Civic Education: The Role of the Youth in the
Making of a Modern State
Organized by Nepal Foundation of Advanced
9 April 2011, Bardibas, Mahottari
Nepal Foundation for Advanced Studies (NEFAS)
in co-operation with Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) organized
a one day seminar on "Civic Education: The Role of the Youth
in the Making of a Modern State" at Bardibas, Mahottari district.
About 88 participants belonging to different sectors participated
in the seminar. Young social scientist Shiva Raj Dahal presented
a paper titled 'Civic Education for the Youth' and Political Scientist
Mr. Dev Raj Dahal, head of FES, Nepal, gave a brief introduction
of FES and spoke about the current situation in the light of fundamental
principles of democracy. Mr. Chandra Dev Bhatta spoke about the
significance of democracy and the role it has played in developing
civic awareness in various countries. The discussions that followed
reflected the intensive churning that the Nepalese society is
undergoing at present. The participants were also provided with
the booklet 'Handouts on Democracy' and ' Building Modern State
and Constitutional Questions.'
Paper Presentation and Discussion
Shiva Raj Dahal- We have gathered today
in Baridabas to discuss the topic "The role of civic education
in strengthening the relationship between the people and local
self-government." NEFAS focuses on issues connected to
civic education, nationalism, economy and society. It has so
far published thirty-five books. These books are used as teaching
materials for classes running from the ten plus two level to
the master's level. Around two hundred thousand students are
required to study these books. The government has decided to
make civic education compulsory for students of class eleven
and part of its contents have gone into the reading requirement
of Public Service Commission. These books are required reading
for students sitting for the section-officer level exams and
also for those under-secretaries vying for the post of joint-secretary.
Students attending the army's command course are also required
to be familiar with it.
There are no people's representatives at the
local government level at present. This has created a difficult
situation. Local governance constitutes the foundation of democracy.
How can this aspect of democracy be strengthened? We have sent
our representatives to make a new constitution. We have to apply
pressure on them to include the issues that concern us in the
new constitution. Our education system is only producing workers
for foreign countries. Who is going to guarantee that our rights
are upheld in such a situation? We have to stop the youth from
emigrating and create job opportunities within the country as
they are entitled to both constitutional rights and duties.
We would like to thank you all for accepting our invitation.
I would like to request Mr. Gokul Prasad Sharma,
who has been involved in the education sector since a long time,
to assume the chairmanship. Prof. Ananda P. Shrestha has taught
English for twenty-eight years in Tribhuvan University and is
at present the executive director of NEFAS. He has translated
Muna Madan into English. Mr. Dev Raj Dahal was affiliated with
CNAS and the Political Science Department for a long time. He
was visiting research scholar at Berkley for some time. He is
ready to answer any queries that you may have. Mr. Chandra Dev
Bhatta is from Baitadi and has done his doctorate on Nepal's
civil society from the London School of Economics. I would like
to request Mr. Ananda Shrestha to give a welcome speech from
the side of the organizers of this seminar.
Prof. Ananda P Shrestha-Chairman, our
friends from FES, Mr. Dev Raj Dahal and Mr. Chandra Dev Bhatta
and friends. Nepal Foundation for Advanced Studies was established
in 1993 with a view to organize dialogues on public issues and
make people aware of many policy related questions. This organization
conducts seminars in different parts of the country and then
publishes the proceedings in a book form and distributes it.
Our objective is to initiate discussions on issues that have
aroused national concern. We have published around forty-five
books so far and these books have dealt with such issues as
development, civil society, civic education, water resources,
security, economics and rural development. These books are prescribed
for courses running from the ten plus two level to the post
graduate level. The political science, economics, rural development
and sociology courses have incorporated these books in their
course of study.
The topic of this seminar needs no explanation
as it aims to create active citizens through public awareness
on their rights and responsibilities. The people have not been
able to enjoy the fruits of democracy as political participation
is confined to either movement or agitation. Since the past
two to three years we have been without a proper constitution.
We were determined not to limit the seminars we hold only to
Kathmandu. It is due to this stance that we are present here
today. In Kathmandu we only hold a limited number of programs
related to macro-policy because this will hinder us from listening
to the viewpoints of those residing outside the valley.
Shiva Raj Dahal will present a paper. Due to the present situation
of delay in drafting constitution, peace process and reforms
the frustration among the people is rising. How can the country
proceed along the right constitutional track? We believe that
this is not possible without the youth assuming the leadership
of the civil society and political parties. They must have access
to the decision-making level. Mr. Shiva Raj Dahal will dwell
on these issues. This paper is not complete. It might have failed
to include relevant points. We are in the process of further
refining this paper. Suggestions from the side to the participants
will be of help. Since the beginning FES has been helping us
in our endeavor. Without their help this work would not have
been possible and I would like to express my thanks to FES.
It is necessary to strengthen the relationship between local
governance and the people. I would like to request Mr. Dev Raj
Dahal to shed light on this issue.
Dev Raj Dahal- I would like to first
to briefly introduce Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES). Established
in the memory of Friedrich Ebert, the first social democratic
president, the stiftung is guided by four core values. 1) Freedom-without
which there can be no freedom of expression, organization and
democracy. 2) Social Justice-it believes that only when the
weaker section of the society has a stake in the system can
it be sustained. It is working worldwide to further the interests
of women, dalits and workers. B.P. Koirala and Willy Brandt
were friends and both were members of the Socialist International.
