Thursday, July 30, 2009

Commissioning commissions

Bipin Adhikari


Without an all-embracing theory, the process of drafting the constitution continues to be piecemeal, and both the need and calls for further reform will continue to rumble on for this very reason.

The report produced by the Constituent Assembly (CA) Committee on Determination of the Structure of Constitutional Bodies (CDSCB), which includes the preliminary draft and its concept paper, has surprised many critiques in the country by proposing creation of 11 commissions under the constitution in the making. This is the fourth committee submitting its report to the full house for further discussion and comments. As in the case of the last three reports, it appears the CDSCB committee members tend to see constitutional reform as part of pragmatic politics with no clear vision of the final product. They have created more problems than what they presume to have solved.

The principal objective of this report, as any other committee report on the given constitutional themes, is to act as a working document for the Constitutional Committee in light of the perceived shortfalls identified through deliberations, expert consultations, written submissions and from views expressed to the CA members in the field in respect of constitutional and other oversight bodies. This should have been done making the (questionable?) provisions of the earlier constitutions as a point of departure.

The major questions before the CDSCB should have been, one, what are the areas in which Nepal needs independent constitutional bodies or watchdogs; two, how these independent constitutional bodies or watchdogs should have been provided for in the changed context (it definitely involved decisions regarding their jurisdiction, power and modus operandi); and how these independent bodies were to maintain public accountability. The concept of independence without accountability neither bears any fruit nor protects any constitutional value.

As one expected, the committee has chosen to continue with all independent constitutional commissions under the Interim Constitution like the Commission on the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA), Audit Commission (as of now, the Office of the Auditor General of Nepal), Public Service Commission, Election Commission and Human Rights Commission. It is, however, not clear in what areas involving these constitutional bodies there has been an attempt on the part of the committee to reform these institutions, make them more independent, and as a corollary, accountable to the constitution and the general public.

There were some issues to be addressed. In professional circles, many human rights practitioners wanted the chapter on National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to have a clear-cut reference on the 1993 Paris Principles relating to the status and functioning of national institutions for protection and promotion of human rights. It is not just about making this commission financially independent through the constitution, but also about linking the NHRC with developing international system and practices.

Similarly, some people had the opinion that there should be a rethink on the mandate of the CIAA. It needs to capture all areas of maladministration and good governance issues. Many new provisions were suggested to make the Election Commission smarter and more efficient, including vesting power in it whereby it could outsource some of its electoral tasks to private entities who could do the job more professionally under its general supervision.

Most of the commissioners or members in the existing bodies do think that they have not been given enough access to parliament to speak about their activities, and relate their mandate with the direct representatives of the people. Even now the government acts as a bridge, and that entails a lot of consequences. Unfortunately, the report of the committee does not deal with these issues.

Amazing more than this though is the proposal of the CDSCB to create six additional commissions to protect the interests of (a) Women (b) Dalits (c) Adivasis/Janajatis (d) Disabled people, minorities, marginalised communities, backward classes and areas (e) Madhesia and (f) Muslims. All these proposed commissions deal with the right to equality, non-discrimination and other human rights issues. While attempts have been made to lay down their powers and functions separately, no effort has been made to sort out conceptual cleavages on the constitutional arrangements and jurisdictional overlap between these commissions.

The issue of jurisdictional overlap is most prominent. There is no reason why an integrated national human rights commission cannot deal with all the components above — clubbing them together. The draft model constitution that this author suggested to the Constituent Assembly for their discussion in May this year also provided one human rights commission dealing with all human rights issues, whether they relate with caste, ethnicity or people from remote (backward) areas. An additional commission was recommended for Adivasis/Janajatis, minorities and communities depreciated as smaller castes.

While the first commission had the power to receive complaints of human rights violations, investigative powers regarding them and the power to award compensation to victims of human rights violations, the latter had to rely on the former as to all these things. But then the latter commission had all other powers and responsibilities regarding most of the issues that have a bearing on specific communities. This arrangement not only avoided jurisdictional overlap, but also allowed enough working space to the second commission and the elected government.

The committee concept paper has a serious flaw. If Muslims deserve an independent commission to protect their community interests in the state system, why not Kirants; and if Kirants, why not Christians? If Madhesis think they have a cause to protect through the new commission, what prevents Himalis (the high mountain dwellers) from claiming a similar commission on the same grounds? What type of justice is it? Should some people be left behind because they do not have enough heads in the Constituent Assembly? This type of proposal hardly makes any sense.
Posted on: 2009-07-29 20:18:28 (Server Time)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Bipin Adhikari

Like many countries in the world, Nepal is also concerned about the need to preserve its cultural and linguistic diversity according to the best formula that one can think of in the face of competing claims of different communities and cultures.

