Nepal has remained in a transitional phase for about six years now. One of the factors that has prolonged the transitional period is the issue of federalism.
This is because key political actors, who wield power to shorten or lengthen the transitional period, are at loggerheads over the issue of federalism. Not only politicians but also scholars from non-political background are sharply divided over various issues related to federalism.
So far, four lines of thoughts can be abstracted from the great mass of thoughts expressed to date. Two of the four lines of thoughts are diametrically opposed. They include views that Nepal should either be federalized along ethnic or geographic lines. The rest bat for judicious mixture of federalism based on an ethnic identity and federalism based on a geographic identity. While another school of thought is totally against these views and asserts that the country should not be federalized at all. I argue that these are illogical sets of argument.
Firstly, the political actors, who are against federalism, may conclude that federalizing the country in any of the possible ways is likely to create conflict. Secondly, these political actors may agree on a certain modality of a federal system in anticipation of averting a possible conflict that may arise out of ignorance of the demand for the federalization. At more specific level, the second situation may be thought of as embodying three specific situations: creation of a federal structure based on ethnicity, geography or “a judicious mixture of the two”.
The flaw in all of these schools of thought is the lack of understanding on what determines the negative relationship between a particular argument and conflict. Certain arguments are potentially capable of giving rise to or pre-empting violence. In a certain sense, it may be said that whether we adhere to a particular argument depends on the kind of relationship between the argument itself and violence. In general, we do not adhere to and counter-argue against a particular argument if its acceptance by the state is likely to lead to violence. We subscribe to it when it is likely or bound to pre-empt such a situation. But this raises the question: what determines the relationship between a particular set of argument and violence? My answer is that relationship between a particular argument and violence is determined by logic – whether rational or irrational.
In general, a particular argument is assumed to be socially logical because it is rational, and it can turn out to be socially illogical because it is irrational. However, it is also true that sometimes the society lacks the ability to distinguish between rational and irrational views. Moreover, the society at times allows itself to be guided by emotion rather than reason. These situations can blur the line between a fact and what is assumed to be a fact. According to Logic, the science of reasoning, what is generally true may not be true in a particular condition. So it is a herculean task to specifically say whether the condition that we find ourselves in is, what logicians say, “the particular condition” under which the fact that is generally considered the truth is not so.
The logicality of an argument (the fact that an argument is logical) is either socially logical or rational or both in character. One may find a logical basis to impute the logicality of a particular argument in social terms whereas its logicality may not be called into question in rational terms. And, the logicality of certain arguments is justifiable in both social and rational terms. Therefore, I argue that the logic behind arguments must be assessed against one of the three criteria: whether they are justifiable socially, rationally and both rationally and socially.
The implementation of rational but socially illogical argument may cause social conflict because, what I call, their “social illogicality”, despite their rationality, is likely to infuriate some groups and trigger violence. If our concern is to ensure that adoption of certain school of thought causes no violence, we must not embrace rational but socially illogical arguments. However, this is not to say that it would be prudent to adopt socially logical but irrational arguments to avoid conflict. Therefore, adoption of socially logical but irrational views or rational but socially illogical views should not be options.
Since both these arguments are likely to provide fodder for social conflict, the only way to avert such a situation is to embrace views which are socially logical and rational as well as this can only ensure social unity.
Because none of the four lines of reasoning is both socially logical and rational to the fullest possible extent, their adoption is likely to lead to social conflict, if not something similar to that. The question that they endeavoured to answer is: which of them is likely to trigger off conflict? Questions that need to be raised and answered are: To what extent are they likely to give rise to conflict? And which of them are more likely to cause conflict?