December 19, 2011


[Below posted is an article by an author who has published milestone publications on  social change and development in Nepal. In this article the  author  has prescribed  a 'multicultural federalism' with 'functional base on co-operation' or 'co-operative federalism' for Nepal. However, the author has not explained how his model of federalism (संघियता) would function; he has been able to paint a picture of the country how "splitting  federal units from north to south" may look like. He says any such 'north-south units' may be renamed Mahendralism (महेन्द्रलियता) or - Birendralism (वीरेन्द्रलियता) with some cosmetics varnished on it by Congress-UML-Maoists and which will not be federalism in essence. Should such federalism "not address the core issue of multiculturalism with autonomy and the right to self-determination" -  that would not work, he says. He further argues, "federalism that has its 'functional base on co-operation' or a 'cooperative federalism' only could  provide a  platform for dialogue so as to sustain development, cooperation and harmony in the country." But his naming of MangolKirats (मंगोल-किरात) for indigenous people (आदिवासी जनजाति) may be disputed as 'Mongol' comes from Mongolia which was founded by Jhenghis Khan only  in 1206 whereas Kirats were in the mountains of present Nepal  long before the Vedas were written. Similarly he should have noticed the Magars being  mentioned  in The Mahabharat and few other Purans also. And also proportional representative federal structure for Nepal was first suggested by M. S. Thapa Magar, the current president of Rashtriya Janamukti Partry and not what the author has mentioned in the article. The current definition and characteristics for the indigenous peoples of Nepal encompass the United Nation's definition and characteristics for the indigenous peoples of the world. - The Blogger]

By Govinda Neupane

 An angry Shivasena Nepal cadre manifests herself as some
 mythological Devi  in Kathmandu during a protest programme  

against federalism and secularism in Nepal.
Image courtesy:  Hamrakura
When I was finally editing my first book, "सामाजिक विकासको विवेचना - Samajik Bikashko Vivechana" (Discourse on Social Development), I realized there was a need for better knowing the composition and characteristics of colorful indigenous nationalities of  Nepal and the way they could build better social harmony. It was in the year of 1999.

I began preparing notes on nationalities, social compositions, contrasting values and behaviors, and ways and means to address existing prevalent discriminations so as to make Nepal a harmonious place to live in.

Once, I even thought of quitting the job as studying, analyzing and determining the nature, numbers and historical context of different nationalities are too complex and controversial. However, I got into it as I had done some exercises already. Reviewing for months of literatures on the indigenous peoples of Nepal available at that time, I prepared three working papers – a) nationalities in Nepal: their composition and standing, b) relationships among them, and, c) superstructure that provides platform for mutually beneficial and harmonious partnership.

I encountered hostile circumstances as many experts, leaders, activists and professionals had highly diverse views on nationalities and many among them were disapproving off  any superstructure that would challenge the one existing at that time. A large majority among this crowd was too critical of federalism as they considered that structure of governance would disintegrate Nepal. They discouraged me saying that exercise on such issue would not benefit the country. But I continued my fieldwork for another six months and arrived at a conclusion that the hostile crowd was that of Khasa, the ruling nationality. Many among the leaders of Khasa origin of all major parties were against multiculturalism and federalism.

After a year, I concluded that there were five nationalities in Nepal – Khasas, Madhesis, MangolKirats, Dalits and Newars. I was undecided whether to use the term MangolKirats. Many intellectuals from among indigenous groups were using the term Janajati (जनजाति) that has included MangolKirats also. Janak Lal Sharma had first used the term MangolKirats. Harsha Bahadur Budha had used the term Kirats simply to introduce the Magars. In my first draft, I had used Kirats only. However, after consultations with some of the authorities including Parshu Ram Tamang on indigenous people of Nepal, I was convinced that the term MangolKirats better suits to introduce the nationalities of Nepal. Although, several advances have been made in researching on the nationalities' composition in Nepal, still there exist differences not consensus. It may take some more years or decades, which may seem natural. However, after a decade of that research, I am now convinced that the findings of that research are correct.

