The unique biological nature of bats is sometimes used in political science to refer to dual-natured politicians. Bats are mammals but they can fly like birds. Legend has it that bats used to identify themselves as mammals while in a herd of animals and birds while in a flock of birds. When bats’ dual nature was exposed, mammals and birds both ostracized them.
Like bats, some politicians try to fit in ideologically opposed groups. In Nepal’s context, some members of the Constituent Assembly (CA) have always been acting like bats. This week, when the draft constitution was put to a vote, some CA members representing indigenous communities nonchalantly demonstrated their bat-like nature. CA member Surendra Chaudhary was an exception. We must respect the courage with which he went against the tide.
In Nepal’s context, some members of the Constituent Assembly (CA) have always been acting like bats.
Some Nepali politicians are ready to be anything to appease certain communities. They identify themselves as Muslims when they are invited to attend a function organized by the Muslim community. They say they are Dalits when they are invited to speak about untouchability. Rumor has it that a male leader once went to attend a program organized by women and ended up calling himself a woman. Unfortunately, the Nepalis seem to have blind faith in such dual-natured leaders. Some Janajati leaders have followed the footsteps of such dual-natured politicians. It is said that Janajatis are faithful about their tradition, so I am not taken aback when they followed their tradition of dual politics after entering the CA through Janajati quotas and with votes from Janajatis.
We never had faith in Janajati CA members nominated by the Nepali Congress (NC) and the CPN (UML). They were blind supporters of their parties, and they could not dare cross the floor. But Nagendra Kumal and Pemba Bhote were not just nominated CA members. They also represent the Nepalese Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (NEFIN) in the CA. It was only fair to expect them to keep pressing for the agendas of Janajatis till the very last moment. But they were tired so soon and ended up endorsing a constitution that does not guarantee rights of indigenous people. Just recently, they had warned of quitting the CA and crossing the floor from a corner meet in Baneshwor. How did they end up being puppets of their parties so soon?
We never had faith in Janajati CA members nominated by the Nepali Congress (NC) and the CPN (UML). They were blind supporters of their parties, and they could not dare cross the floor.
It is not that the new constitution is worthless. It contains several provisions for Janajati, Dalit, Madhesi, Muslim and backward communities. Rights to social justice and provisions for inclusions are good for the marginalized communities. It was responsibility of Janajati leaders within the CA to press the major parties to better the draft. But they showed their allegiance to Oli, Sitaula and Koirala?
The Tharus are agitated. The Madhesi are on the warpath. Major parties have numerical strength to pass the constitution. But this is just a technical aspect. How will they promulgate the new constitution when it is rejected by Janajati and Madhesi? The constitution is not a book to be kept at a shelf. It should be owned by each and every one. Only then will it help peace and prosperity.
Nepal’s tryst with democracy is not over yet. With the fall of the Rana oligarchy, we thought the new political system was democracy. But we soon had a Panchayati democracy that fell apart in 1990. The new multiparty democracy lasted only till 2006. But even this system cannot ensure justice and equality without a better constitution.