Forging a Nepal for all its peoples

As the constitutional endgame approaches, Nepal is witnessing its most fierce and polarised political debate since the process to transform the state began with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2006. Strikingly, it is not a battle between political parties, but different social groups.

This is the battle over the nature of federalism, the boundaries of future states, and the names and number of provinces. The issue of state restructuring perhaps resonates most among ordinary citizens, especially those belonging to communities excluded from the power structure due to their ethnic, caste, regional and religious identities. It is a battle that has been fought in Constituent Assembly (CA) committees, the State Restructuring Commission, and in the past week, on the streets. Continue reading “Forging a Nepal for all its peoples”

On the India hand in Nepal

In an interview with this writer for The Hindu newspaper last week, Maoist chairman Prachanda explained the sudden decision to send the Nepal Army to the cantonments, revealed the possible meeting points on constitutional issues, said that he would have no objection to an NC-led government promulgating the constitution, and declared his personal ambition of wanting “5-10 years” to “implement his vision”. But the bit that has drawn the most attention here in Kathmandu is his public acknowledgment of India’s role in Nepal’s political transformation—from the 12-point agreement, to the CA elections, to the declaration of republic and the progress in the peace process.

Expectedly, ultra-nationalist websites have latched onto this as proof of Prachanda’s “subservience”; right wing stalwarts have the “We told you so” smug look about how they were right all along that this was an external plot. In a different context, there has also been commentary projecting India’s current phase of engagement with the Maoist as somewhat opposed to the Nepali people’s aspirations for peace and democracy.

It would be useful to look at the several issues enmeshed here separately, based on the evidence currently available. Continue reading “On the India hand in Nepal”

The Final Countdown in Nepal

Five years after a peace accord marked the end of a decade long civil war, Nepal’s political transformation has entered its final phase.

On May 27, 2012, the term of the Constituent Assembly — extended four times beyond its original two-year term — will expire. And this time, politicians will not find it easy to give the CA another lease of life due to a judicial stricture. The Supreme Court (SC) has declared that the current extension is final, and if the constitution is not promulgated, there should be another election or referendum. There is also rising popular pressure to wrap up the prolonged transition, which has been accompanied by abysmal service delivery.

That gives the political forces less than three months to wrap up the peace process and write a constitution. Together, this will shape the nature of Nepal’s political institutions and security apparatus. Continue reading “The Final Countdown in Nepal”

Nepal – The Nostalgia for 1990

Kanak Mani Dixit’s efforts to portray 1990s as blissful, and Maoists to solely blame for all of Nepal’s ills, is revisionist history, facts be damned. Dixit’s rejoinder (‘The perils of executive presidency’, Jan 5) to my column (‘A question of form’, Jan 4) reveals fundamental differences in how we see recent Nepali history. The gist of Dixit’s rather simplistic world view is that the 1990s were wonderful and the Maoists destroyed it and are all evil. Let us examine this in more detail.

The 1990s

The 1990 constitution opened up Nepali society; it guaranteed fundamental freedoms and allowed groups to organise themselves at all levels; and economic policies pursued then led to the creation of a bigger middle class.

But there were two fundamental drawbacks of that period, which is what led to its eventual breakdown. Continue reading “Nepal – The Nostalgia for 1990”

Understanding the Nepali Revolution: Baburam Bhattarai

(Nepal’s Prime Minister, Dr BABURAM BHATTARAI, visited India in his first bilateral trip since taking office, in the third week of October. Bhattarai spoke at the Jawaharlal University, Delhi, where he had earned his PhD from the Centre for Study of Regional Development, about the political evolution in Nepal, particularly after the 1990 and 2006 movements as seen through the prism of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist).

Before beginning his substantive speech, he declared, “I am what I am because of JNU,” amidst thundering applause and cries of Lal Salaam.

The full text of the speech, provided to Kafila by his office, is being posted below for the record.)  Continue reading “Understanding the Nepali Revolution: Baburam Bhattarai”

Bhutan’s cautious tryst with democracy

Bhutan’s shift to plural politics remains carefully calibrated, but the emergence of a relatively free press and democratic institutions are important achievements. An account from Thimpu

Political changes in Bhutan over the past five years — the introduction of a ‘democratic constitution,’ the retreat by the fourth King and the coronation of his son, elections to Parliament which now has both a ruling and an opposition party, and governance being the prerogative of the elected government — have triggered two opposite reactions generally. One school has hailed the vision of the Bhutanese monarchy and its act of ‘renunciation,’ and has declared the ‘democracy story’ to be a success. Many others dismiss the transition as being a ‘farce,’ claiming that the King still calls the shots and that Bhutan remains a tight autocracy. Continue reading “Bhutan’s cautious tryst with democracy”

‘We are aware of India’s interests’: Jhalanath Khanal

Interview with Nepal Prime Minister Jhalanath Khanal.

After seven months of living with a caretaker government, Nepal’s Parliament on February 3 elected Jhalanath Khanal, chairman of the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist), as the Prime Minister, with the support of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). He spoke to Prashant Jha at the prime ministerial residence in Kathmandu on February 10. Excerpts, as first published in The Hindu:

What’ll be your priorities?

My first priority is to complete the ongoing peace process. Second, my aim is to help complete the Constitution-writing process. Third, I’ll strengthen the institutions of governance, improve law and order, and guarantee security to the common citizens. Fourth, my focus will be on taking the country towards an economic revolution through development, reconstruction and socio-economic transformation.

Your predecessors had similar priorities, and had pledged to complete the peace and constitutional process. What’s different about your government? Continue reading “‘We are aware of India’s interests’: Jhalanath Khanal”