Willy Brandt wrote a report in which he stressed that if the
developed countries did not help the poor countries the people
of those countries would try to immigrate to the developed countries.
If the poor countries began to develop this sort of problem
would not arise. It recommended that the developed countries
allocate 1.7% of their GDP to aid poor countries. 3) Solidarity-
If the fruits of development are not equitably shared instability
will occur. Germany provides aid directly as well as through
the UN and INGOs for Nepal's development. The number of people
below the poverty line is being reduced through programs such
as the Poverty Alleviation Program. We do not make policies.
The legislature, the judiciary and the executive organs are
weak. The problems we face do not recognize national boundaries.
Climate change is taking place and Himalayan snow is melting
fast due to global warming. This will affect the tourism industry
as well as the generation of hydroelectric power. Due to the
paucity of water people will be forced to migrate. Maldives
faces the risk of being submerged. How can the world help us
to deal with such problems? The rise in global temperature is
not our fault. This was caused by the process of industrialization.
The hole in the ozone layer is growing. It has led to growth
of cancer cases in Austrilia. We need to think about these problems.
International cooperation is essential to solve our problems,
4) Peace- Willy Brandt had remarked that peace is nothing by
itself but without it nothing can happen. Gautam Buddha is the
preeminent apostle of peace. He was the last Buddha. The fourteen
to fifteen other Buddhas belonged to various countries such
as China, India and Sri Lanka. Peace brought through the use
of violence cannot be sustained as it breeds a culture of violence.
A peace agreement has been signed in Nepal but institutions
necessary to underpin it has not yet been established. A big
question mark has been raised over whether a new constitution
will be promulgated within the deadline set. Speculations such
as a) a skeletal draft will be presented, b) the term of the
constituent assembly will be extended, and c) president's rule
will be declared are rife. What is the best option for us and
If a country attempts to destroy its historical
and civilizational roots the state will turn into a failed state.
There were only seventeen states in existence when Nepal came
into being. Now we are being portrayed as a fragile state. Only
a strong state is capable of putting into practice the rights
given to its citizens. The Interim Constitution of 2007 has
guaranteed the right to work, food and the rights of the children,
women and the disabled but implementation is weak. The money
raised by tax accounts for only twelve percent of the GDP. What
type of policy will suit Nepal? More thought needs to be given
to this question. Only the state must have the right to impose
punishments and levy taxes. The citizen's primary loyalty should
be to the state. People living within a state have multiple
identities. The sense of being a citizen should overlie these
different identities. All the citizens of the country are equal.
We do not derive our rights by means of our being a member of
a party, civil society or communal organization. Citizenship
is the membership of the state on the basis of which we derive
our rights. But there are duties also. If we fall prey to divided
loyalties the country becomes weak. If a country is strong it
can exist without the benefit of international recognition.
Till the early 1970s, China was not recognized by many countries.
Later it was given membership of the Security Council and provided
with veto power. These days China has established herself as
a strong country and is providing help to other countries.
Remittances account for twenty-three percent
of the GDP. The Middle Eastern countries are at present in turmoil
and a devastating Tsunami has hit Japan. Nepalese are beginning
to return home from these countries and this will affect our
revenue. To transform people into citizens the rights and duties
of the citizens and the state must be clearly defined. Both
sides should have a clear understanding of this aspect. We have
organized civic education and state-building in sixty-five districts.
In the past the state was created through the top-down approach.
To make the state strong it is necessary to build the state
from the bottom-up. If the people are inactive the leaders cannot
be made accountable. The Swiss hold referendums to decide crucial
issues and their citizens have to reflect on policy issues.
In our country since parliament is not interested in policy
questions foreigners, as an external stakeholder, make policies.
If the policies are crafted according to the local situation
they become sustainable. Our forefathers' knowledge of the local
conditions made the creation of this country feasible. Buddha
was well versed in scriptures, Like Kant in Germany, and held
interaction with the local people to find out what aspects of
the scripture they found relevant. These aspects were assimilated
in his teachings and policies. Whenever the idea of peace, sustainability
and social development is discussed Buddha has to be mentioned.
John Galtung from Norway had come to Nepal to assist the peace
process some years back. He asked me why the Nepalese did not
learn from a famous teacher who was their own countryman. I
became curious and wanted to know the name of the famous scholar.
He replied the person was known as the Buddha. Buddha believed
the goal of people was freedom, that of the society was development,
of nature sustainability, of religion was adaptability and that
of the world was peace. True peace can only come from the change
brought about by peaceful means. The Western countries are interested
in this heritage but we remain ignorant of it. The Nobel Prize
winner, Prof. Elinor Ostrom, made a study of Nepal and used
that knowledge in her scholarship. A seminar was held to learn
from the constitution adopted by Nepal in 2046 in South Africa.
Now we are learning from them. Not everything from the past
is bad we have many fine traditions.
How can the process of reconciliation be given
impetus? Transformation of conflict is possible if the process
is rooted in local culture. The Western society is based on
class while ours is based on caste. The parties seek to indoctrinate
their members by painting their rivals as villains. Many newspapers
are also party based. The English language papers only print
what suits their financiers. Our civic societies are rights
based. In the West the civic societies criticize the wrong works
of the government. In Nepal they tend to attack the state. If
the state is strong local governance will be strong. The core
concept of republicanism is that the people are the sovereign.
But here the leaders are not interested in local issues. In
a secular state the federal units cannot be ethnic or racial-identity
based. We can choose or reject any ideology. But if violence
takes an ethnic color the problem cannot be solved. We must
become citizens and make our national identity strong.
