Seminar Report on Initiative for
State-building and Constitutional Dynamics
by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES)
July) Terathum, (6-7 July) Biratnagar
Stiftung (FES) Nepal office recently organised two day seminar in Tehrathum (4-5th
July) and Biratnagar, Morang district (6-7th July) on state-building and constitutional
dynamics in Nepal. There were 100 plus participants in both the districts with
significant number of female participants. In both the districts, the programme
was attended by the leaders of all political parties, members of civil society,
civil servants, lawyers, lecturers, teachers, students, journalists, bureaucrats,
security officials and other stake-holders of the society. In Tehrathum, Chief
District Officer Sita Ram Karki and District Judge of Tehrathum Guna Raj Dhungel
also spoke in the inaugural session.
objective of this seminar was to educate local political leaders/civil society
activists on issues pertaining to state-building and constitutional dynamics in
Nepal. Speaking in the inaugural session CDO Karki said that programmes like this
help to shape public opinion which in turn can contribute to build modern responsive
states. He further said that we need to have coordination between production and
distribution if we really wanted to uphold the notion of social justice. He also
emphasised that while writing constitution we have to bear local context (Nepali
context) in mind merely floating the idea of doctrine of necessity will not help
the state to move forward. Speaking at the end of inaugural session judge Dhungel
said that we have to let the people know as what state is, what state-restructuring
is, what the different models of governance and other concept are so that citizens
at large take part in this historic debate significantly.
in the inaugural session, and setting the scene for discussion, Chandra D Bhatta,
Programme Officer of FES said state didn't collapse in Nepal, however, it has
failed to create authority as its authority has been shifted to political parties
and their sister organisations, non-state armed actors and to some extent even
to the individual leaders who play prominent role in national politics but failed
to provide political stability. As a result, Nepali state's authority has been
diluted and is on the verge of losing Weberian legitimacy in all spheres. The
classic example of this crisis in legitimacy can be manifested from the gradual
withdral by Village Development Secretaries (VDCs) across the country from their
location citing security reasons. In addition to this, he further said that, there
have been intermittent political changes in the country but they were only cosmetic
primarily due to the fact that the agenda of change propelled by the masses has
been hijacked by the elites from the political parties and their leader who, in
turn, later compelled to co-opt with the former primarily because political parties
lack the desired power/knowledge/ for the change whereas elites do not want to
change. This tendency has not brought any positive change in a society and people
at large lost their confidence both on state and system. So unless and until we
do not restore the legitimacy of the state (people's confidence on state institutions)
and translate people's agendas of social, political and economic transformation
into action justice cannot be ensured. Moreover, under these circumstances Nepal
is bound to face another political crisis. Finally, we really need to establish
democracy that is more substantive and change oriented than procedural, said Bhatta.
He further pointed out that social change in Nepal has been postponed primarily
because of the non-implementation of the laws and by laws.
in the closing ceremony Prof. Bhesh Raj Dhamala said that we have to differentiate
whether democracy is system or process. It is a process but since we are a late
starter we could take it as a system and transform later in the process. Democratisation
is never ending process and all the countries, even those who claim democratic,
are also in the process of further democratisations. Therefore democracy is a
process which ensures people's accessibility in the activities of the state.
were three papers presented by Senior Journalist Yuba Raj Ghimire on State, Senior
Constitutional Expert Kashi Raj Dahal on Constitution and Chandra D Bhatta on
Democracy and Civic Education. Presenting his paper Yuba Raj Ghimire said that
we cannot have civil state without people's effective participation. The main
objective of democracy is to empower people but in our context only "leaders"
are strong but both state and citizens are weak. In fact political change should
have served the interest of nation and its people rather than serving the interest
of few individuals. The constitutional amendment can be done but people's mandate
could not be changed without consulting them.
political leaders have dropped people's mandate for positive change in society
and have jumped into power politics. The political discourse has taken politics
of negation that exists in our all political parties. For example Prachanda, Dr
Bhattarai, Sher Bahadur Deuba, Ram Chandra, Jhalnath Khanal, Madhav Nepal all
of them negate each other. During the people's movement of 2062/63 monarchy negated
political parties and thereafter political parties are negated monarchy. Now political
leaders are negating people's active participation in the political process. After
the movement people have minimal participation in the political process as we
result it appears that people at large have become citizens of the political parties
rather than being the citizen of the state. The classic example is three major
issues (federalism, monarchy and secularism) were decided in advance by the few
individuals without taking consent of popular voices. It showed that there was
some sort of individual vested interest behind this approach and gradually which
ultimately resulted in the loss of people's ownership on state and its institutions
said Ghimire. There has been a mere negative acceptance by the people on these
issues, which should have been decided by the upcoming constitution. How can we
guarantee that federalism will be better than unitary system asked Ghimire? There
are no bases for this. He further said that constitution is not dynamic it has
to be operated by the people and those who operate it should keep people in the
centre. The tendency to disown 'unsuccessful' and claim every 'success' will lead
us nowhere said Ghimire. People's issues were rarely discussed in the CA over
the two year time. He said that the journalism as a profession in Nepal has become
partisan and has been blackmailed by those who are in power and also those who
operate media houses. Journalism and journalists have been used to promote the
business interests of media owners who have multiple interests with multiple stake
holding. The tenure of CA has been extended by one year but no attempt has been
made to explain how constitution will be written within that stipulated time-frame,
if at all it is going to be written. No dearth was made why they have failed to
write constitution within the given time-frame. This showed that Nepal political
classes do not feel the need of being accountable to the people (the sovereigns).
