A Darkening Scenario in Nepal
TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 26 Apr 2010
Nepal may again find itself in the middle of a deep national crisis if a new Constitution is not announced by the stipulated date. The Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal is rich in terms of cultural heritage with various ethnic, tribal, and social groups. Situated in the Himalayas, Nepal adjoins the Tibet Autonomous Region of China in the north and India in the south. Nepalese are the descendants of Tibeto-Burman migrants from the north and Indo-Aryans from the south. Census 2001 listed 103 caste/ethnic groups with 92 different living languages. There are three major linguistic groups – Indo-Aryan, Tibeto-Burman and indigenous. The first meeting of the Constituent Assembly in early 2008 formally ended the world’s only Hindu kingdom and it became a secular nation with a population mix of 80.6% Hindus, 11% Buddhists and 4.2% Muslims.
The drafting of a new constitution by the Constituent Assembly (CA) had been much awaited since 1950. B P Koirala, the founder of Nepali Congress (NC), advocated of CA, ended after his death. The CPN (UML) demanded for a CA, but wrecked with the conspiratorial death of Madan Bhandari. The UCPN (Maoist) finally succeeded to endorse the CA through the means of the People’s War.
Twice deferred, the CA election was held on April 10, 2008, although none of the parties succeeded to have a simple majority. The Maoist won 220 out of 575 elected seats, followed by the NC with 110, and UML with 103 seats. There are 25-national, cultural and regional parties represented in the CA. The results came unexpectedly as the NC followed leader-based, the UML cadre-based and the Maoists mass-based politics.
The first meeting of the CA was convened on May 28, 2008 and a two-year deadline was set for drafting of a new constitution. The meeting introduced the ceremonial president as the head of the state, minimizing the role of the prime minister. Fourth amendment in the Interim Constitution (IC) was done while the Maoists became the largest party in the CA. However, the Constitution-making process has been delayed as the major parties in the CA could not reach national consensus on security, state-restructuration and integration of the Maoist army.
The UML-led government has failed to maintain law and order and has been severely criticized from all quarters. Media entrepreneurs, including journalists and civilians, have been killed or have received death threats. Tarai-Madhes is still burning and bleeding. Abductions, killings, retaliations, extortions, torture are a part of the daily headlines. Pahade (hill and mountain dwellers) and civil servants are either being killed in Tarai-Madhes or receive death threats and there are strikes every week. The criticism of security shadows the constitution-making process.
Three concepts, namely socio-cultural/regional, administrative division (north to south), and administrative autonomous states are key to the state’s restructuring. The socio-cultural/regional autonomous states have been in the forefront since the start of the People’s War. Nepal is a country of minorities, but has unity in diversity in all multi-caste/ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-linguistic and multi-religion groups. The Chhetri comprises the largest group (16%), followed by the Bahun (13%), and the Dalits 13%. None of the mainstream parties put forward the concept of state restructuration except the Maoists.
The Maoist proposed Limbuwan State comprises 27% Limbu with 1.6% national population, whereas there is an equal number of Bahun and Chhetri in the same state. Kochila State is again a proposed minority state encompassing a population of 24% Rajbanshi, Satar, Harijan, Dusadh, Dhimal, Tharu, Teli, Kurmi, dhanuk, etc. Kirat State is also a minority federal state which consists of one-fourth (26%) Rai and Limbu with 2.84% of the Rai population in Nepal. The 6th highest population (5.5%) of Nepal is Newar. They are still in the minority in their native Kathmandu valley with 35% next to an equal population of Bahun and Chhetri. Due to rapid urbanization the population except Newar has been increasing steadily. Tamang is the 5th largest population in the Census of 2001, which comprises just 30% of its population at the Maoists proposed Tamang-Saling state, but Bahun and Chhetri make up one-third of the same state. Gurung is in the minority (27%) in the Maoist proposed Tamuwan State which comprises 2.4% of the population with 11th position in the national population, although Bahun and Chhetri is 12% more than that. Magar is the third largest rank with 7.1% population and even it is in the minority (28%) within the Maoist proposed Magarat State. It’s 14% smaller than the Bahun and Chhetri population in that state. Tharu, which comprises the fourth largest population 6.7%, is still just one-third (35%) in the Tharuwan State which is 2% less than the combined population of Bahun and Chhetri there too.
