Game Theory and Madhesi Dilemma

October 24, 2006 at 5:57 pm 3 comments

Game Theory and Madhesi Dilemma

-Ram Manohar

The changing political condition in Nepal after Democracy reinstallation through Janandolan – II, has accelerated the political debate in different issues of Nepal. One issue, that no major political party wants to discuss full hearty at the moment is the Madhesis and their different rights. Among the different issues of madhesis, the highly debated is whether madhesis should be given right to rule themselves?

There are many supporting arguments and counter arguments from all section of society. Starting with the counter argument, people doubt about the very concept of restructuring of state and dilution of central power in small country like Nepal. The next set of people is not against restructure but argues against restructuring based on caste, creed, culture, and language basis. Some other set of people are totally against giving any kind of rights to any other people other than khas-brahmin. But whatever they argue, may be they have their own assumptions and logic behind each theories, the problems do not seem to be vanishing.

Trying to see this problem in Game theory perspective, one will get some quantitative and scientific insight about the people dynamics in the state politics. The prison’s dilemma theory of game theory says that, if one prison has any doubt on his/her counter-part giving confession to police, then game theory suggests never ever believe on your counter-part behavior. The model says that, in this condition, if you take decision giving priority to individual benefit, then the pay-off you get is always greater than other party. Strategist suggests, always think for individual benefit, and do not work for collective profit, when in doubt about cooperation from companion.

Game Theory – The Classic Game is Prisoners’ Dilemma

Given the current strain condition between madhesis and paharis, it’s very difficult to trust each other. One may, for assurance sake, argue any thing. But the real fact is, paharis had shown no fate on madhesis since last more than 260 years. As a result of which, madhesis could not find any responsibility in state defense, diplomacy, administration, and government representation. On the other hand, madhesi experience of paharis attitude and behavior for last 260 years has made them perceive this attitude as colonial strategy of pahari, which madhesi is not willing to accept any more. Breaking the deadlock of last 260, madhesis are asking right to rule themselves.

Explaining in term of Prisoner’s dilemma, madhesis are also facing dilemma. Madhesi’s are not able to make strategy for future course, whether they should maintain status-quo or march forward for non-cooperation. Applying Game theory, one can predict that, the outcome will be the strategy for protecting individual interest. Madhesi and pahari, each one will apply individual rationality, and thus will maximize individual pay-off. In the condition of mutual doubt, the resulting outcome is no-cooperation with each other, ultimately resulting in a more strain which can finally lead to a political and geographical line between madhesis and paharis.

The local version of game theory is also quite common. It is said that, 1 and 1 when comes together, can make power of 11. But, it is only possible if both of them work and cooperate with each other. But if any group betrays, then there will be unequal division of pay-off, i.e one group taking more that 5.5 point of pay-off from power. This is where discontent arises. If the suppressed group continues to get less than 5.5 point of pay-off from power, the relationship will not last longer.

This is the condition between madhesis and paharis right now. Paharis want to take more share of pay-off, where as the relationship is believed to be on equality basis. Now even if madhesis is getting some pay-off on investment of 1 but is less than 5.5 point of pay-off from power, madhesis will not want to be in relationship any further.

The above two concept explains to most extend, the strategy madhesis will adopt further. State restructuring will be the minimum and first step in this direction. Given that majority madhesis are distributed along a specific geography, state restructuring will only ensure of regional administrative equality, but other issues that will be left are participation in state defense, diplomatic and central resource planning & distribution.

Ram Manohar



Entry filed under: Articles.

Rastra ko Sabal ra madhesi janta मधेशी दलित, भूमि र नागरिकताको पीडा

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Loknath  |  October 27, 2006 at 8:12 pm

    A good analysis on the author’s part. However, the concept of Nepal being divided broadly into Paharis and Madhesis, is in itself flawed. Both of these broad categories have many different ethnic groups which have different cultures, traditions and language. Blaming the padhadis is not right as only one pahadi ethnic group is at an advantage and the rest are minimally represented in all forms of governance.
    In the madhesh, including terai, though minimally represented in any form of governence, only an elite group of madhesis are represented. Indigenous people like Tharu, and the so called dalits like jhagars, mushahars, batar etc do not have any form of involvement in governance. If we talk about broad paharis and madhesis, these indigenous groups will always be marginalized. So, let’s not talk only about madhesis and paharis, if regional autonomy based on ethnicity is the best form of self-governance, then regions should be divided based on all these differnt ethnic groups rather than just paharis and madhesis.

  • 2. anand thakur  |  October 28, 2006 at 6:46 am

    thank u , for rembering me about all that.
    tack care ur self too.

  • 3. ashwinee  |  December 6, 2006 at 11:23 am

    There is no doubt that restructuring of state has become must. With trust or without trust its always better to have well formed administrative divisions the present strategy of development regions is bullshit. I met a sherpa guy some years ago and was shocked to know that he belonged to same Zone as me. There is no way he can ever connect to people in dhanusha district… such division is useless.

    But restructuring is just the first step. There are lot of issues to be fixed in madheshi society, political class etc as well. But none of the genuine approaches to madheshi development can succeed when someone else is ruling class especially with a mentality that sees development of madheshis as threat.

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