(written for Vishwa Sandesh)
Partyless democracy is an oxymoron, but Nepal had it under King Birendra. Girija Koirala was “invited” to “participate” but he refused, and understandably so. The right to self determination is as integral a part of federalism as political parties are to democracy.
CK Raut’s arrest defies political logic, and flies in the face of the Universal Declaration Of Human Rights. Unlike the likes of Gagan Thapa who toe the line of octogenarians in his party, CK has challenged the existing Madhesi political parties and their leaders, and has elevated the political conversation in the country in ways that we have not seen since the April revolution of 2006 and the subsequent Madhesi movements of 2007 and 2008. There is hyperactivity online. The streets of Madhesh are warming up. You feel the lull before the storm.
Of the legislative, executive and the judiciary, the judiciary in Nepal is the most regressive, with the executive right behind it. The monarchy was the most regressive institution but it is gone. It was the judiciary that disallowed the use of Maithili in local governments in parts of the country where pretty much everyone speaks Maithili and the vast majority don’t comprehend Nepali. It was the judiciary that disallowed the Vice President, a Madhesi, to take oath in Hindi.
Hindi is at the very core of the Madhesi identity. Otherwise there are Maithils, there are Bhojpuri speakers, there are Marwadis. Hindi is probably better understood in all parts of Nepal than is Nepali. Nepal’s salvation lies in Hindi being recognized as the sixth UN language. Amitabh Bachchan speaks Hindi. Hrithik Roshan, yes Hrithik Roshan, speaks Hindi.
Bamdev Gautam is pretty much a “auntha chhap.” Sushil Koirala is basically in a wheelchair. He was missing in action for two straight months, and the country still kept running just fine. Why is he Prime Minister? He should be made constitutional monarch! Those are qualities of a constitutional monarch!
Nepal would be oh so fortunate if people like Bamdev disappeared, never to be seen again, and people like CK Raut came to hold offices of power. I know CK personally. He is easily one of the foremost intellects in all of Nepal and the Nepali diaspora. In CK Baburam Bhattarai might have finally met his match. CK, after all was born in the land of Janak, that most famous of philosopher kings.
Whereas Bamdev turned the entire country into a joke at a recent SAARC home minister level gathering. He spoke out a speech in English that he had had someone write in the Devnagari script. The jackal howled at the sight of the moon and got caught!
I don’t get it. The right to self determination is integral to federalism. If there is consensus on federalism, why is the right to self determination even an issue? Nepal has been declared a secular country, but Kamal Thapa still campaigns for a Hindu country. He can do that. It’s called freedom of expression. Govinda Raj Joshi and Khum Bahadur Khadka have both joined that Hindu nation chorus. Why are they still roaming around freely? Free speech! Ram Sharan Mahat talked of a federalism free constitution. That is highly irresponsible for someone in the cabinet to say, but it is still free speech. Never mind that Nepal has been declared a federal republic in the interim constitution already.
Is the state saying Pahadis are entitled to free speech but Madhesis are not? What is the message here?
I don’t sense a strong sentiment for Madhesh as a separate country in the Madhesh right now, but the CK Raut case mishandled would build such a thing at a rapid clip. But this is not about majority or minority opinion. This is about basic rights.
A state legislature would have the option to organize a referendum on the topic. And majority vote would decide, like just happened in Scotland. If sovereignty rests in the hands of the people, there is no other way.
Personally I am for federalism in Nepal with two states in the Terai encompassing all 22 of the Terai districts and a South Asian economic union. That is my prescribed solution to the 300 year old discrimination faced by the Madhesis that have 3,000 years of continuous history.
The most heartbreaking part is all this foot dragging on federalism postpones Nepal’s economic revolution by leaps and bounds. If there are 100,000 bureaucrats in Nepal, and 100,000 soldiers, and 100,000 police officers, that’s 300,000 people on the state’s payroll. If the Bahun Chhetri are 20% of the country of 30 million, there are six million of them. If they are currently 90% of the state, are you telling me 270,000 Bahuns Chhetris drawing state salaries meets the needs of the other 5.7 million plus of them? I doubt it.
Democratization and power devolution are also in the best interests of the six million Bahuns and Chhetris of Nepal. Most of them live in slave conditions.