Reflections on Civil Society
The Civil Society-State Interface
in Nepal edited by Anand Aditya; published by Pragya Foundation
and Friedrich Ebert Foundation; Price not mentioned; ISBN
978-9937-5548-6; Page 221.
The Civil Society-State Interface
Editor: Anand Aditya
Published Date: 2011
Published by: Pragya Foundation/Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung
Price: Not mentioned, Pages:
Civil society has been one of the highly
appreciated as well as contested domains in new Nepal.
It won plaudits for re-awakening the disenchanted masses
against the autocratic regime ahead of April Uprising
when the people's faith in the credibility of the political
parties was at its lowest ebb. In the aftermath of the
April movement and in run-up to the demise of CA, the
civil society confronted a range of polemics for the role
it played under ruptured political environment. The surge
of different associations of civil forces and their actions
for democratic renewal is indeed commendable but at the
same time they are not free from accusations that they
also carried the parochial and vested agenda to suit their
interest. Amidst the debate on the pros and cons of the
Nepali civil society's behavior, a new book has come to
give an intellectual shape to that discussion. The Civil
Society-State Interface in Nepal, under review, attempts
to throw a new light on the civil society with the different
point of views.
It contains nine chapters - all informative
and engaging. Ananda Aditya, the editor of the collection,
dwells upon the civil deficit and civil society's role
in managing political crisis in his write-up From Subject
to citizens: Civic transformation in a captive state.
He argues that there is no such thing as an instant civil
society, not a cut-and-paste process to achieve it. He
sees multiple challenges facing the Nepalese civil society:
'Given the murkiness of Nepal's political environment
and hydra-headed nature of the conflicts, that challenges
that the work on the civil society faces - autonomy, inertia,
linkaging, issue heterogeneity, building partnership,
enhancing the role of media and corporate, addressing
structural problems, handling the risks, internal and
external accountability, transparency and capacity building.'
But, Dev Raj Dahal's article 'The enlightenment
tradition of Nepal: Can the civil society grasp it?' urges
the civil society actors and readers to draw inspiration
from the country's rich tradition of civic knowledge and
wisdom. He writes: 'In Nepal, the tradition of civility
is ancient and embedded in the diversity of its life.
The Vedic, Videh and the Buddhist traditions emphasize
the dissolution of personal ego for greater public good
to achieve enlightenment, purity of heart and mind as
also symbiosis of nature and culture."
As a constant watcher of Nepal's civil
society movement, Dahal is, however, not satisfied with
it: "Today Nepal's civil society groups, as modern
heroes of liberty, acutely lack the spiritual and moral
foundation and organic connection with the nation's history
of enlightenment." He asks the modern civil society
groups to democratize themselves and uphold the values
of a cultivated public which is citizenship-based, group-open
Role of civil society in the peace
process in Nepal by Anjoo Sharan Upadhyaya and Hemraj
Subedee discusses the civil society role in relation to
the political movements of different phases of Nepal's
history. They argue that the civil society leaders managed
a delicate balance between civil and political engagement
with boldness and conviction. It initiated dialogue, appealed
for an end to the war and to all forms of violence. "However,
the road forward has many tests: much depends on the adaptability
and responsiveness of the civil society along with international
pressure that may ensure an appropriate end for the peace
As title suggests, C D Bhatta's The
civil society-state interface examines the contradictory
relations between the state and civil society in Nepal.
According to him, the reactions between them have gone
through many ups and down under the influence of domestic
and international factors. He is critical of new elites
working under the banner of civil society. "The proliferation
of civil society organizations have now produced a surplus
of elites, who tend to dominate and control both the state
and society on their own terms and are merely concentrated
in the urban centres.' He stresses on the civil society
embedded in the national values and resources so that
it can play a positive role on state-building. "The
current circumstances are such where both the state and
the civil society are externally dependent and one finds
it difficult to expect harmonious state-civil society
relations in such a situation.
There are equally other interesting
pieces such as Peace politics and civil society in Nepal
by Tika P Dhakal, Multi-track approaches to peace building
in Nepal by Tone Bleie, Challenges of citizenship building
in Nepal by Yubaraj Ghimire, Challenge to transitional
justice in Nepal: The role of civil society by Julius
Engel and Reflection on civil society by Sambhu Ram Simkhada.
These stuffs link civil society with the peace process,
citizenship building and transitional justice.
The book aims at triggering new
debate on the civil society discourse. Although some lengthy
chapters risk to make the readers monotonous with its
crammed information, the collection is worthy of reading
as it goes in depth to expatiate the concept and importance
of civil society with historic and modern perspectives.
It is imperative to suggest the active civil society leaders,
politicians, intellectuals and other readers to go through
this collection to refresh their knowledge on the subject.
They will indeed benefit from the critical and theoretical
insights that the book offers through its research-based
and scholarly writes-up.
Source: Friday Supplement , The
Rising Nepal Daily (12 April 2013)