By Dinesh Aryal
Following the dissolution of the Constitutional Assembly which could not even accomplish its assigned task of promulgating constitution for federal Nepal, the dissenting faction of the largest political party of Nepal, United Communist Party – Maoist recently split and formed a new party. The split has worsened the already-chaotic politics of Nepal. Fresh CA election has been announced despite lingering constitutional complications. And now, the country is running on interim constitution in the absence of any legitimate representative body. To cut it short, Nepal – a half-hatched Federal Democratic Republic is in a cul-de-sac. While it is fighting with chaotic politics, relapsing economy, worsening security and surging crimes, the country is meanwhile gestating as a potential flashpoint.
The crux behind the CA dissolution is the incompetency of leaders of the major political parties to reach a consensus on the nature of federal state. The issue of ethno-federalism has occupied the debate and put the main political players at highest odds. Moreover, the issue not only divided the political parties at the top but also reached the ground and sowed the seed of social demarcation among many ethnic and indigenous people living in harmony for centuries. The mass is now widely divided into for and against ethno-federalism. The issue of ethno-federalism in Nepal is shaping itself as an origin-cause of conflict that could perpetuate to the end of time. While the politicians are obsessed with constitution promulgation the insidious effect of grassroots’ division it is delivering is largely ignored.
However, as a result of such division, there has been a growing resentment among various ethnic groups and indigenous population. A stark line of division is being drawn on the grounds of ethnicity and caste. For instance, in a recent gathering, addressing at UCP-Maoist assembly, Secretary of Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (NEFIN) openly warned of molesting anyone against identity and federalism. In a tempered manner he even said ‘the tongue which speaks against the issue of federalism and identity will be pulled out and fed to the street dogs’. The respect to dissenting voice which is an essence of democracy has lost its place in Nepal. Politics conducted with the base of strong intolerance is simply evoking mistrust and tensions. With such intolerant politics and growing resentment among ethnic and indigenous population, the demand of ethno-federalism has laid a base of division.
As the public are diverging from a common point of consensus, identity has come to the fore of the issues thereby giving momentum to identity politics. Meanwhile many parties are entering the political scene by taking the agenda of ‘peoples’ identity. On the other hand, the growing tendency of people supporting political parties not because of ideological decency but because of ethnic affinity is taking politics in a completely perilous trajectory. The politics of Nepal has become a maze. In addition to that, the interests of political parties have been largely narrowed down and even privatized for the so-called welfare of a particular ethnic or indigenous group. As a result, the issues of national interests have lost its luster. While public is divided into many different small groups their interest have not only been their own welfare and development but also the ostracizing of other groups which stand at the opposite end. The recent political unfolding has formed numerous cracks in Nepali population. While the base of Nepali population is now divided into many fragments with different vested interests of their own, the growing disapproval among ethnic and indigenous groups is all too conspicuous. Identity politics is leading country to yet another conflict situation.
Making the matter worse, the social networking media is adding fuel to fire. Various many politically-charged discussion forums and pages have mushroomed. Such websites have become platform for propagandist to spread their agendas. However in the meantime, verbal attacks and insults over such forums and pages have become common too. A fierce tussle mainly clustered around the topic of ethno-federalism is going on among people of different beliefs and ideologies. Mainly youth and the chattering class is busy in blame game hence no healthy debate is taking place. Although the ongoing feud on social networking media might be a subtle development, it certainly carries a potential of delivering a head-on confrontation. Nepal should not forget what social networking media did and is doing is Tunisia, Egypt, Libya or Syria. If it can bring revolution it can trigger violence too.
Finally, when the demand of ethno-federalism has divided the masses down to the core, identity politics has given grounds for people to make demands and put government in a trap. The social networking media is also egging on the scene. Now that there are too many dissenting factions with numerous demands, lack of competent leaders or authority that could address those demands or bring such factions together has left people with no choice other than to take up aggressive ways to have their demands fulfilled. In conclusion, as Nepal lurks in transition with failed politics and diverging public, violence is on sight. Therefore, Nepal once again is on the brink of being a potential flashpoint.
Research Scholar, CPS, SSS, JNU