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

Organised by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES)

25-26 June 2013, Gajuri, Dhading


Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Nepal Office organised a two day seminar on 25-26 June, 2013 in Gajuri, Dhading district. 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 125 participants and out of which 60 were female. The seminar was chaired by Tara Bhandari, Chairman of the Adarsha Higher Secondary School.. 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

Ram Krishna Adhhikari - Teacher -said that the Chairman of the School Management Committee's qualification has to be mentioned. Only those who are well-educated should be made chairman of such committee. Those parents who do not send their children to the school with adequate preparation should be called by the Principal and advised accordingly. Schools should declared zone of peace. All teachers should be provided with enough training well in advance.

Dasharath Tiwari - Teacher asked should we consider rule by bureaucracy as democracy. You should have invited more people suggested Tiwari. Moral and civic education should be given priority and it should also be used to minimize class struggle.

Som Lal Shrestha - Teacher - asked why Dev Raj sir said that political leaders do not need security. Even the common people need it. If there was a enough security Madan Bhandari would not have died. He also said that the country has changed a lot today - who did it - it's the political leaders.

Ishwar Raj Giri - Teacher - what is the objective of this meeting ? Those who are present here know everything . You should bring in those who don't know about such things said Giri.

Kopila Kharel - NGO activists - there is still gender discrimination in our society and Dhading district is no exception to this phenomenon therefore we need programme that can help to curtail such discrimination. Also, we also need to focus on income generating programme so that women can really realize their rights.

Binod Rupakheti - Teacher- How can we improve the situation where there is no basic physicial infrastructure therefore we need to focus more on developing physical infrastructure.

Dhan Narayan Shrestha - Teacher - wanted to know how far we have gone in terms of making moral and civic education compulsory in our schools/colleges. The gaps and discrimination between community and private schools should be minimized.

Raj Kumar Thapa - Teacher - Moral education, pre-vocational education and others should be made compulsory in our schools

Brahmakumar - said that we have become too much materialistic and there has to be some content of moral and civic education in our society. These alone can bring peace and prosperity in our society. These will help us to maintain our tradition with rationality.

Ishwor Raj Giri - Teacher - asked from where human rights activists get money ? can they have political party or affiliate with party for that reason. More importantly - how do you define rights activists? There are many such activists in the country who are working under the garb of human rights.

Tirtha Dawadi - VDC Secretary - said that election to the CA is putting this country in a real crisis.

Kopila Kharel - Teacher - raised some question about the distribution of resources in the VDCs. She complained that the found that has come for the benefits of women, children and senior citizen is mobilized in other areas by the political parties. She also said that many children are not in condition to go to the school and working in other areas for their livelihood. We are trying to help them out but sadly there is no concrete mechanism from the part of state and its agencies to resolve this problem.

Ram Krishna Adhikari - Teacher - asked in federalism how we distribute natural resources. He also talked about education policy, foreign policy and agriculture policy. There is a great deal of mismatch in this area argued Adhikari.

Ram Krishna Pandey - Teacher - enquired everybody is blamable in this country - political party, human rights activist, journalists and etc. In such a state of affairs where should common people go to express their grievances ? Civil society in this country is also controlled by political parties.

Ishwar Raj Giri - Teacher - said that most of the professionals in this country are politicized along partisan lines and there is very little that we can get something independent.

Brahama Kumari Sister Jamuna said that by changing self positively - we can even change the world. We should not backtrack from morality.

Purusottam Lal Shrestha said that we have learned a lot from this seminar and we could judge ourselves from this.

Omnath Timilsina said that each and every governmental and non-governmental organization in this country said that they are independent and free from both internal and external forces but they still get from money from outsiders and try to influence our society in one way or the other. How can we get rid of such a state of affairs? He further asked whom should we call citizen? How do we measure it and when such measurement started? Why state put a price on the head of people? Who were they - citizens or somebody else asked Timilsina. He further asked whether Nepal has states man or not.

Conclusion

There was a great deal of enthusiasm from the participants in the programme . From the discussion above, we can also conclude that there is a great deal of dissatisfaction towards politics and political leaders and we need to correct it. What one can see in the rural Nepal is that there is a high level of feeling towards state and society whereas the same is missing in urban centres. The teachers can really become multiplier of such programmes as they in principle , like in other places, agreed to include civic education in their curriculum.

 
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