There are two types of rights-positive and
negative. The right pertaining freedom from the state intervention
is negative rights while those that are designed to uplift citizens
and poor are positive rights. It is necessary to strike a balance
between these two types of rights. In a democratic state which
is endowed with the right of self-determination local people
make their own policies. In a country that is colonized outsiders
determine the policy. The people can be sovereign only when
their country is sovereign and then only can they formulate
their own policies. A welfare state is created for its citizens.
If the access of foreigners and special interests cannot be
regulated the schemes meant for the citizens will be taken advantage
of by non-citizens. At present refugees from twenty-seven countries
are living in Nepal. The army must recruit only from amongst
its citizens. Without security development is not possible.
If the institutions that are the pillars of the state become
weak and loyalty becomes divided a country will suffer. In the
post-conflict scenario, stress must be put on elements that
unite the Nepalese. The political parties tend to be utilitarian.
The citizens must warn them if they deviate from the correct
path. If policies and identities are only based on gender, class
and ethnicity the state becomes divided. Reconciliation, peace
and development are the need of the hour.
Democracy becomes strong only if the local
governance becomes strong. Before the stress was on the government
now it is on governance. Different institutions work together
at this level. The Noble Prize winner--- has written that the
work done in the irrigation and community forest sector in Nepal
has been exemplary. The people came together to make the rules,
punish the wrong doers and share the benefits. Such schemes
are sustainable. The same principles can be used to run a state.
If such is not the case corruption will thrive and there will
be no accountability. Around sixty-five percent of the population
is living below the poverty line. If the common people are not
able to benefit from a system politics will tend to be unstable.
During elections leaders woo the people and seek to identify
themselves with them but once elected they consider themselves
to be a different class. At present twenty-seven businessmen
are members of the Constituent Assembly. Most of them figure
in the list of VAT and bank defaulters. Conscious people can
direct the country towards the correct path and then we will
be able to develop.
In the Middle East oil is found but it can
be used neither as drinking water nor for irrigation. New Zealand
and Denmark have become developed nations by exporting dairy
products. Switzerland makes use of a kilogram of iron to make
valuable watches. We in Nepal are blessed with geographical
diversity. That is why tourists flock to this country. Our people
have knowledge and if it is put to use the benefits will be
immense. The knowledge imparted in the political science, social
science and economic courses should be based on balancing universal
and indigenous knowledge. Here local knowledge is based on the
agrarian way of life. Such knowledge can be useful.
Our international image has taken a battering.
In the past Nepal had defeated Japan in an electoral contest
held to choose non-permanent members of the Security Council.
On another occasion she was elected unopposed. But some time
back she managed to garner only twenty-seven votes. Recently
Nepal also failed in her bid to bag the post of the president
of the General Assembly by a huge margin. The foreigners might
pity us and provide aid but if we become poor because of our
own failure self-dignity is lost.
Shiva Raj Dahal- Mr. Chandra Dev Bhatta
will present the highlights of the handbook. If any of you have
questions, especially those related to international relations,
Mr. Dev Raj Dahal will be glad to answer them. Please read this
paper in your spare time. I will highlight the problems facing
the country. Your role will be to act as a doctor and provide
the cure. Your ideas will be incorporated when conclusions are
drawn in the book.
Knowledge cannot be found in the capital only.
I have been to sixty-five districts in the course of organizing
seminars on different issues. The proceedings of the seminars
have been published in book form. Knowledge is to be found in
the remote areas. I came across a person from Japan in Doti.
He was a student of Tokyo University. I asked him what he was
doing in such a remote place. He replied that his professor
had told him that his education would not be complete until
he spent time in Doti. He had come to gain knowledge. We have
also come here to learn.
There are two categories of people-janta and
citizens. The first category (janta) keep their problems to
themselves. They cannot express themselves. A citizen on the
other hand has rights. The refugees living in Nepal are janta.
In order to transform oneself from janta to citizens one has
to form opinions about different issues by going through the
media and be conversant with the law. A citizen who travels
to foreign country carries the country's identity with him.
Till now we have not become citizens. We tend to give prominence
to our ethnic, regional and gender identity. We tend to identify
with the political parties. We are given citizenship on the
basis of the father's citizenship. In the United States citizenship
is granted on the basis of birth.
Presentation of Paper
What is civic education? The lessons taught
in schools and colleges are part of civic education. We must
be aware of our duties towards our families, teachers, societies
and nation. Our state and our society can then become strong
and developed. Positive things are also taking place. We need
to know how to turn negative developments into positive direction.
Why civic education is necessary for us? We
are in the transitional stage. The society at present is divided
along various lines on different basis such as caste, religion,
gender and language. Our sense of being Nepalese has weakened.
We have different layers of identities. Our broadest identity
is our sense of Nepaliness. Nepalese citizen ask for rights
but they have forgotten about duties and responsibilities. Civic
education brings about a balance between the rights duties and
responsibilities. We feel proud to become the citizens of a
foreign country. We have to think about what can be done to
enhance our pride in being Nepalese. Civic education helps to
make us conscious of this need. Our boundary is being encroached.
Yes, India is stronger than us but can we not internationalize
this issue? The youths and media can pressurize the leaders
on this issue. This is another reason why civic education is
necessary. From a practical point of view also this education
is necessary. The youths are not aware of the need to shut public
taps to conserve water and to turn off public lights during
day time despite load-shedding.
