and Inclusive Citizenship in Nepal
by Centre for Consolidation of Democracy (CCD)
Ritu Raj Subedi
Nepalese state is now in the process of restructuring itself with the people from
diverse classes and communities engaged in socio-political campaigns to ensure
their rights in the new constitution. The agenda of inclusion, identity and citizenship
have now taken a center stage in the peace, transformation and state-building
processes. The debate and discussion on how to consolidate the achievements social,
political and cultural movements of the past are now going on. Gasping the important
of this historic moment, Centre for Consolidation of Democracy (CCD), a forum
of the intellectuals loyal to Nepali Congress party in collaboration with Freidrich-Ebert-Stiftung
(FES), a German political foundation, organized a one-day seminar entitled 'Social
Movement and Inclusive Citizenship in Nepal' in Kathmandu on June 19, 2010. The
objective of the meet was to fathom and assess the identity-based movements, highlight
the role of citizens and bring the voices of the marginalized to the fore. Attended
by the people of cross-section of intellectual circle, the workshop was divided
into two parts - the opening and paper presentation sessions.
Speaking as a key figure at the opening session,
NC acting president and CCD founder Sushil Koirala said that the centre was established
to provide a forum to democratic intellectuals in line with vision of BP Koirala.
there was no alternative to democracy, Koirala, also the current patron of the
organization, said that his party would never compromise democracy, freedom of
expression and rule of law.
He noted that social movements
should bring awareness among the people of all groups and communities. The NC
leader observed, "The Nepalese society is facing the threat of extremism
owing to the dwindling power of ideology."
the party's faith in democratic socialism, Koirala urged UCPN-Maoist to give up
politics violence and 'authoritarian attitude' so as to usher the country in the
era of peace, stability and democratic republic.
Planning Commission (NPC) vice-chairman and CCD chairman Dr Jagadish Chandra Pokharel
said that the need of the hour is to expand the constitutional boundary to tie
up the values of social movements, the spirit of inclusive democracy and citizenship
by widening the legal framework. "We should do so without disturbing the
basic value system of the society."
Dahal, FES head of Nepal office, said that genuine social movements fostered the
concept of inclusive citizenship by educating them about rights and responsibilities
and mobilisng them for the attainment of collective interests.
broad-based, nonviolent social movements have an integrative potential as they
embrace the capacity of society to articulate the grievances of citizens, communicate
the unfavorable condition of society through media, form public opinion for social
change and emancipate the citizens through the realization of rights," he
Stating that constitutionalism, democratic leadership
and citizenship competence were needed for social transformation, Dahal stressed
for tying up citizenship to nationality and bringing sound population policy to
build a cohesive and democratic nation-state.
committee member and CA member Shovakar Parajuli asked the civil society members
to judge as to which political party abided by the past agreements and which party
failed to implement them.
CCD vice-chairman Dr. Yagya Prasad
Adhikari said that the time had come to evaluate the political system the country
has been practicing for the last two decades.
who is also known as an expert on democratic socialism, said that democratic socialism
passed through difficult time since 1990s.
He said that
the NC played a vital role in various social movements and now it should focus
on social justice to realize the objectives of such movements.
Rai, CCD general secretary, said that the center, which was established 18 years
ago, aimed at consolidating democracy by spreading its values and principles to
"Intellectual community should
significantly contribute to the promotion of democracy by giving voice to the
marginalized people," Rai said.
director Sumit Sharma Sameer said that social movement has three fundamental aspects
- collective mission, collective agenda and collective emancipation.
said that the hill-origin people living in Terai were facing identity crisis.
"In Terai, they are treated as pahades (hill-origin people) and in the hill,
they are called madhesis."
second part of the seminar saw the presentation of three working papers - Understanding
the Social Movement in Nepal - A General Perspective by Mohan Das Manandhar, Social
Movement and Identity Politics in Nepal by Mrigendra Bahadur Karki and Democracy
and Citizenship Building in Nepal' by Yuba Raj Ghimire. Participants actively
took part in the discussion of the papers. As most of them were from educated
class, their comments, questions and curiosity on the experts' papers were lively,
interesting and thought provoking.
Movement in Nepal - A General Perspective
In his working
paper, Manandhar offers conceptual framework to social movement and tries to scan
it through different historical events of Nepal starting from early 1920s to 2006.
He defines social movement as a type of group action in which individuals or organizations
focus on specific political or social issue to carry out, resist or undo a social
Manandhar uses the concept of frame, borrowed
from DA Snow and RD Benford, to explain social movements, which consists of three
elements - diagnostic framing (problem identification and attribution), prognostic
framing (proposed solution to the problem), and motivational framing (the means
to attain the goals). For example, the social movements of 1920 -1951, which reflected
people's revolt against Rana regime, can be put into Manandhar's framing concept
this way: the diagnostic framing - the Rana rulers captured state powers and resources
illegitimately resulting into the dispossession of the peoples' rights; prognostic
framework - making Nepal a democratic state and motivational framing - armed revolution
to topple down the autocratic regime.
