Eleven years after second Jana andolan, where are we?
KATHMANDU - It would not be wonder if an aware Nepali citizen mentions the republic, federalism, inclusive system, and new constitution in response to a query what Nepal got after the second people's movement which also called the second janandolan. It has been almost eleven years Nepal witnessed the historic second janaandolan lasting for 19 days which resulted in the abolition of two-century plus old monarchy and brought the one decade long Maoist's armed insurgency to a peace process.
The 19-day city-centric but affecting nationwide people's movement worked as the culmination of the Maoist insurgency, which is notoriously recorded in Nepal's history that claimed the lives of nearly 17,000 people, injuring thousands, displacing tens of thousands and destroying the properties of millions. This decade long insurgency is blamed as the reason behind the derailment of development and destabilization of democracy.
Also called the April uprising, the second janaandolan became the common platform for the long time rebellion Maoist force and the seven political parties beleaguered with the royal executive. The demand of republic was pronounced during this movement.
Coming to the present, it is pertinent to ponder- have the people's expectation during the second janaandolan met? Who are those to address their expectation? What were the major aspirations?
Battered with the armed insurgency, the country was in dire need of peace. Efforts to this were made by both then rebelling and other political parties beginning the formal peace process. One of the significant tasks of the peace process was the integration of Maoist fighters to the national army. It is acclaimed as the best practice of peace process across the globe.
Although the first constituent assembly was held in 2008, it failed to bring the constitution thereby prolonging the transition. It also caused the country to hold the election of constituent assembly for the second time, which is indeed a strange practice, for no other countries have held the CA election second time merely for bringing the new constitution.
To note here, one of the reasons behind prolonged transition is the Madhes movement, which pronounced the demand of federalism, to which even the Maoist party was not aware till the second janaadolan. Still, some sections argue that the Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML are non-federalist forces. On the other hand, debate and disputes are still rife on federalism. Many have argued that federalism is an ambitious project that Nepal cannot sustain with its small geography and weak economic status.
However, the country is now going to implement the constitution gained through the second CA and embracing the federal system gradually. A total of 744 local governance units have been devised and the local poll is being held in a gap of 19 years. The local polls being held in the changed context is expected to percolate democracy in the local level and empower people with devolution of centralized authority. With the federal system in place, the role of civic engagement is imperative in planning, formulating and implementing the budget, and development projects. This practice would obviously bring change.
Needless to say, the new constitution is the most important achievement that Nepal has got. It has ensured the rights of people from all society, ethnic and lingual groups and geography providing special rights and reservation to the women and backward people. It is regarded as the most democratic constitution in the world. Most benefitted with this are the backward people and community with the inclusive representation.
Despite this, has the political culture improved to steer new development, end transition and work for sustainable peace? It is the pressing question.
It is sad to say that we have such political parties and leaders who regarded the constitution as the best document during the promulgation and began protesting. The long awaited issue to address is the transitional justice. Also, the demarcation of provincial border is still disputed issue. The Election Commission has said the preparation of May 14 election of local level has been over, but some political parties are still saying it was not possible without the amendment of constitution.
What's the amendment of constitution for? The most noticeable reason behind is vested political interest- whether some parties' politics and their sphere would be secured or not in the new system.
In conclusion, as the vital players of the national affairs, the political parties are in need of developing the accommodative political culture that protects all people's rights. The opportunistic behavior exhibited time and again during this time is not only waning their support but also tarnishing democratic practices and eroding values.
Mere mention of rights and duties does nothing if the parties do not work for the sustainable peace and development, which are the current aspirations of the people. It can be ensured with value based politics rather than dogmatic ideology and pedantry. Nepalis are now fed up with the political struggles that served merely the interest of the political parties, as many blamed. So, economic prosperity with sustainable peace is the changed expectation. Do our political parties ready to institutionalize the achievements that address the changed expectation of the people? Democracy should not be limited to party politics but be resulted in the realization of justice and empowerment by the people.