Road to Fair Representation: Ethnic Identity and Freedom

Published in: INSN.org | NepalHorizons.com | Nepali Post | KantipurOnline.com | PrabasiNepali.com | SouthAsiaMedia.net

The events unfolding in Eastern Terai in recent times have brought into our consciousness the fact that Nepal is boiling under a crisis that is looming along a blurred line of struggle for freedom and struggle for ethnic clarity. This blur has made it difficult for ordinary mortals like me to figure out what is what. This is painful predicament for people who stand for equality of all humans and harmony in the world. When emotions and passions rule over reasoning, and aspirations of people take wrong turn to put “me” against “you” among the oppressed masses, solvable problems become unsolvable ones. It has, therefore, become important for every conscious observer of Nepal to pause a bit and think of solutions that are compassionate, fair, insightful and lasting.

A handful of visionless and uncompassionate rulers and their henchmen were ruling Nepal for centuries by keeping the population at large in illiterate, poor, subdued and powerless state. It was next to impossible for the people who were living in perpetual indignity and neglects to experience some catalytic events that sore up their self esteem, confidence, emotions and passions – the manifestations of primary energy of humans which bring changes of profound scale. The changes of Nepal that gradually unfolded after 1990, and especially during the 10 years of war, brought a heightened awareness among its previously neglected populace. Every belittled human started to figure out that he/she is somebody like every other human and no one could ever dwarf his/her potentials through continuation of unjust practices of history.

This awakening of humans is a tremendous blessing for a society that is in a dire need of transformation. This awakening allows the people in power to take huge and bold steps that they could never have taken in the past. Also, it allows them to correct the injustices of centuries in a timeframe of a decade, and releases a fresh energy required to fuel the endeavors of prosperity. Having said so, the same awakening can also turn into a curse if regressive elements become successful in steering it away from the struggle for freedom and turn into a struggle for ethnic fiefdom. Previously oppressed people who are in the process of awakening have only realized that the wrong was wrong but are just entering into an uncharted journey in search of that illusive goal of fairness and justice! They are willing to demonstrate their pain in a hope that that someone enlightened will show them the light! However, who is going to show them that light?

The answer to this lies on one thing and that is trust. Whoever can gain the trust of the awakened people will be able to steer them to the destiny of his/her choice. It is not difficult to assume that if the trust were to fall on the hands of oppressors, landlords, and the fiefs, the aftermath of the struggle for the people would be no liberation. A challenge has, therefore, emerged in front of all those who stand for human freedom and to those who can expend their intellectual dexterity beyond protest and into a delightful world of serenity and compassion. We are not required to be compassionate to those who are knowingly exploiting the people’s awakening for unethical gains. But we must open our hearts to all those who are awakened with pure sincerity. It would be important to emphasize that others will trust us only if we prove to be trustworthy to them and vice versa.

For the last ten years, Maoists steered many Nepali people – old, young, men, women, poor, oppressed, and controlled – towards a fight to gain dignity for the oppressed, the devolution of old feudal power base, correction of old injustices, and the construction of a fair society. They showed some of their positive mantle when they demonstrated balanced sense of representation when sending representatives in the parliament. However, they disappointed many when they could not gain proportionality and federalism in the interim constitution while compromising with the old guard leaders who thought that Nepal had a just, equitable and democratic society in 1990 itself. Maoists thought that they will fight through the interim parliament but their inability to produce result outright has now being capitalized by regressive elements.

The seven parties (with small exceptions) thought that because they had bowed to the Maoists in every other front, only big ticket item where they could demonstrate their bravado was in not agreeing on the proposal of proportionality and federalism in the interim constitution. These leaders did not yield on these points in a hope of limiting the credit that might go to the Maoists for devolving the old state structure of Nepal. However, this was nothing but a sign of attachment to the past and lack of sight for the future. Ideally, it would have been better if their sights had opened months ago, but it is better late than never; and they have an opportunity to correct their mistakes now. You do not need to do anything for Tarai. You just give what every individual of Nepal who has faced injustices from the past deserves. When a framework for upholding principle of human equality is ensured, people of all ethno-cultural identity will feel a sense of justice including those living in Tarai.

At all time, it would be foolhardy to think that most people in the protest are puppets of bad leaders. It is better to think that many people are in the protest not due to any new vision presented by an enlightened leadership but because they are awake and can see that their grievances are not addressed properly by the interim constitution. And, it is also true that some regressive and opportunistic elements have utilized this as a best opportunity to destabilize Nepal; they could not have any better opportunity for pouring ample fuel than when there is fire. That is the reason Hindu fundamentalists and royalists are working day and night to steer this situation to a wrong end.

There is some burden of responsibility on the conscious leaders of the Terai people as well. An impression is spread with great ferocity, which is glorifying separation in the same light as liberation! Although such statements inspire us and motivate us, and there are some examples in history that liberations and separations have come together, destination of any movement depends on its vision, mission, plan, policies, architecture, methodology, and system; and, on top of this, a unifying, compassionate, and visionary leadership, and a seasoned management required to deliver lasting liberty, equity, prosperity, and peace. I have not come to believe that such mature leadership is in place at the moment in the Madhesi movement. On the contrary, there is a danger for the movement to be exploited by controversial, manipulative and opportunist elements. Fundamentalist elements opposed to human equality, opposed to democracy, active to bring back the royalist regime, and perpetrators of crime are shouting as if they are bleeding for the freedom of the people of Madhesh.

We are better off by advancing strong and invigorating debates on justice, equity, democracy and a whole host of other areas required to ensure freedom and fairness for all humans – whether they are young, old, men, women, Madheshi, Pahadi, Dallit, Janajati, Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Christian and what not. Let us attempt to build a constitution that is accommodative, that encompasses human ingenuity, and is advanced enough to be fitting to today’s connected and conscious world. If such an endeavor would prove hopeless, we could all break apart amicably at that point. Let us make a fair attempt first to build one-humanity, and, if possible, one-world!!

About the author:

Dr Pramod Dhakal is a former faculty member of Tribhuvan University and holds a Ph D in electrical engineering. He is Executive Director of Canada Forum for Nepal and lives in Canada. He can be reached at pdhakal@gmail.com

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