Friday, April 25, 2008

New Democracy in Nepal

Democratic Secular Republic of Nepal By Vidya Bhushan Rawat

Cynics in India might feel offended as how the only ‘Hindu’ Rastra of the world has democratically sealed the fate of an over pampered as well as highly autocratic monarchy in the recently held elections. For them Hindu dharma epitomizes the democratic spirit in true sense, for that matter the reason of India’s being secular republic. Yes, the present elections in Nepal has thrown more challenges in front of the future leaders, for it is definitely a different world of agitational work and when you are in power and will have to see interest of various parties, communities as well as ethnicities. Nepal lost its tryst with democracy many times in the past as the political parties behaved in entirely undemocratic way as well as were thoroughly corrupted and used their proximity to the Royal palace to settle their scores with each other, giving the over sized king enough ammunition to intervene whenever and wherever he wished.

Therefore when the Maoists made a clean sweep in Nepal, it raised many eyebrows in India, not because the Indian establishment will be threatened with Maoists power but for sure, the fear is in Delhi is that a Maoist democratic government will undermine New Delhi’s controlling mechanism in Nepal. And the indication from Nepal have clearly reflected in that it is poised for an independent foreign policy and want to remain a younger brother of India and not as a colony of India. Nepalese have often resented this despite the fact that Nepal and India share common cultural values and have close relationship but then so are India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Do we not have relations and common culture of language and food habits? Don’t Muslims in India have family relations with Pakistanis and Bangladeshis and Tamils in Tamilnadu with Sri Lankan people? Don’t the Pakistani Hindus have relations in India like the Bangladeshi Hindus? But this over emphasis on Indo Nepali friendship comes from Nepal’s Hindu background. This was used by the Monarchs in Nepal for their own benefits, strengthening their own positions and denying Nepal a truly democratic government. A rigid Hindu regime in Nepal not only denied people opportunity for social reform but in certain pockets Nepal follows outdated brahmanical values. That Brahmins and Kshatriyas remained too powerful in Nepal because of such crafty politics that Nepal’s governing castes played on various occasions. And while the change in Nepal is welcome yet it is the beginning of another order which will be democratic but the real transition of Nepal will only happen once the democracy reach the grassroots and the tribal and Dalit minorities in Nepal stand up against the corrupt social order which is patriarchical and feudal. One does not know how the so-called Maoists with red mark over their head will deal with this. Whether, their secularism will ever stop that the religious holidays in the government offices be reduced. Whether the form of rigid varnashram dharma that we witness in Nepal will end? Whether the Maoist government will have fair representative of various communities in Nepal or whether it will turn out another dose of brahmanical system that we have witnessed in India under secular garb.

Democracy is not just ‘secular’ government or government of ‘proletariat’. Unfortunately, both democracy and, communism rarely went together and we have seen various example. We might boast some of these great in Latin America and elsewhere where they ‘take on’ the ‘mighty’ George Bush. It is the double standard when we cry for the freedom of expression at one place and keep quiet in our own place. Clearly, it is the ideology which has become powerful than the people. People have to be slaughtered for ideology, a very similar exercise that the religious thugs did in the past world over where religion became a tool to slaughter the people. Comerade Prachanda and his company must not repeat the same. Democracy in Nepal should mean end of not only Monarchy but also hegemonies that exists in Nepal’s village. And for that Nepal can take a few lessons from India, for its constitution was drafted by a true republican called Ambedkar. The man who came from the formerly untouchable communities, championed the cause of freedom and dignity, decried the much romantic Indian village system. ‘Indian villages are den of corruption, nepotism and feudalism,’ he said. Castes live in Indian villages. Every caste is a village and Indian republic is failing in dismantling it. The 9% growth rate does not help if these caste republics in India are not destroyed. I am sure the Maoists know it well that Nepal’s villages are not heaven as the rigid caste system that pervades in Nepal lives in villages predominantly. And how will that end. It will not end with just upper caste leaders of the Nepali dalits. No doubt, we need ideologically committed people and I am sure Nepal’s Dalits and ethnic communities will throw some great leaders in future who will not participate in democracy just as a Dalit but as leaders of the society. Change makers of society, if I could say them. Some time construction of these identities creates further middlemen who sale communities interest for their own one and equate both as happened in the case of India. But democracy strengthened with the participation of people. It will learn from mistakes, as in India, the Dalit and other minorities are learning. It is a new phase where people would not question their own party and leaders because the ‘others’ have rarely helped them, so some time leadership which manipulate survive because of the absence of an alternative. But today, if we see growth of the politics and groups of the marginalized in India right from Panchayats to every political party, there is a lesson, that the communities will challenge every one, even the so-called own leaders. Ultimately, it is the people who have to be benefited. People can not remain happy to see one former milk seller riding helicopter or becoming chief minister. That is a great thing but you can not exploit that sentiments for next twenty years and that question would always come. Hence Prachanda’s ‘revolutionary’ leaders have brought many hopes to millions of the people in Nepal, but it need to be seen how revolutionaries are they. Whether they have guts to challenge the status quo in Nepal or not or they will be another instrument in maintaining the status quo ante in the social system, it will be the biggest questions for all of to observe.

