Pressure from 'hill elites' halts DfID exclusion report
KATHMANDU, Aug 20: An extensive report on Nepal´s socially excluded groups prepared by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) is yet to be published even after a year of its completion due to the pressure from the traditional ´hill elites´.
The report titled "Forging Equal Citizenship in a Multicultural Nepal" was completed in September last year, but still remains a ´draft´ because of DFID´s ´self-censorship´ under pressure.
The report, prepared after a thorough research, highlights how Bahuns and Chhetris continue to prevail on all aspects of state affairs and how difficult it is to develop a just and inclusive Nepali society.
The report basically unravels how Bahuns and Chhetris have dominated in the state affairs creating a uni-cultural society and explains in detail the present status of five excluded groups - women, Dalit, Janajati, Madhesi and Muslim. It analyses the progress made since Jana Andolan II on the issues of social inclusion and highlights related issues and challenges.
The report is the summary version of Gender and Social Exclusion Assessment that DFID produced last year, with core authors being Lynn Bennett, Bandita Sijapati and Deepak Thapa of Social Science Baha, a non-governmental organization.
Many key social activists and intellectuals are also involved as reviewers some of whom include Seira Tamang (a PhD currently associated with Martin Chautari), Laurie Vasily (now the director of Fulbright Commission), Bal Krishna Mabuhang (Janajati activist), Pratyoush Onta (Historian associated with Martin Chautari), Mohamad Rashid Iraqi (who worked as political officer in the United Nations Mission in Nepal), Hari Bansha Jha (Economist) and journalist Prashant Jha among others.
The major funding support for the GSEA 2011 project was provided by the DFID Nepal Social Inclusion Action Programme (SIAP) through a joint World Bank/DFID Trust Fund and through DFID´s Enabling State Programme (ESP). The Asian Development Bank provided further support to the project.
"Though the report was completed almost a year ago, DFID has not been able to make it public," a source close to those involved in the project told Republica“ "There is because of pressure from the hill elites (the so-called high castes) not to publish the report."
DFID Nepal, however, claimed that the Gender and Social Exclusion Assessment is not yet finalized.
"It is currently in draft form awaiting important new data, such as analysis of the Nepal Living Standards Survey, before it can be finalized," Philip Smith, acting head of DFID Nepal, told Republic. "Without this new data, the report would be incomplete and quickly become out of date."
The intention of this exercise is to generate updated information on gender and social inclusion in Nepal, according to Smith. "Once finalized, we hope that this empirically-based report will provide robust data contributing to the social and political development process in a constructive way," he said.
He also said that DFID, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank remain committed to the government´s policy of supporting social inclusion in Nepal.
But sources said DFID decided to self-censor and delayed its publication after the delegation of various high-caste organizations put pressure on the donors not to interfere in Nepal´s affairs by promoting the cause of the marginalized communities.
The delegation of the Joint Struggle Committee for National Sovereignty and Ethnic Harmony, a front comprising 11 different organizations of Brahmin, Chhetri and Dashnami, met with head of DFID Nepal Dominic O´Neill in May this year and told the latter not to interfere in Nepal´s internal affairs by providing funds to various NGOs, thereby promoting the cause of indigenous Janajatis.
The delegation told DFID that it was not right for them to lobby for federalism based on ethnic identity, according to Om Sharma, secretary of Brahman Samaj, one of the members of the struggle committee.
"We told them that the international organizations should instead focus on investing for the backward people in general which includes people from different caste, ethnicity and backward regions," Sharma told Republica.
This even led those in DFID to re-think about using the term ´socially excluded´ in their reports.
Journalist Prashant Jha, one of the reviewers of the report, wrote in The Kathmandu Post on June 13 that International organizations, from multilaterals like World Bank to bi-laterals like DFID, have been bullied by the Bahun-Chhetri interest groups to the extent that they are toying with the idea of shifting from the term ´excluded´ to ´poor and vulnerable´. “
"They are scared to publish reports on gender and social exclusion which have been prepared after spending funds allotted in the name of marginalized Nepali communities," wrote Jha.
The ´draft´ report availed by Republica focuses on understanding how Nepal is accommodating its diversity and dealing with the dilemmas of acknowledging the collective rights of different groups while also guaranteeing the individual human rights of all its citizens.“
"Forging Equal Citizenship in a Multicultural Nepal" follows the earlier 2006 report "Unequal Citizens: Gender, Caste and Ethnic Exclusion in Nepal" that was written during the period of the insurgency and the royal take-over.
While the original publication focused on the need to ensure equal rights to all Nepali citizens (equal citizenship), this follow-up volume expands its focus to reflect the increasingly strong demand for accommodation of difference as an equally essential part of the foundation for the restructured Nepali state, it is stated in the report.
The report has highlighted the domination of elite-caste hill Hindu which made it difficult to move the country beyond ´uni-culturalism´ in the 1990 constitution due to the retention of the Hindu monarchy and Hinduism as the state religion, terming it as "half-hearted effort at accommodating Nepal´s diversity.“
"Bahun, and Chhetri, males remained overwhelmingly dominant in all branches of elected and administrative government - either unaware of or failing to take seriously, the resentment of other groups," it has stated.