A bleak wintry Nepal

It continues to be a long wait for people of Nepal, 64 years and still waiting for a constitution. In the past 20 years Nepal has seen 20 governments, while as far as constitution is concerned last 64 years there have seen 6 constitutions. All this shows that the political landscape is fractured and as per reports coming in Nepal ethnic mosaic is being seriously corded for narrow petty gains, religion and language are now vote catchers. The political landscape of Nepal is in winter mode.

Internationally there is a crisis; Egypt has a crisis wherein the Army does not wish to relinquish power the Arab spring has given way to Islamist summer. Europe is in economic crisis, closer home the Af-Pak region is in turmoil because of American draw down, but Nepal in the 21st century is in constitutional crisis, that too after a constituent assembly spent four years with extensions and has not been able to complete its task. How many such records are there internationally, is the honour of Nepal alone?  

The biggest area of turmoil is the political split of the Maoist. The United Communist Party of Nepal (UCPN-M) has split into a hard line and a power hungry section right along the centre. Mohan Baidya has broken off and taken 45 of the 149 central committee members. The other faction consists of Prachanda and Baburam Bhattarai now called the 'red traitors', by Baidya and company. The spilt was long overdue although Prachanda   tried his best to control this rebellion. The breakaway faction is against the 12 point under standing meditated by India and do not rule out returning to the revolutionary path. They also want a dialogue which is all party centric and not one limited to the earlier big three. This will create a different political climate in Nepal.

Nepal’s politics is at crossroads and for a change the role of government of India is not under scrutiny, in fact India has followed a very passive role. The society in Nepal has become extremely inward looking and a new class in Katmandu is driving Nepal to a politics of confrontation. There is a fundamental change from the days of the monarchy and confrontation is the order of the day. Political deadlock and brinkmanship are the new drivers there is a lot at stake therefore, the stances are very hard. The Nepali winter is one where the political class has let down the nation. The political class has wasted four years of the country and for what, 'petty gains'. Is it a failed constitutional state and not a failed nation? Those in power need to sit down and work, yet they have decided to go back to the people. Maoist need to take the bulk of the blame being the single largest party.

One of the biggest causalities has been the legacy of Parchanda. A couple of years ago he was the toast of the India Today conclave and a large number of us watched him on TV, and whatever he said was pure logic. By his deeds he has fallen from intellectual path to one of power broker and a wily politician. From the father of the nation he has emerged as the spoiler of the constitution. Ethnicity is not likely to be glue that binds Nepal. The transition from revolutionary to conscious keeper has been seriously impaired by lust for power, and an inability to rise above despotic pettiness by not having a truth and reconciliation commission to find out about the 14000 lives killed during the revolution and 1,400 still missing which the state terms as involuntarily disappeared.

Ethnicity was never worth thinking about. Nepal has 102 ethnic groups, and the resultant pressures will be earth shattering. Geography must decide the formation of the states. Ethnicity gets votes but putting the people against one another by an accident of birth may not be the best solution for progress. Nepal needs to work on geographical states as in the hill region geography plays an important role in development and the economically weaker sections require protection. Nepal has one of the best track records of ethnic groups living in peaceful harmony with one another all this will be seriously put under pressure if they are forced to play against one another. It will be good for vote catching but will destroy the very social fabric of society.

The average Indian has never really involved himself with the ethnic composition of Nepal which for a state where Hinduism thrived has to have its share of diverse divisions. Nepal being the birthplace of Buddha also has strong Buddhist influence. The main power earlier was centered with the Ranas as is widely known. But Nepal has its share of others as well. Broadly speaking Nepalese are around 58 per cent, and they are further sub divided, into others like Khas Chhetri Kashtriya 15.5 per cent, Bahun 12.5 per cent, Khas Thakuri 1.47 per cent and so on, but there are others like Bihari 18 per cent, Tharu 4 per cent, Tamang 4 per cent, Newar 3 per cent, Magar 2 per cent, Abadh 2 per cent, others 12 per cent. To all this add the cocktail of language Nepali or Khas 58 per cent, and mix it up with religion, Hindu 86 per cent, Buddhist 8 per cent, Christian 0.2 per cent, and now a lot of Muslims also, and the Molotov cocktail is ready to explode. It therefore summarises that ethnicity may work for creating and charging a revolution, but a policy of divide and rule where 61 per cent of the population is between 15 and 64 years old and 34 per cent is younger than 14 years, needs a different social indicators of progress to keep it going. This clearly shows that job creation should be high for any government and education needs to be tackled on a war footing. Why are these citizens of the country going out in search of work all over the Middle East, because the state failed to provide them with opportunities?

Nepal’s economy is in turmoil and looking at the international community will not do as the world economic powers are themselves in trouble. Nepal needs to create an investment climate, or else who would wish to invest in a constitutionally failed state. This is where Nepal might turn to China for investment but Nepal must realise a powerful China has always been expansionist.

Nepal must retain its identity and find a way out which can only come by all parties coming together. Another revolution social in nature will put the clock back. All political parties need to give up their narrow visions and work in the interest of the nation. The Indian government is correctly staying neutral, following a wait and watch policy while the political parties are now talking of consensus. India needs stability and democracy to progress, thus Nepal needs to get out of its sleep and winter mode.

C S Thapa is a retired brigadier
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