Seminar on The Role of Youth in Civic
Organized by Nepal Foundation
for Advanced Studies (NEFAS)
8 April 2007, Dhading
Dhading was another new venue for Nepal
Foundation for Advanced Studies to organize a seminar. On 8, April
2007, a NEFAS team reached this central urban hub along with Friedrich
Ebert Stiftung representative in Nepal, Dev Raj Dahal, to hold
a discussion on civic education. NEFAS has been organizing civic
education seminars in different parts of the country, an ongoing
effort not only to make people aware of the need for civic education,
but also to acquaint schoolteachers with the subject and help
them deal with the problems that they may be facing, especially
if they are already teaching the subject. In most parts of the
country, teachers have helped provide valuable comments on the
subject for NEFAS to update its publication on the subject. In
Dhading, meanwhile, the scheduling of the event appeared to be
slightly off-key, especially with regard to the fulfillment of
the latter objective. Since the function was organized in the
midst of the SLC exams, the thin presence of teachers at the discussion
could be felt throughout the session as most of the participants
dwelt on the political issues haunting the nation, rather than
getting down to talk the brass tacks of teaching civic education
in schools. The seminar was chaired by Lekhnath Lohani.
The discussion kicked off with NEFAS Executive
Director Ananda Srestha introducing to the participants the
organization's activities and the theme it was putting before
the audience. He requested the participants to be forthcoming
in their comments as they would form an important component
in the publication that was being planned at a later date, the
ultimate objective of the seminar. The discussion would also
help in raising awareness among youths on issues that have contributed
to the political instability Nepal has been facing over the
FES head in Nepal Dev Raj Dahal introduced
his organization's support to various activities in the country
before entering into the discussion on political resolution
of conflicts through a constituent assembly. His theme was that
a constituent assembly can be accommodative of all the diverse
interests during the draft of the basic law so that they do
not manifest themselves in the society. He described the nature
of the different types of conflict that could trouble a society,
some are latent while others are manifest, he said. Even among
the latent types, some are structural- those that are to do
with incompatibility of policies while there are also those
that may have to do with the kind of constitution devised and
the social values that exist. For peace to be long-term it must
be based on democratic foundations, not one that is imposed.
Even the peace imposed by the majority can be counter-productive,
he said and added that Buddha's Golden Mean could provide the
way for us to follow.
Shiva Raj Dahal made his presentation on The
Role of Youth in Civic Education in the country where he tried
to compare the existing bleak scenario in the public sphere
with the ideal that Nepalese youth should be striving for. His
thesis was this: Lack of political guidance was robbing the
country of its vital youthful resources as many were either
engaged in rebellion or going abroad seeking work. The muscle
and brain drains can be reversed and their toil utilized for
the nation. But for this, the youth need to be inculcated with
Dahal's presentation was followed by Prof
Gunanidhi Sharma's comments which tended to look into the need
to decentralize state powers through a federal structure of
government. The local people must have a say in determining
their own future, but the local government units must not be
based on unnatural and man-made customs such as caste and ethnic
classification of people, the professor said. All the issues
can be managed by the local units, except security and foreign
policy issues, he said.
The floor discussion was quick to pick up
on the issue of state restructuring along federal lines. Some
thought that inclusiveness was the way out in devising a new
state structure while others said that it could also get out
of hand with demands for ethnic and linguistic states including
the right to self-determination. Some were afraid that political
parties could disintegrate to give way to ethnic sentiments,
instead of political ideologies and issues. Comments were also
made regarding foreign meddling in Nepalese internal affairs
contributing to destabilization.
Women participants talked about the need to
change the mindsets of the opposite sex to end feudalism while
others said that such a mindset is prevalent in the political
culture as a whole, not just regarding gender issues.
After the presenters
furnished their replies, the seminar ended with the Chairperson
praising the paper presented by Shivaraj Dahal saying that it
had tried to show a positive direction to the young generation
with regard to politics and the kind of leadership to follow.
Chair: Lekhnath Lohani
welcome address. We have been organizing discussions on
issues of national importance in various parts of the country.
