June 11, 2010


[Below we have posted an interview of Dr. Krishna Bhattachan, a University of California Berkley trained single-handed sociologist of Nepal, whose contribution to Nepal's current social change is  unmatched. He spoke  with The Telegraph Weekly Kathmandu, in short TG below. The TG's self-portrayal of a ‘royalist paper’ is well understood and  the Shah Kings of Nepal had  utilized the Mongoloid fighter instinct of the Indigenous Peoples  of Nepal for the founding and expansion of Gurkha Kingdom. This could be seen in some form and shape well until the fall of the  Shah dynasty in 2006.]

Dr. Krishna B. Bhattachan
Department of Sociology 
Tribhuvan Uinversity, Nepal

TGQ1: In your view, what is the crux of continuing deadlock and wrangling among the three main political parties? As a matter of fact these three distinguished Brahmins heading the three major parties have kept the country hostage to their personal whims? Is it that your catchword 'Brahmanism' has once again surfaced in this new republican order? What say you Dr. Bhattachan?

Dr. Bhattachan: It appears that the continuing deadlock and wrangling among the three main political parties, namely, UNCP (Maoist), NCP (UML) and Nepali Congress is due to positional interests. Maoist stand is that resignation of the Prime Minister and formation of a consensual Joint National Government first followed by logical conclusion of peace process, including integration of PLA in Government security forces, including Nepal Army. The joint stand of the NCP (UML) and Nepali Congress is that agreement on integration of PLA in security forces, dismantling of YCL, return of confiscated house and land first and change in the Government afterwards. But what is apparent is not real and what is real is not apparent. The real crux of the problem is indeed whether restructuring of the state, as recommended by the State Restructuring and Division of State Power Committee of the Constituent Assembly, should be done based on ethnic and regional basis or not?

It should be noted that the Committee has recommended carving out 14 federal units ("Province"), 23 autonomous regions, special autonomous regions and protected regions. Proposed 14 autonomous provinces include Limbuwan, Kirata, Tamsaling, Newa, Tamuwan, Magarat, and Sherpa and Lumbini-Awadh Tharuwan. The UNCP (Maoist) is strongly for such ethnic autonomy but all the Bahun-Chhetri leaders of the NCP (UML) and Nepali Congress, with exception of many indigenous leaders of these two parties, is dead against any form of ethnic autonomy. These two parties wish to undo the CA Committee's recommendation. Hence, they are demanding for formation of date-expired State Restructuring Commission to identify the federal units and delay the making of the constituent to the extent of not making it at all if federal units are not carved on geographical and economic potentiality. The Rules and Procedure Committee of CA has amended the Dal Tyag Ain (Act related to crossing the floor) without any knowledge of indigenous peoples' caucus and all CA members belonging to indigenous peoples; and now the CA members must abide with the whip issued by their respective political party.

You have aptly pointed out Mr. Upadhyaya that the "3-Bs" have kept the country hostage to their whims and that "Brahmanism" has once again surfaced in the new republican order. Let me recall here a title of your 5-Questions, title "Bahuns have �Become Even More Stronger Than Before After Abolition of Monarchy", published in your esteemed newspaper on June 26, 2008. If the "3-Bs" decide on everything, why did the Legislature-Parliament revive Constituent Assembly, the white elephant (601 CA Members), for one more year by giving oxygen of 3-point-midnight- agreement? Of the "3-Bs" two "Bs" representing the NCP (UML) and NC are Brahmanist ("Bahunbadi") but one "B" is fair-weather-liberal who is for ethnic autonomy. "Bahunbad" has shaken so much by now that the Bahunbadis are trying their best to save it with their last minute effort but it is doomed to be paralyzed sooner or later; sooner the better. Bright flare of the light of the "3-Bs" that we see now is nothing but brightness of the light before extinction.

TGQ2:  Do you see any possibility of negotiation among the three main political parties to give logical conclusion to the peace process and restructure the state in new constitution during the extended period of CA? Will the extended one year tenure, under debate albeit, be sufficient enough to accomplish the rest of the tasks given the political bickering that has already begun right after the CA tenure extension? What is your comment Dr. Bhattachan? Presuming that they will, tell us do you expect that the extended Constituent Assembly will ensure rights of excluded communities including indigenous peoples, Dalits, Muslims, Madhesi, women, disabled ones and above all the all time marginalized people of Karnali, and so on?

