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Is Nepal State Still in the Making?

Challenges of State Building in Nepal


Published Year: 2009

Published by: Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES)

Author: Chandra Dev Bhatta

Price: Not mentioned, Pages: 129

 

Is Nepal State Still In The Making?

Yuba Nath Lamsal

Is Nepal state still in the making? This is a debate that has been underway for a long time. A school of thought is of the view that the state-building process began right from the unification process more than 140 years ago. This process advanced with the advance of time and it completed when Nepal entered into a modern era after the political change in 1951 that ushered in a multi-party political system. However, the other school of thought is very much critical of this idea. The leftists more specifically have often claimed that Nepal has not yet been a complete nation state, which is in the process of making.

There are certain components for a nation state. To be a state, one requires geographical territory, people, constitution or set of rules and international recognition. There are two kinds of nation states –de facto and de jure. A de facto state is composed of geographical territories, its people, set of rules and constitution but it lacks international recognition. South Africa, during the apartheid, was a de facto state, as it had everything except the international recognition.

A de jure state is the one that possesses all the components mentioned above. However, a state can be a dejure even if it does not have geographical territory. Palestine state of the past is the perfect example of a de jure state even when it had no geographical territories. The Palestine had full international recognition and was represented in all international forums as a state of Palestine even when it didn’t have geographical territory under its control as a state. This speaks of the importance of international recognition for a state.

Coming back to Nepal, the issue has always been debatable. What exactly Nepal lacked to be a nation state. It has a geographical territory with fixed international boundaries recognized well by its neighbors and the entire international community, its people—Nepali people belonging to different ethnicity, lingual and cultural communities—it has always enjoyed full international recognition and also has its own constitution and all other rules that govern the country. Yet, why some still claim that Nepal is still in the process of state building.

Dwelling on its history and political process, one finds several stages through which Nepal underwent. Until the change of 1951, Nepal had one way or the other under the feudal rule—be it the Shah’s or Rana’s oligarchic rule. Even then, Nepal had basic components of a nation state including the international recognition. What it lacked was the popular or democratic legitimacy.

But that too was ensured after the dawn of multi-party democracy in 1951 that guaranteed the representative system of governance. Still the question of legitimacy continued to be raised in the political circle especially among the leftists, who kept on demanding that the elected representatives write the constitution of the country. This demand was thrown into shelves for years and decades only to be accepted by all in 2006. The lack of people’s participation in the process of constitution making was also a point in question regarding the people’s role in state building.

A state is something that all citizens must feel ownership in it. If any of the community does not feel that the state belongs to them, it tells us that the state has not been built. The feeling of collective ownership was missing in Nepal’s case in the past as Nepal was a state of elite. With the success of the Jana Andolan II, a new vision and concept have evolved in Nepal that has ensured a genuinely inclusive democracy in which all ethnic, lingual and cultural communities have equitable share in the state affairs. This is the process of completing the state building in Nepal.

These are the issues author Chandra Dev Bhatta is trying to deal with in his new book, Challenges of State Building in Nepal—under review-, published by the Fredric Ebert Stiftung (FES), Nepal. The book is a product of author’s research, his observation during the interaction with people from different walks of life and opinions expressed in seminars in different parts of the country. The author has dealt more specifically with the process of state-building right from the beginning, its continuity and break at different intervals of time, factors that hindered the process of state-building in Nepal, different stakeholders of Nepali state and their concerns and the challenges that we may face in this lofty process.

More elaborate are the challenges that Nepalese people and the government may confront in future in shaping and moulding the process and practice of state building. As the real process of modern state building has begun mainly after the peace process started that brought about phenomenal changes in Nepal’s political landscape, the book has raised and discussed various issues with analytical and elaborate manner . The constituent assembly election, constitution making process, electoral reforms that introduced proportionate election system to ensure genuine representation of all sections and sectors of the society, state restructuring alike are some of the pertinent issues that have come along the state building process in the present day Nepal which have been thoroughly discussed and analysed in the book. In the state building process, the role of non-state sector and international factors also play crucial role, which have also been given due prominence in the discourse and deliberation in the book. To sum up, the book has given, by and large, a thorough analysis on the concept and the issue of state-building Nepal—the issue that has been in discourse in a more intensive and extensive manner than ever before. Thus, the book would serve as a treasure of knowledge for those who are keen to learn more about state-building in Nepal and elsewhere.

Source: Friday Supplement, The Rising Nepal (10 April 2009)

 
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