Born in 1768 as a modern state, Nepal is one of the few countries to have escaped colonial occupation. However, since Nepal opened up to the modern world in 1851. It has faced a series of political upheavals, followed by volatile constitutional experiments, leading to growing risks to its very basic structure.
Nepal: A Coutry in Transition analyses the crux of the ongoing churn on multiple fronts, and helps in a comprehensive understanding of the problems facing the country. A galaxy of eminent scholars discusses pragmatic strategies to deal with the many crises and ensure Nepal’s national unity, sovereignty, territorial integrity and ways to economic prosperity in the twenty-first century.
An important addition to the existing literature, this book looks at Nepal through multiple lenses, suggesting the way forward.
Dr Dwarika Nath Dhungel is formerExecutive Director, Institute for Integrated Development Studies (IIDS), Kathmandu, and former Secretary, Government of Nepal. He is currently a Senior Researcher of Social Science.
Dr. Madan Kumar Dahal is Membe , Borard of Director, Institute for Strategic and Socio-Economic Research (ISSR), Kathmandu,and Member, Revenue Advisory Board, Ministry of Finance, Government of Nepal.
Nepal was never physically colonized but it could not help being infected by the colonial discourse. The legacy of colonialism abounds in Nepal as much as it abounds in Nepal as much as it abounds in the rest of South Asia. The naming of Mount Everest, for instance. Although locally called Sagarmatha, the latter never got the recognition beyond Nepal. This is as much a fault of the colonial power as it is of the Napalese, and I would include the South Asians as well, who had succumbed to the colonial naming of the highest peak of the world even after the demise of the British Empire in South Asia and the rest of the world. There is an interesting story to the naming of the peak, and this would make clear the point that I am trying to flag here.
International practice has always been to name a discovery after either a local designation or the person responsible for the discovery. The naming of the Mount Everest was an exception. The race for discovering the highest peak in the reached a momentum in the nineteenth century with the introduction of newer methods of calculating geological spheres. The responsibility came to Radhanath Sikdar (1813-70),a brilliant mathematician from Bengal with proficiency in spherical trigonometry. At the insistence of Colonel Andrew Scott Waugh, Director of the Great Trigonometric Survey, Sikdar took up the effort, and after calculating what was then referred to as Peak XV from six different observations, concluded that this was indeed the highest peak in the world. If the international practice were followed, the name of the peak would have either been Mount Sikdar or Mount Sagarmatha. Waugh, however, decided to name the peak after his former boss, George Everest, who after initial objections agreed ti the name. Sikdar was soon conveniently forgotten. Sagarmatha, too, was never internationally recognized. The post-colonial record of Nepal’s quest for stability and development is no better.
‘Secularism,’ ‘electoral politics,’ ‘majoritarianism,’ ‘Westminster parliamentary system,’ planned economic development’ or what amounted to be a development in the image of the modern Western state, all have an imprint of a colonial discourse that a non-colonized Nepal has come to replicate almost unwittingly. In this context, shocking though it may be, there is some merit in Tri Ratna Manadhar’s contention that, ‘To satisfy the vast Hindu population, the word “secular” may be deleted from the constitution.’ This will probably be viewed as a plea for majoritarianism bordering on communalism but it can also be viewed from the standpoint of what religion, or more precisely, dharma, is all about in Nepal or South Asia.
Etymologically, the two are different, where ‘religion’, originating from the Latin, ‘re-ligio,’meant ‘to bind’, to unite’; dharma, on the other hand, originating from the Sanskrit ‘dhr + ma’, meant the way a mother would nourish her child. It is precisely for this reason that Rabindranath Tagore pointed out that the closet word that we have for the Western concept of ‘civilization’ is dharma. This alos helps us to understand Mahatma Gandhi’sf extraordinary statement that, ‘Those who try to divide religion from politics, understand neither religion nor politics.’ The civilizational quest of the Napalese, as it would be the case with the rest of the South Asians, has always been dharmic! Secularism or separating dharma from politics remains less we then bring back this civilizational quest without falling or the West’s fragmentary, if not divisive, notion of secularism? Indeed, this is a challenge that requires greater contemplation and imaginative thinking.
‘Stability’ certainly is an issue of governance, but as the authors of this volume have aptly demonstrated Nepal is suffering from ‘malgovernance’; in fact, at times, lack of governance has made it, to use the words of Dwarika NAth Dhungel and Madan Kumar Dahal’gloomy and sluggish.’
