Ramesh Sunam and Keshab Goutam
Since its formation in 1994, the United Communist Party of Nepal (Maoists) has gone through a number of radical transformations, shifting from a guerrilla warfare unit to a key democratising force within Nepali politics.
The party’s early history is defined by its role in launching the ‘people’s war’ of 1996, a decade-long civil war that resulted in the loss of some 16,000 lives and halted the country’s economic development. The Maoists’ original aim was to benefit the poor and marginalised sectors of Nepali society by uprooting the monarchy and feudalism.
Today, many people question the necessity of the war. But the conflict did succeed in providing marginalised populations – particularly dalits (the so-called untouchables), women, the landless and ethnic and indigenous people – with a wider political space to articulate their grievances. The result was a series of protests and rights movements across the country by the Madhesi (people from the Tarai lowland) and ethnic populations. Such incidents have in turn facilitated the democratisation of Nepali politics. In the first Constituent Assembly election of April 2008, minorities gained substantial representation for the first time in Nepali history, with dalits receiving over 8.17 per cent of seats, women 33.22 per cent, ethnic and indigenous people 33.39 per cent, and Madhesis 34.09 per cent.
International labour migration and the landless in Nepal January 23, 2013Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, Nepal , 2comments
Nepali youth are migrating for work to the Gulf countries and Malaysia at an unprecedented level. Over 1200 Nepali workers leave the country for foreign employment every day. For many, labour migration is not just a means to overcome economic hardship and accumulate wealth, it is increasingly being pursued rather as a way of life and livelihood. Some analysts argue that migration has contributed to saving the national economy and improving the material well being of many people. And indeed this is true in a broader sense since it has protected the national economy from collapse, accounting for the ratio of remittances to GDP some 25 per cent. Rural places are being gentrified with rural lives becoming more urbane than before despite some social tensions and contradictions. Many families have been able to send their children to private schools. All thanks to the migrants who risk their own lives and who endure being away from their families. Among the plethora of migration-triggered changes, a far-reaching change could be that the poor and landless migrants are now purchasing land.
Poor by definition June 7, 2012Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, South Asia - General , Comment
Security continues to be viewed in limited terms in the Indian subcontinent.
For hundreds of millions in the Indian subcontinent, daily life is a ruthless battle. It involves being assaulted brutally by insecurities arising from socio-economic, political, environmental and even military threats to their lives and livelihoods. Despite this, at the national level, the countries in the subcontinent remain stuck to a simplistic and narrow view of what security means, i.e. the safety of the state (or regime) from military threats.
It is a view which stands fundamentally challenged in the globalised, post-Cold War world. The case for a wider understanding of security is now well-established, and in many countries, regional institutions and international organisations, academic and policy debates are informed in this way.
For the subcontinent, the narrow approach to security is unhelpful in at least two ways. One, it makes it very difficult for a more people-oriented, holistic and inclusive understanding of security to emerge, despite it being highly relevant to the needs of its people. When thinking of security, policymakers continue to be driven by the limited, state-centric approach. Likewise, security analysts continue to look to the state when seeking expressions of insecurity, while ignoring other similar expressions at the sub-state level.
Two, it overlooks the importance of actors other than the state who are active in this wider security realm. It ignores their role as legitimate security practitioners, and the potential to learn from and build on their work from a policy perspective.
Future unclear for Nepal June 1, 2012Posted by southasiamasala in : Dowler, Amy, Nepal , Comment
At about quarter to midnight last Sunday night, fifteen minutes before the mandate of the constituent assembly (CA) he led was due, Cinderella-like, to expire, Nepal’s Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai appeared on television sets across the country to deliver a live address. Nepali speakers can listen to the full address on YouTube.
Bhattarai confirmed what was already clear: last ditch efforts by Nepal’s three major parties – the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) (CPN(M)), Nepali Congress (NC) and Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) (CPN(UML)) – and the Madheshi Morcha (a confederation of parties representing people from the southernmost part of the Terai region who entered into a coalition with the CPN(M) to form government last August) had failed to bring consensus. What was not clear was what would happen next. Earlier in the week the Supreme Court quashed an attempt by the government to extend the CA for a further three months. The NC and CP(UML) had been arguing that the constitution could still be promulgated by the 28 May deadline with outstanding issues referred to the new, post-constitution CA. There was talk of a constitutional crisis, of emergency rule. Some ethnic minority groups claimed they would secede from Nepal and proclaim their own states should a satisfactory solution not be found by 28 May.
Nepal: politicking without governing February 10, 2012Posted by southasiamasala in : Dowler, Amy, Nepal , 1 comment so far
It was high farce on the streets of Kathmandu recently when Raj Lal Yadav attempted – unsuccessfully – to resign from his ministerial post in Nepal’s coalition government. Yadav is a member of the Madhesi Janaadhikari Forum-Republican Party, a junior partner in the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) (UCPN(M))-led coalition. His dissatisfaction with his post was due ultimately to its meaninglessness. Despite frequent and well-publicised expressions of frustration, he remained minister without portfolio four months after his elevation to the ministry.
Two weeks ago Yadav finally decided his role was never going to grow substance and scheduled an appointment with Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai to tender his formal resignation. Unfortunately, the date of that appointment coincided with a bandh. Bandhs, city or nation-wide shutdowns called and enforced by various interest groups, are a much used political device in Nepal. During a properly enforced bandh motorised transport is prohibited (except in the case of emergencies, or tourists).
