Passive Civil Society
Civil society that became very active immediately after the royal takeover of 2005, and played the key role to prepare the ground for and make the April Uprising of 2006 successful has failed to make its presence meaningful especially after the dissolution of the first Constituent Assembly. Many of the civil society leaders who were in the forefront during the political movement of 2005/2006 have now limited themselves in their professional works as they have been disappointed with the performance of the political leadership.
Moreover, the civil society leaders and activists who were together during the democratic movement of 2006 were divided among the political parties after the Constituent Assembly election of 2008. Then, the civil society was divided into two camps, anti-Maoist and pro-Maoist groups. Many of us have not forgotten how the two groups of civil society staged sit-ins turn by turn erecting tents at New Baneshwore months before the first CA’s dissolution. The division of the civil society along the line of political parties has discouraged many to be active in civil society.
The civil society presented itself most powerfully during the six-day strike organised by the Maoists in 2009. Unable to bear the pressure from the civil society activists, the Maoists were forced to withdraw their strike and blockade after the civil society’s Basantapur demonstration.
Likewise, the civil society became active when the government led by Khil Raj Regmi prepared to appoint Lok Man Singh Karki as chief of the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority. But the civil society failed to stop Karki from becoming the CIAA chief. The political parties which had received an important support from the civil society during the democratic movement undermined them and appointed Karki as the CIAA chief.
Over the years, many civil society leaders were accused of working in favour of the western powers which wanted to weaken the century-old unity and social harmony in Nepal. And these civil society leaders succeeded in their mission to a great extent by creating division among the Nepalese people by raising the ethnic issues. The issue of federalism which was raised almost one and a half years after the political movement of 2006 was the by-products of the foreign forces which had invested in Nepal’s civil society and political groups.
Most of the civil society leaders who participated in the democratic movement risking their lives are not happy with the political leadership and the fellow civil society leaders, and tend to shy away from civil society activities.
“Seeing this mess today, I sometimes think how I had managed to remain alive during the political movement of 2005-2006. I will never participate in any political movement now onwards,” said a civil society activist on condition of anonymity. According to him, only promoted leaders are now in the political scene, and they are not doing anything good for the nation. “They are only serving the interests of foreign powers,” he expressed his disappointment.
Now the country is preparing to hold the local elections amidst protests from the Terai-based parties. But civil society looks inactive to bring the political forces together so that all forces could participate in it. A few active civil society workers can now be seen only serving the interests of the Madhes-based parties.
Kathmandu denizens are now facing the problem of dust pollution due to water supply pipe-laying works, but the civil society has done nothing to exert pressure on the government to address this problem directly linked with public health. When the civil society has weakened, there is a risk that the government and its agencies may act against the public aspirations and established democratic norms.