Report on Initiative for State-building within the context
of constitution making process
Arghakhachi ( 23-24 August 2008) and Kapilvastu
(25-26 August 2008)
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 Sandhikharkha
of Arghakhachi district and Taulihawa of Kapilvastu district.
The programme was attended, among others, by political leaders
of all political parties (including Maoist), academicians, teachers,
NGO personnel, members of civil society, students, government
officials, youths, and representatives of trade unions and other
stakeholders of society. There were 125 participants in Sandhikharka
and 175 participants in Taulihawa. In both district, the programme
was chaired by respective judges of the district court (Mr Purushottam
Dhakal in Sandhikharka and Mr Lekhnath Regmi n Taulihawa). Mr
Bhawani Prasad Parajuli and Mr. Ram Bilas Roy Chief District
Officers (CDOs) of Arghakhachi and Kapilvastu attended the programme.
Likewise, head of the District Police Office and personnel from
Nepal Army also attended the programme in both the districts.
The main objective of the programme was to
educate people at the peripheral level on state-building and
issues underpinning constitution-making process in order to
enable them to participate in the political process meaningfully.
Moreover, one of the main aims of this programme, among others,
is to bridge the societal gap between different societal groups
and bring them into the common platform so that problems of
all societal groups could be identified and brought into the
forefront for their inclusion into the policy in order to address
them in a peaceful way.
Head of FES in Nepal - Mr. Dev Raj Dahal presented
a paper on State and shed light on the basic tenets of state-building.
Mr Dahal touched upon different facets such as political, cultural,
religious, economic, foreign policy, electoral and many other
issues that impinge state-building process in Nepal. Mr Dahal
set the scene for the two days seminar and also discussed about
current state of political affairs in the country. Similarly
Mr Kashi Raj Dahal presented his paper on federalism and constitution-making
process in the country. Mr Dahal stressed that political leaders
and law of the land should protect interest of citizens. Another
presenter Chandra D. Bhatta introduced hands-out on democracy.
The central theme of hands-out on democracy was to consolidate
rule of law and introduce civic education at different layers
of society. This will help to construct civic citizenship and
prelude the culture of peace and reconciliation. Mr Bhatta also
talked about the role of civil society in post-conflict societies.
He said that civil society could play a crucial role both in
writing a democratic constitution and guiding peace-process
to the logical end.
The Floor Discussion
All these three presentation on state, constitution
and civil society have sparked very crucial questions. Almost
all the participants in Arghakhachi talked about external intervention
in the internal affairs of Nepal. They have talked border encroachment
in different parts (60 places) of the country including Susta
and Kalapani. One of the participants said that we have every
'ism'; that is, liberalism, Marxism, Socialism, Leninism, Maoism
but only 'ism' that is missing is 'nationalism' because of this
Nepali state is on the verge of collapse. They have blamed that
bilateral treaties are not honoured by the neighbouring country
and blamed on the political leaders of the country that they
have despised citizens while signing treaties with India. They
were of the view that frequent disintegration and integration
of Nepalese political parties is squarely due to foreign intervention
across political parties to meet vested interest. Indian domination
Another issue that stole limelight of the
seminar was education and economic issues. Participants were
of the view that education sector is in doldrums and said that
we need competitive vibrant education system which could enable
our people to compete in the international market and as well
as promote sense of service and civic citizenship in a society.
They have also said that private education system, private health
system (dual policy) should be discouraged in order to bridge
the societal gap and reduce class struggle. That commercialisation
of education should stop outright. Equally important emphasis
was paid on economic revolution in the country which is crucial
for the political stability.
With regard to federalism one of the participants
Mr Bhakta Bdr Karki said that 'honesty' is missing and it might
be dangerous, given the momentum of external intervention and
(dis)honesty of our political leaders, for us hence serious
discussion is needed on the subject. One participant said that
while we are having problems to run one state how we can run
multiple sub-states given the current political approach in
the country. Participants also wanted to know about the basis
of federalism and merits and demerits.
Mr Ashok Kumar Shrestha from Chamber of Commerce has said that
Nepal Oil Corporation should be privatized to streamline the
distribution of fuel in the country as it is adding further
problems in society. The Chief District Officer Mr. Pokharel
said that lack of commitment in implementing policies and culture
of violence in the country is pushing Nepali state towards political
anarchy. This legacy is continuing in the country as most of
our current leaders are product of this culture of violence
in the country. Vibrant discussion took place in this district
and the common voice from the participants was that sectoral
discussion is required on all the issues of sate-building.
In Kapilvastu discussion took place in diverse
issues such as education, health, employment youths, rights
of senior citizens, citizenship issues, access to justice, rule
of law, federalism and its rationality, internal democratization
of political parties, non-state actors, issues related to women,
agriculture and challenges they are posing to the state, issues
of Madesh, nationalism, land reform, transportation, religion,
issues of dalits, and many more. Kapilvastu is dominated by
Madeshi people but the sense of nationalism was found very high
in this district compared to other district (like Dhanusha -
Janakpur) of the country. Mr. Pashupati Tripathi and many other
Madeshi participants were of the view that unless we protect
national there is no way that we can have modern state.
Majority of the participants were skeptical
on the issues of land reform. Participants blamed that the issue
of land reform is floated parallel with democracy merely to
buy the popular votes in favour but in a real sense of the term
it is never going to be implemented. Any sort of ceiling on
land is not acceptable said some of the participants. Mr Bikram
Panti said that genuine Nepalese are not getting citizenship
certificate whereas the people from the South (India) are easily
availing the citizenship certificate.
Mrs Kamala Shrestha speaking from the floor
said that rather than emphasizing on having rules related to
women, it is crucially important to change behaviour towards
women. We should create an environment wherein women, dalits
and other marginalized group can participate in shaping and
implementing national policies. Realistic inclusion is needed
rather than introducing cosmetic changes and democracy should
trickle down to the grassroots level so that everybody can feel
it. Rights of senior citizen have to be protected.
On feudalism, many participants were of the
view that Nepali society is engulfed by the feudal and it exists
across the political parties and policy paradigm in different
forms. The brining of family members into political sphere and
maintenance of private schools, health system are the manifestation
of this feudal culture. We need revolutionary changes in these
areas and state should take a lead role.
On federalism many participants were clear
and wanted to know its rationality in a tiny state like Nepal.
One participant said that federalism is not suitable for Nepal.
What is needed is decentralization with power devolution.
The conclusion that can be drawn from these
two seminars is that there is a high sensitivity towards nationalism
both in Argakhachi and Kapilvastu. People are wary about external
intervention. They have demanded for a proper mechanism to inform
and involve citizens while signing treaties with foreign countries
including India. The biggest problem here in Nepal is the enforcement
of laws and policies. Those leaders who failed to feel the responsibility
towards state and citizens should be punished by law and there
has to be provision to call them back or revoke the membership
of parliamentarian if one fails to listen to the public.
The need of the hour is to educate citizenry
at large on the issues of civility to build introduce civic
political culture and FES has succeeded to fulfill these existing
this gap by advocating civic education and issues underpinning
state-building process. The debate in all places generated very
valid questions, which need immediate collective attention from
the state. The worry expressed at the rural areas on the national
politics and their de-serious faith on democracy, nationalism