If such socio-cultural and regional autonomous states are imposed in the forthcoming constitution, civil war is evitable. To avoid such conflicts, the new constitution should give high priority to areas and class where a large number of people live below the poverty line and are deprived of basic civil rights such as health, education, economic prosperity, time-bound reservation, equal rights to women, etc.
Whether building-constitution should come first or rehabilitation and reintegration of the Maoist army should be given priority are much heated arguments in Nepal today. The government prioritizes reintegration. The Maoists want to go both for constitution building and army reintegration simultaneously. To pressurize the Maoists, the government has asked UNMIN to furnish detailed information about the Maoist army. The government assumes that the Maoists army (19,602) in the cantonments to be downsized by 40% similar to recently concluded 4,008 disqualified discharged. UNMIN has declined to provide such information on the course to maintain secrecy.
Against the government’s allegations of non-cooperation and bias, UN Under Secretary General B. Lynn Pasco in his recent visit said the government’s criticism is based on unfair, absurd and boring arguments. The differences between the two (government and the UNMIN) intensified as the Government asked Pasco to speak within diplomatic norms and limitations. Besides, Nepal’s Army Chief rejected the bulk integration of the Maoist army into it. He said that such individual combatants could be reintegrated into the army who meet established standards. The Nepal’s army chief remarks continues while the Indian Army Chief Deepak Kapoor, advising Nepal’s army chief Chhatraman Singh Gurung, said that the Maoist guerrillas should not be merged with the Nepali Army as they would politicize the national army in December 28, 2009 New Delhi.
In fact, the government wants UNMIN to leave whereas UNMIN asks for either a broader mandate in the peace process or an exit strategy. In any event, UNMIN’s tenure expires on May 15. Its departure would require a greater role of neighbors in army reintegration and the constitution building process. The Maoist party wants UNMIN to remain in Nepal till the time the integration process is completed on the one hand. On the other, it avoids any kind of foreign intervention. The non-extension of UNMIN’s tenure has created a serious alliance between the Maoists (closer to China) and the ruling parties (closer to India).
None of the major parties desire to have a new constitution due to their vested political and power interest. The delay in the launching of a new constitution means disrespect for people’s vote and this would fuel more violence.
There is no democratic legitimacy of the Madhav Nepal-led government as he was defeated in two constituencies. The Prachanda-led government nominated him as a member of the CA on the principle of communists being brothers. Nepal became prime minister on the blessings of a powerful neighbor. The neighbor believes in the strategy: ‘diamond cuts diamond’ (Maoists vs. UML) theory, keeping NC as the alternative force against the Maoists. Anti-communist forces have a fear of that if the two communist parties such as Maoists and UML united; the days to rightist forces would be doomed. The communist forces have 62% members in the CA (cf. table 1).
The government wants only 3,000 to 4,000 Maoists to be integrated into the Nepal Army following the international standards of ‘one-weapon-one-man recruitment’ principle while the Maoists want 15,000; 5000 each in the Army, Police and Armed Police. The lesser number of personnel of the Maoist army being included in the security forces could have both opportunities and risks to the Maoists. The opportunity is that they will ignore violence and join the democratic mainstream. In terms of risks, the Maoists leaders may face life-threats from their own Maoist army joining hands with cultural and regional (secessionist) forces or criminal groups or anti-Maoist forces. Most of the Maoists are young (18-30) in which many of them believe on revolutionary principles and practices.
The Maoists propose to resolve the differences related to statute through voting, but ruling parties have denied this. The Interim Constitution directs the CA to endorse each
|Table 1: Analysis of the FPTP+PRS+Nominated CA Members|
|Party||Ethnic group||TM Ethnic||Tarai –Madhes||Hill Dalit||TM Dalit||Chhetri -Bahun||Woman||Total||%|
|1. UCPN (Maoist)||71||21||24||17||4||92||75||229||38.10|
|2. Nepali Congress||30||7||20||7||2||48||44||114||18.97|
|3. CPN (UML)||31||7||19||8||1||42||36||108||17.97|
|4. MJ Forum||8||38||4||3||13||53||8.82|
|7. CPN (ML)||1||2||1||1||3||4||8||1.33|
|8. Janamorcha Nepal||3||1||1||3||2||8||1.33|
|9. CPN (Unified)||1||1||3||5||0.83|
|12. Rastriya Janashakti||2||1||1||3||0.50|
|13. Rastriya Janamorcha||2||1||1||4||0.67|
|14. Nepal Majdor Kisan||3||1||1||4||0.67|
|15. Rastria Jana Mukti||2||1||2||0.33|
|16. CPN (United)||1||1||1||2||0.33|
|17. Sadbhawana (A.)||3||1||3||0.50|
|18. Janata Dal||2||1||2||0.33|
|19. Federal LRM||2||1||2||0.33|
|20. Samajbadi PJ||1||1||0.17|
|21. Dalit Janata||1||1||0.17|
|22. Nepal Pariwar Dal||1||1||0.17|
|23. Nepa: Rastriya||1||1||0.17|
|24. Nepal Loktantric S.||1||1||0.17|
|25. Chure Bh Ekata||1||1||0.17|
|Source: Election Commission Nepal|
and every clause through a two-thirds majority. Owing to difference on the issues of security, army integration and state restructuring, the CA, the State Restructuring Committee and the Constitutional Committee (CC), have been without business for long. Eight thematic committees of the CA have not submitted their papers to the CC.