It is in this course that we have arrived here. Please contribute
by commenting on Shivaraj Dahal's paper so that it can be published
in a more complete form.
Why have we chosen
this topic? We feel that the main reason behind the political
instability in Nepal is the absence of participation by the
youth in Nepal. We think that interest in politics by the younger
generation creates the necessary pressure on the political leadership
to do something about it. This series of discussion has been
possible because of cooperation from FES.
Dev Raj Dahal's
presentation: FES is a German social democratic organization,
one of the various foundations that Germany has, to assist in
the promotion of democracy in different parts of the world.
These foundations do it in cooperation with the German government.
independence, social justice, solidarity, human rights and peace.
A discussion on this topic in the 90s led us to develop a book
which was later taken up as a text book for civic education
by schools. We thought that if we can convert people into citizens
we can make them enjoy the fruits of democracy. It is the identity
given by citizenship that we carry with us when we interact
with other people outside the country.
The political leadership
constantly seeks inputs from FES on policy matters. And, we
carry out these debates to come up with ideas necessary for
the inputs. Today, we are talking of the constituent assembly.
We are talking about openness. If we can have awareness, participation
and inclusiveness, then we can make the democratic process a
successful one as people will take up the ownership of the process
itself. Once the electoral preparations are complete, we plan
to work on voters' education.
If the constitution
making process is open and inclusive, the constitution will
last a long time as it will have been owned by the people.
There is debate regarding the widening of the participation
by al the forces in the society. That way, it can be more representative
Secondly, peace. Peace depends on the kind
of state structure we devise. We have structural conflicts inherent
in the state structures. Another kind of conflict is dormant-
one between the constitution and the social values. The constitution
says one thing while the social values are contrary to it leading
to this type of conflict. Today's constitution gives us the
freedom. But we need to think a bout structures that can accommodate
such a wide base of freedom.
Policy must be oriented towards the social
values and constitutional provisions. The policies that we adopted
post-90 were not consistent with the social welfare provisions
of the constitution.
The third kind of conflict is manifest conflict.
We saw the excluded groups demanding their place as soon as
we wrote the interim constitution. Democracy must be inclusive,
especially in a country of minorities like ours. Peace process
should follow the same trends. A peace process should not give
birth to enemies, but friends.
Latent conflict is the fourth kind. Unless
we have foresight, we cannot see conflicts that could emerge
in the future. The peace agreement that was signed recently
could be one way for Nepal to deal with future conflicts. The
agreement talks about conflict transformation through social,
economic and political transformation, and does not talk about
conflict resolution as such.
Citizens are not subjects. They are sovereign.
Changing of political terminology is not helpful here. And,
confusion prevails regarding the loktantra we have. The term
'Lok' has not been defined. 'Praja' does not mean subjects like
in the pre-1950 days. Citizenship is what matters and this is
not reflected in the term 'lok'.
Peace too can be contextual. During the Rana
days, peace prevailed, but because it was brought about through
suppression by the ruling class. The peace after 2007 was a
peace imposed by the majority; this is known as hegemonic peace.
Today, we want democratic peace. The golden mean of Buddha must
be the axis around which peace revolves.
Shivaraj Dahal's presentation
Gunanidhi Sharma: We are undergoing
a period of transition. Our aspirations are to build a new Nepal,
a Nepal that is prosperous, peaceful and beautiful. The role
of youth is vital here, as others will not be able to play the
role on an equal footing. The role that Nepalese youth have
played in world history has been noteworthy, whether in WWI,
WWII, or in UN peace missions or even during independence movements
in the region. Our politicians were directly involved in these
movements. In our own country, many in the young generation
were martyred to give Nepal a new face. We have seen their contribution
in the changes since 2007.
Today, we find that they may be misguided
or misdirected, in spite of our efforts to build the new Nepal.
The fault lies in governance that was centralized. The result
is rebellious voices, leading even to bloodbath. A lot of youths
lost their lives and many remain disabled. It was when both
the rural and urban youths merged their movements that brought
us where we are today. Today, we are talking of restructuring
the state. It is for this that we want the constituent assembly.