The court has prohibited smoking in public
places. But in public gatherings we seek out places in order
to smoke. Who is to teach people? Civic education is the medium
to teach people about these issues. Respect for elders, considerate
behavior towards the juniors and other such aspects of socialization
is inculcated through the means of civic education. There is
trend among the good students to leave the country. Only students
poor in studies and those who lack money remain in the country.
Where will this take the country? The labor of the youth should
be exerted for the good of their families and country's sake
and not only for the foreigners. The people should understand
their duty towards the country and towards themselves. If a
person is healthy the country becomes healthy. Even if the youth
leave the country for foreign lands they should be aware of
their responsibility towards the country. Their behavior outside
will reflect on the country. The parties have created a militant
culture among the youth of the country. There should have been
one student organization working for the welfare of the students
of the country. However each party has its student wing and
each seeks to create hurdles in the functioning of others. This
creates conflict. Civic education is thus also necessary to
make the students aware of their responsibilities to the nation
Mr. Chandra Dev Bhatta presented the highlights
form the handbook. Chandra Dev Bhatta- As the handbook has lot
in common in what they have said, I will present the issues
in a different way in order to avoid going over the same matter
again. The handbook has presented the issues in a formulaic
The Nepalese have been fighting for change
since the last sixty years. In this period six constitutions
have been promulgated, that is at a rate of one per every ten
years. The Nepalese are democratic by nature and want democracy
and change. They also want to see the country become strong.
Recently the tendency has been to engage in the politics of
censure. It is our responsibility also to set things right.
The people at large are not aware of their responsibility. Civic
education seeks to make people conscious. Constant effort is
required in this regard. Conscious citizens will be able to
hold the government to account. In the developed countries also
stress is given to civic education. Two weeks ago the news-magazine
Newsweek ran a story on the results of survey conducted among
the American youth to find out their levels of awareness concerning
different aspects of democracy. Only twenty-seven percent of
the respondents gave the correct reply. A similar type of survey
conducted in 1960 had revealed a divided society. The authorities
believed that civic education would rectify such problems. In
Germany and UK also similar programs have been conducted. Continuous
effort has been undertaken to provide civic education to people
of different age groups. They have sought to forge a national
identity from the assorted identities. For democracy to thrive
a strong state is needed. People at present have not been able
to experience democracy in their day to day lives.
The meaning of democracy is defined in the
handbook. Democracy means the rule of the people within a fixed
territory. This is the reason why the state needs to be strong
in order for democracy to thrive. The Nepali state was strong
in the past. Because of our inferiority complex we believe we
are backward. Copernicus had come to the conclusion that the
earth was round and told his friends that he could prove it.
This information came to the notice of the Palace and he was
summoned by the king. He was accused of spreading false information
and creating instability in the society. Copernicus denied that
he ever had said that the earth was round when confronted by
the king. Later when his friends accused him of not sticking
to his stand, he replied that that he had only four pieces of
evidence to back up his claim while the king had one thousand
rifles at his disposal. Arya Bhatta had discovered this fact
four to five hundred years prior to Copernicus and he was not
persecuted for his discovery.
India and Nepal were not weak before. One
thousand years ago there was no India and the present boundaries
were then unknown; there was a particular civilization only.
This unit accounted for twenty-nine percent of the world economy.
Asia has been poor only in the last two hundred to three hundred
years. It is now on the rise and reclaiming its former position.
If our diverse resources are properly utilized we can become
strong. In the past it was our forefathers who constructed such
as magnificent structure like Pashupatinath. If we do not choose
our leaders and policy with care the state will become weak.
If we are conscious we can change things. To some extent change
is already taking place. New leaders are emerging.
The first generation of democratic discourse
stressed the concept of freedom. But for the poor, freedom proved
elusive. The issue of justice then gained prominence. The strong
want freedom while the weak want justice. It is necessary to
strike a balance between these two concepts. Then only security
can be ensured. The third wave of democratization puts stress
on social justice. Human Rights- Democracy and human rights
by themselves are not sufficient. The rule of law is equally
necessary. Then only will the rights be guaranteed. Rich law-breakers
can escape justice by hiring expensive lawyers while the poor
might have to spend time in jail. In countries where the poor
are in the majority such a denial of justice can led to rebellion.
Democracy is being limited to books and not practiced in reality
in many cases. The leaders seem to preach only. Political power
must not be used to undermine laws. In Nepal this sort of thing
has occurred. After 2046 such incidents has happened many times.
The court controversially gave diametrically different judgments
on two different cases concerning the reinstatement of the parliament.
The judiciary must be independent.
Corruption-The biggest problem we are facing
is corruption. One hundred and twenty business houses control
this country. Many of them do not pay taxes and are loan defaulters.
They are entrenched in the system and their behavior makes a
mockery of the rule of law. How can we correct such behavior?
The people must be aware of their rights and socially boycott
such persons. In South India such measures are taking place.
In Nepal also such measures will definitely be initiated. Pluralism-In
a pluralistic society different ideologies and religions exist
together. Some countries, however, find it hard to manage such
diversity. Japan is a homogeneous society. In Nepal our diversity
can be used to our advantage. At present such differences are
being exploited for political purposes.
Elections-Regular elections are a must for
political parties. There is an unhealthy practice of one person
occupying the post of a party president for ten, fifteen years.