Many factors affect the existence and usage of any given language. Some of them may include the size of the native speaking population, its use in formal communication and the geographical dispersion and socio-economic weight of its speakers. A new constitution providing a policy in this regard can either mitigate or exacerbate the effects of some of these factors. It is, therefore, very important to be holistic and not to miss the jungle for the trees when working on a language policy.

In this context, it is necessary to put in perspective the language policy proposed by the Constituent Assembly (CA) Committee on the Determination of Grounds of Social and Cultural Unity for discussion at the CA plenary session. This is so far largely undone by the constituent of the constitution building process, not to mention the constitutional experts watching the process from outside.

The preliminary draft on the issue provides that all native languages spoken in Nepal are national languages. It is the obligation of the state to ensure equal protection, promotion and development of all national languages. Every native language community has the right to experience their linguistic identity and their relationship with it in dignified ways. Those without sight and voice will also have the right to use Braille and non-verbal communications.

Featuring additional changes, the draft recognizes Nepali — the present official language of Nepal — as the official language of the central government. Along with Nepali, each province has been given the competence to decide how many provincial languages it wants as its official languages. The local units within the provinces may also employ the local language of the area as the official language for their particular region as per the law enacted by the respective provincial legislature.

None of these provisions, however, are deemed to restrain anybody from the use of his or her native language to receive public services from the state. Although it will be necessary to define the nature of this last provision by law, the first three provisions are clear enough and mostly address many of the demands of Nepal's natives.

The committee draft also provides that the official language of the central government shall be the language to be employed for the communication between the centre and the provinces. There are two exceptions, however. First, a province may decide to communicate with the centre in one of the languages it has approved for official business within the province. It goes without saying that the central government has to prepare its bureaucracy — civil, military or judicial — to receive and process business in at least seven or eight languages and respond to the corresponding province as necessary.

Secondly, the provinces are to conduct their official business with each other in the official language of the centre and any other language to be mutually agreed upon between them. There is no provision which addresses the stake of a third party, for example, a province which is a little far from the provinces which have mutually decided to employ a particular language in their dealings with each other. Again, it could be a language, for which the central government has to be better equipped with — whether it is its choice or within its logistical capacity or not. It is assumed that this language policy can maintain the business requirements of the state as well as the cultural and social harmony in the country.

Many commentators, in the House or down the street, are pretending that the language problem has more or less been solved, at least at the committee level; and that efforts to introduce Hindi as a parallel governmental language along with Nepali has been checked at the threshold. The conclusion is without doubt a faulty one, if not malicious.

According to a provision, the central government may choose to recognize a language that fulfills certain required standards as its official language upon the recommendation of the language commission. The only requirement is that such a recommendation be passed by a simple majority of the central legislature.

In other words, the status of the Nepali language as the only lingua franca of the nation has been challenged on multiple fronts. It may no longer be the language of choice for the provinces, as an operative language between the central government and a province, or practically, even as the official language of the centre. The clutches around Nepali — the language of national integration — will try to keep it not just under size, but also inoperative because of a seemingly inappropriate approach.

Additionally, the above provision, which enables the central government to adopt any other language as the official language for its purpose is a carefully inducted provision to give unsoiled entrance to Hindi — a foreign language — as the second official language of the centre through the backdoor. This provision must be dropped altogether.

While the indigenous Nepali language and the treatment given to it by the proposed preliminary draft will have to be subjected to heated discussions and passed by a two-thirds majority in the Constituent Assembly, Hindi can now be the second official language by the decision of the government of the day. A language commission, or the fragile government of Nepal, which continues to be constituted by decisions made elsewhere cannot check the tide of events that unfolds here when it decides on a crucial national issue. It need not be emphasized here how such a decision will be enforced by proxy forces in Nepal overnight.

There is no reason why Hindi should be allowed in Nepal as an official language simply because it serves somebody's strategic interests here. It is an attempt to fish in muddy waters. If it is to be accepted as an official language either of the centre or of any province, it must be proposed and voted according to the Constituent Assembly process. There is a danger that a process to empower the natives and their language and cultures might further marginalize them through a provision whose effect is disastrous to the nationalist aspirations of the Nepalese people (already much fatigued by the sponsored changes).