By contrast, attempt has been made to rebuild a state without people and history.
What has been done, in contrast, is to develop slogans tailored to meet the demand
of political parties and interest group which is inevitable and easy in a society
like ours which is poverty stricken mainly due to inability of political leaders.
This has resulted in the crisis in citizenship building.
cumulative effect of all these have created constitutional as well as political
vacuum in the country due to which the external interference increased dramatically
over the years. Both China and India, followed by other international powers,
showed keen interest on Nepal's domestic politics argued Ghimire. While elaborating
China-India factors, Ghimire argued that like India China also came heavily and
presented her views forcefully with Nepali state. China now is of the view that
whatever interest India has in Nepal, we, too, have the same interests and thus
wanted to treaty and agreements signed with Nepal at par with.
need of the hour is to create central authority of the said Ghimire. Democracy
is not a level its behavoiur of the state towards people said Ghimire. People
at large, who are dynamic, are the elements of the state and state should realise/respect
this dynamism through the political actors.
pointed out that the popular movement of 2062/63 was waged to end all sorts of
authoritarianism but with the rise of power centered individualistic and group
politics we are caught up in the same cycle. He further said that the common purpose
of the movement of 2062/2063 should have been explained, understood and implemented
collectively by all the actors but that has not been the case due to which we
have not been able to bring about the necessary change desired by the people through
movement into action.
Presenting his paper
constitutional expert Kashi Raj Dahal said that the upcoming constitution should
address the issues of the people living in the rural areas and emphasis should
be given on education, science and technology, economic development so that people
at large feel ownership towards constitution. He also explained about the different
models of constitution and emphasised that we need to develop the model that serves
our interest most. Likewise Chandra D Bhatt explained about the components of
democracy, civil society and other issues.
Niraula said that said that in Nepal we could not make distinction between leader,
party workers and citizen due to over politicisation of society. He asked what
type of economic policy would serve our interests. Ram Narayan Dhungana of Nepali
Congress said that federal states should be crafted on the recommendation received
from the state restructuring commission and such recommendation should be approved
by the CA . He also suggested that federal state should be crafted on north-south
wise. He further said that Nepali Congress does not believe right to self-determination
and right to prior use. He pointed out that forming "ethnic groups"
is the product of 2062/2063 movement wherein Maoist floated this agenda during
the insurgency period merely to woo support from the ethnic groups. But now it
has become very difficult to have safe-landing of this idea.
Chandra Dulal demanded that the constitution should be drafted within the extended
timeframe. He suggested that state restructuring should be done on the scientific
basis and we have to take various factors such as geography, economic condition,
availability of the resources and composition of the people into consideration.
We should promote economy by taking state investment, private sector and cooperatives
together. Raghu Gautam of UCPN (Maoist) said that we have to analyse our past
objectively and delve into serious discussion as why do we need the constitution,
didn't we have constitution earlier. Perhaps the reason to have new constitution
primarily lies with the fact that the past constitutions failed to provide political
stability in the country and parliamentary system of governance was the major
factor behind this. He also said that we need to focus on the model of democracy
as per the need of our society; perhaps, we need to adopt the model of democracy
which can address fault lines of our society and system. Renuka Bhattarai from
UML said that we should not have ethnic state and promote vocational education.
Surya Limbu (Mohan) of UCPN(Maoist) said that we have to clearly define who "citizens"
are and have to instill people's ownership on the state. We should initiate land
reform and there should not be absentee land. We should provide special rights
to women, dalits and other marginalised groups who are historically left behind
by the state or for any other reasons whatsoever. The state should adopt common
social policy in all areas of public concern.
Raj Tumbahamphe underlined the need of federal autonomy and there should be 12
states altogether. Chhetra Rimal of INSEC argued that we should increase the size
of intellectuals who are politically independent so that they can contribute wherever
there is a political crisis. Bhawani Khapung said that right to self-determination
should not be equated with state disintegration and political parties should not
engage in power politics. Kapil Dev Limbu have appealed for the political stability
in the country and democratisation is required in each and every aspect of state
affairs/institutions for the meaningful transformation of society. We need to
focus to develop accountable public delivery institutions. Ishwar Basnet of UCPN
(Maoist) said that common understand of issues will address our problems. Properties
of those who rule the state and those of political parties should be nationalized
and anti-state parties have to be banned. Subash Niraula said that we should have
federal states on the basis of economic viability of the would be federal state.