Dr. Bhattachan: First of all, everything remaining the same during the extended term of the CA, the CA will fail to write the new constitution as it happened during the last two years term. The CA may write the constitution within a year if India influences our political leaders, as they did during the CA election, which was then thought to be impossible but after consultation in the Indian Embassy at Lainchaur in Kathmandu. Following Dr. Ben Hoffman, interest based issues are negotiable but not the position based issues.  The deadlock and wrangling till the end of the two-year-term appeared to be due to effort for negotiation on positional issues. The positions of all the three parties remain the same. Whether the three parties successfully negotiate or not depends on what is the BATNA (Better Alternative To No Negotiation) or whether there is a mutually hurting stalemate and ripe moment, following I. William Zartman, or not. The ruling parties, NCP (UML) and Nepali Congress have better alternatives to no negotiations such as continuation of their government, full control over power, authority and resources, intensification of divide and rule in various excluded communities including Dalits, Madhesi, Indigenous Peoples, Muslims and women, continued special protection from India and support from international donors, nullify the agenda of restructuring of the state in ethnic and regional lines. The UNCP (Maoist) have better alternatives to no negotiations that includes preparation for janabidroha ("people's revolt"), gaining support from indigenous peoples, Dalits, Muslims, Madhesis and so on. Both the conflicting parties face no mutually hurting situation so far.

There are strong indications that the CA will not ensure rights of some excluded communities, specially, indigenous peoples and Madhesis because indigenous peoples are demanding ethnic autonomy and self-rule with right to self-determination and Madhesis are demanding for Madhesi regional autonomy with right to self-determination. However, the CA may ensure some rights of women, Dalits, Muslims, the people of Karnali and people with disability. The NCP (UML) and NC are dead against indigenous peoples' rights and though the UNCP (Maoist) are for indigenous peoples' rights, the latter may give up ethnic and regional autonomy as part of the negotiation with the former two parties.

TGQ3: Who should do what to stop the all pervasive Indian influence in Nepal's internal affairs given that some 'Indo-pendent' leaders are themselves inviting the Southern Tiger to take control of our own affairs? Also tell us why Susta land encroachment, and many more, by the Indian side doesn't pinch neither the Nepali leaders nor the civil society members more so the Nepali media? Are we all rotten eggs? What has gone wrong with our past national pride and honor? Your enlightening comments Dr. Bhattachan.

Dr. Bhattachan: First and foremost, we all sovereign people of Nepal should be united against such influence but no objective ground exists so far to do so as political leaders are bitterly divided. Most of the Nepali media house and media professionals are lined up, directly or indirectly, on party lines. What is worst is that the Nepal's key political, civil society and media leaders have strong affinity, historical, "geographical" (Indo-gangetic plain, including Kashi/Benaras), spiritual (Hindu), racial (four varnas), cultural (Hindu), linguistic (Sanskrit/Devnagari script), religious (Hindu), psychological ("nostalgia") and so on with Indian leaders on many counts. Almost all Heads of State and the Government of the past were, and of the present, are mostly Bahuns and Chhetris. hence, Indian "pinch" is taken as "lovely" pinch rather than "deadly" pinch. These are the reasons why we have many "Indo-pendent" leaders. We have seen time and again that when all Nepalese people are united, Indian influence also cease to exist. Also, if indigenous peoples should lead the main political parties and the country, such influence would cease as indigenous peoples have no link, physical or emotional, either with India or with China but it is difficult to materialize.

Also, it is obvious that when Lion sleeps tigers would become very active. It will take time to wake up the Lion as the intensity of people to people relations between the Nepali and Chinese people, when compared with that with Indians, in terms of social, cultural, economic, and religious relations, is low.

Mr. Upadhyaya, it is not correct to suggest that we all are rotten eggs; instead it is correct to say that there are rotten potatoes in the sack that needs to be taken out and it could be done by ensuring federal units based on ethnicity, language and region within the federal democratic republic. Rotten potatoes would not be out of the sack until Nepal remains a unitary and centralized state and indigenous peoples and other excluded groups remain excluded.