An end to the political spin of this sort is not in sight. Even if a spin of some kind is intrinsic to politics, it just has to be kept in check and not allowed into areas like this where it should have no place.

Posted on: 2009-07-15 19:51:31 (Server Time)

Sunday, July 12, 2009

उत्पीडकको गम्भीर आरोप - विपीन अधिकारी

Nepal Newsmagazine,Sunday, July 12, 2009

अल्पसंख्यक तथा सीमान्तकृत समुदायको हक-अधिकार संरक्षण समितिले हालै आफ्नो अवधारणापत्र र प्रारम्भिक मस्यौदा पेस गरेको छ, जुन अल्पसंख्यक तथा सीमान्तकृत समुदायको हक-अधिकार संरक्षणका सम्बन्धमा गरेका विभिन्न प्रस्तावहरूमध्ये एउटा प्रस्ताव समानताको हकसँग सम्बन्धित छ । यस अन्तर्गत खण्ड -३) मा राज्यले नागरकिहरूका बीच धर्म, समुदाय, लिंग वा वर्णलगायत कुनै पनि आधारमा कुनै पनि किसिमको भेदभाव गर्ने छैन भन्ने व्यवस्थ्ाासँग सम्बन्धित प्रतिबन्धात्मक वाक्यांश ध्यानाकृष्ट गर्ने खालको छ, जसमा भनिएको छ, 'तर आर्थिक, सामाजिक, राजनीतिक, शैक्षिक र स्वास्थ्यमा पिछडिएको समुदाय वा वर्गको पहिचान गरी उनीहरूको संरक्षण, विकास र सशक्तीकरणका लागि राज्यले विगतको उत्पीडनको क्षतिपूर्तिसहित सकारात्मक विभेदका आधारमा कानुनद्वारा विशेष व्यवस्था गर्नेछ ।'

समितिको अवधारणापत्र वा प्रारम्भिक मस्यौदामा उपरोक्त प्रतिबन्धात्मक वाक्यांशमा परेको 'विगतको उत्पीडनको क्षतिपूर्तिसहित' भन्ने पदावलीले केलाई बुझाउन खोजेको हो प्रस्ट हुन सकेको छैन । यस्तो पदावली दलित समुदायको हकमा पनि प्रयोग गरएिको छ । मौलिक हक तथा अधिकारको विधिशास्त्रमा भने यस प्रकारको क्षतिपूर्तिको प्रावधानले गहिरो अर्थ राख्छ ।

सामान्यतया हरेक समाजमा आर्थिक, सामाजिक, राजनीतिक, शैक्षिक तथा स्वास्थ्यको दृष्टिकोणले पछाडि परेका समुदायहरू हुन्छन् । पछाडि पर्नुका विभिन्न कारण हुन्छन् । एउटा प्रमुख कारण राज्यले उनीहरूप्रति चाहिँदो ध्यान दिन नसक्नु पनि हो । तर, कारण जेसुकै भए तापनि त्यसरी पछाडि परेको कारणबाट त्यस्ता समुदायहरू राष्ट्रको मूल प्रवाहबाट क्रमशः सीमान्तकृत हुँदै जान्छन् । यो प्रक्रियालाई नरोक्ने हो भने मुलुकको जनसंख्याको एउटा ठूलो भागले संविधानले सुनिश्चित गरेको मौलिक हक तथा अधिकार प्रयोग गर्न सक्दैन । त्यस्तो प्रक्रियाबाट एउटा न्यायपूर्ण समाजको स्थापना गर्न सकिँदैन । यी विभिन्न कारणहरूले गर्दा त्यस्ता पछाडि परेका अल्पसंख्यक वा सीमान्तकृत समुदायको पहिचान गरी उनीहरूको संरक्षण, विकास र सशक्तीकरणका लागि सकारात्मक विभेदलाई संविधानद्वारा नै स्वीकार गरी विशेष व्यवस्था गर्ने प्रचलन आज सबै प्रजातान्त्रिक मुलुकमा पाइन्छ । तर, यहाँ प्रयोग भएको 'विगतको उत्पीडनको क्षतिपूर्तिसहित' भन्ने पदावलीले संवैधानिक कानुनको त्यस्तो विवेचनाभन्दा फरक अर्थ राख्छ ।