The evidence of this is found in Nepal having sex constitutions during the last sixty-seven years (the first one in 1948 and the current one promulgated in 2015) that is, on average, one constitution every ten years! I guess it is time for Nepal to start thinking out of the box on the issue of having a ‘writer’ constitution. Since the South Asians, including the Nepalese, are oral people and not textual, why doesn’t Nepal start thinking of having an unwritten constitution instead of the overly tried written one? There are several countries, including New Zealand, Canada, Israel and, of course, former colonial power, the UK, that have unwritten constitutions and face no’constitutional’ or ‘legal’ barriers in running their respective governments. I cannot help pointing out here that the Delhi Sultanate (1206-1526) as well as the Mughal dynasty (1526-1857) that ‘governed’ a large part of the Indian subcontinent for over three hundred years never had any written constitution. The idea is to go bill-by-bill or convention-by-convention and not have everything written down in one ‘sacred’ document.
Nepal is geostrategically located between two of the fastest-growing economies of the world – China and India. It is endowed with enormous potentiality and inhabited by people from different social, cultural and religious backgrounds who live in the high Himalayan, middle mountain and lush green and fertile Tarai regions. World over, Nepal enjoys the unique image as a country of Mt. Everest, Pashupatinath Temple and Lumini – the birthplace of Lord Buddha. At present, however, it looks sick and tried in every sphere, be it political, economic, social, foreign/diplomatic, security or governance. Such is the country’s situation, despite the fact that it has been practicing a multiparty democratic form of government and has adopted an open, liberal and market economy.
The high ideals of democracy and good governance enshrined in its sanctified documents are honoured overwhelmingly in breach. The gulf between what is committed in principles and what is actually practiced remains one of the widest to be found anywhere in the world. A state of stalemate pervades the nation in all fields. Thus, questions arise: (i) Why does a country having vast potential in many fields looks so gloomy and sluggish? And (ii) What could be done to make Nepal a happy and peaceful country once again?
Through this compendium, the native scholars have tried to seek answers to these questions through their analytical and diagnostic lenses. In others words, this book is an attempt to examine the current state of affairs, including an analysis of recent trends in the areas of history, society, constitution , economy, politics, foreign policy, security, corruption, governance and conflict.
Although we do not stake a claim to pioneering the effort through this book, this is an attempt to sincerely analyse the crux of the ongoing upheavals on multiple fronts, as well as developing a comprehensive understanding of the problems facing Nepal with a commitment to contribute in the acceleration of economic prosperity, preserving democracy, strengthening national unity, maintaining territorial integrity and upholding the sovereignty of the country. This is also a very modest attempt on our part to contribute to the enrichment of literature on Nepal.
A galaxy of scholars has contributed to this endeavour .To name a few: Babu Ram Acharya, Dilli Raman Regmi, Keshar Bahadur KC, Surya Bikram Gyawali, NAya Raj Panta, Imansing Chemjong, Harka Gurung, Sylvian Levi, Percival Landon, Guiseppe Tucci, Leo E. Rose, Christopher von Furer-Haimendorf, Erika Leuchtag, Han Suyin, Toni Hagen, Wang Hongwei, Hu Shisheng and Assad Hussain.
We are grateful to our contributors, namely Tri Ratna Manandhar Dilli Ram Dahal, Bipin Adhikari, Jan Sharma, Mohan Prasad Lohani, Nishal Nath Pandey, Rabi Raj Thapa, Chiran Jung Thapa, Aditya Man Shrestha, Chiranjibi Bhandari, Rajib Timilsina, Dipak Gyawali and Mahendra Raj Sapkota, for taking pains to accomplish the assignment within the stipulated time frame.
In the preparation of the chapters, our contributors have received inputs, support and motivation from many other people. They are: Ananta Ram Bhattarai, former Additional Inspector General of Nepal Police; Asish Thapa, Executive Director, Transparency International-Nepal (TI-Nepal); Batsa Gopal Baidya, Senior artist; Bharat Thapa, fromer Chairperson, Ti-Nepal; Devi Ram Sharma , Former Chief, Nepal Investigation Department; Dina Nath, Programme Officer, Ti-Nepal; Govinda Nepal, Professor of Economics, former Economci Advisor, Ministry of Finance (MoF), and former National Planning Commission; Jaya Raj Acharya, Professor of English and former Nepalese Ambassador to United Nations; Krishna Acharya, a retired civil servant ;Prakash Chandra Lohani, former finance and Foreign Minsiter; Dr Prajwal Dhungel; Rajesh Jha ‘Ahirraj; Editor, Madhesvani; Raman Misra, Senior Social Demographer; Sudhindra Sharma, Executive Director, Inter Disciplinary Analysts; Ganesh Mandal, Medeshi Civil Society Activist; Hari Bahadur Thapa; Ganesh Mandal, Medeshi Civil Society Activist; Hari Bahadur Thapa, News Editor, Kantipur New; Kedar Khadka, Executive Chairperson, Go Go Foundation; Keshab Paudel, Editor, New Spotlight; Krishna Nepal, retired civil servant; Kuber Rana, former Inspector General of Nepal Police; Laxman Ghimire, former State Minsiter for Water Resources; Madhukar Shumshere JB Rana, former Finance Minsiter; Milan Shrestha, Advocate and Lecturer of Political Science, Tribhuvan University; Dr. Prachanda Pradhan, Senior Researcher, Social Science; Ratan Bhandari, Water Resouces Activist; Santa Bahadur Pun, former Officers on Special Duty, Ministry of Water Rssourses and foemer Managing Director, Nepal Electricity Authority; Sunder Nath Bhattarai, former Nepalese Ambassador to Thailand; Chandra Shah, Election Commission, Nepal; and Trilok Singh Thapa Magar, Senior Sociologist . Each of them deserves our sincere appreciation.
