invite blood everywhere.

3. nepali

Nepal needs 3 states,
Koshi, Gandaki and Karnali,
makes geographical, resource wise, cultural sense.
Ethnic division will be disaster.
3 states is good enough, too small a state is bad idea.
Each state will be a size comparable to Bhutan, Switzerland etc.
Each state will be drained by a major river and therefore no quarrel overwater resources.

Karnali, Gandaki and Koshi and a federal capital Kathmandu Valley.

Federal Capital Ktm will recognise special status of Newar culture and Nepal Bhasa.

Koshi will reconize Rai, Limbu, Sherpa, Mithila, Bhojpuri, Tamang etc culture and Languages.

Gandaki will recognize Gurung, Magar, Thakali, Tamang, Tharu, Newar etc languages and culture.

Karnali will recognize Tharu, Awadhi, Magar, higher Karnali Buddhist, etc languages and cultures.

As Khas are everywhere they will be recognized in all states.

We all are Nepali first, Nepal ama ko jaya

4. K.K. Sharma

This is an useless article. It would have been appropriate if it was written in 2005.  Federating Nepal was decided in Delhi in 2005. Making an issue out of it only now, after more than six years, servers no purpose. The decision was made, now it is for us to bear the consequences and ramification, for better or for worse.

5. Ghoe Chaku Naran
Let there be a wider national debate invoving the peers from all communities on all contentious issues.
 The silence of these groups is intriguing.
 They have to open their mouths. Their silence is the curse of Sati. Appeasements and populism is not the call of the day.
 Are we a nation of "santimonious little bastards"/ or pigmies without reed or vertibra? A n earthworm, spineless creatures?
Let us all have the courage to call a spade a spade with full convictions ;for or against .
,on all contentious issues involving the new federalism we are going to inherit.
We appreciate comments like the one from  NEPALI #3.
 This shows the spirit of the youths of Modern Nepal.
 We are not party to the wild promises made by the Maoists during their revolt against the state during the Royal days.
Unlike Lenin they did not succeed with their n military adventure. So their wild promise of racial-ethnic states have become their Achilles heel.
Khauki nilau bhayekochha. Maobadi neta haru ajakal,
Arulai uskauchhan birodh garaunalai , afuharu puranairatchhan publicma.


6. Nepali Kancha
I see ominous dark clouds on the horizon-- ethnic wars, displaced populations, genocide... I hope that I am wrong and pray that Nepali people are too wise to fall for the poisonous rhetoric of our Netas who are basically no better than criminals and morally reprobate scoundrels. 

But if the fires of ethnic strife are lit and people start going at each at the pretext all kinds of imagined grievances, then we shall soon see Indian troops on the streets of Nepal "enforcing peace." And Nepalis will loose in a big, big way. 

However, time will tell if Nepalis summon up the wisdom to say, "No more dangerous identity politics in our name" before anything catastrophic happens or if (God forbid) the window of opportunity closes. Then, God help Nepal! 

Indians will be rubbing the hands with glee at the prospect of turning Nepal into another state of India though. 

I hope mods do not censor my post. This needs to be heard! 

7. David Stengel
In a Democracy, our personal responsibility is to work to elect good, local leaders who represent our views.  Then we have to trust our representatives when they get to the capital.  Its very frustrating to worry about things beyond our control.  

8. United Nepal
UNITED NEPAL is what we youths should support for...nearly 80% of our country's population is youth what the hell we doing when they are creating states with no value.

The solution in my openion is Nepal should have 5 states based on 5 development regions.... and one federal capital district:-
1) Eastern
2) Central
3) Western
4) Mid-Western
5) Far-Western
and lastly KATHMANDU valley as the capital federal district.

We cannot accept states based on ethinicity, its not NEW NEPAL that we want...


9. Arbin Gupta
Okay, what is your solution then? But do note that your question, opinion and answers are outdated and too little too late. If only you had written this 5-6 years ago.. Bad Luck!

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)