A sad reflection
It is normally said man comes to this world without his approval and goes against his will. In both cases, he does not make the decision, that is. But time comes when someone may feel like asking oneself: Why was it that I was born, born at that place, and at that time? These may look like philosophical queries but in this context they are not.
While compiling his autobiography, this scribe wrote he was born in the proposed Kirata Rai territory (meaning, Bhojpur) according to the latest and much debated geographical as well as political identity of the region and its residents. As demand for creation of the jati-based federation emerged strongly, the government was forced to declare this under the constitutional provision (interim constitution, 2007) and pacify the several major ethnic groups of the country.
It is still a matter of research and analysis as to whether majority of the Nepalis were in favour of such a federation. Later, there was a debate on whether there was a need for such a federation, and some political parties made it a serious agenda to the public and denounce the provision on the ground that ethnic federation was not a palatable concept for a multi-ethnic, religious and cultural country like Nepal. Since this has been approved by the Interim Constitution, 2007, no one can stand against it, no one can deny it.
Whether this is the right formula for the division of the country - along ethnic lines - has created a strong debate in the political circle this week. This has been proved by the step the government took in the aftermath of the dissolution of the CA Sunday midnight. The main issue that stood as the hurdle at the last minute was the disagreement on the formation of the federation along a single name and identity. Several political parties in the government strongly put forward their argument to provide multiple identities along with the ethnic one. Finally, while the CA got dissolved doing virtually nothing entrusted to it, its 601 members as well the political parties witnessed its ‘death’ from close quarters.
The people living away from the media, doing their chores and fixing their eyes on the CA building, will be shocked to hear this development in the capital. Further, the declaration of a fresh poll for the CA will put them in a state of dilemma and confusion. Now a sensible person must know that creation of an ethnic-based federation was not the right criteria any way.
The country at this point of time seems clearly divided on the issue of a single identity for the proposed federal system. The Khasa, or Bahun-Chhetri organisations of the country, stand strongly against the single identity federation, and a few major political parties led by Bahun leaders also support this school of thought. There is one, lone leader, the chairperson of Jana Morcha, Chitra Bahadur KC, who is waging a peaceful war against the ‘fatal division’ of the country along any line.
When the government decided to list the Bahun-Chhetri-Dasnami and a few others as adivasi (indigenous) settlers, the discontent among the other adivasis and Janajati (ethnic minority groups) was far to much than the pleasure among the newly named and listed adivasis. It is quite natural in Nepal to see protests against any new proposition if it comes your way.
And, the wave of protests swept the capital, cities and town outside Kathmandu and even in small markets and roads. Adivasi, meaning the earliest settlers, has created such havoc in some quarters that Bahun-Chhetris have been assaulted, humiliated and severely criticised. In the east, there were several protests and processions where participants chanted slogans like – ‘chop off the heads of Bahun-Chhetris, drink their hot blood.’ Janajati leaders here in Kathmandu also were found speaking threatening language and creating concern and shock for the Bahun-Chhetris.
This is the reason why this scribe thinks it was not worthwhile to be born where he was born and pick up the time that was. It is the feeling of insecurity to walk the roads he walked, live in the village he was born and grew up, work for the promotion of education the way he did and is continuing till date. This looks like the time he, and many others in the days ahead, will have to think twice or risk life just because of the wrong time and place of birth.
Debatable agenda always
Since the CA was dissolved at the peak point of debate on the federation criteria, the country will see more debates in the days to come. In a multi-ethnic country like Nepal, the idea of a single group identity for a federal state will always be a bone of contention. When the debate goes to this level and can consume four years of the CA’s life without delivering the constitution, the days ahead will create the same circle where debates will revolve on one issue.
Despite the provision made in the interim constitution, the ethnicity-based federal structure has been the largest bone of contention in the Constitution Assembly during these four years. There have been hot and prolonged discussions, minor and major skirmishes inside the CA premises, out in the streets, districts and now down in the towns, villages and roads. The debate is now underway, and has also caused a stir all over the country at a time when the life of CA was virtually counting its life in terms of hours.
Official records show CA deliberations have been postponed, disturbed and canceled due to the seriousness of the agenda on the nature of the federal structure. The State Restructuring Commission failed to produce a widely acceptable suggestion; major political parties have also failed to come to a consensus on this particular issue.
Finally, the past four years have brought division, tensions and wrong identities against the harmonious life recorded in history. If the books of billions of rupees spent on the CA are looked into to see the distribution pattern agenda-wise, the federal structure related issues may have used the largest chunk of the pie. Budget apart, the issue also created unprecedented fissures inside all the major political parties, in the academia and other professional circles. For the people, in general, the draft of the constitution was the only hope from the 601 lucky members enjoying several extensions of their term and the package of benefits that always came along with them. But again, the federal issue was always a hitch in the way of the people’s aspiration during these four years. And now, the result has been almost zero, to say sincerely and without bias.