कानुन चाहे देवानी प्रकृतिको होस् वा फौजदारी प्रकृतिको, उत्पीडनका लागि क्षतिपूर्ति भन्नु र मुलुकमा पछाडि परेको समुदायलाई सकारात्मक विभेद गरी अगाडि ल्याउने मनसाय राख्नु अलग-अलग कुरा हुन् । 'उत्पीडन' वा 'क्षतिपूर्ति' भन्ने शब्दले केवल विषयवस्तुको गम्भीरतालाई मात्र होइन, नयाँ परपि्रेक्ष्यलाई पनि समेटेको हुन्छ । जुन रूपमा लेखिएको छ, त्यस रूपमा हेर्दा उपरोक्त प्रतिबन्धात्मक वाक्यांशले नेपालमा उत्पीडक समुदाय छन् तथा ती उत्पीडकका कारणले गर्दा केही अन्य समुदायहरू आर्थिक, सामाजिक, राजनीतिक, शैक्षिक र स्वास्थ्य क्षेत्रमा पिछडिएका हुन् भन्ने निष्कर्ष दिन्छन् । यदि प्रस्तावित लक्ष्य त्यही नै हो भने अल्पसंख्यक तथा सीमान्तकृत समुदायको हक-अधिकार संरक्षण समितिले आरोपित उत्पीडक समुदाय को हो भनेर उल्लेख गर्नुपर्ने हुन्छ । उत्पीडन कसले गर्‍यो त भन्ने कुरोको टुंगो नलागीकन त्यस्तो उत्पीडक समुदायले राज्यलाई आफ्नो उद्देश्यका लागि प्रयोग गरेको हो वा होइन भनेर टुंगो लगाउन सकिँदैन । यदि राज्य सम्बन्धित छैन भने निश्चित रूपमा यसलाई क्षतिपूर्तिको दायित्व सम्बन्धमा जिम्मेवारी बोकाउन सकिँदैन । जबसम्म आरोप नै प्रमाणित छैन, क्षतिपूर्तिको दाबी कसरी लाग्छ, सोचनीय छ ।

त्यसैगरी क्षतिपूर्तिको कुरा उठाउँदा उत्पीडक यो हो भनेर लेखिदिनु मात्र पर्याप्त छैन । उसले दिएको पीडा केका आधारमा प्रमाणित गरएिको हो, सो पनि हेर्नुपर्ने हुन्छ । 'विगतको उत्पीडन' भनेर लेख्दा त्यस 'विगत' शब्दले कुन कालखण्डलाई जनाउँछ, उत्पीडन कहाँ गरयिो ? र, कति लामो समयसम्म गरयिो भनेर पनि उल्लेख गर्नुपर्ने हुन्छ । यतिले मात्र पुग्दैन । त्यस्तो उत्पीडन खप्ने आर्थिक, सामाजिक, राजनीतिक, शैक्षिक र स्वास्थ्यमा पिछडिएको समुदाय वा वर्गलाई जातीय रूपमा प्रमाणित गर्नुपर्ने हुन्छ । उत्पीडक भनेको यो यस्तो हो भनेर नलेखी यति विस्तृत तथा पहिचान गर्न नसकिने गरी उल्लेख गर्दा यसले कुनै समस्याको समाधान गर्दैन, बरु नयाँ समस्याहरूको उठान भने गर्छ । वास्तवमा उत्पीडन भएको छ भनेर कुनै अड्डा-अदालतको फैसला वा कुनै अन्तर्राष्ट्रिय ट्राइब्युनलहरूको निर्णय, राष्ट्रिय वा अन्तर्राष्ट्रिय आयोगले हस्ताक्षर गरििदएको प्रतिवेदनलाई किटानीका साथ उल्लेख गर्न सक्ने भए त्यसले एउटा लक्ष्य पूरा गथ्र्यो होला ।

उत्पीडक जाति वा वर्गको पहिचान गर्नुका साथै त्यस्तो जाति वा वर्गलेे लगातार रूपमा राज्यलाई अपहरण गरेर आफ्नो अभीष्ट पूरा गरेको पनि देखिनुपर्छ । यसरी जातिगत रूपमा आरोप लगाउँदा एउटा कसुरदार देखाएर पुग्दैन, त्यसको अविच्छिन्न प्रवृत्ति -ट्रेन्ड) पनि देखाउन सक्नुपर्छ । त्यस्तो प्रवृत्तिलाई स्पष्ट रूपमा देखाउन नसक्ने हो भने कुनै उत्पीडकले त्यस्तो पीडित जातजातिलाई समाप्त गर्न खोजेको थियो भन्ने दाबी फितलो हुन जान्छ । यी तथ्यहरूको अभावमा समितिको प्रारम्भिक मस्यौदामा जे उल्लेख गरएिको छ, त्यो विवादास्पद नै हो भनेर मान्नुपर्ने हुन्छ ।

