NEPAL: Instead of hearing out civic voices of the marginalized groups, the government is becoming more authoritarian

On 21st November 2006, ‘The Comprehensive Peace Accord’ (CPA) was signed between the Government of Nepal and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). With this, a decade long armed-conflict ended and the nation started to be recognized as the ‘New-Nepal’. The dream of development began to germinate. Citizens started to have belief in the Government. But unfortunately, still, those dreams and convictions are limited in a world of illusion. During that time, economically deprived and marginalized Dalits were able to observe the comprehensive Peace Accord, participate in Madesh movements, and face the obstacles surfaced by several, small-armed groups. Dalit-Youth-Activists, is somehow aware of the socio-political development that occurred in the last decade. Furthermore, they know why democracy is more needed for marginalized and economically deprived Dalit communities.

Besides poverty and caste based discrimination, deprived in the Dalit community of Madesh, the majority of Dalit youths are struggling for employment. It seems like the reflection of the Dalit community is an entrenched poverty and a wretched literacy rate. In addition, less attention from the Government towards the Dalit community highlights this reflection. For them, having a standard life style with financial sustainability and livelihood skills are like a hallucination. Ignorance by the Government and their own grassroots realities are the major barriers not allowing them to clasp their ‘dream’. It is a dream of ‘living with dignity and prosperity’.

For the most part, women from the Dalit community are compelled to marry and give birth to a child at an early age. They are also impelled to do highly physical demanding jobs during pregnancy, which is risky for both mother and child. Bringing up a child with insufficient nutrition and proper care are other challenging factors. However, educated Dalit youths are not only stuck with the issues, but have been observing equally other social barriers and raising their voice against them. With a strong belief in the power of questioning undemocratic practices, they are proposing a collective approach to reform democratic values.

At the present time, Dalit-Youth-Activists like Pachulal Majhi from Sarlahi District of Nepal and his team of youngsters, amidst the chaotic situation created by the pandemic, have been organizing signature campaigns and awareness programs in different districts of Terai. One sees their virtual awareness programs run in an adroit manner.

As there is a lack of strong policies and mechanisms to address these agendas, people from the Dalit and marginalized communities are like outsiders, only looking on democracy. However, all these campaigns stand as a ‘hope’. They not only reflect the understanding of youth toward the value of democracy. But, they point out their level of awareness on socio-political agendas – core-supporting factors of democracy. Along with strengthening democracy, these factors confine the government of Nepal not to take any decision against democratic norms and values. Most importantly, the government of Nepal will not interfere in an authoritarian way as well.

Some 40 years ago, in 1980, a ten day long protest was held in South Korea against the Military Coup. In the protest starting from 18th May, the whole city of Gwangju rose up in favor of democratic reform. Later that protest turned out to be a milestone for human rights and democratization. It ended with a message to the world that citizens have the ultimate power to protect the spirit of democracy. When two former presidents, Chun Doo-hwan and Roh Tae-woo were arrested for their illegal deeds, the dictators of other Asian countries also learned a lesson to be accountable and responsible for the nation. Korean citizens felt that they are the central power in the history of their country, which later motivated the national democratic movement. It also significantly enhanced Korea’s human rights record.

Though this protest was against the Korean Military Coup, it is equally relevant to Nepal. Due to the lack of constant vigilance and socio-political awareness on the part of its citizens, many attempts at authoritarianism are presently taking place in Nepalese political history. If we closely observe that past history, there is a list of several attempts taken by kings to establish an authoritarian regime. In the past, many marginalized youths joined a series of political movements in support of the federal System and democracy. However, their issues, agendas, and the hunger for embracing ‘inclusive-democracy’ still remain.

Until the ‘self-made trend’ of holding on by National Authorities in certain political parties or their leaders, remains the same, citizens will not be benefited. The anger of citizens towards the government might explode and turn out to be an invasive protest. There is an equal chance of a flourishing ‘Authoritarianism’.

In Nepal, still there are masses of ‘unheard-voices’. Though the Korean Government institutionalized the achievement of people’s movements and let the citizens feel the democracy, the Nepalese Government, on the other hand, has done nothing remarkable. Today, the same political leaders are ruling, who protested in the past for marginalized people.

They conquered the power in situ through the people’s movements and agreed to follow democratic norms and values. However, their oath of restructuring the nation, according to the concept of the Federal Democratic System is fading gradually. Also, inclusive representation in the State mechanism is more pathetic day-by-day. Instead of embracing democratic values, they are endorsing a hypocritical attitude and promoting ‘authoritarian practices’.

As a result, youths from the marginalized communities like Dalits are compelled to join the process of reforming democratic values. They have complained of not addressing the issues of the Dalit’s of Madesh by the human rights movement in Nepal. However, easy access to the internet has created a virtual platform for understanding the political movements happening across the globe.

As they also fit into this digital boundary, widening the level of political literacy is becoming more relevant to them. They are witnessing social movements happening across the world and understanding their causes and effects. In return, responsible youths from marginalized communities are benefited. They have been executing novel ideas to strengthen democratic values.

With concern for local, national, and international issues and agendas, they are now constantly forcing the Government to address the problems of the Dalit and marginalized communities. They are approaching diplomatic practices, and alternative modalities, such as mass awareness programs and constant vigilance which are effective.

Though such practices are less in numbers, they increase civic surveillance and push up political leadership. Therefore, to establish the ‘value of democracy’ and ‘good governance’, inclusive participation of citizens in the decision-making process is essential. However, the frequent occurrence of discouraging cases is creating obstacles in their path. Recent research, conducted by the Centre for Sustainable Human Rights, an organization working for the welfare of the Dalit Community during this pandemic, saw 32 Dalits’ killed for caste issues.

A recent report was published by the Centre for Investigative Journalism-Nepal. It stated that only in Province 2, in the last forty months, 62 Madeshi Dalits and 168 Dalit women have been killed. Such instances do not only epitomize the deplorable reality of the Dalit community. But, they only verify how they are restricted in experiencing democracy. As long as the scenario remains the same, the concept of a re-designed ‘New-Nepal’, in reality, will not be executed.

About the Author:

Ms. Karuna Devkota is a Writer/Activist.

Document Type : Article
Document ID : AHRC-ART-006-2021
Countries : Nepal,
Issues : Administration of justice, Civil and Political Rights, Democracy, Freedom of expression, Institutional reform, Rule of law,