October 21, 2009
Dr Yubaraj Sangroula
You have made rather sweeping comment to generalize views of those who you deem to be against federalism and who, in your opinion, “hold extreme views and interests.” You have jumped to the conclusion that "This group comprises generally of those people who had massive access to powers in the past. In the context of restructuring of the State, they are not going get the same 'haikam' (exclusive position). They are therefore against the change. They want status quo- the feudal pattern of power exercise.”
I do grant that some of those who oppose federalism do conform to your description. Not all, though. There is a multitude of examples of people who never have had “massive access to powers in the past” and nor do they aspire “the same 'haikam' (exclusive position)” in the future too (yours truly included), but don’t agree with restructuring of Nepal on ethnic lines or otherwise for genuine reasons. It’s also neither true that these people are ignorant of the meaning of federalism and nor do they negate or deny benefits that could accrue therefrom. They, however, are aware that a specific medicine in a specific dose maybe effective for a specific mammal (like an elephant), but may not be that well effective for other mammal (e.g. human beings). It could rather be a case of OD – over dose.
Although, I don’t need to come to the defense of those who have had “massive access to powers in the past” but quite a few of them have taken the stance not because “they are not going get the same 'haikam' (exclusive position)” in future. As far as I know him, Pradip Nepal, for example, is not opposing federalism in Nepal for reasons you have cited. I know of innumerable other people like him who are in disagreement out of genuine concern for the motherland.
This scribe too has made his opposition against implementation of federalism clear in his writings, including with regard to demand for declaration of autonomous Newa state, in spite of being a fiercely chauvinistic Newa himself, (which have been uploaded at http:www.ratnasansar.blogspot.com/
) for a number of valid reasons, like inter alia the benefits of restructuring will not accrue to Nepal but the likelihood of emulating the example of Yugoslavia is high. You have cited the example of Sikkim but Nepal needs to learn quite a lot from Yugoslavia, too as repenting afterwards will be meaningless and too late. In my considered opinion, there is a different set of lessons we need to learn from Sikkim which I don’t need to repeat here.
I have already agreed with you and other proponents of federalism that there are many upsides of going federal. While singing paeans in praise of federalism one must not lose sight of the fact that Nepal is such a tiny country (comparable to or smaller than a province of our neighbor) and addition of federal governance structure will further eat into fund/resources intended for the grassroots. Additionally, it costs about Rs 1 billion/year for our governance now. Even if the additional provincial governance after restructuring is to cost about only half of that, the tax payers will be burdened with additional tax liability of Rs 8 billion/year if we were to have 16 provinces. This accounts only for running expenses of the provincial governments. Huge outlays will be required to meet capital cost of establishing provincial capital. No doubt it will lead to some infrastructural development but the important question is: is Nepal in a position to afford cost of constructing, for example, buildings for various ministries, departments, etc at provincial levels when people in villages aren’t even availed water to drink and sanitation such that in this age and time people are dying of diarrhea and cholera? Being a student of economics, I doubt if additional outlay of this magnitude will be, among other things, justifiable. Moreover, we also need to internalize that provinces tend to be unitary too and there are example aplenty in Indian provinces.
Tyranny of Kathmandu has also been cited by some as a justification for provincialization of Nepal. They have opined that the people have “suffered Kathmandu's totalitarianism" for quite a while. But that too is hardly true. I even wonder if Kathmandu did ever get to rule over Nepal subsequent to its "unification" by rulers from Gorkha. Till monarchy was abolished, Nepal was ruled by erstwhile monarchs hailing from Gorkha who ruled (merely reigned most of the time) for close to 240 years and they did so, physically, from Kathmandu. They had merely shifted their capital from Gorkha to this valley. Therefore, for those many years it was, effectively, rule of Gorkha, if one is to go on this tangent on ethnic lines. Out of which for 104 years Ranas (actually Kunwars, who “elevated” themselves by choosing to call “Rana”) were the effective rulers and the Shahs were relegated to merely reigning, taking advantage of their greedy and philandering nature. I am at a loss as to whether this period should be called a totalitarianism of Gorkha or else. Tyrants they were, as it was a dictatorship of one particular family. Then there were Pandes, Thapas, Basnets, et al. I am not too sure about their root too (I am, I must admit, weak in history).
After the Rana autocracy was overthrown, we had a brief spell of "democracy" till early 60s but during that time Nepal was ruled by Biratnagar twice and many others. But Kathmandu didn’t get to rule, ever. Then we had Panchayat “democracy” which basically reinstated the Gorkha rule, till 1990. I shouldn't forget that once under Shah Monarch’s Panchayat system, Marich Man Singh did get to occupy the prime ministerial chair. I am given to understand that he was from Salyan. However, after the addition of “Shrestha” suffix in his name, it could be claimed that Kathmandu did get to become a sub-ruler at the fag end of Panchayat era. After people's movement of 1990, it was again Biratnagar ruling Nepal for over a decade out of about a dozen yeas and Dhankuta, Dadeldhura, Baitadi, etc. too did get to rule by turn for brief periods. And after the abolition of monarchy Chitwan (or rather Kaski) got to rule for 9 months and now Rautahat is taking its turn.