उक्त प्रस्तावित अवधारणापत्र तथा प्रारम्भिक मस्यौदामा जेसुकै गरी क्षतिपूर्तिको विषयलाई उठाइए पनि यसको परण्िााम प्रस्ट छ । यसले नेपालमा उत्पीडक समुदाय छन्, त्यस्ता उत्पीडक समुदायले लगातार रूपमा अन्य समुदायलाई पीडा दिएका छन् भन्ने बुझिन्छ । तर, त्यस्तो उत्पीडित समुदायलाई संविधानले केवल सकारात्मक विभेद वा समावेशीकरण गरेर मात्र पुग्दैन, त्यस्तो ऐतिहासिक उत्पीडनका लागि क्षतिपूर्ति पनि दिनुपर्छ । र, त्यस्तो क्षतिपूर्तिको व्यवस्थाले मात्र अल्पसंख्यक वा सीमान्तकृत वर्गलाई सशक्तीकरण गर्न सक्छ भन्ने मान्यतालाई स्थापित गर्छ । क्षतिपूर्ति राज्यले दिने भन्नुको अर्थ उत्पीडक वर्गले राज्यलाई यद्यपि कब्जा गरेकै छ भन्ने हो । होइन भने क्षतिपूर्तिको प्रश्न नै उठ्दैन ।

क्षतिपूर्तिको कुरा कतिपय मुलुकहरूमा नउठेका भने होइनन् । तर, नेपालमा यसलाई जुन रूपमा उठाइँदैछ, त्यसप्रति सशंकित हुने ठाउँ छ । जस्तो- क्यानाडाको क्युबेक प्रान्त, संयुक्त अधिराज्यमा स्कट तथा वेल्सका बासिन्दा, स्पेनमा क्याटालान्स र बास्कको विद्रोह, बेल्जिएममा फ्लेमिस समुदायको दाबी, इटालीको दक्षिण टाइरोलमा बस्ने जर्मनभाषी अल्पसंख्यक तथा संयुक्त राज्य अमेरकिामा पोर्टोरकिोको प्रश्न छापामा आइरहने विषय हुन् । यी सबै क्षेत्रहरूमा बस्ने बहुमत समुदायले अलग मुलुक भई बस्ने वा त्यसै मुलुकमा रहे पनि क्षेत्रीय स्वायत्ततालगायतका सामुदायिक स्वार्थका विषयहरू उठाएका छन् । त्यो माग उत्पीडनसम्बन्धी माग होइन ।

त्यसै गरी राज्यले केही खास समुदायलाई कुन रूपमा व्यवहार गर्ने भन्नेबारे पनि विभिन्न मुलुकमा छलफल भइरहेको पाइन्छ । चाहे त्यो क्यानाडाका इन्डियन वा इनुइत समुदाय हुन्, चाहे अस्टे्रलियाका आदिवासी वा न्युजिल्यान्डका माओरी समुदाय हुन्, अल्पसंख्यकका बारे छलफल भएको छ । स्क्यान्डिनेभियन मुलुकहरूमा सामी समुदायका मागहरू, ग्रीनल्यान्डमा इनुइत समुदायका अपेक्षा तथा अमेरकिामा रेड इन्डियन जातिको संरक्षण, यी सबै विषयलाई छलफल गर्न सकिन्छ । हामीकहाँचाहिँ किन पर्याप्त छलफल नभईकन यो विषयलाई प्रारम्भिक मस्यौदामा छिराइएको हो, बुझ्न गाह्रै परेको छ ।

