Saturday, January 09, 2016

Nepal - Class War Not Caste War

Nepal's politics has been dominated by the upper Hindu castes from the northern hill region for centuries. A strong hill community, which have retained total control of every apparatus of the state. This establishment thought that after the decade-long Maoist insurgency and Madhes uprisings in 2007 it had to loosen its control over the state. But after the second constituent assembly elections in 2013 in which ruling elite emerged victorious, it was buoyed. This ruling community thought it was the right opportunity to take back what has been promised in the interim constitution. The monarchy drummed up nationalist rhetoric against all outsiders, including Madhesi. The current ruling dispensation carried forward the same values that propagates that "Madhesis are lesser Nepalis".

At least 50 people in Nepal have been killed in police shootings during protests since September when Nepal passed its much-delayed constitution. People in the southern plains bordering India took to the streets alleging the new charter failed to address their historical marginalisation. Protests by the people of the southern Tarai region - known as Madhesis - have been ongoing for more than three months. The new constitution gives political power to the hegemonic upper caste Nepali-speaking Hindu males of hill region. Madhesis and indigenous janajatis have been denied rights. The eight years of work during the transition period is back to square one.

The ruling coalition is dominated by ‘communist’ parties, including the Maoists. By resisting the changes are they protecting the ruling elite. In South Asia and not just only restricted to Nepal ‘communists’ are dominated by the upper caste people. Maoist leaders of Nepal, most of whom are upper caste Brahmins, when the crux came turned out to be more communalists than communists They threw away all their agendas to embrace and maintain this hegemony of the upper caste, Hindu, Nepali-speaking hill people. The ruling class used natural calamity such as an earthquake as an excuse to promulgate the constitution.

The state was envisioned to be restructured with realities of multi-cultural, multi-religious, plural and multi-national societies that exist in Nepal. The only inclusion have been groups which have ruled before. So this whole idea of inclusion is defeated. They talk of federalism and restructuring but in such a manner that they retain control of all the units. In this way, they can claim that some restructuring has been done, but it's a complete sham. The Maoists who fought a 10-year 'people's war' spoke for the rights of the marginalised. But they back the new charter that is being opposed by ethnic Madhesis. According to CK Lal, a columnist and playright, “We have heard that power corrupts. In Nepal, we saw how badly power corrupts. Within months of coming to power, the Maoists' whole behavior, lifestyles and everything changed. They started aping the lifestyles of the ruling class. They forgot all the promises they had made to the people that had supported them. People had expected them to be different from other political groups because they had come through struggle and armed revolution, but once they became ministers, it became very difficult to differentiate between established political parties and the Maoists.”

Upendra Yadav, the leader of the Sanghiya Samjawadi Forum, has accused the ruling class, which has traditionally come from the hill areas, of racism. Again CK Lal explains “I think Upendra Yadav's expression is a political rhetoric not anthropological or technical word. The hill and Madhes belong to almost the same racial groups - Indo-Burmese, Indo-Aryans, Indo-Gangetic plains. Racial groups are the same. Where he is right is that it is not just economic discrimination, it's a cultural civilisational discrimination whereby almost the same caste say, for example, Brahmin of the hill considers the Brahmins of Madhes as his social and cultural inferiority. Even rich people from the Madhes region are looked down on by the hill poor. The term you can use is communitarian discrimination.”

Nepali politicians accuse India of behing behind the economic blockade but India has consistently supported hill against Madhesis for the last 150 years. Had India been slightly sympathetic to Madhesi, the problems would have been resolved long ago. India is not really supporting Madhesis but trying to maintain a balance. This has given the ruling dispensation some excuse for indulging in rhetoric. If India were to impose a blockade, Nepal will find it difficult to stand even for a day. This blockade thing is a complete lie. Blockade implies that even people are not allowed to move - let alone goods. But if you read Nepali newspapers you will find out that poor Nepalis are going to Indian states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu for work. Every day 3,000 people are leaving for India. Blaming India is fair game; it's a game of all seasons for hill parties. They have resorted to propaganda such as "India is enemy, difficult to deal with India, India does not want sovereignty of Nepal to be practiced".

World Socialism Party (India)
Email: wspindia@hotmail.com

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