Bishnu Subedi was of the view that referendum should decide the fate
of federalism. The need of the hour is to establish democratic political culture
in our society. If we could do that we can have any system that we deem necessary
for our development said Subedi. Govinda Raj Shrestha of Nepal National Teachers
Association (NTA) has said that we have promoted loot system over the years rather
than having right person in the right place. For the cheap popularity, we have
floated some anti-state agenda such as federalism, secularism and republicanism
without consulting it with the real stake-holders (the citizens).
Surya Sangraula , Associate Professor, opined that we need politics based on compromise
that can be instrumental in establishing political stability. He argued that 601
CA members have lost their legitimacy therefore civil society and intellectuals
should be active and take the lead role in political process. Dr Devi Bahadur
Thapa, Associate Professor, 1990s constitution failed to deliver despite having
democratic contents on it. The state itself will be in crisis if the upcoming
constitution fails to deliver as per the people's aspirations. Political parties
lack honesty and desire to come into action. We have to promote agriculture, water
resources and foreign assistance to move forward. Indira Prasai, Lecturer Political
Science, said that the time has come for civil society to pressure political parties
and bring them into the common platform like in the 2062/063 movement. There is
an urgent need for the establishment of Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The
model of federalism and model of governance should be decided by the civil society.
The integration process should not be influenced by the political parties.
Koirala, Secretary, Nepal Taruan Dal, argued that we have to be very clear as
which political philosophy will guide the constitution writing process - Marxist,
liberal nationalist or socialist and what type of political philosophy would be
suitable for Nepal. Prof. Devi Panthi also emphasised of having politics based
on consensus. He blamed that American hegemony after 1960 is engaged in dismantling
in social harmony by promoting NGOs and INGOs as a result there has been heavy
external influence on civil society and this civil society is engaged in promoting
citizenship without rights.
Surya Naryan Yadav
suggested that we have to reflect on as why federalism as a system has been promoted
in Nepal. We have to have one education system for all. He said that we moved
towards prajatantrra due to inconvenience caused by Ranarchy, in the same vein,
we moved towards loktantra due to the inconvenience caused by prajatantra and
now the question arises where are we going to head when this loktantra also fail
to deliver. It appears that state itself is on the verge of collapse thanks to
Hari Krishna Shrestha, Historian,
was of the view that state should provide education, employment and health facilities
to its people and we have to empower state to address rising expectations of the
Kumar Acharya, Associate Professor,
said that we have to very specific about the fact that for whom are we writing
this constitution, that is, for 601 CA members or for the common rural folks.
Those 601 CA members who have responsibility to write constitution will never,
and had never in the past, upheld constitutional values, those who are living
in the villages (poor farmers) and lower middle class have been always abided
by the law/constitution (whether it was democratic or undemocratic) and the class
in between (upper middle class) is ready take anything (opportunist class) that
comes on the way. This class is not worried about constitution as it does not
need it because it can survive without it. Elites have been floating their own
agendas. This is an important question that needs to be looked into. He further
argued that we have been ignoring the contribution made by those who played crucial
role in building the modern Nepal. The constitution writing process has been heavily
loaded by the vested interest. We have to stop blaming political leaders; we are
also equally responsible for this political mess.
Kumar of UCPN (Maoist) argued that we have bring Nepal Army under civilian control
because it not been under civilian control since 1950. We have to bring army closer
to the people. Merely integrating combatants into army will not solve our problem.
UCPN (Maoist) is the major agent of change we should take its assistance in writing
the constitution and the need of the hour is to accept agendas of change floated
by UCPN (Maoist) or provide alternatives that can bring change in a society.
Bhesh Prasad Dhamala, Ex Registrar of Purbanchal University, said that we need
to have the common voice and agenda that is, agenda of writing constitution in
time. Politics is voluntary not a profession. We have to strengthen social cohesion
as it united society
Purusottam Nepal, Lawyer,
asked do we really need civil society. If the political system based on freedom,
equally and security is rooted, for sure, we can have political stability. Shanti
(advocate) said that NGOs and INGOs have advocated too many rights but never advocated
to boost the capacity of the state. Narayan Prasad Dhital asked how we can have
modern state. Could we completely eliminate "class"? Civil society should
carry people's agenda. There is a great deal of crisis in sovereignty.
informed citizens can have effective participation in the polity. The conclusion
of these two seminars generates some important question, that is, merely floating
radical agendas will not serve our problems. They have to be matched with our
context otherwise people express their anti political sentiment. The political
radicalism has sustained our conflict and resulted in the weak state and citizen
but strong political leaders. If we wanted change than it has to be realised by
the people at large and mere adopting procedural democracy will not work. In fact
both procedural and substantive democracy should go hand in hand. Likewise, the
spirit of movement, which is to empower people, of 2062/2063 should not be deserted
left at the mercy of political leaders. By and large, almost 25 percent participants
actively participated in the seminars and they wanted to have responsive state
that attempt to address all sorts of rights. But the challenge is how we do that.