New leaders will bring fresh ideas that reflect the changes
the society is undergoing. Political Culture- We talk about
democracy but our political culture is not democratic. We do
not treat each other with respect nor do we give the younger
generation a chance.
Political Party- Whatever ideologies the political
parties subscribe to, their main function is to act as a bridge
between the people and the government. The parties should build
a consensus on such issues as foreign policy, development and
development of hydroelectricity. The parties unite to change
regimes but once that is accomplished they bicker among themselves
for power. Since 2046 the party that sits in the opposition
has tended to use foreign policy issues to score points over
Dev Raj Dahal- A party that wins an
election can implement its agenda once it forms the government
but must not go against the core interest of the political system
and the state. America has managed to bring revolutionary changes
without dumping her original constitution. We tend to deny rights
to others. The body politic is similar to our body. Viruses
can enter the system and it can develop allergies. We have to
follow a balanced policy. If the people are proactive development
can take place. If one organ of the body develops in an abnormal
manner our body becomes deformed.
The Panchayat system started the policy of
repudiating the rights of the opposition. This trend has continued.
In a parliamentary system problems are solved by acting within
the bounds of the constitution. However our leaders do not want
to work through the Constitution Committee because of questions
of superiority. They formed another sub-committee to bypass
the CA committee. This undermined the possibility to institutionalize
committee system. Attempts have been made to capture the state.
Parties must move forward according to the mandate given to
them. They must work according to the national agenda. Our problems
began when we sought to ignore the existence of others. I regularly
hold discussions with the leaders. They tend to blame each other
when the press is present but in private they discuss problems
soberly. We are trying to bring them under the ambit of social
democracy. The parties are not stable since ideas have ceased
to be the guiding influence and they are falling prey to personal
ego. In Germany even when a conservative party comes to power
it follows the same social and economic policy as followed by
We have provided people with rights but we
do not have the resources to make it meaningful. After the political
changes of 2046 we adopted market economy as our economic model.
The civil society must raise social issues. However due to funding
constraints they did not pursue such issues. There are two types
of intellectuals-organic and transplanted. If we ignore issues
that are valued by the people they will desert us. During the
Panchayat period Hem Bahadur had put forward his wife as a candidate
for a parliamentary seat. When both of them won the election,
King Birendra had admonished Hem Bahdur for turning the political
process into a family affair. In the constituent assembly twenty-eight
pairs of closely related persons are serving at present. It
is hard to change culture. Democracy is associated with territoriality.
This is a word rooted in our history.
Chandra Dev Bhatta- The civil society
acts as a bridge between the citizens and the authorities. But
in our case it is not so. Since 2046 the civil society has been
acting as an NGO. The main problem was that the urban-based
group which opened NGOs after 2046 also transformed themselves
into the civil society. Profit was the primary motivation. They
could not act as a watch-dog to strengthen democracy. The political
parties also gave birth to their own civil societies. As a result
the civil society sector became a divided lot. In 2052-54 the
Maoist moment came into being. During 2062-63 these people (civil
society members) presented themselves as the leaders of the
movement. In a civil society all are equal. Our understanding
of what constitutes civil society has become distorted. Even
as the conflict intensified the civil society grew fatter as
their budget increased. They then turned against the state.
Dev Raj Dahal- One American Professor
had come to meet me in my office in 1993. He bluntly told me
that democracy in Nepal would not survive because there is a
weak civil society. When I asked the reason for his pessimistic
assessment he replied that Nepal lacked enlightenment tradition.
I told him that this was not the case and that Nepal had three
sources of enlightenment to draw on. Janak had the people's
interest at heart. He used to hold discussions with the common
people in order to do the right thing. Bedh is even older than
religion. The third source of enlightenment was Buddha. The
last Buddha was from Nepal. Nalanda University existed during
that period. The word Nalanda is derived from the Magar word
'toss lotus flower'. Our intellectuals are afraid to exhibit
native knowledge for fear of being labeled archaic and tribal.
Bhatta's UK based professor had come to meet me after reading
in my book about such issues.
Many schools, colleges, hospitals, public
inns and resting places in Terai have been established by private
individuals. They might not have been well-educated but were
very knowledgeable and knew the concept of civility, charity
and public service. Those with doctorates have knowledge that
is confined to a narrow field. A seminar had been held in Kathmandu
on the issue of transforming conflict. The different scholars
came up with suggestions based on their disciplinary perspective.
I then told them of an incident that I had witnessed in the
village. Two people got into a fight but the villagers gathered
and resolved the conflict. They were not experts on conflict
but managed to resolve the problem through discourse. Justice
lies at the base of the concept of sin and virtue. In the courts
a case is won on the basis of evidence. If one is financially
strong it is possible to win complicated cases. The weak might
be deprived of justice. The organic civil society has grown
weak. If economic considerations dominate politics it will make
the system weak. Politics should be taken as service. The public
domain must not be made partisan. The job of politicians is
to make laws and endow it with legitimacy. In the past values
were based on spirituality. In the West fifty percent of the
families consist of single parents. This has made the society
emotionally unstable. They have now started celebrating 'family
year' to emphasize the benefits of the family. Secular knowledge
has its limits.
Chandra Dev Bhatta- The media is responsible
for keeping the public informed and helping them influence debates
on public issues. However the media in Nepal is controlled by
businesses houses in Kathmandu and in the outlying areas the
media is controlled by influential families. Whether such type
of media will work for genuine democracy is an open question.