संसारका सबै ऐतिहासिक मुलुकहरूझैँ निश्चित रूपमा नेपाल सम्पूर्ण जातजातिको दृष्टिकोणबाट एउटा भेदभावविहीन न्यायपूर्ण समाज थिएन । पूर्वमा वर्मादेखि पश्चिममा अफगानिस्थानसम्म यस हिमवत् खण्डको भोक, रोग र अशिक्षासँग गहिरो नाता छ । त्यसलाई प्रमाणित गररिहनुपर्दैन । यहाँ हत्या पनि भए, हिंसा पनि भए र राज्यले सबैलाई समान रूपमा आफ्नो प्रश्रय शक्तिको प्रयोगबाट संरक्षण दिन पनि सकेन । राज्यको क्षमता तथा दृढताको अभावमा धेरै जातजातिले अहिलेको मान्यताबमोजिम आफ्नो जातीयता, भाषा, संस्कृति तथा पहिचानको उत्थान गर्ने अवसर पाएनन् । प्रजातान्त्रिक व्यवस्थ्ााको अभावका साथसाथै राज्य संगठनहरूको विकास राम्रोसँग भइनसकेको मुलुकमा त्यो सम्भव थिएन । तर, त्यति कुराले मात्र राज्यलाई उत्पीडक भन्न मिल्दैन ।

उत्पीडनको आरोप असाध्यै गम्भीर प्रकृतिको आरोप हो । यसमा उत्पीडकको नियत निर्मल हुँदैन । त्यहाँ सत्तासीन जातिमा 'हामीहरू' र 'उनीहरू' भन्ने भावना प्रबल रूपमा हुन्छ । एकअर्काप्रतिको घृणाको कुनै सीमा हँुदैन । त्यसैले एकअर्कालाई सम्मान दिने चाहना पनि हुँदैन । यसै परपि्रेक्ष्यमा भएका पाशविकता, हत्या र आतंकले क्रमशः सम्पूर्ण समाजलाई जेल्छ तथा बलियाबाट निमुखाको उत्पीडनका प्रक्रियाहरू सुरु हुन्छन् । त्यस्तो वातावरणमा यो मुलुक चार जात छत्तीस वर्णको फूलबारी हो भन्न्ो भनाइ पनि राजनीतिक रूपमा व्यक्त गरएिको हुँदैन, न त मुलुकको साझा गन्तव्य नै निर्माण गरएिको हुन्छ ।

आधुनिक नेपालका संस्थापक राजा पृथ्वीनारायण शाहलाई सबै गलत प्रवृत्तिहरूको द्योतक बनाइने गरेको छ, अहिले । विजेता र विजितको कुरो पनि उठेका छन् । उनले गरेको राष्ट्रिय एकीकरण सामन्ती थियो होला तर यो न त मध्ययुगको युरोपमा भएको यहुदीहरूको हत्याको लडाइँ नै थियो, न त हामीले केही वर्षअगाडि देखेको बोस्िनया वा हर्जगोभिनाको जातीय युद्ध नै थियो । यसका निश्चित सैद्धान्तिक आधारहरू थिए । नेपाललाई असली हिन्दुस्तान बनाउने आकांक्षा राजा पृथ्वीनारायण शाह र उनीपछिका शासकहरूमा देखिएको थियो । तर, त्यहाँ कसैलाई जातिगत रूपमा समाप्त गर्ने आकांक्षा थिएन । त्यसैगरी एकीकरणका योद्धाहरू बाहुन मात्र थिएनन् । त्यसमा मगर, गुरुङलगायत अन्य जातिहरूकै प्रमुखता थियो । उनले लडाइँ गरेका अधिकांश बाइसे, चौबीसे, मल्ल वा किराँत राज्यका सेनापतिहरू खस नै थिए । त्यो लडाइँ जातियताको 'प्लेटर्फम'मा लडिएको थिएन । सैनिक वा राजनीतिक अभियानका रूपमा अरू जातिलाई मास्ने धर्म, संस्कार वा कूटनीति नेपालको इतिहासमा पाउन सकिँदैन ।

पृथ्वीनारायण शाहले नुवाकोटमा चढाइ गर्दा प|mान्स र बेलायतका बीच लडाइँ सुरु भइसकेको थियो र भारतमा मुगलहरूको साम्राज्यलाई बि्रटिसहरूले चुनौती दिन थालिसकेका थिए । उनको एकीकरणको प्रयासलाई जातीय रूपमा हेर्नेले उनको जमानाका मुग्लानका औरंगजेबलगायतका शासकहरू र तिब्बतको तत्कालीन शासनमा चीनका मञ्चुवंशका राजाहरूको क्रियाकलापलाई पनि हेर्नुपर्छ । अमेरकिी वा प|mेञ्च क्रान्तिभन्दा अघिका बीभत्स लडाइँ र रक्तपातलाई पनि बुझ्नुपर्छ । सामन्तवाद नै मानिएता पनि एकीकरणको एउटा राजनीतिक परविेश थियो । निश्चित रूपमा त्यस परविेशलाई चाहिएभन्दा बढी बदनाम गर्नुको परण्िाामहरू यो देशको राष्ट्रवादका लागि सही हुनसक्दैन ।