Not to be deterred, Yadav, along with his aides, took to the pavement to walk to the Prime Minister’s office at Singha Durba, the seat of Nepal’s government. Upon arrival he however discovered his efforts had been in vain: while it could not stop Yadav, the bandh had acted as a deterrent to the PM who decided against venturing to his office that day.
South Asia in 2011: a year of strained relations January 17, 2012Posted by southasiamasala in : Gordon, Sandy, South Asia - General , Comment
First published as part of a special feature: 2011 in review and the year ahead, in East Asia Forum, 3 January 2012.
South Asia is a vast region encompassing eight nations (if we include Afghanistan) and over one-fifth of humanity. It is difficult to do it justice in this short summary of the year’s events.
Foremost among the region’s significant developments is the killing of Osama bin Laden in a US raid on 2 May. This is important not just for its effect on al-Qaeda, but because it made possible Washington’s claim that the US could now leave Afghanistan with its ‘mission accomplished’. By the end of 2014 there will be only a rump of about 20,000 NATO troops remaining.
At the same time, the raid also triggered a marked deterioration in the US-Pakistan relationship, already troubled by the Raymond Davis affair. The net result is that although the impetus on the US to leave Afghanistan has increased, the prospect of an orderly departure and satisfactory final outcome has declined.
Inching closer to sustainable peace in Nepal November 4, 2011Posted by southasiamasala in : Dowler, Amy, Nepal , Comment
On the evening of Tuesday 1 November 2011, leaders from each of Nepal’s major political parties reached agreement on the integration of former Maoist combatants into the country’s military. The agreement resolves the chief outstanding issue in the country’s protracted peace process, and should allow the Constituent Assembly to turn its full attention to the task of constitution drafting.
The seven-point agreement, designed to provide a “detailed blueprint for the completion of the peace process”, comes five years after the original peace agreement ending the decade-long People’s War, and three and a half years after Constituent Assembly elections, held in April 2008 (The Kathmandu Post). Since those elections – in which the Maoists received the highest share of votes but not an outright majority – Nepal has seen the back of four Prime Ministers, three of them arguably casualties of the former combatant integration issue.
Singha Durbar, Kathmandu
New hope for Gorkhaland? October 4, 2011Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, India , 4comments
On 2 September 2011 West Bengal’s Legislative Assembly passed a bill forming the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) in the hilly Darjeeling region in the north of that state. This followed the 18 July agreement to create the new administrative entity between the Governments of India and West Bengal and the area’s ruling Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) party.
The formation of the GTA is a particularly interesting instance of India’s ongoing attempts to address the demands of its many minorities; representing as it does a ‘third way’, an alternative to the previous two strategies of carving out a new state and forming autonomous councils under the constitution’s Sixth Schedule. Something very similar to the latter has already been attempted in the Gorkhaland region, and the former constitutes the GJM’s core demand, a demand it maintains despite its participation in the current process.
For the last two decades Gorkha politics (Gorkha here refers to Nepali speakers or people of Nepali descent resident in India) has been in large part defined by a bitter split between those advocating for the relative merits of statehood and Sixth Schedule status. It remains to be seen how the GTA will differ from a Sixth Schedule council, and whether its creation will mollify those who desire full statehood.
Some thoughts about the South Asian ‘region’ May 27, 2010Posted by southasiamasala in : Snedden, Christopher, South Asia - General , Comment
In April 2010, the body attempting to create a South Asian region—the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC)—celebrated 25 years of existence. The fact that SAARC has existed since 1985 is an achievement in itself. SAARC members have few connections with each other apart from SAARC itself, some historical links with British imperialism, and geography. South Asia is a long way from becoming a unified and coherent region.
SAARC’s most recent ‘Meeting of the Heads of State or Government’ was held in Bhutan from 28-29 April. The summit’s (largely aspirational) ‘Thimphu Silver Jubilee Declaration’ was positively titled ‘Towards a Green and Happy South Asia’. Somewhat surprisingly, however, its third point ‘emphasized the need to develop a “Vision Statement” ’, something that should have been done a long time ago. Furthermore, SAARC has held only sixteen summits in 25 years, despite its Charter stating that ‘The Heads of State or Government shall meet once a year’. ‘Annual’ summits were not held in 1989, 1992, 1994, 1996, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2006 and 2009. More than one of these meetings was abandoned due to the parlous-to-poor state of India-Pakistan relations. (more…)
Renewed tension on the India-China border: who’s to blame? September 3, 2009Posted by southasiamasala in : Bhutan, Guest authors , Comment
Guest Author: Neville Maxwell, ANU
This contribution first appeared on our sister web site, East Asia Forum.
‘So solidly built into our consciousness is the concept that China is conducting a rapacious and belligerent foreign policy that whenever a dispute arises in which China is involved she is instantly assumed to have provoked it.’ — Felix Greene 1965.
India is heavily reinforcing its Army and Air Force units on its undefined border with China (two additional infantry divisions, a squadron of attack aircraft, refurbishing airfields etc). This is in breach of the parties’ obligation under a 1993 Sino-Indian treaty to keep force levels in border areas to ‘a minimum level compatible with … friendly and good neighbourly relations’, and Beijing has protested angrily and publicly.
Indian military parade