The constitution is a document that lays down
all the different aspects of national life and guides the government
structure towards the desired goal. Our aspiration is economic,
social, linguistic, ethnic and political upliftment. The constitution
is supposed to look into all these aspirations.
Even the 1991 constitution talked about it,
but could not deliver on its promises. This was because we gave
space to feudalism. Now we talk of ending feudalism. We want
something that incorporates the aspirations of all. We want
it to be a participatory and an inclusive constitution.
The decentralization that we want has led
us to look into provincialism or federalism. But we should be
cautious here. We do not want a disintegrated Nepal, as it is
already fragmented. There are issues of national interest or
those related with security which must be handled by the centre,
because the national interest is paramount. Still, linguistic
or development or other social problems could be dealt with
locally. The fear is the fickleness of the leadership which
has not been able to deliver even on small and minor issues.
We doubt their political will to carry out such a huge task.
This is where the awareness of the youth comes.
The doubt also comes from the deviations seen
in a large portion of the young generation today. They appear
to be fed up with the Nepal they live in; and are searching
greener pastures elsewhere. Others have taken up weapons. Today
we stand at the crossroads where we can build the Nepal that
we want. The youth possesses the energy to carry it through.
We must make them aware of their potential and help them develop
the capacity for executing the change for a new Nepal.
If the youth realize that they live in Buddha's
country, they will find out that they should learn to be examples
of living in peace, diversity, harmony and tolerance.
Guru Prasad Burlakoti: After the loktantric
movement, we talk of inclusiveness as a necessity. The multiparty
system could not address the problem. But today, in the name
of inclusiveness, we hear of demands for ethnic states under
federal rule. This has added fuel to the existing fire.
They also talk of right to self determination.
This is not a joke as a bushfire has been started. This could
lead to the disintegration of political parties, along ethnic
Khem Lohani: GNS appears to take federalism
positively. I too feel that the leadership does not behave well.
Add to this the neighbouring countries' interests. The right
to self determination demand therefore could be a problem.
We do not see any homogenous ethnic province,
not even a village. Everywhere, there is a mix of different
groups of people that exists. I do not deny the need to bring
the excluded to the mainstream, jut that let it not lead to
disintegration. People are talking about ethnic rule. The problem
would then be the other ethnic groups residing within such an
The Bahun and Chhetris have been taken separately
by different groups to prove their point, although I feel that
they are one. The statistics we have could play havoc with the
separation of Bahun from the Chhetris. Should not the Bahun-Chhetris
talk about a separate state in the federation? Will they not
come out with this idea in the times to come? I do not see thinkers
and politicians addressing this problem. How do we address this
ethnic federalism issue?
Biswo Raj Adhikari: Prof. Sharma said
federalism is needed. How many provinces do you want?
Guna Nidhi Sharma's reply
Regarding the economic basis for the federalist argument, I
feel that inclusiveness should not solely be a political issue,
but an economic one as well. Each part of the country has its
own resources and economic foundation. Hence, we should allow
all resources equal opportunity in the production system. If
that happens economic transformation takes place very quickly.
If we continue to accord priority to urban resources and neglect
the rural ones, then the problem will not be solved. Equality
in opportunity must be applied not only among different groups
of people but all the different resources as well.
Federalism has been interpreted by many different
people in different ways, some through anger, some have taken
the deviated route and some are deliberately trying to mislead.
If we can assure everyone that their problem of exclusion will
be resolved in the state structure, these problems will be resolved
automatically. And, since the fundamental problem is one related
with social justice, that should be our focus.
Januka Simkhada: The problem today
is that there is still miserliness regarding equal participation,
in spite of talk about inclusiveness. We need to change the
mindset. We need a potent medicine to cure that.
Guna Nidhi Sharma: The issue you raise
is about feudalism. Politicians feel they are landlords and
treat you accordingly. We want to end feudalism.
Harihar Dahal: You see many janjati
youths going abroad for jobs. There is no way to employ them
immediately at home. We said the problem is with feudalism.
Will we give space to feudalism in the next constitution as
well? Since the foreigners have a big impact, what is there
to say that it will not happen again?
