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).