Therefore, all these years all those people ruled Nepal, albeit from Kathmandu. But, it is not justifiable to blame Kathmandu for the tyranny of people hailing different parts of Nepal, merely because they did so from Kathmandu. Perhaps it is the soil of Kathmandu that is to be blame; or rather the wind that blows here. People could even have blamed the water that flows here, but unfortunately only sewage flows in the rivers here instead of water due to massive migration of people from outside Kathmandu valley. Therefore, asking for fragmentation of Nepal into various provinces on this ground too is like a Nepali proverb: one wife soiling husband’s lap after becoming angry with his other wife. From this tangent the solution may lie in simply shifting the capital instead of splitting this tiny country into small provinces. In other words, if this is the only reason for going federal, then we should look somewhere else to mitigate the problem.
Centrifugal force has already set in even in ethno-cultural-linguistic community known as Newars and it is being rendered asunder. People are “discovering” that the only thing common in this community (asking for an autonomous state of its own) is language and that it is not a homogenous or cohesive group. Ethnically some Newars are descendants of Mongoloid stock while others are of Indo-Aryan; latter generally professing Hinduism (comprising four Varnas) while former are mostly Buddhist. The dissimilarity is so pervading that this year many Newars celebrated Mhapuja (and New Year) on Sunday and Bhai Tika on Monday, including yours truly, while some did so on Monday and Tuesday respectively. I am given to understand that similar things are happening in other ethno-cultural groups, too.
Exclusion of certain ethnic groups, downtrodden, dalits is said to be one of the major reasons behind the demand for this. But federalism requires geographic delineation of various provinces and none of the proposed provinces will mainly comprise of any specific excluded community. Therefore, in each such province the likelihood of such communities continuing to be excluded is still high. I agree with Deepak Khadka that what is needed is strong local governance, with an eye on development of grassroots with better backward and forward linkages. Furthermore, delineation of boundaries of various provinces and declaration of provincial capital too could result in bloodshed as evidenced by the turmoil following announcement of new universities in far west and mid western development regions.
Therefore, we should not invite unwanted trouble in the name of going federal. You have made a correct statement about “feudal pattern of power exercise.” I agree that this needs to be changed; but fragmentation of Nepal into a number of provinces will not abolish “feudal pattern of power exercise.” Something else needs to be done for the purpose.
With best regards,
Ratna Sansar Shrestha
From: NNSD@yahoogroups.com [mailto:NNSD@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Yubaraj Sangroula
Sent: Thursday, October 15, 2009 15:29
ubject: Re: [NNSD] Prof Pradhan has agreed to make a cong. note
Thanks for taking time to discuss on very important issue- federalism. Let me have some ideas about it. I start with honesty that 'I do believe on theory that in country like Nepal, where diversity of territory as well as human beings' is widespread, the concept of federalism can be an effective instrument of 'co-existence', which in turn provides a basis for national integrity, and the national integrity is a pr-condition for economic and social transformation or development.
Almost a century ago, Herbert Spancer, who used evolutionary theory in enquiry about society and state, said that 'the evolution of human society means 'progress towards co-existence'. Those societies who believed in co-exitence were developed, and those who isolated themselves got lost their identity and every thing. Hence, the philosophical basis of restructuring is founded on 'necessity and realization' of the notion of co-existence. If some group or community goes against the notion of co-existence, it is eventually bound to ruin itself and get lost. Every human society therefore must make rules and standards, including values and norms, to promote co-existence of alll.
What we need to realise is that 'Nepal has many groups and communities' in terms of race, culture, geography and income'. One's existence calls for existence of other. There is 'group' called Brahmin, so it itself necessiates that the other is recognized by its ethnicity, vice versa. If the country had only one group, the others would not be existing. Hence, each one's exitence is determined by other's exietence. So if one discards other's existence, the co-exietence is not possible, and if the co-existence is not possible, the federalism has no meaning.
Two types of extreme views and interests are bringing the federalism into a debate or controversy in Nepal. Federalism, as such, as a concept is a nice democratic concept. Hence, it is not the federalism, but the practice or vested interest attached to the federlaism might create a problem of national disintegration. Before 1990, panchyatis vehmently opposed the idea of multi-party system. The argument was that 'multi-party' system would divide people, and weaken the nation. So is it safe to say that 'democracy' is bad in Nepal? No, democracy is still good, but the vested interests of political parties and their subsidiaries made the democracy a 'monkey game'.