Instead of advocating principles and the interest of the people
they tend to advance business and family interests. Every sector
needs to be transformed. The West had also gone through this
phase. We need to shorten the transitional period. What type
of democracy is in our interest; liberal democracy or social
democracy? The United States and UK follow the liberal model
while Germany and the Scandinavian country follow the social
democratic model. In countries where the poor are in the majority
the social democratic model is more appropriate to minimize
the chances of conflict. The economic system might be similar
but the gap between the poor and the rich is narrower in the
social democratic system. In Nepal poverty is not being effectively
tackled because in such an environment the radical slogans adopted
by the parties resonate with the public and the leaders can
then use such sentiments to entrench themselves in power. In
the constitution different types of rights are guaranteed. The
model of democracy the country adopts must help make such rights
a reality otherwise conflict can break out again. Five lakh
youth a year enter the labor market but hardly twenty-five to
thirty-thousand can find employment in the government sector.
The rest have no choice but to emigrate in search of work. If
all such problems can be addressed then sustainable peace is
Dev Raj Dahal- We are at present experiencing
the third wave (generation) of democratization. Before the eighteenth
the bourgeoisie centred democracy was practiced. After the industrial
revolution two classes of people emerged-the rich and the poor.
In Germany, England and the United States two-party system came
into being. The two major parties were based on class interests.
Their constitutions were the product of compromise and reflected
the middle ground. The rich were to be taxed and the proceeds
were to be used for the benefit of the poor. In Germany eighty
percent of the people belong to the middle class while in Japan
they account for ninety percent of the population. This has
helped to mitigate class conflict. The second generation of
democratization was representative in character. The principal
characteristic of the third generation of democratization is
that it is inclusive and participatory. During the WTO conferences
the Nepal government sends ten participants while the number
of participants from the civil society touches a hundred. The
definition of democracy has changed over time. The people now
demand that they be allowed to participate in the decision-making
process so that they may have a say in any decision made in
Technology has also been changing with the
times. The age of steam engines gave way to the electronic age
and now we are in the information age. The second phase was
the age of mass production. In today's world, however, one can
earn more by producing microchips than by producing one thousand
tractors. Those countries which are capable of assimilating
changes can grow stronger. The first period emphasized political
and economic rights while the second period gave equal emphasis
to social, economic and cultural rights while the third phase
has advanced the concept of social democracy.
Sixty-five percent of the population in Nepal
is making do with an income of two dollars a day. Justice must
be ensured. Eighty-two percent of the members of the constituent
assembly have leftist orientation and as a result the contours
of the constitution will be tilted towards the left. Freedom
and justice must move forwards in tandem. Buddha was not only
a religious figure but also a scientist. John Galtung studied
and synthesized the different religions of the world. In terms
of knowledge and science we are not weak. If our diverse heritage
can be properly synthesized we can create something precious.
Recently the Chinese bought 80,000 copies of Geeta from India.
We have to change with the times and master new fields of knowledge
as dictated by world spirit. The country can be divided into
five or six regional units. If a complex type of federal system
is adopted, tea produced in Ilam will be taxed in three locations
before it even reaches the export market. This will make Ilam
tea uncompetitive. People of Mustang donated rupees twenty-three
lakhs to the Koshi flood victims. Nepal is rich in diversity.
Because of this characteristic Nepal has become a center of
attraction for foreign academics. Despite being gifted many
things by Nature we have become donor dependant. We must learn
to act as conscious human beings.
Shiva Raj Dahal-We will now open the
floor for discussions. We are ready to answer any queries are
open to suggestions.
Surya Narayan Das- In Nepal we change
our constitution every ten years while in other countries only
amendments to the constitution are made. Why do we need to totally
change the constitution? It might be because the past constitutions
were made to advance personal interests and the interests of
the capitalist and the feudal class and thus became incapable
of being an inclusive document. Mr. Dev Raj Dahal has said that
it is not necessary to totally revamp the constitution. How
will such changes affect the state?
Dev Raj Dahal- In America slavery was
abolished by working within the ambit of the constitution. During
the Panchayat period the Congress and the Communist parties
were banned legally but in practice their activities were tolerated.
The political system was conservative but the education culture
was relatively liberal. It produced engineers and doctors but
did not provide an avenue for them to participate in the governance
process. The system could not provide an outlet and as a result
the political changes of 1990 took place. Later the Maoists
were banned and the lawyers justified this step by taking recourse
to the doctrine of necessity. A change in mentality has not
Surya Narayan Das- Change is necessary
but not wholesale changes. Some aspects of the new constitution
will be a continuation of the previous ones. Is enlightenment
necessary for political leaders or not? Schools to impart such
knowledge are necessary. We have not become cosmopolitan in
Dev Raj Dahal- Our organization runs
seven academies in Germany to provide training to people from
the age of seven to eighty. They are taught about different
aspects of democracy and about why it is necessary for Germany
to provide aid to other countries. Even such a country gave
birth to a person such as Hitler. I had invited the four leaders
of different political parties to Hotel Himalaya for discussions
on civic education so that a common socialization can contribute
to civic culture. I had told them that they were transforming
their parties into fundamentalist organizations by producing
militant cadres. This is a threat to democracy.
Surya Narayan Das- The culture of militancy
is on the rise. Even educated people are coming under its influence.
Dev Raj Dahal- Handouts on Democracy
has been written to counter such thinking. It is necessary to
teach this subject from class three. There is also a lack of
enlightenment within the parties. Politics must be inclusive
but there is division within parties. The public domain must
not used for personal profit. People who see politics as another
form of business will not vote without being paid. This handbook
has also been made available to the election commission and
many public organizations and parties.
