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Seminar on Initiative for State-building and Constitutional Dynamics

Organised by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES)

24-25 July (Dhangadi, Kailali) & 26-27 July (Gulariya, Bardia)


Introduction

Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) Nepal office recently organised a two day seminar in Dhangadi of Kailali district on 24th-25th July, 2009 and Gulariya of Bardia district 26th-27th July, 2009 on state-building and constitutional dynamics. There were 143 participants in Gularia and 115 participants in Dhangadi. In both places, the programme was attended by Chief District Officers of the respective districts - Mr. Bharat Luitel (Assistant CDO) in Kailai and Mr Bed Bahadur Karki in Gulariya. Similarly Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) of Kailali and Bardia (Mr. Shuam Gyanwali), Inspector of Police in Gulariya, government officials, members of the civil society, human rights activists, teachers, lecturers, intellectuals, women activists, journalists, and member of various political parties, students, lawyers and other stake-holders of the society actively participated in the seminar. In Kailali the programme was Chaired by Dr. Hem Raj Pant - Campus Chief of Kailali Multiple Campus. The overarching aim of this seminar was to educate local political leaders/civil society activists on issues pertaining to state-building and constitutional process in Nepal. Both programmes saw very good presence of people from different communities such as tharus, Madeshis, women, pahadiyas, dalits, and ethnic groups.

The Proceedings

Dev Raj Dahal, Head of FES Nepal welcomed participants in both the places. During his welcome speech he spoke about the organizational goal of FES and emphasized on the fact that the whole idea of such types of programme is to generate sense of awareness in society about the issues of national importance. He said that are in the process of writing a new constitution and there are issues that need to be dealt with now like federalism, the model of governance, the economy, foreign policy, and social policy and alike. Active participation of people in political process and inclusion of various voices, visions and views increase people's ownership towards it and provides constitutional stability thereby constructing active citizenship rather than citizenship based on consumerism. In the past, Nepal never had constitutional stability. During sixty years of constitutional history Nepali state have had six constitutions, that is, one constitution in every ten years of time. This indicates that there are fundamental problems with the way we conduct politics and this could be the reasons, among others, why we are moving from one conflict to another. The current debate attempts to provide political stability in the country but we can only do so when state-society relations are intact and healthy. Hence unless we do not write constitution that address our fundamental problems (the grievances of the past, challenges of the present opportunities for the future) and carries public ownership there is no way that we can have constitutional stability, let alone political stability.

In Dhangadi Constitutional Lawyer and former President of Kailali Bar Association, Bir Bahadur Jethara presented a paper on the issues related to constitution while in Gulariya Mr Kashi Raj Dahal, as usual, presented various issues related to constitution, models of governance, models of federalism and highlighted on other legal issues. Likewise Chandra D. Bhatta presenting spoke on building modern state and necessary components of democracy that are necessary to be incorporated into the future constitution. He said that the clientalism that has been seen in every sphere of governances needs to discouraged. The clientele politics has disassociated citizens from the state and the need of the hour is to bring citizens closer to the polity. Dr Hem Raj Panta said that we should be wise enough to manage transition period. We have to adopt the middle path "small is beautiful". We need to develop crisis management system. Assistant Chief District Officer of Kailali said that we should discourage cliental politics.

The floor discussion spotlighted about the drafting of a constitution and mechanism to guarantee rights for various social groups, question on federalism, foreign intervention, democratisation of political parties and many other topical issues that beset politics of Nepali state. In both the place, many participants say no to 'federalism'. Single women from this region have strongly opposed the government policy of providing Rs. 50,000 incentive if they decided to get re married or anyone who decided to get married with Single Women. Saraswati Pandey said that this provision have hurt their sentiments and demanded its immediate annulment. They also reminded that women are not commodity for sale. We need respect and our children needs proper schooling, those who are relying on us needs to be taken care of and state should think towards this direction.

Ratna Shahi from Nepal Majdoor Kisan Party has said that there has been unabated border encroachment from the Indian side and expressed dissatisfaction on the inability of Nepali political parties to act promptly on this issue. Like him, many others, viewed that border issue has put our sovereignty at stake and demanded that state should come up with some scientific mechanism for the border management. The current map of Nepali state is not correct, this has been drafted by the Indian establishment and we need to look for the real map of Nepal only than we can ascertain our border. The current map does not show Kalapanai in Nepal. Likewise, Khadak Raj Joshi from INSEC has said that how can we build a new state and move towards federalism that does not jeopardize our national sovereignty and unity. The explanation provided by the political parties on the issues of federalism smells a rat (hidden interest) and it is high time that expert provide secular opinion on this issue. The problem of diarrhoea has not been resolved by the central government, what will happen in federalism? Who will take initiative for such natural calamities? Surya Subedi from UCPN(Maoist) has said that Civil Society has become partisan it has failed to provide clear "opinion" on COAS issue and integration of Maoist combatants into Nepal Army.

