This is an attempt to find solutions to Nepal’s present problems through historical analysis. I believe that problems should be solved by clinically analyzing their roots. Countries like Nepal, that are diverse in ethnicities, cultures, creeds, religions, languages and demographic peculiarities are usually challenged by varied:
- Levels of literacy.
- Social structures, practices and cultures.
- Ethnic advancement (how advanced a certain group is compared to others).
- Economic activities and habits
- Distribution of wealth
- Political representation
- Access to service, communication and transportation
- Geographically imposed limitations and dissimilarities in all of the above areas.
Social, economic and political developments of such diversified countries require holistic, scientific and credible systems of governance. Methods of governance guided by centralized and idealized models usually result in marginalizing the state. Such seems to have been the case in Nepal.
1 Antiquity – Early Nepal:
- Isolated, land locked, backward, low literacy, agrarian and impoverished
- Based on a mythical model centered on the religious relevance of Monarchy
- Derived from feudalistic model involving landlords and peasants
- Majority living off agrarian economy, while the able also consumed imported goods.
- A leadership selected through allegiance to beliefs, usually from within close circles
- A self-functioning system within its own boundaries (no needs for modernization)
- A very religious society based on spiritual inclination
- Some ethnic groups were deemed inferior
- A patriarchal hierarchal system, with the Monarch on top
- A capital centric society where institutions and economic activities were limited to specific areas
- Not a mobilized society with inter regional cross links
- Major parts of the population lived in isolation and polarization
- The apparent diversities in ethnicities made these situations complex
- A country of hardship with limited flexibility on options of professions and making a living
- Not materialistic, innovative and explorative. There were no schools, colleges or universities.
- Knowledge, industry, technology and economic development stayed away
- So did modernization, human and infrastructural development
- Country was held together with the fabric of cultural scriptures: proclamation of char jaat chattis warna
- King was seen as a messiah and revered as God.
Conclusion: the hallmarks of western experience (industry, production, science, technology and democratic principles, that rose from material needs, freedom of will, flexibility of thought, innovation, organization, cross-regional links and trade and exploration, were not sown). Basis for comparison or copy of external models were unavailable due to isolation. Distribution of wealth between rich and poor was generally accepted as reality. People hardly had time to ponder over these issues, or on the fate of humanity. Thinkers, scholars and knowledge seekers were limited to a small, able class. Their knowledge was limited to tiny circles. Various ethnic groups were isolated from the center for ages and couldn’t keep pace with Kathmandu. Nor did expansion in economy and infrastructure reach these groups.
2. Nepal in Making – Isolation and Capacity:
Nepal was isolated and land locked. It couldn’t enjoy the benefits of international trade, when nations were beginning to get rich. Compare Nepal with countries like Singapore, Malaysia and even India. Their open seas served as hubs for international trade. Indian spices were exported worldwide. In fact, India was a super power in those days, before the British took advantage. Tipu Sultan thwarted the British advance for 27 years. The concept of missile as weapons was pioneered by his establishment. India under Mughal Empire was a prosperous country. Had Nepal been in Singapore, we could have made millions from an early established Gurkha legacy, flora, various commodities, or even marijuana. Even our Monarchs would have made this country rich. Consider countries like UAE that lived in abject poverty, until a wise king mobilized oil money for its citizens. One would have risen after ignorant ones to emanate from royal wombs – a question of probability. But, we were left with Mount Everest, and the Right brothers took some time to appear, so did tourism economy.
Much of Nepal’s present problems are not entirely human, but its location. Furthermore, we also lost the probability battle against valuable natural resources. There may be oil and even uranium buried somewhere beneath us, though. But, we also lost the probability battle against inculcation of science in our ancestral consciousness. There were no industries. The only agrarian economy further ingrained feudalism in our society. The masters, naturally, took to their interests, and peasants went about their hardship. Mind you, most of us will pick up 100-rupee bills from the streets, even today, if fortune strikes our way. Nor, will most of us kick banana peels off the sidewalk in divine intervention, or return a loaded purse found alien from its master. Perhaps, the only significant human achievement of our race is Nepal’s unification.
Conclusion: most of our problems are circumstantial, as far as wealth is concerned. We weren’t able to capitalize on what we had, either. The feudal culture further polarized the rich and the poor. Only an able section of society – usually centered on major cities – got education from India and took up crucial positions in the state hierarchy. Isolation was a big problem, because it limited international trade, bilateral relations, education and inter regional links, trade, transportation and communication – this thwarted people empowerment and development.