The NC and UML have superior complexities as they receive moral, financial, and advisory supports from international communities, particularly by India. The Maoists on the other hand suffers from inferior complexities. First, they became the largest party and led-the government under their strongman Prachanda, but could not fulfill the hope and expectation of the people what they had promised in front of them. Moreover, it failed to take action to its employee chief of the Nepal Army. Except promulgating industrial capitalism covered by socialism at their budget 2008, nothing is noticeable. That government was criticized due to the lack of experiences and calculating the pros-and-cons of legal measures, for instance, the priest case in the Pashupatinath. The bureaucracy did not support them because of their strong tie with NC and UML at the senior levels. Even Prachanda himself said, ‘running government is more difficult than the People’s War.’
Second, the president sacked the cabinet decision of removal to the army chief. Third, the then PM Prachanda tried all his best to win the trust of Indian establishment but he failed. Fourth, PM Prachanda resigned from the government on the moral ground following the democratic practices, but did not receive recognition from the international communities. Fifth, the ‘silent diplomacy’ of China made them more frustrated despite of repeated visit and request to China. On the course to satisfy China, the Maoist leadership vowed to be wall against any kind of free Tibet activities supporting ‘one-China policy’. Sixth, the central leadership of the Maoists partially failed to convince their disqualified discharged and Maoist army that they could fulfill their promises that all they could join state security forces. Seventh, the anti-government and anti-Indian movements could not be that much of effective. Moreover, their anti-India movement made India more rigid against them. Eight, they could not encourage the morale of their activists as many of their leadership are spending luxuries lives, but their cadres are thin and weak in the lack of financial support. Notwithstanding that they face difficulties to recognize the enemy and friend owing to surrounded by ‘new-and-neo-Maoists opportunists’.
Last, as the Maoists did not receive fertile ground for a non-confidence motion against the government, they put forward the policy to decisive people’s revolt scheduled for May 1, 2010. For this, they are providing self-defense training across the nation intending to revitalize their activists’ synergy and exert pressure the government to resign. The art of single stick fighting to their cadres-civilians and advances training glistering khukuri (Nepali knife) are the preparation of final warfare. It all happens because the UCPN Maoists in some occasions lacks to capitalize the opportunities and guards the risks. Such initiative is sure to delay the constitution-making process and pushes further more toward uncertainty.
If the new constitution is not promulgated on the stipulated date of May 28, 2010, Nepal could fall into another legitimacy crisis and the peace, security and constitutional fundamental rights of the country may further lead to aggravate the situation. This would either lead the country to another authoritarian regime, chaos and bloodshed or a monarch may reappear and activate the 1990 Constitution. The crisis is deepening though the country’s legislators understand the price of the Constituent Assembly but not its value.
Bishnu Pathak is Director of the Conflict Study Center (CS Center) in Nepal, the South Asia Convener for TRANSCEND International, and a Board Member of the TRANSCEND Peace University. His book Politics of People’s War and Human Rights in Nepal is a widely circulated volume. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are grateful to whom they supported us voluntarily to conclude this article including Mr. Joseph Bergson, CSC Representative in UK.
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 26 Apr 2010.
Anticopyright: Editorials and articles originated on TMS may be freely reprinted, disseminated, translated and used as background material, provided an acknowledgement and link to the source, TMS: A Darkening Scenario in Nepal, is included. Thank you.
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