Sunday, March 15, 2009

Student Elections in Nepal University: How Free Are Free Stduents’ Unions

nepal-students-clashPast Practices Breaking Hand Bones New Aim Breaking Backbones

By Divas

Nepal’s elected body of Free Students’ Union was established in 1979 after a nationwide students’ protests against the then royal regime called Panchayat System. I don’t know how the student bodies in other countries work, but from what i learn from the news i think Nepal’s as well as Bangladesh & Pakistan's student unions function the same way. Well, my guess is based on the violence reports that come during the campus elections in Nepal, Bangladesh, & Pakistan. The Bahun student chiefs of Nepal have already warned their rivals of not only beating in the polls, but also of breaking each other’s backbones.

The phrase ‘Free Students Union’ itself is a misnomer, since although they call themselves the Students’ Union, all contesting groups in fact are student wings of the major political parties – hence they work more in the interest of their mother parties than for the academic needs of students. The two major political streams of students unions, the Nepal Stduents’ Union (NSU) affiliated to the Nepali Congress party and the various factions of left wings All Nepal National Free Stduents’ Union(ANNFSU) worked against the King’s Rule until a Multi-Party democracy was established in 1990. Since then the NSU & the United Marxist-Leninist (UML) affiliated ANNFSU have been contending against each other bitterly until the last election held in 2006.

If you’d ask me why the left wing student union ANNFSU dominated its rival NSU in all past elections, I’d ask you to compare the NSU and the ANNFSU Websites. When the NSU website unfolded before my eyes, the first thing l noticed was the jolly picture of their grandfather Girija Prasad Koirala. Suddenly I was happy that I did not vote for any NSU candidate in the last election. And if you’d compare the photo galleries of NSU and ANNFSU websites, you’ll suddenly realize why most students chose the ANNFSU in past elections. However, there’s a dilemma this time – there are new kids in the Campuses – the Maoist Party affiliated Revolutionary Union.

However, it seems that ethnic issues would be most influential in determining the outcome of this year’s student elections which is slated for 20th of March. The student bodies of an ethnic group Limbu in the eastern mountains, the Limbuwan Students’ Council (LSC) have vandalized the Panchthar Multiple Campus and forced to put off the election until next notice. The Limbu students demand for a proportional election system in their stronghold areas covering nine districts. Even if the elections are held in other campuses, I’m sure that the only basis for choosing the representatives this time would be the cultural & ethnic one. The Madhesi students in Terai would choose Madhesi candidates, Newars in Kathmandu would choose Newar candidates, and so on.

As for me, i hate breaking any bone, and i’d boycott the NSU, Brahmin & Chhetri, & the bone-breakers and choose among the rest.

UPDATE on March 19: I’m boycotting this year’s student election to protest the continued violence and even more politicization in the campuses. However, I’m aware that someone from the contesting student groups would vote for me – hey losers, if you suspect poll-rigging and are demanding for re-polling, check the voters’ list to make sure if a voter with my name has voted or not – if you find that I’ve cast my vote then be sure that your rivals were more clever this time. For, i’ll be absent in this year’s campus election.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Identity Politics in Nepal Terai: Madhesi, Pahadi & Tharu Conflicts

Finding Your Face in the Figures?

Why not Find Here?

By Divas

Nepal has been geographically divided into three regions: the Himalayas (Himal), the Hills (Pahad), and the plains of Terai(Madhes). Madhes based parties have been demanding for making the whole southern terrain bordering with India as a single Madhes state. Madhesi leaders define Madhesis as original inhabitants of Madhes that include all those who are not of Pahadi or Himali origin. This definition seems to be based on the general perception among Pahadis in identifying Madhesis as the people of the terai region or of recent India orgin. The hill people traditionally have been calling the people living on the plains as Madisey. But, there was no official definition or claim regarding who the Madhesis are or who are not Madhesis until recently. With the demand for a single autonomous Madhes State and ‘wholesale’ inclusion of Madhesis through reservation in all state organs surfaced the controversy on the definition of ‘Madhesi’.

The Tharu communities strongly protest against the Madhesi demand of ‘Whole Madhes, One Single State’. Tharus identify themselves as the original inhabitant of the plains, and differentiate themselves with the Madhesis. Tharus, who mostly have Mongolian features, see Madhesis as either recent arrivals from India or people sharing culture with the India side of the Indo-Nepal border. Some Tharu groups have even warned of armed struggle against the government’s recent listing of the Tharus in the Madhesi community. The government had recently issued a notice listing the castes & ethnicities who would qualify as Madhesi - to address the Madhesi concern against selection of two Pahadi candidates by the Public Service Commision(PSC) in Madhesi quota. While Government’s list addressed the Madhesi concern, it raised more concern among the Tharus for being labeled as Madhesis.

The issues of identity, representation in the state structures, and demarcation of federal lines among the states are more complex than they appear. The candidates selected by PSC who were withdrawn later were among the thousands of Terai inhabitants whose forefathers had migrated from the hills to the plains. Hence, ethnically and culturally, they are Pahadis, but geographically they are not Pahadis. Tharus and Rajbansis claim to be older inhabitants of the plains than the Madhesis or Pahadis. Moreover, there are Muslims, Christians, Limbuwans, & Khambuwans who have been increasingly asserting for separate federal states.

My Impression: Tharus are not Madhesis – if Madhesis need a separate state, Tharu demand for Tharuwan state sounds equally logical, and so on for other tribes, races, ethnicities, and cultures. Forget who came from where in Nepal – all are refugees here, and until a new discovery proves otherwise, all human animals descend from their African ancestors. But, again, you can not claim African land or identity.

BTW, have you any idea where were you and what was your identity just a year before you landed on this planet? Here’s a close up picture of what you looked like then:

Boorchodikey… :D

UPDATE on March 02 : Nepal’s ethnic bodies, including Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (NEFIN) and Tharu Welfare Council (TWC), have claimed that the government’s categorization of Tharus as Madhesis violated the ILO 169 concerning Indigenous and Tribal People. “This is either a conspiracy of the Maoists to divide and rule the indigenous people or a tactics to appease the Madhesi leaders to prop up the falling government” President Pasang Sherpa and General Secretary Om Gurung of NEFIN said on Saturday.

UPDATE: Three persons, including one policeman, were killed in Chitwan as the general strike called by Tharus continued in the districts stalling the whole southern Nepal .