Excerpt from

7 August 2002

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Prajatantra kahan cha?
"Stratification, domination and discrimination still rule"
"Karl-Heinz Kraemer"
Twelve years after the Janaandolan that led to the introduction of a democratic system of government and the avowal of human rights, the situation in the country presents itself as such: There is a civil war going on for more then six years with no side really wanting a peaceful solution. Democracy, hopefully introduced in 1990, lies in shambles. All directly elected political institutions, parliament as well as local bodies, are dissolved. Fundamental rights like the right to freedom, press and publication right, right against preventive detention, right to information, right to constitutional remedy, etc. are suspended or limited under a state of emergency. Political parties are still dominated by traditional elites; missing democratic structures preventing a greater participation of disadvantaged sections of society. Against this poor behaviour of the politicians, there is a growing call for reviving active monarchy, even though this had definitely failed in the past. There are claims that the western system of democracy is no solution for Nepal, which reminds of December 1960 when late king Mahendra stopped Nepalís first experiments with democracy. Social and economic developments have been hampered under the impression of failed politics, mismanagement and corruption. Natural disasters as well as regional and international conflicts have further aggravated the situation. Is this the lower end of kaliyug in Nepal?
Nepali politicians seem to be bent on teaching us this lesson, but I believe that there are still ways that can lead out of this tremendous situation, though fundamental changes in attitude and behaviour will be preconditions. One of the most important shortcomings of traditional conceptions that dominate every aspect of life in Nepal. The stratified social system, the domination of one culture or social group over others, the corresponding discrimination and non-participation of other groups, all this is not god-given but fabricated.
Thus, it will be necessary to free future generations from this wrong understanding of history and society. This means, for example, that historiography must stop to glorify past events that have made current conflicts possible.
Without any doubt, the unification of Nepal has been an important development in regard to national survival. But Prithvi Narayan, like any other emperor in history and like many modern politicians, had only his own power and advantages in mind. As a result, only a very small section of society benefited personally from this unification at the expense of the majority. The descendants of the first are still dominating politics, society and economy in Nepal while the latterís offspring is given hardly any chance of participation.
The democratization of the country in combination with the guarantee of fundamental rights and better education has further intensified the political consciousness of the disadvantaged sections of society, i.e. the ethnic groups, the dalits, the Tarai population, the women in general and those of the just mentioned groups in particular. They ask for legitimate rights and equal chances, and they are no longer willing to tolerate the selfish power struggle within the traditional state elite at their own expense. The pro and contra in context with the Maoist insurgency is part of the ongoing misuse of this growing consciousness, since the Maoist leadership, as well, is mainly made up of members of the traditional state elite.
So, if Nepal wants to find a way that can lead
out of all her pressing problems, she must immediately start to build up the necessary basis. Urgent steps in this direction are corrections in the
conception of history, school curricula based on these changes accepting all Nepali people as
equal, immediate restoration of unrestricted
fundamental rights, democratization of parties
and political institutions, positive discrimination of the disadvantaged sections of society, corrections of all passages in the Constitution and subordinate law that still discriminate against special population groups, etc.
Some months ago, the Constitution has been criticised with heated debates. It is neither true that Nepal needs another Constitution nor that no changes are necessary. There are a number of contradictions within the Constitution that have to be corrected if it shall be a Constitution of all the citizens of the country. The right to equality of Article 11 does not mean what it wants as long as there are discriminations against women, ethnic groups, dalits etc. in other articles of the Constitution and as long as the state is identified with the culture of the traditional ruling elite.
There are so many subordinate laws in Nepal that discriminate against women, for example. According to article 131 of the constitution, such laws should have ceased to operate on 9 November 1991 because they are inconsistent with article 11. But they are still valid even more than ten years later. Is this because of the contradictions within the constitution, or is the judiciary as well caught within the vicious circle of tradition bound narrow-mindedness described above?
The constitutional issue illustrates this problem also from another perspective. The constitution has been formulated in 1990 in a very short time and under difficult circumstances by representatives of the political parties. So, its shortcomings may be understandable. But where did those parties get their legitimizing to say that they had acted with the widest possible participation of the people? They had never been elected, and they later not even held a referendum to ask the people if they agreed with this constitution.
So, if Nepal shall have a democratic future, she must immediately start to find an all-encompassing identity free of discrimination and exclusion. Itís already late but not too late, yet.