Ethnic Conflicts in South Asia with Special Reference of Nepal

November 18, 2006 at 9:24 am 1 comment

Ethnic Conflicts in South Asia with Special  Reference of Nepal

Amresh Kumar Singh
Research Scholar, South Asian Studies

Abstract 

Multi-ethnicity is a socio-political phenomenon in most societies and in the present century; inter-ethnic cleavages, competition and conflict appear to have acquired a marked intensity. In the process, ethnic mobilization has posed varied challenges to many developed and developing states. The patterns of ethnic group mobilization have been complex and the demands are varied ranging from protest against discrimination, struggle for autonomy and secession. The first two demands may emerge to be issues for bargaining, negotiation and contention among the groups and the institutions of power at various levels. The demand for secession is generally non-negotiable as it threatens territorial integrity of the state. The principle of self-determination is the guiding proposition for the ‘autonomist’ as well as secessionist demands.

Over the past few decades the problems of ethnicity and nation building have attracted the attention of many scholars of diverse discipline. The South Asian region is ‘constellation of multi-ethnic societies’ is a challenging field. Ethnicity has been a critical variable in the ‘formation and reformation’ of the state structures in this area. Of late, the South Asian countries have been experiencing intermittent ethnic cleavages and conflicts of different magnitudes. The movements, which were autonomists before, developed an increased tendency for secession. On the basis of self- determination, they sought recognition as a nation. Some of the insurgent groups got involved in protracted guerrilla warfare against the state. Thus, South Asia became a kaleidoscope of latent, overt and explosive ethnicity.

Nepal is a multi-linguistic, multi-cultural, multi-religious and multi-ethnic nation-state. The relationship of state with the people had thus largely followed this division, making it a binary relationship. This approach has, however, neglected other sections of the people whose position had remained marginalized and oppressed from the Kathmandu- centric ruling class. Some of these groups are the Madhesis and Janajatis (ethnic groups). This paper attempts to explore this section of the community in relation to the different regimes of the various periods since the inception of Nepal. The paper argues that the during the Shah and Rana periods, the then regimes’ attitude towards the ethnic groups were one of total apathy mainly because they thought it served the regimes’ interests and awareness among the ethnic groups to fight for the rights was not emerged then. With the establishment of democracy that lasted for about a decade, it was thought that the position of the oppressed section would improve. However, this period also show the continuation of the domination by a few elite sections without much change in the ground that had been promised with the coming of democracy. This paper also argues that all the regimes shared similar character in the composition of the same ruling elite, irrespective of the nature and structure of the regimes, thus, the continued deprivation of the ethnic groups of their basic rights.

Democracy is the best way of government in modern state. In democratic regime diverse ethnic groups asserts their rights and able to preserve their language, culture, religion and consolidate their identity. While underlining the plural character of the society, the question of national identity, citizenry, rights both economic and political, have become important aspects of democracy. Nepali state is unable to fulfill the aspirations of diverse ethnic groups. The failure of democracy in Nepal has been attributed to several factors i.e. social injustice, unemployment, underdevelopment, problems of exclusions, lack of good governance and centralized power system, etc. In democracy also the dominance of hill Brahmin and Chhetri in the Nepali state and the exclusion of other ethnic groups in state affairs since the inception of modern Nepal. However, this period also show the continuation of the domination by a few elite sections without much change in the ground that had been promised with the coming of democracy. In the context of
Nepal, which has undergone different ethnic and regional movements. Challenges to the state system have emanated from the fact that while diversity is recognized balancing it with an integrative model has been problematic because this has brought in complex dynamics of ethnic aspirations and political power. At the same time economic imperatives of governance had posed severe limitation to the exercise of power and fulfillment of aspirations. Nepal has adopted monolithic identity and has tried to deny diversity in their effort in nation-building.

The current political crisis and conflict should not be only taken as a threat to democracy but also be regarded as an opportunity for radical reform to address the root causes of conflict that have created and perpetuated poverty, injustice and social discrimination in this country. Democracy and ethnicity is complementary to each other in present context. Without democracy no any alternative system can address the problems of different ethnic groups. In the same way democratic system sustain to preserve the ethnic identity and their empowerment through their proportional representation in the state affairs and to allocation of economic resources for their development. Even if the ongoing Maoists insurgency ends, the existing social disparity and sources of conflict (extreme poverty, unemployment of youths, highly polarized social composition and regional disparities) would like to ignite more conflicts in the future. Devolution of power in the different ethnic community will safeguard the democracy in Nepal. Hence, paper suggests for a ‘qualitative transformations’ of Nepali society, state and polity.

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मधेश, तर्राई र आदिवासी थारू Laudable Work

1 Comment Add your own

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