इतिहासलाई मूल्यांकन गर्दा आजको मापदण्डको आधारमा होइन, उसबेलाकै मापदण्डलाई पछ्याउनुपर्छ । कुरा केवल पृथ्वीनारायण शाहको मात्र होइन । आजको मितिसम्म राजा यलम्बरदेखि सुरु भएका प्राचीन किराँतकाल, उनीहरूपछिको लिच्छविकाल, खस राजाहरू, मल्लराज्य वा त्यस कालखण्डका बाइसे-चौबीसे राज्यहरूमा कहाँ, कुन समयमा, कुन जातिलाई कसले र कसरी जेलनेल, देशनिकाला, जातिहत्या वा आफ्नो क्षेत्रबाट जबरजस्ती निष्कासन गरेको थियो, कसैले लेख्न सकेका छैनन् । कहाँ कतिका चिहान खनिए र कुन जातिले कुन जातिलाई सामूहिक चिहानमा सुताएको छ, त्यो देखाउन सक्ने इतिहासकारहरू हामी पाउँदैनाँै ।

उत्पीडन वा जातीयता दुवै नेपालको राष्ट्रिय विकासका कुनै पनि चरणका लागि अपरििचत शब्द हुन् । त्यसो भए मानवताविरोधी अपराध गरेर आजको अन्तर्राष्ट्रिय मानवीय कानुनलाई उल्लंघन गरेको मानिन सक्ने त्यस्ता कर्महरू के हुन्, जसका लागि क्षतिपूर्तिको कुरा उठाइँदैछ ? खासगरी अहिलेका विवादहरूमा मुछ्न खोजिएको खस जातिलाई पीडाबोध हुने गरी आएको यो क्षतिपूर्तिसम्बन्धी व्यवस्थाले राष्ट्र निर्माणलाई तथा हामी सबै नेपाली भन्ने भावनालाई अवश्य पनि मद्दत गर्दैन ।

वास्तवमा क्षतिपूर्तिका बारेमा कुरा गर्दा अलिकति संवेदनशीलता चाहिन्छ । हल्काफुल्का र सतही कुरा गर्दा संविधानसभाजस्तो ठूलो प्रजातान्त्रिक प्रयोगप्रति जनताको विश्वास हराउँछ । अल्पसंख्यक तथा सीमान्तकृत समुदायको मौलिक अधिकारलाई सुनिश्चित गर्नका लागि संविधानसभाले मुलुकलाई यो विवादास्पद विषयमा मुछ्नु जरुरी छैन ।

-अधिकारी संवैधानिक मामिलाका विज्ञ हुन् ।

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Minority report - Bipin Adhikari

The Kathmandu Post, July 02, 2009

The report of the Constituent Assembly (CA) Committee on the Protection of Rights and Freedoms of Minority and Marginalized Communities, which is now under discussion at the plenary session of the House, captures many of the current requirements under its terms of reference. The report contains a concept paper and a preliminary draft as much as they relate with the minority rights issues to be covered by the new constitution to be drafted by the unicameral House.

The report deals not only with normal individual rights as applied to members of ethnic, class, religious, linguistic or sexual minorities, but also collective rights accorded to minority groups by virtue of their minority status. Marginalized groups are also carefully brought within the fold. In its entirety, it covers protection of existence, protection from discrimination, protection and promotion of identity, and participation in political life. But then it also happens to contain a very controversial provision while dealing with the right to equality.

As a proviso to the general rule which guarantees that the state shall not discriminate between people on the basis of ethnicity, religion and so on, it also goes on maintaining that the state shall provide by law special measures on the basis of positive discrimination along with compensation for the persecution rendered in the past for the protection, development and empowerment of the communities and classes left behind in economic, social, political and educational areas and in the area of health (emphasis added).

An identical provision has been proposed also in the context of racial discrimination and misconduct of "untouchability" and religious and personal persecution. Here, too, the state has been obliged to provide compensation for the discrimination, misconduct and persecution, in addition to the measure of proportional representation in state institutions.