Surya Narayan Das- I am sad to hear
that the leaders of the civic society are also after money.
What will be the fate of the country when leaders behave in
such a manner?
Dev Raj Dahal- They have realized their
mistakes and are repenting. The real civil society is found
in the villages. They are infused with the spirit of voluntarism.
This is the reason why projects run by locals are more effective
than those run by the government agencies. There must be a sense
of ownership. Some changes have taken place in the villages
also. There is no local government at present but the process
of governance has not come to a halt. We have strong societies
but a weak state. People are now more conscious and the rate
of participation is high. The Rautes have now become capable
of interacting with the government. These are positive changes.
Binod Baral- The society is becoming
divided because of political differences. We have to end the
division within society. It would be better if those elected
to the parliament concentrated on their law making duties and
technical experts were made ministers to run the country. This
might lessen divisions and help social change take place.
Dev Raj Dahal- In Germany this sort
of arrangement exists. The people's representatives concentrate
only on drafting laws and they do not get bogged down in ministerial
duties. We borrowed our system from India. In a democratic system
of checks and balances the judiciary, legislature and the executive
are all independent organs. The civil society must play a mediatory
role. It will take time to develop the system. In politics of
scarcity money is needed and the people's representative use
government funds to nurse their constituency. In such a situation
the new faces will find it hard to challenge entrenched incumbents.
The youth cannot avail of inter-generational justice and their
avenues of advancement are blocked. Fresh blood is prevented
from entering the circulatory system. This has made our polity
Binod Baral- If this sort of provision
is enshrined in the constitution it would be better.
Dev Raj Dahal- This sort of arrangement
can be incorporated.
Sharada Dhungana (UML leader)- The
issue of citizen and jat has been raised. Are these two things
different? The issue of unequal treaties has also been mentioned.
The paper also mentions free education. Can Nepal sustain such
a policy? Who has defined the terms Madheshi, Dalit and Indigenous?
What is the historical background of Janjatis? -----Bishwamitra---
was the priest of King Janak and his ashram was based in Bara.
When Sita married Ram the Bishwamitra accompanied Sita to her
new home. Are the progeny of the priest Pahade or Madeshi? Who
can give a definite answer? According to B.C. Sharma, Lord Shiva
belonged to the Kirat family. In the Swasthani Barthkatha hymns
are sung in his honor. Anshuburma named his palace Kailashkut.
From which language is this word derived? In Kathmandu there
is place called Shiva Puri Lekh. Form which historical period
was it so named?
In the 69th chapter of the Skanda Puran written
by Vyas it is mentioned that seven rishis (ne muni) used to
meditate on the bank of the Solu river. The Pasuphat Chetra
is a very ancient place. There was then a country named Palasa
and the name Nepal is a combination of Ne Muni and Palasa. The
Kirats can claim to be indigenous. The word Kirat is distortion
of the word Kichek. It is said that the Kauravs and the Pandavs
had overthrown the Kirat dynasty after reaching Jhapa. Shiva's
place was located in what is now Nepal and he took Parvati there.
In the sankalpa Nepal is mentioned as a part of India. Where
is our national identity when the kings are no more? People
vandalized Prithivi Narayan's statue. Is it because of the fear
of being labeled regressive that his contribution was not mentioned
by the scholars?
Sharad Singh Bhandari had come here to inaugurate a program.
He had declared on that occasion that they planned to make Janakpur
Ramayan Chetra. I was astounded at what he had to say. This
area is Janak Chetra. Ram had married Janak's daughter but there
is only a small temple dedicated to Janak in Janakpur while
the temple built to honor Ram is huge one. This is an insult
to the father-in-law of Ram. No research has been conducted
on the life of Janak. Where is the national spirit? Temples
of Ram are found all over Nepal but not those of Janak. Krishna
had admonished Arjun and told him not to be a coward and to
ready to fight for India. The god who fought for India has been
gifted to us. Rahul Gandhi's wife had been prevented from visiting
Pashupatinath when she visited Nepal. From that point onwards
the Indians have been inciting the Tarai people.
King Ashoka had visited Nepal and erected
pillars in Lumbini and three locations in Kathmandu. Nepal's
history lies hidden. The history we are using had been written
by the English. Lord Shiva and Prithivi Narayan have fallen
into the shadows. The Kirats first unified Nepal. Ganesh was
the son of Shiva. There is no sense of nationality in Nepal.
The Nepalese currency has been changed three times. Since the
treaty of 2007 it is called Ne Ru. This sounds like Nehru. Nepalese
nationalism cannot be safeguarded only by calling India names.
Before kings such as Prithivi Narayan had safeguarded our identity?
Who is to defend our nationality now? Girija Prasad had gone
to India and signed an agreement on water resources but on his
return termed it an understanding. The court restored Nepalese
pride by giving the correct judgment on this issue.
The paper did not mention the contributions of BP Koirala and
Man Mohan Adhikari. You all have given examples form Japan and
Germany. It looks like the foreigners have conditioned our scholars
to view the world from their perspective. Thank you.
Dev Raj Dahal- In other countries parties
have their own sources of income. In Nepal parties raised money
for election by privatizing industries and by raising the price
of goods, individual donation, NGOs and business community.