TGQ4: Is there any possibility of successful Janabidroha ("people's revolt") in Nepal by the UNCP Maoist? A section of Kathmandu analysts claim that the Maoists remain divided into two distinct differing and opposing lobbies. Given the fact that the Maoists who enjoyed shelter previously in India is now a declared enemy at least which is visible? Enlighten our readers of your brilliant observations? Dr. Bhattachan please.

Dr. Bhattachan: There is indeed, Mr. Upadhyaya, a ripe moment for a successful Janabidroha in Nepal at this historical juncture. Sociologists and other social scientists have made it clear that relative deprivation is not enough to manufacture people's revolt or revolution. Theda Skocpol had identified two causes of social revolutions; these are: (i) old-regime states in crisis and (ii) agrarian structures and peasant insurrections. The Madhav Nepal (or "Indo-pendent")-regime-state is in crisis and the intensity of crisis is the worst so far. Hundreds of thousands of "Maila-Dhaila" ("dirty looking guys"), who were mostly peasants (and workers also), marched in the streets of Kathmandu during six-days of mass strike beginning May 2, 2010. The Maoist have strong support from both rural and urban downtrodden people who have been excluded in terms of caste/ethnicity, language, religion, culture, gender, region and class. According to Jack A Goldstone, "Just prior to the fall of the old regime, the state attempts to meet criticism by undertaking major reforms" and "The actual fall of the regime begins with an acute political crisis brought on by the government's inability to deal with some economic, military, or political problem rather than by the action of a revolutionary opposition." It appears that the ripe moment have been coming and going and the UNCP (Maoist) is going to catch the train in near future. It should be noted here that if the Maoists stage a Janabidroha all by itself, it may or may not succeed but if they make alliances with various movements, including those of indigenous peoples, Dalits, Muslims, Madhesis, women, and people of Karnali and other remote regions to make it really a Janaandolan ("People's Movement"), it is sure to succeed.

It is not only the Maoists who are internally divided, as you have suggested, Mr. Upadhyaya. Other parties including the NCP (UML) and Nepali Congress are also internally divided. What is important to notice in the case of the Maoists is that people of its support-base that includes indigenous peoples, Dalits, Madhesis, women, and peasant and workers are strongly in favor of radical transformation of the state.

Mr. Upadhyaya, concerning your question about ups and down of Maoist (or any other political party or government)-Indian relation full support of the Nepalese people is more important and decisive than the support or lack of support of India. Our political leader�s needless and too much of dependence on India has turned out to be like a virus infected computer that needs anti-virus treatment. The best anti-virus is strong support of the Nepalese people.

TGQ5: The Rightists in Nepal claim that increasing Western influence is desirable to some extent but, concurrently they claim that it is also threatening Nepal�s unique diverse cultural and religious background. How have you been observing their presence here in our country?

Dr. Bhattachan: The rightists are wrong on both counts. They are wrong to say that increasing Western influence is desirable. I believe that any influence from any foreign power is not desirable. Western help and support in our terms is desirable but it depends on us rather than them whether we could do so or not. They are wrong to say that increasing Western influence is threatening Nepal's unique diverse cultural and religious background. Demands for abolition of many evils including monarchy, Hindu state, unitary state, Bahunbad ("Brahmanism"), patriarchy, untouchability, the Hill domination etc. originated from the movements of excluded peoples of Nepal. These were not due to "increasing Western influence" as suggested by the Rightists. Similarly, demand for federal democratic republic, secularism, federal units based on ethnicity, language and region, equal language rights, gender equity and equality, proportional representation, reservation etc. are not due to increasing Western influence. These all demands originated from the movements of excluded peoples of Nepal. In a global village with interdependency with different countries, and rampant poverty, exclusion and discrimination in Nepal, Western help and support in our own terms needs to be welcomed and highly appreciated. I see the problem of management and code of conduct is internal problem of Nepal.

Comment(s) on the post:

On Thu, Jun 10, 2010 at 4:25 PM, John Kelleher wrote:

I've always considered sociologists to be acolytes of a pseudo-science, and this "Mao-buddy" stooge Dr. Bhattachan would be a fine specimen as to why.