As the future head of Nepal, Prachand’s demand to reevaluate the Indo-Nepalese treaty is welcome. Nepal is an independent country and its people have a right to decide about its relationship with India and any country in the similar way as India has a right to plan its strategic interest in Nepal but Indian establishment must not shy away in welcoming the change in Nepal. When Nepal become a republic, it will have to shed many burden of its past. The migration is growing phenomenon world over and Nepal is not new. The only thing is that Nepal’s politicians and monarchy did everything to kill the spirit of the Nepalese. Nepal is at the threshold of a new era when in democracy its citizens will take pride and in return democracy would provide equal opportunity to every one which theocratic Nepal never did to its untouchable population. If democracy remained caged to gimmickries and rhetoric’s of imperialism and capitalism, then contradictions in the Nepalese society would deepen. Every body wants freedom. We all enjoy it and aspire for it hence when Nepal enjoy political freedom, how can it deny social-cultural and economic freedom to a vast segment of Nepali population which are treated as unequal. Nepal’s future leaders will have to keep that in mind and resolve it. Often the ruling elite create an enemy to suppress the internal contradictions and one hope that the dispensation which take over Nepal would not do the same to retain its power and position by creating false enemies. They will have to deliver and now when they have the power with them, further pretence would not work. Anti Indian sentiments in Nepal are some time used for political purposes which ignore the vital factor of genuineness of the grievances that the Nepali people have towards India and its ruling establishment which never supported democratic movements any where despite people protest, popular uprisings, under the pretext of ‘internal’ problems of the country. It is also interesting that Prachanda has spoken against the recruitment of the Nepalese soldiers in Indian as well as British army but one does not know whether those who join the forces as a lucrative profession would take such a stand lightly. Nepalese as brave fighters are well known and as long as they get good salaries should not have that concern but Prachanda should focus more on agrarian reform, pending land reform, land entitlements to ethnic minorities, Dalits and also the pathetic conditions of the Nepalese migrants in India. That is an image which hurt Nepal a lot and it has reflected in the Nepalese middle class and intellectuals as they have to go through that image problem created by the Indian middle classes and media about Nepal due migrants laborers in various Indian cities. When the Indians tourists travel to Nepal, this image of immigrant Nepali workers again force them think of not just a big brother but big boss of Nepal and that baggage of past must go. Yes, India and Nepal will have to sit together and sort out their issues and strengthen their legacy.

These results of the elections in Nepal and its transformation to democracy, secular republic can be a lesson to India’s right wing elements who considered the Monarch of Nepal as the true symbol of Hindu pride. Nepalese do not take pride in an autocratic king which the political formations in the name of Hindus in India do. Modern nation need modern ideas and secular inclusive constitution which have no place for old fashioned monarch who consider himself as the sole representative of Vishnu. We need true representative of the people who can serve them and not enjoy on the fruits of the poor. Nepal must shun the values of an old kingdom which was religious based. It must ensure not only political representation to all sections of Nepali population and ethnicities but also special arrangements should be made to bring these people into the mainstream of the country, in the government jobs, in judiciary, in the police and army. Unless, each section is represented in government and power structure, Nepal transition to democracy and secularism would just proves hollow and people will rise against those in power. Once people taste freedom and democracy, it would be difficult for any regime to suppress their ideas and aspirations. One hope that the would be prime minister of Nepal and his government would understand that people of Nepal have huge expectations from them. They have decided to do away with a Monarchy which is a good step though it will be seen when they are able to do so and then they need to deliver to the people and dismantle the feudal and casteist structure prevailing in the Himalayan kingdom and first step in that direction would be to admit the problem that Nepal’s problem does not lie in economic issues only but deep rooted socio-cultural prejudices. Hence many observers might claim that Nepal has won a class war but it will always be superficial and hollow without the participation of Dalits and ethnic minorities in the power structure as well as in village republics that the new democracy will throw. One sincerely hope that democracy does not strengthen the old feudal structure where the marginalized, the Dalits, religious and ethnic minorities and women, just remain the vote banks and the elite become ‘revolutionaries’. Nepal’s tryst with democracy has just begun and one hope the present dispensation on whose soldier people have highest hope will not fail it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I believe Nepal is going on the right path. No matter, Nepalese only have to resolve their own problem.


Kathmandu, Nepal