Today, one category of view is that 'Federalism' will result in disintegration of the nation. This group comprises generally of those people who had massive access to powers in the past. In the context of restructuring of the State, they are not going get the same 'haikam' (exclusive position). They are thereofore against the change. They want status quo- the feudal pattern of power exercise. They want to continue same domination over women, dalit and other people put into backward condition. They want to exclusivly enjoy the powers as well as wealth. Since, they cannot go against the wave of change, to protect their hidden interest, they are blaming the federalism. They are making noise that 'it would disintegrate' the nation. These types of people do not study and do not attempt to flow according to the context.
Other category of people come from 'so-called or self-protrayed revolutionary' brand who belive on violence. They have developed a notion that 'things can be done by violence' on streets. They are dreaming themselves 'as chief ministers' of the provinces. Since they have nothing- ideology, people base, and capacity of democratic governance- they want to ensure that the change should give them exclusive powers to rule, in isolation of others. Hence, they are making noise that 'once the federal system is constituted only the majority population will have right to rule'. So they say that, Brahmin, Chettris, Newars, and others should not live in Limbuwan. In Kathmandu some are saying that 'Brahmin, Chettris or other than Newars should not live in Kathmandu', and so on. These are slefish people, who are making efforts of fishing in muddy water.
These two extremes have created a controversy about federalism. Otherwise, federalism is a good concept that vertically maintains check and balance of the state power;
a. it is a democratic concept which calls for vertical distribution of the powers.
b. it is system of governance which devolves powers to the local level, and makes people directly participate in the system of governance.
c. it is a system of controlling central power by the help of provincial government.
d. it is a system of 'distributing responsibility amongs different levels of governments'.
Are these charcters of federalism prone to disintegrate nation? No at all. The bad peoples, who do not have alligence to nation, will disintegrate the nation, irrespective of the politcial system. When Sikkim got lost its sovereignty, it was being ruled by monarchy, not federalism.
The federalism is thus based on the concept of 'co-existience' by guaranteeing four major democratic rights or values.
a. Fedralism is based on 'political pluralism'- so all kinds of ideologies are respected. The government is formed based on the trust of people, which is expressed by popular elections. Hence, no community can claim exclusive rights to rule. Any demand to exclusively rule is against basic values of democracy. The 2063 movement was waged by people to end 'autocratic system' and to establish full complete democracy. Hence, no body can calim such rights that excludes others for the benefit of one. The argument of rajnitik agradhikar (political precedence) is aginst the democarcy and the notion of co-ecxietnce.
b. Secualirm is another attribute of federalism. No province can rule people based on any religion, culture or language. The government is conducted only based on democratic ideology. Hence, no race or ethnic group can claim that it will have sole rule over people. The race and ethnicity are not the basis of political powers. Only in 13th century, people used to calim such rights.
c. Devolution of powers to people is the fundamental concept of federalism. The federal states are not created for some persons, groups or political parties' benfit, but to the benefit of people. Hence, no one can claim powers to the state based on racial or ethnic identity.
d. Econmic and social transformation of the people is the objective of the federalism. Hence, when federal constituents are created, it is not something else but the econmic and social prosperity of the people is what considered fundamental.
Right to self determination is not a right to break the nation. Some people talk of Lenin's concept. But in Soviet Union, the right to break from SU was given because SU was formed by several sovereign states. In Nepal, the federal structure is not a 'process of creating a union by several sovereign states'. It is a distribution of powers of rule by creating adminsitratives units called provnces. The right to self-determination is therefore a right to cultural and econmic development of the people. Hence, the following issues need to be understood well by all:
a. Every citizen of Nepal has right to make choice of place where he or she want to live in. No provincial government can stop people's migration according to their choice. However, every citizen must fulfill certain conditions to enjoy political rights in that province.
b. Every citizen has right to participate in the political process and the system of governance. It is not the caste but the trust of the people will make someone public official. To calim public post based on caste is a feudal concept.
c. All Nepalese are represented in internatiuonal community by the Central Government.The nationality is not going to be created by province.
d. Noby has right to disintegrate the nation. If someone advocates inconsitent to the integrated nationlity of Nepal, she/she can be prosecuted and punished.
But if restructuring is denied and group identity with rights to respect and promote culture, language and values is ignored, the nation's existence would come in question. Therefore, both who are opposing federalism and who want to use it for their exclusive political powers are threatening the integration of the nation. It is not the federalism, but these two types of people are the real culprits.
Yubaraj Sangroula, PhD
----- Original Message -----
From: Ratna Sansar Shrestha
Sent: Thursday, October 15, 2009 10:47 AM
Subject: Re: [NNSD] Prof Pradhan has agreed to make a cong. note
I am glad that you have come out with your categorical and clear view with regard to Nepal's provincializatoin. I hope you party shares your view.
With best regards,
Ratna Sansar Shrestha