This article was written by the Conflict Study Center and was edited by Neil Horning.
Federalism is an incredibly important subject in Nepal. The old Nepal was officially a Hindu state and for a long time there was an “official” nationality (Nepali) and an “official” language (Nepali). But in fact this country is extremely complex and multicultural with over 40 ethnic groups and nationalities. A large part of the excitement over the revolution is finally overthrowing the old feudal oppression of the many groups, and negotiating a new revolutionary arrangement based on equality and liberation. And that is what the word “federalism” means in Nepal — that the government is not in the name of one nationality, and the new society will incorporate and respect the living complexity of the Nepali people.
Work toward Federalism in Nepal Appears More Complex than the Peace Accord and Constituent Assembly
Federalism in present Nepal has become a topic of great contention. Nepal has been a witness of several armed and unarmed struggles conducted by the Gurung, Tamang, Lama, Dalits and so forth. They have struggled against injustice, inequality, repression, absolutism, and for their freedom and livelihood. However, such movements could not attract much of the general population due to lack of strong organization, competent leadership, enough preparation, and strategical skills. The popular movement I of 1990 made the people conscious of their rights and duties. They were also made conscious by the world’s politics. Namely, the cultural, regional, and ethnic-based dimensions that emerged in the 21st century after the US tried to impose free market and human rights policy on the communist regimes of the 20th century. The zeal of the multi-caste, multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multi-cultural, multi-religious, and multi-regional Nepali people was finally fueled when the Communist Party of Nepal – or CPN (Maoist) – initiated the armed conflict termed the “People’s War” on February 13, 1996. The issues of federalism, national-regional and cultural autonomy, secularism, and the right to self-determination became prominent along with the intensifying of the People’s War. Federation with autonomy has now become the prime agenda of all ethnic, regional, lingual, and cultural based groups in Nepal.
There are several different titles for a federation of states: (i) Federal republic – Brazil, Germany, Nepal, and Nigeria; (ii) Federation – Russia, Saint Kitts, and Nevis; (iii) Republic – Argentina, Austria, India (Indian Union), Iraq, and Sudan; (iv) Confederation – Switzerland; (v) Commonwealth – Australia; (vi) Bolivarian republic – Venezuela, (vi) Federal democratic republic – Ethiopia; (viii) Federal states – Micronesia; (ix) Federative republic – Brazil, (x) Kingdom – Belgium and the Netherlands; (xi) Union – Comoros and India; and (xii) United Mexican state – Mexico. Bosnia and Herzegovina, Malaysia, Canada, United Arab States, and United States of America have none.
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