Mr Rawal from National Human Rights Commission has said that bureaucracy should not be politicized. He questioned what is civil society? We say that civil society should be non-partisan but the interest groups (peshagat samuha) area overtly political. We Nepalese have been forced to be aligned with one political party or another whether we like it or not. Likewise Shyam Bhattarai from CPN-UML has said that Nepali intellectuals are power oriented, civil society is weak and there are NGOs/INGOs who supply false opinion about Nepali state and society. These organizations are weakening the capacity of Nepali state.

Jagdish Chandra Joshi from RPP and Janaki Joshi from Nepali Congress have said that we have to understand our reality while restructuring Nepali state, that is, we should not compromise with our national unity and sovereignty in the name of state restructuring. Sate should prevent ethnic conflict, which looks imminent if we fail to strike a right balance and intellectuals and civil society should bail out this country from ensuring political crisis. We also have to reflect on our own need, that is, the need of far-western region in terms of federalism said Padam Nepali. He also enquired on the converging point between ethnicity and federalism. Ram Bahadur Chand from CPN-UML has said that one the issues of national importance like federalism, secularism - there have to be provision of referendum. INGOs/NGOs have much resource than that of state and this could be reasons, among others, why Nepali state is getting weaker and weaker day-by-day, and we have to strike some sort of balance here. We merely cannot have an inclusive state, we also need to have participatory state. Ram Bahadur KC from UCPN has said that intellectual should not be political and class based economy should be transformed towards social economy. We need peace with transformation not peace with status quo. Meera Chaudhary talked about reproductive rights of the women.

Raghubir Bhatta said that we need to have 'single interest groups' like single unions (student, teachers etc.) as it will help to implement policies and depoliticize society which will ultimately provide political stability in the country. Lucky Chaudhary (Journalist) said that we can only have peace when we fulfill basic needs of the people. The personal interst and group interest have created various problems in Nepali society and we should get rid of this type of culture. We need to develop culture of compromise and civil society should play crucial role said Ritu Bam, a student from Kailali Multiple Campus

Similalry in Gularia many participants have raised very valid questions on the issue of national importance. Single women of this region like in Dhangadi we completely against the recent idea floated by the government. For example one Mangala Devi has strongly opposed this government plan to pay Rs. 50,000.00 to single women if she decides to get remarried. In terms of state restructuring Mr. Kashi Ram Tharu we have to take Nepali history into consideration. Mr Prem Sagar Adhikari talked about border security and emphasized unless and until we cannot secure our borders merely drafting constitution will not be helpful.

Meen Raj Sharma said that CA members should not take CA merely a place for pay, perks and positions it has a major responsibility of drafting a constitution of the state and this has to be realized by our CA members.

Ms Madhvi Sedari from Nepali congress has said that we have to be specific of reservation policies. She strongly said that policies imported by or through (I) NGOs should not become national policies. Mr Basudev Pokhrel from National People's Front has argued that our nationalism is in danger after Sugauli Treaty and all Nepalese should be united to protect our national interest. Likewise Mr Keshav Raj Paudel from UCPN (Maoist) that our intellectuals, civil society groups should speak for the national not for the foreigners and current political leaders, intellectuals and member so of civil society have failed to protect national interest. He raised the issue of Kalapani and argued that our own leaders have assisted Indian establishment to have its armies over there. Mr Sarva Pokhrel has argued that federalism should be drawn vertical as it will unite Nepali state.

In both the places, majority of the respondent said that state should play vital role when it comes to the point of education, health and employment. These sectors should not be privatized. There were strong voice in both the places on the of border management, and revocation of unequal treaties. State should come up with youth police as none of the government in the past have worked in this direction.

State should come up with strong industrial policy to address the unemployment problem in the country which would ultimately contribute towards economic development. Economic development (economic equality) is essential for to guarantee political equality.

Conclusion

Merely waging movements in the name of democracy will not be sufficient for peace. Political movements needs to be backed-up by economic revolutions (economic opportunity). We need to divert political mass towards productive sector. We have to learn from French Revolution which was backed up by the industrial revolution which provided political stability as well as created an environment for equality. But the first task is to create an environment for political stability as it will move society towards equality. If we do not work towards this end the inequality will persists and there will further classes in society. As pointed out above, many participants of this region have demanded to have some sort of grip on the activities of NGOs and INGOs as some of them are overtly advertising their own agendas and imposing on Nepali state by force. Some of them have their own recipe for peace-process this has to be discouraged; otherwise, state will lose its policy sovereignty.

 
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