Seminar Report on
Initiative for State-building within the context
of constitution making process
Organised by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES)
16-17 May (Nuwakot) and 23-24 May (Dhulikhel)
By Chandra D Bhatta
Introducing the Programme
Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) - a German
Political Foundation has organised training-cum-seminar on '(Modern)
State-building and Constitution-making Process' in Nuwakot and
Kavre district. The main objective of the programme was to educate
people at the peripheral level on the issues underpinning constitution-making
process in order to enable them to participate in the political
The programme was attended, among others,
by political leaders of all political parties (including Maoist),
lawmaker(s) from the CPN-Maoist, academicians, teachers, NGO
personnel, members of civil society, students, government officials,
youths, representatives of trade unions and other stakeholders
of society. Overall, the programme was well received.
There were 165 and 176 participants in Nuwakot
and Kavre district respectively who actively participated in
the discussion. Mr Bhanu Bhakta Pokharel Chief District Officer
(CDO) of Nuwakot attended the programme whilst Mr. Krishna Prasad
Banstola, the Judge of the Nuwakot District Court, chaired the
programme. Likewise in Kavre, Judge of the District Court Mr.
Prakash Mishra chaired the programme and Mr Kabiraj Khanal,
CDO was also present.
Head of FES in Nepal - Mr. Dev Raj Dahal apprised
about the current state of political affairs in the country.
The intellectuals, political leaders and civil society members
of both the district discussed about the various social, economic
and political issues underpinning the Nepali state. They argued
that drafting of a new democratic constitution requires inclusion
of contesting visions, voices and views of all strata of society.
Mr Dev Raj Dahal recalled on the fact that mismatch between
(people's) expectations and dispensation of political justice
and perpetual political deadlocks in the country is slowly dashing
away high hopes held on the new political April showdown of
2006. The central theme of Mr Dev Raj Dahal's presentation was
that Nepali state should endeavour to strike a balance between
different factors such as freedom, rights, duties, demand(s)
as well as the challenges brought about by the new social movement(s)
in the country. Failing to do so, he argued, will exasperate
people's faith on political leaders and subsequently push the
country towards perpetual (cyclic) political movements. Our
attempt should focus to build civil state rather than a state
based on class and clan, said Mr Dahal. Mr Dahal further argued
that political settlement through democratic exercise is always
peaceful. He further elaborated on the fact that neither democracy
nor the developmental activities take place in security vacuum.
Hence, peaceful situation is always considered to be prerequisite
to strengthen democratic values in a given society. He emphasized
on the fact that we should also develop a mechanism to strike
a balance between majority and minority and equally important
is that the intellectuals and political leaders should work
together for the welfare of the nation. Intellectuals should
provide ideas/opinions to the political leaders.
Similarly speaking from the chair, District
Judge of Nuwakot district Krishna Prasad Banstola said, mere
floating of various concepts in the public is not sufficient
unless they are implemented to change the life of the people
for the better. In the transition phase of politics, justice
should be fostered at the various levels of society so that
conflicts can be contained and losers of the political game
have faith in the future. Similarly Chief District officer Bhanu
Bhakta Pokharel stated that constitutional debated are essential
to educate the public about the issues and build their informed
choices and opinions on political affairs. Speaking from the
chair in Kavre, District Judge Mr Mishra said that the new constitution
should adopt our traditional values and at the same time make
endeavour to adopt with modernity.
Constitutional expert Kashi Raj Dahal while
presenting various models of constitution, such as the US, Indian
and German stressed that constitution basically legitimises
the political ideology of the nation. Since constituent Assembly
election in Nepal has produced a fractured mandate recently,
politicians of all hues must evolve a politics of compromise
and consensus. What is essential is to understand national issues
so that social cohesion contributes collective future of Nepalese
people. Mr Kashi Raj Dahal further elaborated that unless political
parties come out with clear political agendas on different issues
such as state restructuring, the future model of governance,
the head of the state - we cannot achieve sustainable political
system as well as peace in the country.