Likewise, we are extremely thankful to Imtiaz Ahmed, Professor, Department of International Relations, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh, and former Executive Director, Regional Centre for Strategic Studies (RCSS), Colombo, Sri Lanka, for readily agreeing to our request of writing a foreword to this book.
Nepal is a country rich in natural resources and known for many thing, including its contribution to international peace through the United Nations’ (UN’s) peacekeeping operations. While it has been a party-less democracy for more than a quarter century since 1990, the dispensation has remained a paradox all these years. Despite democracy being idealistically defined as a government of the people, for the people and by the people, most of the masses in Nepal – characterized by pervasive poverty and persistent underdevelopment- continue to suffer from extreme deprivations. While trying to heal from the scars of the decade-old (1996-2006) bloddy insurgency launched by the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M), which had caused immense loss of human lives and property, through election to the constituent assembly (CA) for drafting the fundamental law of the land, the country got entangled in a political whirlpool and economic stagnation.
The country has been going through a steady process of deterioration over the decades, and occasional mishaps like the earthquake in April 2015 have further made people’s lives miserable. But after the elections to all three layers of the government structure- 753 local government units, seven provincial governments and one federal government, as per the provisions of the Constitutions of Neal 2015- the country, from all indications, is on the path of political stability. But the economy is not in a good shape. There is still suspicion as to whether the country would remain politically stable in the days to come and whether the economy would grow. In other words, the downhill slide has been taking place under a dispensation that is supposedly democratic, under which popular well-being must have been the supreme consideration for all people ensconced in the positions of power. Would it not happen in the days to come? It is a fundamental to find the reasons for Nepal remaining unstable and in a poor condition. Is it history of social structure or the economic policies? Or, is it the contry’s political system, or foreign economic policies? Or, is it the country’s political’s system, or foreign and diplomatic policy, or national security policy, or insurgency, or agitation, or movement or overall governance situation? The yet- to-be answered questions are covered in this book, which is divided into nine chapter, covering Nepal’s history, society, constitution, economy, politics, foreign policy, security, and governance and corruption.
Chapter 1 provides a scenario of Nepal’s history, which Is full of glory and heroic saga of generations of brave-hearted people who never came under any foreign occupation. As envisioned by Prithvi Narayan Shah, the founding father of the nations, in his Divya Upadesh (Divine Dictum), Nepal is ‘a yam between two boulders’ – a historic but immutable axiom to reflect the country’s status in antiquity. This chapter also traces the history of Nepal from the ancient time, to the unification, to the present-day situation and provides some perspectives for the future form history’s viewpoint.
Chapter 2 deals with the Nepali society that embodies the great merit and unique example of unity among diversity. The society in general, the author writes, comprises multi-ethnicity, multi-language and multi-culture and religion –an excellent example of social equilibrium, cultural and religious harmony, deep-rooted sense of belonging among families and communities and love and respect for each other in the past. Unfortunately, the whole society is divided and fractured today and, therefore, extremely weak to defend. The author further highlights the essence of the deep cultural roots and heritage of Nepal- one of the very few ancient countries in the world associate with the origin of the Vedas. However, the modern Nepali society, he contributor thinks, is seriously engaged in the quest of peace and tranquility through social and cultural harmony to ensure a better future for Nepal.
Chapter 3 is devoted to the development of the constitution and its sustainability in Nepal. It is indeed a poignant episode for the Nepalese people. This country has witnessed promulgation of a series of seven constitutions within a period of seven decades. And, the author is of the opinion that none of these constitutions got the opportunity to evolve and develop based on experience and necessities. Each of them came to an abrupt end. Even the Constitution of Nepal 2015, the latest one, is facing tough times. While controversies on the contents are there, no less are the geopolitical impacts. The chapter also provides details as to how the new constitution came into existence after the fall of the monarchy. The new constitution is characterized by the Federal Democratic Republic order- a great manifestation of sovereignty that lies with people and also the strong evidence of power and authority of Nepalese people to independently formulate a constitution in accordance with their aspirations. However, the author mentions that it is extremely challenging to fully implement the new constitution because all of its political innovations –federalism, secularism and mixed system of representation with parliamentary type of government – are being contested, and geopolitical considerations are not clear.
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