3. Nepal in Making – Rana Oligarchy and Indian Experience:
The Rana Oligarchy made matters worse and Nepal lost 104 years. That was the period of accelerated scientific innovations and industrialization. The British kept Nepal as a buffer between India and China, while the Oligarchs suppressed us. The British did not interfere with Nepal, recognizing it as an independent state. This period is crucial in Nepali history – it was a defining period of costly stagnation and lost opportunities, and beginning of Indian control over Nepal. India attained independence and made Nepal a part of its domestic policy. Their Nepal policy was exclusively targeted at derailing our economy, controlling our foreign policy, checking our military aspirations and reducing Chinese influence in the country. People of Indian extraction, now called Madhesis, came to Nepal for business and made it to top positions of Nepali business and administrative hierarchy. In contrast, Nepalis work as factory workers and watchmen in India, even today. Over the years, Indians poured to Nepal from India, because India deliberately made its border points congested, uninhabitable and underdeveloped. Terai holds most of our industries, agrarian resources and borders to exports and imports points. Madhesis are more Indian than Nepalis. If you own Terai, you make Girija lick your boots. It is not rocket science to guess who the Terai separatist of present Nepal are, and who’re behind them, or where they get their weapons from.
India controls our imports and exports, sells us finished goods at high rates processing cheap raw materials we sell them. It inundates us, destroying produce and lives; objects international involvement in Nepal; objects our military procurements. In contrast, the nuclear deal between India and US of India buying nuclear fuel – being a non-signatory to CTBT – is a greater threat to Nepal. India discourages Nepali exports to India; avoids Nepali products from reaching competitive status in India; demoralizes Nepali businesses through unjust levies and tariffs; and provides sanctuary for Nepali insurgents within its borders. This is just a grain of India’s grand design. Our Monarchs bear heavy blame for not establishing trade links with China from very early on to create a bargaining capacity. They bear the majority of blame for Nepal’s current position. The first big mistake was leaving Nepali states taken by the British with India. With the treaty held insignificant after British departure, Nepal should have claimed its rightful territory. Those states would have benefited Nepal’s geopolitical position.
To avoid these states from retaining ties with Nepal, India has kept them underdeveloped. Most of these states, at present, are under insurgency. One good aspect of the Maoist insurgency is its links with Indian insurgents. What would have been the prospects of Maoists – escaping ideology and incongruous fantasies of spreading communism in the world – of adhering to the Nepali peace process and democratic principles, international norms and applying pressure on the Indian Maoists to side with Nepal, just as our Madhesi brothers are doing? Nepali monarchs were unconcerned, because most of them were content, guided by opportunists, among whom, some saw their personal interests. There was heavy corruption. Therefore, India was not a threat unless the palace was itself, a threat. This condition, coupled with our mythical culture, perpetuated Nepal’s legendary ‘take for granted’ attitude. Nepal became heavily dependent on India for economy, external trade and national priorities. The cold war between the capitalists (America) and communists (Soviet Union) were unhelpful either. Nepal was forced to align more with India, rather than China. The China card was occasionally used to check Indian bullying, but the Chinese connection didn’t serve any other purpose.
Conclusion: unlike the days of antiquity, Nepal’s hopes of attaining decent economic and political sovereignty were crushed by the Rana Oligarchy and subsequent Indian control. From being land-locked, Nepal became India-locked – the heavy part of the blame for Nepal’s current position. This resulted in low economic output enough to please the masters and vibrant cities of Nepal, but left remaining Nepal underdeveloped, agrarian and impoverished. Lack of vision and forward-thinking, mythical priorities and centralized activities, coupled with rural poverty created a historical time bomb. It was natural for this bomb to explode – present Nepal.
4. Nepal in making – Polarization of Power Centers:
Another crucial historical loss was Nepal’s failure to utilize B.P. Koirala. The polarization of society mentioned earlier took its roots in Nepal from here on in. In fact, Nepali political stalwarts had united with the Indians to abolish the Rana Oligarchy. The kings and the political parties created a culture of ideological divide. Indian influence on Nepali political parties began, because Nepalis studied in India (because, you couldn’t in Nepal in those days) and became politically indoctrinated with Indian models. The king created the Communist Party of Nepal to offset the popular Congress Party lead by B.P. Koirala. The NC and UML united against King Birendra in the 90′s. During the reign of the political parties, NC had been at odds with UML at times. Later, Maoists, another power center, evolved. The political parties and the King were divided between the Maoists. Much has been talked about the King’s links with the Maoists. King Birendra had not used the military against them, even after a request from the then PM, G Koirala. It is assumed that the Maoists had bipolar influence, with one faction aligned to the King and the other with India. Ultimately, the Indian influence grew. King Gyanendra took over power dividing the two power centers. Later, through Indian envisioning, the Maoists and SPA aligned to bring down King Gyanendra. The EPA came into power and got lost in the lust for power. Thereafter, the Terai broke, and then it broke into other factions. Then, still other factions evolved to offset these factions. The Chure Bhawar Ekta Samaj is an example. Now, more factions are rising by the day.