Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Federalism - reset the button to 1768

Ratna Sansar Shrestha

I am both shocked and stunned after learning that there are people who are asking to “reset the button to 1768 and see the country of the region as it was before the conquest”. Even at the risk of being called a “supporter of status quo” I have to firmly disagree with such a proposal for a number of reasons.

After resetting the button pursuant to the proposal we will have 3 separate “nations/countries” in Kathmandu valley ruled by 3 “monarchs”. Similarly, Baise and Chaubise kingdoms in the west will get reinstated. Moreover, monarchies in Palpa, Jumla, Makwanpur, etc. will also get revived. Further, in the east too we will have one too many kings or their equivalent and we will end up with over 100 kingdoms in this tiny country. In this age and time, after just having succeeded in getting rid of one king (who liked to call himself “king of kings”), they are proposing to put hundreds of crackpots back in various thrones. In those times, lacking infrastructure, transport (except for walking on foot or riding horse/ass/mule for the feudalists) and communication, quite a few of those kingdoms (most were actually fiefdoms) were actually viable. But in this age and time it will be surprising if any of these reinstated kingdoms will be viable. I wonder if they are really serious with this proposal.

At one level they are proposing to go back in the history which is not possible, yet (for lack of a time machine which exists only in the movie world!). At another level, excepting a few (rarely, though!), most of the kings were autocrats and had dictatorial tendencies and they are proposing to bring them back. I seriously doubt if the suggestion is practical/pragmatic.

Whether one likes it or not, between 1768 and now a lot of things have changed. Just from demographic perspective, a lot of people have emigrated from this valley and many more have immigrated into this valley. This is a reality that nobody will be able to negate; excepting if one is to go on a denial mode. The pour scorn over the “new settlers” but if one is to go back into geographic history, everyone and each person in this valley are “new settlers” as it was a lake in the ancient times. It’s just a matter of date used as the threshold. I myself am a highly chauvinistic Newar settled here since a long time back but my own ancestors migrated here via Simraungarh in 14th century. Therefore, it is not prudent to talk in this vein which could disturb ethnic/communal harmony. Some people are already emigrating from Terai after selling their property at distress value as communal harmony was similarly disturbed in those areas. It is not wise to try to set of similar trend in Kathmandu. People need to remember that Newars are not limited to this valley. Even from selfish perspective, there are Newars almost everywhere in this country who too will be vulnerable to such inflammatory attitude from other ethnic communities as well. Please do remember that it’s just matter of reciprocity.

On the one hand they want to do away with the feudalistic system but at the same time by resetting the button to 1768 they want to have those feudalistic despots back. It sounds rather anachronistic as well paradoxical. Feudalism will not be uprooted by fragmenting this tiny country into many “kingdom/fiefdoms”. We need to undertake another set of measures to do so. You have said that “blatant violation of basic human rights and dignity has to be repudiated again” and have also referred to the “realm of contemporary human rationale” in the same breadth. Restoring tiny kingdoms existing prior to 1768 is actually beyond the “realm of contemporary human rationale” and “blatant violation of basic human rights and dignity” too cannot be abolished by traveling back in time to 1768. Human rights and dignity can be established by ensuring fundamental rights to all; irrespective or caste, creed, sex, ethnicities, etc.

If human right of a particular ethno-linguistic-cultural group is violated, the human right of women in that group gets doubly violated. Same is the case of women of dalits and other downtrodden communities. However, the resolution of this problem doesn’t lie in having a “Swayatta Rajya” for women. It is true that Newars have been deprived from many innate rights but this is not an isolated example. There are many ethno-linguistic-cultural groups who share same fate with us. But the resolution of this problem cannot be secured by declaring separate states for each of them with autonomy and right to self determination, literally traveling the same path trodden by Yugoslavia that exists only history.

They go on to say that “These artificial means of the recent will not hold water in the court of International Law and in the world public opinion.” I am student of law (besides being a chartered accountant and a management professional) and have been practicing as a legal professional for more than 3 decades and I am not aware of any provision in the international law that will approve of what you are proposing or will support the demand of “Newah Swayatta Rajya”.

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