Dev Raj Dahal's reply
The 21st century democracy should be participatory democracy,
not just inclusive. The constituent assembly takes care of representativeness.
Inclusiveness is a bourgeois term, which calls for inclusion
of those without powers. After the industrial revolution, ideologies
became divided along two separate lines, the capitalist line
and the working line.
In our context, we are trying to adopt everything
in our ideology. The parties are not clear about what they are
following. This leads to unstable policies. They come out with
one policy for the election, quite something else once they
Our policies are all imported- imported from
developed post-industrial revolution countries. Ours is an agrarian
society. They do not fit in our context. Hence, we talk of participation.
Although Marxist analysis can be universally applicable, the
means he mentioned must be changed to suit our context.
Statesmen must treat the whole nation as their
constituency. Politicians limit themselves to their own electoral
constituencies. The local feudals do not care about what all
these mean to them, they just want to boss some section with
their political parties. These are the different kinds of leaders
that we come across everywhere. You decide what kind of leaders
that we have from among these choices.
Ethnic movements for autonomy do not make
rational choices. People say what is convenient to them for
the moment as the issues are generally emotional. When the state
is not democratic all these issues come up. Not just the state,
but even political parties must be democratized.
We see that the Dalits are marginalized in
spite of their traditional monopoly over production. Democracy
seeks separation of powers and prevents monopoly.
Regarding federalism, we saw that resources
were not being distributed properly. Since we have already adopted
federalism, we must think about whether we can bear the economic
burden of managing such a state structure. We will have about
200 ministers to take care of. Hence, our resources must be
taken stock of before working on whether we can address all
Regarding the right to self-determination,
it was Lenin who propounded the idea. The Soviet Union has disintegrated
once again, although there is still a lot of homogeneity. Also
related is the case of de-colonization.
In Germany, the local governments have so
much power that they say that they have the right to self-determination.
In Nepal, we are afraid that we might be following the Indonesian
line. Our leadership has not defined what it wants through federalism.
Also, ethnic issues are being raised by leftist
parties, but Marx only talks of class, not caste. In sum, parties
must take up the social issues in a serious manner.
The monopoly of violence, taxation authority and loyalty to
the state are preconditions for a state's wellbeing. All these
are a waning force in Nepal at the moment. Hence, disintegration
is not just something we fear from federalists but that it is
already happening even without it.
In spite of the overwhelming share of youth
in the population, their participation in power is almost nil.
I think this will change as people become aware and start voting
them to power.
Ever since 2007, we have never had indigenous
policy. All of the development policies have been formed by
outsiders from the modernization theory down to privatization
and structural adjustment. Although we live in the international
regime, and we have signed many international conventions, the
promises that politicians have been making cannot be fulfilled.
Shivaraj Dahal's reply
NEFAS is an academic organization conducting national debates.
The seminar aims to consolidate and strengthen democracy in
the country. Another objective that the seminar has is also
to meet the requirements of the school curriculum for civic
We aim to end the militant culture among political
activists as this weakens democracy and increases tolerance.
I am grateful for the opportunity provided to me to chair an
academic discussion such as this. The seminar today has apprised
us about the quality of leadership that we need.
Regarding the working paper, it has tried
to paint the political picture that we have today giving a historic
background of trends. The paper inspires us to be more politically
accountable and loyal to our nation. It also talks about proper
policymaking so that it is in the popular interest. The paper
treats the people with respect as they are the foundation of
politics and politicians.
It also seeks to show the way for people to
choose leaders capable of showing statesmanship. It calls for
a state structure that accommodates the aspirations of all the
people by making it inclusive. It lays down the conditions for
the youth to become good leaders. The paper therefore prompts
us to build the new Nepal that we want. The constituent assembly
elections are supposed to take place on Asar 6, but the pace
of preparation shows that it may not take place at the stipulated
Inclusive democracy should be based on geography
and communities, not castes and ethnic groups. I think the ability
to give everything in a nutshell is the quality of the writing
shown by Shivaraj Dahal.
Vote of thanks by Shivaraj Dahal.