No Disruption, Please
Citizens of a weak state cannot be strong. Neither can its institutions deliver the services, be they maintaining the law and order or the supplies. The government and the political parties that come to steer its helm on the sheer strength of their odds and incessant maneuverings, therefore, should always be flexible in favour of political compromises that can save the state from weakening further and collapsing. Between 2006 and 2016, a drawn-out decade in Nepal’s political transition, leaders of the political parties have shown this flexibility and resolved a number of crises. They reached the highest point of political compromise by constituting a non-partisan government, of mostly bureaucrats, and handing it their own powers and privileges to hold the elections to the second Constituent Assembly. Then again, following several ups and downs, the parties worked together to issue the Constitution of Nepal, 2072 BS, with an overwhelming majority of legislators endorsing it. Had this constitution been welcomed by all Madhesh and indigenous parties, every nation in the world would have something in Nepal to envy at.
Ironically, not all political leaders of Nepal were ready to acknowledge the feat the nation had achieved in documenting its democratic gains. Madhesh-based leaders felt it urgent to push for their own agenda, which they saw as sidelined in the constitution-making process in spite of the fact that many legislators who had endorsed the constitutional provisions were from the Terai-Madhesh as well. The Madhesi Morcha’s rejection of the constitution seemed to undermine the very democratic process. When its frustrated leaders went extra miles to secure the Indian support for their movement, the outcome was more frustration -- months of border blockade only hurt the common people. The staging of the street drama was a non-starter from the very beginning. As innocent lives were being lost during the protests, all Nepali citizens, including the Madhesi protestors, felt a sense of utter helplessness and humiliation for no good reason. In routinely lining up for elusive gas and petrol or panicking in search of life-saving medicines, the common people had to curse their own fate as often as they would curse their leaders or the leaders of neighbouring India, for that matter.
The Indian border blockade has ended for now. But the common people continue to face similar ordeals in securing the cooking gas, although other petroleum products are available in greater quantities and frequencies from the petrol pumps than before. This reflects badly on the managerial capacity of the government line agencies that are responsible for smooth supplies of essentials. It also suggests the prevalence of the black marketers. Such maladies have already left the people in the receiving end. The capital-centric agitation announced by the Madhesi Morcha only adds to their anxieties. Although their genuine political demands need to be heard, nobody, not even Morcha sympathisers, should encourage activities that disrupt the normal life of the people and weaken the capacity of the state to deliver. The security personnel, who met in the capital for a workshop on special security, should find a way to coordinate among themselves and work with the common people to discourage any disruptive activity, whether it is happening in the capital or in other districts. Everyone should opt for political negotiations that make Nepal more inclusive as a nation, with the same principles of inclusion being applied to each of its provinces, Terai-Madhesh or elsewhere, in which minority communities receive due respect and priority.
Professor Dr Abhi Subedi is a creative giant. He is an essayist, critic, linguist, playwright and poet. Born in Terhathum of eastern Nepal, Subedi received...