He, however, said
that western concepts of social movements might not exactly apply to the Nepalese
context because of geographical and cultural variations.
four major social movements in the last 70 years, resulting in social and political
structural changes in 1951, 1979, 1990 and 2006. These movements are intermingled
and difficult to separate each other. The crusaders of such movements applied
both violent and peaceful means to bring about desired socio-economic changes.
gives the example of Newar community as to how the social movement brought a change
in its structural pattern. The political change in 1950 abolished mandatory rule
that limited Newars, for example, Manandhars (except those assigned to advise
Ranas) to specific business such as oil expeller, selling food, clothes and drinks.
But when the legal barrier broken down, specific caste within Newars began to
explore their potentials in the area of business, administration and knowledge
Grassroots organizations such as forest users,
micro-credit and cooperative groups; civil society and ethnicity-based organizations,
which rose after 1990 political change, played an important role in social and
political movements, he said.
He noted that social exclusion
was one of the key factors, which the Maoist applied to fuel their violent insurgency
against the state in 1996.
"In recent time,"
Manandhar said, "new elements such as solidarity, action and network, have
emerged as catalytic agents of the social movements."
on his paper, Govinda Bahadur Tumbhang, said that the writer has conveyed hot
theme in mild tone but it failed to include some important aspects.
said that it did not make a clear distinction between social and political movements
and forgot to mention social justice, which he said, is an important objective
of any social movement.
"It is highly theoretical
and does not correlate the concept of equal society with that of autonomy and
right to self-determination, which have now become hot issues," he said.
were many commentators to express their curiosity and suggestions on Manandhar's
Human rights activist Kapil Shrestha said that politics
has dominated the Nepalese social movements and there was need to keep social
movement out of political influences.
One participant said if the paper presenter
had included the social movement launched by social worker Tulasi Mehar, it would
have been far better.
Sumit Sharma Sameer said that the
writer explained identity issue from narrow perspective and failed to recognize
the concept of multiple identities. "He adopted the Marxist approach to highlight
the social movements. Does he mean to say that the future social movements will
be guided by class-oriented conflict?" he questioned.
Rijal asked about the apparatus needed to launch social movements and demanded
a precise definition of elite class and their role in the social changes.
FNJ president Tara Nath Dahal stressed on analyzing the impacts of past social
movements in Nepal. He floated a number of questions: Is social movement rooted
in culture or politics? Which approach - democratic or Marxist - can be effective
to address social movement?
He noted that the Nepalese
widows have in recent past spearheaded a crusade against religions taboos by wearing
red saaris and bracelets but the political parties could not own this social reform.
Dahal, an expert on culture, said that social movements in Nepal have root in
culture and positive aspects of society should be incorporated into social movement.
warned that the identity politics, being carried out under the assistance of donors,
could disintegrate the society.
Chitra Bahadur Karki called
for economic revolution to back social movements. "Our social movements are
donor-driven. We should identify our own agenda for sustainable social changes."
the queries of participants, Manandhar admitted that he applied Marxist analytical
approach to describe the social movements. "The Marxist approach is popular
in the western academic sector."
He said that ultimate
goal of any social movement is to bring about changes in the political structures.
Stating that identity-based politics would lead the country
towards fragmentations, he said that collective and consolidated actions were
necessary to make social movement successful.
the creation of solidarity among the people, the nation must face external threat
as happened in Europe."
Summing up the first session
of the seminar, Dr Jagadish Chandra Pokharel said there lay a gray area between
social and political movements.
There are two types of
social changes - wholesale and issue wise - but they are continuous process, he
said and added that globalization has deep impact on social movements occurring
in the contemporary world.
Social Movement and Identity
Politics in Nepal
Mrigendra Bahadur Karki, in his highly
academic research paper 'Social Movement and Identity Politics in Nepal' describes
motivational factors; networking patterns and dynamic processes of social movements
and identity politics in Nepal.
Karki defines social movement
as one of the vehicles of campaigning to re-make the world through which individual
or collectivities give voices and claims to their grievances and concerns about
the rights, welfare and well being of themselves and other engaging in various
forms of action.
"Since 1990, particularly the post-Maoist
insurgency, various forms of social movements and identities are replacing the
role of political parties or somehow overcoming set political ideologies - socialism,
liberalism and democracy - with sparked social makers: ethnicity, caste, religion
etc are in center of identity discourses," he writes in the paper.
noted that various activities organizations and social movements are substituting
the role of political parties, intermediating citizens and the state in Nepal.