If Bhattachan is to be believed, Nepal's current crisis is because of an acute dichotomy between the "bad" [monarchism, Hinduism, unitarism, et cetera] and the "good" [republicanism, secularism, ethnic-based federalism, et cetera].  And per Bhattachan's analysis, the best way to ensure that these "good" demands are met is to give our full faith and confidence to the Maoists, or better yet, let them launch another "Janabidroha."

Perish the thought !  Hasn't Nepal already been given enough "benefit" from the wonderful novelties that the esteemed Doctor Bhattachan lists for us?  Hasn't the "radical transformation of the state" that Bhattachan enthusiastically promotes already turned Nepal into a failed state?  Who else but a Maoist zealot would honestly believe that the salve for Nepal's ills is more of this same "peoples revolt" nonsense?

Ah, but what do I know.  According to the last paragraph of the Bhattachan interview, I would, by his definitions, be both "evil" and a "rightist."  I'm heartbroken, really.

On one point, at least, Bhattachan did manage to hit the nail on the head.  If the C.A. couldn't draft a constitution in the last 2 years, they certainly won't be doing so in the next year.

John Kelleher

On Thu, Jun 10, 2010 at 4:24 PM, Tilak Shrestha  wrote:

I read the interview of Dr. Krishna Bhattachan by the ‘Telegraph Weekly.’ His view is not only flawed but his solution is outright dangerous. His view, “all Nepalese problems are due to Bahuns, Marxism is the solution and violence is justified”, is ridiculous at the best. As a sociologist he should know that Bahuns are not majority. It is true that they are ahead of other sub-groups in Nepal. But then what are the reasons for such lop-sided progress? Mere calling it Bahunbad will not do. He should explain the mechanics. If he could then the solutions also will be apparent. As it is, he is merely expressing his frustrations, not a valid intellectual view.

Let me offer following. We do not have Bahun army or Bahun-only laws. Thus their prominence cannot be countered by creating anti-Bahun army or laws. For example, it is claimed that there is preponderance of Bahuns in the Nepalese administrations. Is it due to crooks in Public Service Commission? If so, then let us demand Janajati members in the commission. Is it because the examination is skewed towards Bahun culture? If so, then let us demand objective examination. Is it because Bhattachan people do not emphasize in education? If so, let us demand longer sticks for their teachers. The prominence comes from – 1. higher education, 2. jobs\business and 3. political participations. Thus, the solution is to fight for these three empowerment factors for all, especially for the marginalized sub-groups.

Marxism and Nepalese Maoists actually are against the very solutions. Do not they kill teachers\abduct students, destroy economic infrastructures and hinder peaceful democratic process? If a Bahun does not want to marry a Bhattachan, exactly why is it a national problem? Is not it a matter of personal choice? Matter of fact, if a Bhattachan can marry any and a Bahun can marry only a Bahun, then a Bhattachan has more choices and better off. However, Maoists will point at it and forward Marxism as the solution. How changing means of production (capital) from private hand to government (the essence of Marxism) make a Bahun run to marry a Bhattachan? Thus, Marxism is seen as the solution only by individuals blinded by prejudice and frustration.

Dividing Nepal as per ethnicity will be the most unfortunate of all. We all know what happened to Yugoslavia. How ethnic separation is the solution? Look at the ethnic states proposed in the name of the anti-Bahun. There is no Bahun state but bordering states of Magar\Gurung, Newar\Tamang, Rai\Limbu, Madheshi\Tharu and so on. How is it an anti-Bahun solution? Such states will lead only to fight between Magar and Gurung, Newar and Tamang, Madheshi and Tharu. What about Bahuns? Perhaps they would climb up trees to escape the frictions and watch the carnage.

We need democracy not ‘idiotcracy’. Neither dictates of Maoists nor violence, as advocated by Dr. Bhattachan, are the solutions. The real solutions come from peaceful public discussions and referendum on the major national issues. Let us understand all the implications and long term effects. For example:

1. United Nepal vs. Ethnic states
2. Hindu Rastra vs. Secular
3. Democracy vs. Communism
4. Equality of all vs. Ethnic compartmentalization


Tilak Shrestha, Ph.D.

(For further reading, we have here two short articles posted sometime ago on linguistic issues of Nepal and on the Brahmins of Nepal.)