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Seminar Report on Promoting Active Citizenship for State-Building from Bottom-up

Organised by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES)

17-18 May 2013, Sharadanagar, Chitwan


Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Nepal Office organised a two day seminar on 17-18 May, 2013 in Sharadanagar, Chitwan. The theme of the seminar was Promoting Active Citizenship for State-Building from Bottom-up. The two day seminar was attended by local political leaders, civil society members, civil servants, teachers, journalists, security personnel, students, and other stakeholders of the society. There were more than 150 participants and out of which 60 were female. The seminar was chaired by Ash Bahadur Lama former Chairman of Sharadanar Village Development Committee. FES has been organizing such seminars in various parts of the country for the last couple of years and from the last year it has shifted its focus towards sub-urban and rural areas so that people living in these communities could also benefit from such seminars.

The primary objective of such seminar was to generate civic sense so that it can contribute in building up the notion of civic nationalism and common identity among people. Such an approach can contribute towards statebuilding as well as democracy building in the long-run. Another objective of this seminar was to educate people on various principles of democracy, constitution, federalism, and other issues that have dominated Nepali politics over the years.

The proceedings

Dev Raj Dahal, Head of FES Nepal Office welcomed all the participants and highlighted objectives of the seminars. During his inaugural speech Dev Raj Dahal underlined the importance of civic education. He said that the lack of civic education in our society can result in political anarchy. He further said that citizens are members of the state and by virtue of being the members of the state they enjoy certain rights from the state and also have duties towards it. That feeling seems to be lacking in our context both at the level of political class and at the citizenry level argued Dahal. The unaccountable politics is the product of this phenomenon said Dahal. The biggest challenge that beset country today is how we build up common orientation of people towardrs state and society to translate democracy in a real sense of the term. Similarly, he argued that there are various types rights but there is no fine balance between rights and duties in our country. Dahal also talked about the historical evolution of Nepal state and its values.

Speaking in the inaugural session Senior Constitutional Expert Kashi Raj Dahal also gave welcome speech and highlighted the various facets of the constitution and problems attached with this. Similarly speaking in the inaugural speech Senior Journalist Yubaraj Ghimire gave brief overview of current political situation. Four papers were presented in the seminar. Dev Raj Dahal, Head of the FES on the challenges and prospectus of state building in Nepal, Kashi Raj Dahal, Senior Constitutional Expert on Constitutional issues and Federalism, Yubaraj Ghimire, Senior Journalist on the role of media in statebuilding, and Chandra D Bhatta on democracy and its elements.

Presenting his paper Ghimire talked about the dharma of Journalist towards state and society and he pointed out that many of our journalists are not abided by that notion of dharma of journalist. Ghimire expressed his concern about the recent political development in the country. He said that by appointing chief justice of the Supreme Court as Head of the government we have fluted the concept of independent judiciary but it is not quite clear for what reasons we have done this asked he. He said that people's identity is connected with the identity of state and language, religion, culture are the sources of unity. He pointed out that those who respect their religion respect the religion of others as well. Gautam Buddha left the royal benefits for the establishment of dharma and there was a clear separation between religion and the state in our part of the world unlike in the Europe. He reminded the fact that the French revolution was carried out against the coercive behavior of the Church in the state affairs. But Churches are still powerful in Europe.

He also talked about the role of India in Nepal's internal affairs. He pointed out the fact that first India tried to bring together seven party alliance and Maoist together to fight against Monarchy. India included Mount Batten in the post-independent political process but the same was not allowed to happen here. That is monarchy - which have had long history and virtually brought this state in existence were not included in such a process. By including the King in the post-2006 politics we could have benefited a lot like the Indians did it by including Batten. Equally important is we have consulted more with India and other countries for our internal political problems like federalism but less with our own people. He expressed his dissatisfaction that for whatever reason Nepal is known for - we are trying to dismantle them one by one. He said that Nepal has always remained a secular state and there was not need to declare it secular. The current notion of secularism is more about attacking on our religion argued Ghimire. Political parties should include the component of national in their discussion. They should reason that why unification day was cancelled.

Discussion

Madhav Kafle (Teacher/college) said that when we said, in principle, the issue of federalism or state restructuring for that reason - there has to be some sort of coordination between centre and periphery.

Top Man Sigh Gurung said that the programme is most relevant. He said that we should not have more than five federal states and they should be drawn north-south. No state should be formed on the basis of ethnicity. Similarly no to right to self-determination, we have to be careful in all these issues.

Hem Bahadur Chhetri, Nepali Congress, said that how can we call our leader nationalist. They do not respect people. We have to keep an eye on our political leaders as they don't speak the language of Nepali citizen. He also said that we should not give right to self-determination. State should be restructured on its economic capacity and viability. Our political leaders have created conflict between people. The tendency to be politicians or leader for that matter on the basis of power and money should be discontinued. We need to hold federalism on important issues.

Bed Bahadur Gurung asked why election is not taking place in every five year. For the last 15 year there is no election for the local bodies asked Gurung.

Shanti Man Adhikari asked whether there will be another election for CA ? He also asked why we are afraid of political leaders.

Dilli ram Dawadi asked who appointed Lok Man as the Chief of CIAA - it is India ?

Balbir Pakhrin said this is very good programme. He said that the problem of our time is what type of federalism do we want to have - with identity-based or without identity.

Bachhu Basnet - Teacher - asked there are incidence of violence against women, children - where is human right? There is lack of rule of law and we have failed to distinguish between leader and criminals.

One participant (no name) asked we are suppressed by the tradition. We should not make prime minister or president to those who have come through proportional election. He also asked the detail expenditure detail of the budget that is spent through parliamentarian development fund. No need for right to self-determination as state already has given rights to protect those who are weak, backward, marginalised and alike.

Bekh Bahadur Gurung said that constitution should be written in time. Bureaucrats should admit their children in public schools.

Kumar Ale said that we have to teach both civic education and moral education in our schools.

Conclusion

The seminar in Chitwan included participants from nine VDCs of including Gunjanagar and Sharadanagar VDCs. Surya Kala Adhikar, Bel Bahadur Gurung, and Chau En Lai Shrestha spoke during the closing ceremony. They thanked FES for bringing such programmes in their locality. Surya Kala Adhikari thanked for giving space women in the statebuilding programme. She also said that we need to work to establish the rule of law in the country. The notion of rule of law is facing threat from mathi ko aadesh (order from above). Similarly Bel Bahadur Gurung and Chau En Lai Shrestha also thanked FES and others. They have also agreed, in principle, to adopt civic education through their respective VDCs and decided to work together to protect public properties.

 
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