With the promulgation of new constitution, Nepali politics is likely to complete a full cycle of political development that began in 1950. Thus the demand for new constitution through the Constituent Assembly, an agenda of 1950 revolution, is likely to materialize soon. As it is, 63 years have passed since we began our journey to modernity but the dream for prosperity and freedom is yet to be achieved. Nevertheless, political evolution in all these years seems to have emboldened Nepalis to break free from barriers that hinder their aspirations for freedom.
However, introspecting on how political developments have taken place and agreements reached in past few weeks on supposedly ´contentious´ political issues lead us to believe belief that political events are cruel jokes on commoners. We should keep in mind that there exists a strong relation between a commoner´s life and politics; commoners legitimize politics, while politics impacts the lives of commoners, for both good and bad.
But we live in a world where even Immanuel Kant´s proposal of ´the highest good´ has been contested and what is assumed to be bad has turned out to be good and vice versa. Therefore, the "process" should be central while observing the country´s political development. Damien Kingsbury emphasizes, "…the focus should be placed on the process of political development and the process itself should be understood as defining the type of future into which it leads."
The process in Nepal so far indicates that the legitimacy accorded to traditional form of democracy will be further contested. We began our journey in 1950 with a first wave of democracy which theoretically guaranteed ´rights for all´. Within the next 63 years we have specialized enough to adopt a democracy that has compartmentalized rights and privileges along ethnic and regional basis. Though it remains a point of debate whether ´specialization´ should be seen as boon or bane for human civilization, nevertheless, we are specializing, and rapidly.
Specialized knowledge could be detrimental, but specialization carried out with the right intention is always beneficiary. It is safe to assume that we have been guided by such intentions in our political evolution. Therefore it is a time to take heart from our attempts and thank those actors who gave up their lives and those who are continuously striving to transform Nepal into a modern nation-state. However, it is also time to reflect on continuously changing social, economic, political and cultural mood of the country and broaden our horizon to adapt to changing narratives, mind-sets and processes.
As we enter a federal political model, the concepts attached to rights, democracy and political participation require an urgent revisit. It is not just a time of political restructuring, but also social and psychological restructuring because practicalities of political doctrines are tested in society through individual and collective minds.
Notions of rights and participation are intrinsically attached to the notion of democracy. Democracy as a system of governance has been experimented for short period in Nepal´s history; and often its failure to dispense justice to the minority and larger population has led critics to question its merits. Hence a ´level playing field´ in the name of federalism is being sought. But important questions remain: Will federalism thrive in the midst of conflicting interests? Will we be able to remove the ´fragility´ that has been a hallmark of Nepali politics for the last 63 years? These are difficult questions as our analysis cannot be drawn only on the basis of our own context, but also on how international climate will unfold in a next decade or two. However, if we build up our collective will to make federalism a successful project we can still manage this fragility.
What counts is an understanding that federalism can backfire if we do not develop a coherent understanding in running state affairs. And developing such an understanding need not be inimical to taking into consideration differing perspectives, worldviews and contestations.
Therefore a democratic society should adopt both order and contestations. We must find new ways to strike a balance between these two notions as the byproducts of their interaction is likely to dominate Nepali polity.
Human beings are both emotional and rational beings. But reason must prevail for, according to Thomas Paine, "…so uncertain is the temper of a Nation, when nothing but personal matters is ground of a quarrel." He therefore further suggests, "Let us consider ourselves as …freeman…firmly bound together by the same rights, interests, and dangers". And, by doing so, will we not be facilitating the beginning of a new history for us?
Sameer is the author of "Unfinished Journey: The Story of a Nation"