Nation Building, Ethnic Conflict and Federal Design in Nepal
Open Lecture by Prof. Dr. Krishna Hachhethu, Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu, Nepal.
Following a successful conflict transformation of a decade long Maoist insurgency (1996-2006), Nepal has entered a new phase of conflict, mostly defined along lines of inequality among the three largest ethnic groups – generally speaking the dominating Khas Arya (Hill high castes), the excluded Janajati (indigenous nationalities), and the discriminated Madheshi (people of none-Hill origin residing at plains area with open border with India). Each constitutes approximately one-third of national population. In contrast to previous national policies of assimilation/integration, the post-2006 political transition set up a new national goal: restructuring the Nepali state in the form of inclusive democracy.
An ambitious project of restructuring the Nepali state was formally accomplished with an end of the Maoist insurgency and a journey towards republic. Yet, inclusive democracy remains an unfinished task.
The new constitution, promulgated in September 2015, curtails the space for inclusive nation-building in three key areas: identity-based federalism, electoral system based on inclusive representation, and reservations/affirmative action. As a result, it triggers ethnic conflict. The Janajati and Madheshi are now pressing for a more accommodative path, with recognition of ethnicity as political constituency as the central thrust and defining feature of the rise of identity politics in Nepal.
Introduction by Astri Suhrke (CMI).
Photo: Aerial view of field in Madhesh region of Nepal. Barun Khanal / Wikimedia Commons