Commenting on his paper, professor Krishna Khanal said
that Karki's dissertation was highly sophisticated and applied advanced research
"With the rise of identity politics,
the ideology has become dead worldwide although the political parties continue
hold its tag," he said and added that in Nepal the Maoist cashed in on identity
politics while mustering support of women, dalit and various ethnic and indigenous
Responding to a query of a participating student,
Khanal said those, who are involved in political activism, feel unhappy when they
come to hear that the day of ideology has come to an end.
democracy is itself an ideology, in which identity politics can be an agenda to
push for social change," he noted.
Karki said that social movement and ethnicity were interrelated with each other.
Nath Dahal questioned the relevance of identity politics in the Nepalese context:
"How much is it democratic and scientific to do politics based on language,
religion, geography and caste?"
From the chair, Dr
Yagya Adhiakri said that social movements give birth to the political movements
and at the same time identity politics is embedded in the social movements.
of Citizenship Building
Citizenship denotes the membership
of political community that is known as the state. But, this membership, as political
scientist Dev Raj Dahal states, stands above individual's membership with the
family, civil society, political parties, market institutions and interest-based
associations. Relationship between the state and the citizens is accepted as a
'social contract' that guarantees certain rights to 'citizens' and at the same
time they are obliged to the state for their own protection, security and common
well-being, writes journalist Yuba Raj Ghimire, in his working paper 'Challenge
of Citizenship Building'.
According to Ghimire, the
Nepalese citizens have only rose for political rights and no so much for other
people oriented issues largely due to the pervasiveness of partisan politics.
He argues that the people have been unable to make their extensive participation
in the debate over state restructuring agenda such as federalism, nationalism
and culture, because of the frequent adjustments of CA calendars.
civic education in the country is weak and therefore, there is delay in transforming
multiple identities of the people into national identity of citizenship,"
He stated that in recent time interests
of the Nepalese citizenries to the state affairs have slackened while the role
of donors in peace process and post-conflict developments have increased, which
he says, poses a challenge to the concept of sovereign citizens.
said that the extension of CA's tenure by a year has sparked a moral question
because the parties did not give a plausible answer of their failure to the citizens
as to why and how they could not to draft the new constitution in time. He attributed
the current political vacuum to the various hasty steps and procedural flaws of
the past four years.
'The political parties may have failed
the people but the citizens will never fail themselves because they are the source
of sovereignty. Therefore, their role, responsibility and challenges have only
grown in the days to come," he concludes.
on his paper, journalist Tara Nath Dahal said that it has been almost 60 years
since the activism of the people began but ironically they were still in the process
of being citizens.
He said that the concept of prerogative
contravened the concept of sovereign citizen.
on the active citizenship for building dynamic lokatantra, he called for enough
discussion on participatory democracy.
the discussion, lawyer Dinesh Tripathi said that democracy building was long process
and formal and procedural democracy hardly helps in creating real citizens.
said. "We, Nepalese are still in the process of transforming from subject
to citizen while the people in the western world are becoming consumers from citizens.
that there existed justice versus peace dilemma, he noted that justice was key
to the lasting peace and stressed on transitional justice to address the grievances
of the people affected during insurgency and transition period.
a large number of participants questioned the political affiliation of the civil
society leaders some others put emphasis on the rights of citizens to bolster
Hari Binod Adhikari, a columnist, said that
the paper has not given due emphasis on civic education, which he said, is an
important instrument to strengthen the citizenship.
Some speakers said
that the working paper failed to interpret autonomy and right to self-determination
in relation to the rights of citizens, and did not clearly define the terms exclusion
A woman participant said that the civil
society and the media were not in position to vigorously raise the rights of citizens
in Terai where the incidents of killing, abductions and extortion have become
"The democratic institutions should not
only blow up the complication of the transition period but also suggest solution
to the problems facing the citizens," she said.
up the session, NC leader Sagar Shumsher Rana said that the citizens and the state
should work together for the betterment of the society.
should be legal apparatus to prevent the people's representatives from abusing
the people's mandate, added Rana.
and informed citizens are prerequisite for a vibrant democracy. So is democracy
for the promotion of active citizenship. Passive citizenship is detrimental to
the health of the nation. The Nepalese people have experienced several social
and political movements in the past but the political leadership often disregarded
the mission of such movements upon ascending to power. Indifference of the people
is to also partly blame for this situation because they could not democratize
the Nepalese political leadership and became unable stop them from going astray.
Now time has come to assert the role of citizens to realize the gist of all past
social movements by framing them in the new constitution and applying to the real
life. The citizens must rise above the partisan interest for building a cohesive,
democratic and equal society.
Raj Subedi is an Associate Editor of The Rising Nepal and can be accessed at firstname.lastname@example.org)