Monday, March 16, 2009

Has Nepal already failed?

NEPAL is the youngest Republic in the world. It is the only country in South Asia ruled by the Communist Party that rose from rebellion and grabbed power through democratic election. There are many things which make this beautiful Himalayan Sangri-la unique. Despite tremendous possibilities and enormous resources, Nepal is the poorest country in the region. People had high hopes that their fate would change after the former rebel took the helm. In just three years, the Maoists held two different fronts; the rebellion and the government. However, most of the indexes in the last three years have become nothing but negative. Nepal has been fighting with a number of problems and the enormity of them could even turn the country as a failed state.

The most vicious of the problems is the intertwined ties between Feudalism and Hindu Fundamentalism. As the Maoist rebels ascended to power and the country is declared Republic, the most important and daring challenge is to root out the feudalism from the country. As they were threatened, the remnants of the feudal system have tried to play in various fronts, most significantly and gravely in southern plains. Terai plains were already under the control of the feudal lords and land mafias who descended there from northern hills or southern India. Their ownership of large chunks of plain and fertile land has been time and again threatened by 'land reforms', first time initiated by the first democratically elected Prime Minister BP Koirala in 1960. They are most dreaded by the rise of the revolutionary communists in the country which, by ideology, stand against the private ownership. To effectively bring the Maoist into size, they have used terai. The regional politics has begun and the parties which advocate the mainstreaming of terai plain minority people against hilly origin majorities are nothing but coteries of the high-caste feudal lords. Using this card, a regional party stood fourth largest in the constituent assembly elections and is now the important constituent of the Maoist led coalition government.

This conflict also provides a safe heven to the Hindu fundamentalists who think to be disgraced after the only Hindu Kingdom in the world sank. Nepal's King was believed to be the incarnation of Lord Bishnu, and thus the living god. There were protests against the parliament declaring Nepal a secular nation and also in support of the dethroned King. Though, it could not stop the tide, they will try their best to regain their safe harbour. They want to destabilise the government in Kathmandu so that they could anytime regain their safe harbour. Though, it looks like a far cry, it is never out of possibility; the former King continues his pilgrimage to various deities and political parleys in Nepal India. Gyanendra is in India now where a few leaders of former ruling Nepali Congress and CPN UML are to shortly join him. There are rumors that something is being cooked in Delhi. Given India's over possessive attitude towards its northern neighbour, it is never impossible.

This feudalist movement is given ethnic camouflage of the movement for emancipation of nearly a third of the Indian origin people dwelling in terai plains. It is no good debating their nationality; of course, they are the citizens of Nepal and have proved themselves as patriotic as the hilly origin people. It is also clear that the state discriminated them for centuries; lately placating this huge population with a few ministerial or high ranking administrative posts. However, the feudal system can never be an alternative to avert such discrimination.

The demagoguery of the leaders has portrayed each other communities which total almost equal in the plains as enemies and the rift is widening. The emotions of the youths are filled with hatred towards each other. Besides, owing to open border with India, tackling criminal and terrorist activities in these plains is so complicated, especially when this land borders with India's poorest and highly volatile states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh; it is beyond capacity of poorly equipped Nepal Police. Criminal groups are using this as an excuse to expand their network and pace up their activities. Should the army be deployed, the situation will wholly change and even turn to secessionist movement as heard in rhetoric of a few demagogues.

The situation is no better in the eastern hills. The so called high-caste continue to dominate the public and the social sphere in the hills inhabited largely by the ethnic Mongolian origin people. Thus accumulated discriminatory feeling in the hills east from Kathmandu is bursting out with the demand for autonomous states. Some radicalists have even threatened secession. Though it also seems to be a far cry now, the case is similar as in the terai region; never out of possibility especially when the Kathmandu government grossly fails to address people's melancholies.

Recently, the much overlooked Tharu community which is the indigenous dweller of terai plains, waged all out struggle against their recognition by the state as Madheshis, the term which signifies the Indian origin people. Their week-long protest brought the whole country into standstill and people fear more such showdowns may be on the cards. People are skeptic whether this government and the constituent assembly which also works as the legislature will be able to maneuver country through these mounting problems. For the people in Nepal, the situation is never better, if not worse, than during the rule of parliamentary parties and the autocratic monarchy.

This article appeared on March 12, 2008 issue of The Daily Star, the largest selling daily in Bangladesh. For original post, please visit:

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