In the past decade, my book, "The Nationalities Question in Nepal: Social Composition and Partnership Building through Multiculturalism and Federalism" has been widely used as reference material to discuss prevailing socio-political discrimination in Nepal. It has received  wide acclaim in the area of the study on discrimination against the indigenous nationalities.

The decade-long Civil War brought many upheavals in the country. The values, belief systems and practices had to pass through scrutiny. Several old values were discarded, belief systems were challenged and the society had gone through painful process of initial restructuring. However, the process got stuck when the Maoists entered into a new path that included negotiations, ‘give and take’ and compromises. When the Maoists changed their strategies, they needed different political traits that had similar value ingredients as that of their new brethren, the Congress and CPN (UML). Hence, the process of societal transformation faced new road blocks ahead as the lead-role-actor disappeared from the scene. Thus, the Maoists became friendlier to status quo and gradually sidelined themselves from what that they needed to confront against; the creamy layer of the society including the most influential Khasa politico-intellectual fraternity.

Many agencies led by oppressed nationalities and their activists either were trapped by the Khasa-led politico-governance or mechanism or by the western donors as their projects. Now, on the horizon, there are not many agencies or individuals available who truly represent the oppressed nationalities to secure their rights. Krishna Bhattachan and a few scholars and activists like him could be seen in the wilderness defending the cause, still putting their intellectual richness, energy and time to champion the cause for an egalitarian Nepali society that is free from prejudices and discrimination.

In this context, new breeds of champions of federalism have emerged. They are the yesteryear's die-hard opponents of federalism, which include the Nepali Congress and UML leaders. Many professors and professionals that were anti-federalism, are now raising voices for federalism. However, their model of federalism is the second edition of Panchayati Geophysical Map Works of zones or regions. Pasting few colours and cosmetics, they labour to reintroduce the same Panchayati politico-administrative mechanism in the name of federalism.

Why is federalism considered a need for Nepal? 

The oppressed nationalities had concerns in three primary areas – cultural identity, end of discriminatory practices against the nationalities in governance, opportunities and access to national resources. To address these concerns, they raised voice for multiculturalism and federalism (संघियता). Putting together these two attributes with geography, economic viability and governance, the appropriate federal model could be evolved. However, the new Mullahs of federalism are now advocating for splitting  federal units from north to south to suit and serve their interests. It may be renamed  Mahendralism (महेन्द्रलियता) or - Birendralism (वीरेन्द्रलियता) with some cosmetics varnished on it by Nepali Congress-UML-Maoists and which will not be federalism in essence; should it not address the core issue of multiculturalism  with autonomy and the right to self-determination. Moreover, federalism that has its functional base on co-operation or a cooperative federalism - only  could provide a  platform for dialogue so as to sustain development, cooperation and harmony in the country.

Now, there is a commission that is tasked for recommending a suitable model of federalism. Before concluding any meaningful discussion inside the commission, the coordinator of the commission has started speaking of Mahendralism (महेन्द्रलियता)  or Birendralism  (वीरेन्द्रलियता). This is another futile exercise that would simply legitimatize the covert plans and designs of the Khasa leaders. Without addressing the core issue of multiculturalism, any state restructuring exercise would not address the aspirations of oppressed nationalities and thus not solve the problem in the long run.

Now, the 'transformative socio-political and economic course or force' has been put in the back burner. It is very unfortunate frankly. The interests of working classes, oppressed nationalities and marginalized sections should receive proper attention and priority. If that does not happen, the radical 'social transformative force' would get more accelerated sooner or later and there would be doldrums in the country again. 

The wise can see it, the average person can sense it and the fools do not have any idea about what to do next. Irrespective of having any idea or no idea, the radical force would surface and  follow coercion which seems inevitable.