Similarly Chandra D. Bhatta introduced hands-out
on democracy. The central theme of hands-out was to promote
democracy based on rule of law and introduces civic education
at different layers of society, which will help to construct
civic citizenship based on civic nationalism.
The Floor Discussion
Majority of the questions were thrown-out
on the issues of federalism, regional autonomy, state-restructuring,
ethnic federalism, model of governance, nature of political
parties, political culture, contents of democracy (human rights,
separation of power, rule of law, good governance, civil society,
globalisation, models of democracy and many more) in both the
district. The participants were not happy with proportional
electoral system as the system has been maneuvered to such an
extent that it became very easy for political leaders to bring
their close relatives and family members into the Constituent
Assembly. The classic example is that in almost all the political
parties, husband is representing through direct (election) quota
while the wife is on proportional quota and vice versa. Through
this system elites are accommodated secretly without involving
public at large for the fear of opposition that is, public are
not informed or responsible enough to play a direct and decisive
role in making polity. The absence of civic democratic culture
is pervasive within the Nepalese political leaders, said participant(s)
in both the district.
In Nuwakot Mr Thakur Pudasaini (Lecturer of
the Economics) said that economic factors are important for
the political stability in the post-conflict society. He further
said that economic well-being increases the level of 'civic
awareness' and also decreases the class conflict. Hence, the
strong economic policy is need of the hour.
Mr Keshan Pandey (from UML) said that the
tendency of our political leaders to pose as rulers rather than
the agent of "citizen" is giving bad message to the
people at large. On the foreign policy front, he stated that
the notion "Nepal is an yam between boulders" is a
wrong concept because the 'yam' between two boulders can never
prosper. In the same vein, we should not consider ourselves
as the 'yam' between two boulders but a small power between
two giant powers.
Likewise, Mr Madhu Dawadi from NCP(Maoist)
stated that youths are the major power of the nation and government
should attempt to bring them into the institutional life of
the state rather than sending abroad (that too, Gulf Countries)
for employment. For the development of Nepal major focus should
be given on the overall development of youths, women, discrimination
against dalits has to be stopped. Similarly Mr Ganesh Adhikari
from NCP(Maoist) said that the ownership over land should stay
with the one who uses it (the labour) not with the one who merely
owns it (the landlord or malik). Likewise, Mr Arjun Nepali Damai
said that dalits have be brought into the social, economic and
political mainstream through reservations and affirmative action.
Health and education has to be free and provided by the state.
The gap between private and public education and health system
has to be bridged.
On federalism - majority of the participant(s)
in Nuwakot and Kavre were of the view that Himal, Pahad and
Terai region should be integrated while creating federal states.
Federal states should not be created merely on the basis of
ethnicity, geography, regionalism, languages, and alike. All
the factors should be taken into account so that state does
not falter away in the longer-run.
The current state of political deadlock (after the abolition
of monarchy) is merely the product of power struggle among political
parties and their leaders. The participants argued that how
can we have new Nepal within the old notion of thinking and
The seminar has been able to fulfill its objective
of advocating civic education and explore the agendas of state-building
and constitution making process. The debate in both places has
generated very valid questions, which need immediate collective
attention from the state.
Concluding, a critical mass is forming in
every domain and this mass wants to have equal share in every
aspect of governance. The worry expressed at the rural areas
on the national politics and their de-serious faith on democracy,
nationalism is noteworthy. Equally, important is their ability
to differentiate chaff from the wheat (between bad leaders,
bad policies, good leaders and good polices). As a cautionary
note, election and parliamentary government shouldn't merely
become the basis for rituals of gaining political legitimacy,
while the habits and attitudes required for a civic culture
and participatory democracy are largely uncultivated or absent.
The tendency of generating mass support through a combination
of ideological indoctrination and violence has to be stopped
outright. Perhaps programmes like this will help to get rid
from this phenomenon and as such these types of programmes need
to be further extended in other parts of the country.