Firstly, the committee intends to treat the first set of communities above differently than the second set of communities, yet both these provisions maintain that Nepal has been a persecuting state — a grave charge that remains to be substantiated on explicit grounds. Secondly, it defines discrimination associated with the untouchability stigma as racial.

At the outset, it must be emphasized that comparative constitutional law has developed a rich discourse over the last half century or so on how the state might respond in varying ways to the claims concerning historical injustices. There are different models of reverse discrimination or affirmative action, which could be applied to promote equal opportunity and set the balance right. They focus on measures ranging from employment and education to public contracting and health programmes. The drive behind them are two-fold: to maximize diversity in all levels of society, along with its presumed benefits, and to redress perceived disadvantages due to overt, institutional or involuntary discrimination.

The intention here, as far as the report of the committee is concerned, seems to be apparently different. Going beyond the historical wrongs, it talks about "persecution", which in general may imply the systematic mistreatment of a community by another community through murderous activities and efforts of extermination, enslavement, deportation or maltreatment on political, racial or religious grounds. The most common forms of persecution are religious, ethnic and political, though there is naturally some overlap between these terms. In any case, the term "persecution" implies deeply traumatic injustices.

Without generalizing too much, certain apparent characteristics of persecution could easily be established. When the committee uses the term, (a) It assumes in the first place that Nepal has a history of persecution (b) That the persecutors have acted with the power of the state in the job of persecution (c) That this went on for a long time of history and (d) Resulted in continuous deprivation of some groups, which needs to be remedied by offering compensation by the state. It also implies that affirmative actions or measures of positive discrimination are not enough to redeem them.

In the given framework, the "state" must be defined as persecutor, and compensation must be paid by it as the culprit of history. It goes without saying that the state (persecutor) here means the Khas community, especially Bahuns and Chhetris, who are now implicated for capturing this country for long. This is the community that produced King Prithvi Narayan Shah, who unified the country in the latter half of the 18th century and allegedly started the process of persecution through his new establishment. Linked with this is the argument that Khasas are the invaders while the other communities are the victims. The committee has not offered the basis on which this conclusion has been grounded.

The world definitely has a history of systematic mistreatment of groups due to their religious affiliation — resulting in the persecution and killing of millions. Atheists have experienced persecution throughout history. In the two thousand years of the Christian faith, about 70 million believers have been killed for their inability to turn back from their religion. The persecution of Jews occurred many times in Jewish history. Hindus have been historically persecuted during Islamic rule on the South Asian subcontinent. The persecution of many ethnic groups, not to mention ethnic Germans and albinos, are the most scandalous episodes in world history. These are not stories of isolated examples, but of unrelenting persecution over a long period of time. But do they have parallels in Nepal?

During 1915-20, when Ismail Anwar was the ruler of Turkey, 12 lakh Armenians, almost 8 lakh Greeks and 5 lakh Assyrians were eliminated because of ethnic reasons. It is said that during the reign of Chairman Mao Tse-tung of the Chinese Communist Party, more than seven million people were killed due to political and ethnic reasons. During 1932-39, Joseph Stalin eliminated 2.3 million people from different parts of the Soviet Union. Adolf Hitler of Germany was by all means the worst persecutor. He killed six million Jews to establish what he described as Nazism just seven decade ago. During 1941-44, almost 50 million people were killed in Japan.

Cambodia's Pol Pot regime of 1975-79 and of North Korea's Kim Il Sung's regime between 1946-1994 were the other worst scenarios. All these examples can help explain what persecution is, and at what time the state must be identified with the persecuting rulers or their communities.

Even among the cases softer than them, treating the problems of Nepal on a par with the treatment of indigenous peoples, such as the Indians and Inuits in Canada, the Aboriginal people of Australia, the Maoris of New Zealand, the Sami of Scandinavia, the Inuits of Greenland and the Indian tribes of the United States cannot be prudent. There are many such examples, where natives suffered because of persecution rendered by outsiders who settled in the country.

Unfortunately, Nepal as a persecuting state does not fit anywhere. The committee report must then be discussed why the state should be scolded for grave injustices and persecution that it has not committed against anybody. And if the purpose is only to create space for further affirmative action and positive discrimination measures for those who deserve them, why the reference about persecuting state or the persecuting community. If the strategy is not to diminish the political identity of this country, there is scope for serious discussion.