This has posed difficulty for them in making people-friendly
Sharda Dhungana- The spirit never dies
and it cannot be killed. A country can exist today and disappear
Dev Raj Dahal- If people are conscious
of their nationality it can be kept alive even when a country
is no more. We do not label the movement of 2063 as Jana Andolan
II as this will devalue the contributions of BP Koirala, Manmohan
Adhikary and Prithivi Narayan Shah. We do not celebrate Unity
Day anymore. This is the result of the twelve point agreement.
As long as we are proud to be Nepalese, Nepal will not disappear.
It is in the foreigner's interest also that we continue to survive
as a nation. The British changed the name of Hindustan. The
Indians acquiesced in the change. If the leaders try to change
the name of this country the people will not agree. We have
not developed the culture of writing our own history. We must
develop the habit of conducting research. Science and religion
are the basis of knowledge. We will survive if we retain our
culture and religion. Like the bamboo we will not break in the
time of adversity, we may bave to bend a little bit. Jati and
jat are Western definitions, not ours. The constitution making
process has become problematic because of such problems. In
the ancient times one of the Brahmins was given the task of
scavenging in order to keep the locality clean and he in course
of time became a dalit. Dalits must choose whether they wish
to identify themselves as a dalit or a Nepali. We must stress
our common citizenship. We cannot move forward by ignoring history.
In Nepal we open our mouth first and think later.
Keshav Pokharel (NC leader) ----We
cannot form a government in Nepal without India's blessing.
Are we sovereign?
Dev Raj Dahal- We have relations with
many countries. When Afghanistan emerged as failed state it
resulted in the Twin Tower incident. In order to avoid such
events other nations will seek to prevent us from becoming a
failed state. Different interests are at work in Nepal but we
must seek to balance their interests. But our foreign policy
has become weak as we did not give importance to it. We have
focused our efforts only on our internal affairs. Small countries
need to pay attention to their foreign affairs. Our interminable
conflicts have lowered our international prestige. The leaders
might agree among themselves on some issues but without the
people's support they cannot move forward.
There are three types of leaders-statesman,
leader and ordinary leader. The statesman is a visionary who
prepares people to meet new challenges and helps them avoid
pitfalls. The leader is only concerned with leading his party
to victory in the elections. The ordinary leader seeks to hang
on to power. The constitution making process seeks to give shape
to a particular vision. It seeks to synthesize different viewpoints
and come up with a holistic document. In Nepal's history Prithivi
Narayan stands out as a visionary and an architect. Janga Bahadur
managed to restore Nepalese territory in the Far West. We need
to discard the negative legacy and retain the positive ones.
The Congress party became weak after it discarded
the socialist principles espoused by BP Koirala. Mohan Bikram
was dislodged from the party he founded. UML is not the same
party that it was Madan Bhandari founded it. In the West people
join parties because they believe in its ideology. In Nepal
such is not the case. When opportunistic people reach the higher
ranks of the party they will work towards diluting its belief
system. In Nepal conviction counts for little and parties have
transformed themselves into catch-all parties.
Prem Bhadur Rana (Maoist leader) -
There is around hundred and three jats in Nepal. Who was responsible
for naming this country Nepal? Who was responsible for designating
particular communities as indigenous janjatis? Which came first-
janajatis or Nepal? Peace is necessary but it is necessary to
fight for the right cause. For whom was the janayudha fought
for? The issue of constituent assembly was raised during time
Shiva Raj Dahal- Mr. Sharda Dhungana
is well versed in Sanskrit. The concept of jat as now defined
reflects the thinking of New Nepal. We all belong to the Nepali
jat. The present education system is not socially just. Children
of all classes should study in the same school from the primary
level to---level. The Nepalese have been divided into different
categories by the donors. They are looking for opportunities
to widen and exploit the differences among us.
Gyan Bahadur Gole (eathnic leader)-
The country was ruled on the basis of Hindu values. The problems
of the dalits have not yet been solved. Conflict has existed
since the past. We have to resolve the conflict. We have to
accept positive things irrespective of its origin. We have to
move forward according to the times. Local grievances were not
discussed. The participation of the marginalized groups is low.
We have to adopt models that will enable us to live peacefully.
The Tamangs have been forcefully included in the Hindu classification
of castes. We do not want rule by jatis, the system has to be
inclusive. The conflict has been solved to some extent. The
Tamangs are called bhotes in a derogatory manner while the discrimination
against dalits continues. Wrong practices like sati were abolished
in the past.
Shiva Raj Dahal- The chairman will
now deliver the concluding remarks.
Chairman----- I would like to thank
the well-known scholars for organizing this seminar. Besides
the issue of nationality many other topics were also raised.
Until the citizens become conscious, nationalism will not be
strengthened. In this context I would like to narrate a short
anecdote. Many years back a foreign yogi started to meditate
under a tree in Japan. Nearby there was a primary school in
which a girl was studying in class five. The girl had to go
past the spot where the yogi was meditating on her way to school
and she began to wonder what the yogi ate. Soon she began to
offer her lunch-box to the yogi. This went on for some time.
Then one day the yogi decided to return to his country. He thanked
the girl for looking after him and asked her what she desired.
The girl replied that she had everything. Her only wish was
that when the yogi returned home he should tell his countrymen
that he did not have to go hungry in Japan. The yogi was Swami
Vivekananda and he always spoke highly of Japan when he returned
to India as a result of this incident. By failing to recognize
the contributions of Prithivi Narayan Shah we will loose our
identity. As long as we do not have a feeling of nationalism
we cannot develop. Thank you.