Democracy: Voice of Nepali Youth

himalayan white house students

“Nepal never got real democracy. Constitutions made after the revolution of 2007 BS gave power to the king. Same happened even in 2046 (1990). Political leadership failed to make people feel democracy. We have seen [that the king’s] ‘golden wish’ after Magh 19 (Feb 1) has gone to the opposite direction.” –Suraj Kumar Dev, (front) Himalayan White House College.

The Plus Two Brainstorming of Politics: The Gen Y of city’s valentine culture isn’t as ingnornat about politics as many might think By Dinesh Wagle

Going by his appearance, you don’t think that Sagar Dev Bhatta analyzes the politics of Nepal just like a veteran leader. But when you talk with this young man you know his views that argue including youths in the nation’s decision making process. “We have been told that ‘politics is a dirty game and you shouldn’t get involved into it,” the student of 12th standard (science) in Kathmandu’s Noble Academy said extending his both hands. “That’s wrong. Politics is everyone’s game and everybody should be involved in it. The time has come to put forward your political views openly and express civic concerns.”

sagar bhatta of noble academy
“Youths are partners of today, not only the futures of tomorrow. That is why they should listen to us; we should make our voice heard.” -Sagar Dev Bhatta, Noble Academy. On on the right is Himamshu Lekhak.

At a time when, as Sagar put it, Nepali people have to live in a situation where they might be shot at (by the security personnel) for not hearing them properly or killed by stumbling upon a bomb installed on the road (by the Maoists), no city youth can easily say that politics is not their cup of tea. That is why when our GenNext passionately talks about the last night’s English premier league fight between Liverpool and Arsenal, clashes of Palpa and Nepalgunj and political demos of New Baneshwor and Indra Chowk forcefully get important space in their guff. “We talk about politics very much usually a day before the Nepal Banda (general strike),” told a student about his ‘guff habit’ to this reporter. Punam Mahato, a plus-two student of V S Niketan School said, “Politics manages all other sectors of a society. It is natural that when that other sectors are affected by any developments in politics. That is why young generation can’t just get themselves away from politics.”

Verbatim of GenNext
“Royal Nepali Army should function under Nepali people, not under the king.” -Satkar Babu Adhikari, Kathmandu Don Bosco College

“We the people have been trapped. Now is the time for us to fight back for our rights. I feel that the government doesn’t want peaceful solution of the problem because that might send it out from the power.”-Bikash Gurung, Himalayan White House, BBA

“It is not good from any point for an educated people to take gun. That is not the solution. We should use Dr. Baburam Bhattarai’s expertise and wisdom for the benefit of Nepali society and country.” -A student, Himalayan White House, BBA

“The solution of current impasse is the restoration of democracy. We have to fight for that helping political parties. Yes, I have been to demonstrations of political parties and chanted slogans. The 12-point agreement is definitely a step forward.” – -Jagat Koirala, Himalayan White House, BBA

“I have stopped being hopeful. They are not thinking of reconciliation. If they try for that, problems will be solved today.” -Shrawan Thapa, V S Niketan

“There is democracy in Nepal today,” -Sandip Nepal, Kathmandu Don Bosco College.

“No, there is not democracy in Nepal today. Why would the government arrest political leaders just before a scheduled mass meeting.”-Satkar Babu Adhikari, Kathmandu Don Bosco College.

“We should also see the socio-economic aspect of the country. We should discourage the brain drain.”-Simanta Khadka, Noble Academy

“King should abandon haughty attitude. He is enjoying too much power. That’s not right. We should go for the election of constituent assembly. People should be given rights to chose.” -Sandip Dhanuk, Noble Academy

They study in expensive colleges with ‘closed’ environment like that of the private boarding schools. But you would be wrong to think that these young folks are politically dumb and only enjoy western cultures like Valentine’s Day. Whenever they are given a chance to speak out, they present themselves like an experienced politician. In discussions conducted by this reporter just after the Valentine’s Day in their colleges about the present situation of the country, majority of participating students complained about the problems they are facing because of the conflict where as others suggested the solution (election of the constituent assembly).

“Now is the time for all three parties to let people decide,” said Sagar. “Lets go for the election of constituent assembly. If people decide to throw someone, lets throw him. If they decide to keep, lets keep.”

On Parties
Students agree that the country is suffering from the triangular conflict between the royal camp, Maoists and the political parties. In the beginning the discussion, they do not want to associate themselves with any of the three sides saying that they were on people’s side or in the fourth camp. But then they know all three sides claim to represent people. So when students try to clarify their position further, you can see their opinions similar to that of the Seven Party Alliance. That is why for these young people political parties have become the ‘necessary evil’. They scold parties; they express dissatisfaction over parties’ deeds, and still believe that only parties will be able solve the problems of the country.

white house girls

“I have faith toward political parties. They should reform themselves and come up with new leadership. His Majesty is imposing autocracy in the name of Democracy. I can’t support him.”- Aasna Dahal, (first from left, seond front row) Himalayan White House, BBA

“The system of chhuwachhut (discrimination based on touch) has been eradicated almost from the villages because of the Maoists’ ‘peoples’ war’ over the years. Many positive changes have been occurring in the villages. The status of women has risen. Yes, I agree that the change might be also because of Maoists fear. But I still believe the concept to people have also changed.”- Pramila Thapa, (first from right, second last row) Himalayan White House, BBA

“If parties exercise democracy [within their organizations] and handover leadership to young generation,” said a student of fifth semester (BBA) at Don Bosco. “I will happily participate in the demonstrations and pelt stones.” One of his friends immediately countered that pelting stones would not solve the problem. Then they started discussing with the first arguing that intensified peaceful movement was necessary to restore democracy and the second saying that parties should find other ways to make their voices heard.

On Maoists:

They swiftly distance themselves from the violence launched by the Maoists. They instantly dissociate themselves from the rebels and their violent activities. Students dislike and hate violence. But that doesn’t mean they support the government and believe that the problem could be solved militarily. They believe in peaceful solution of the problem through negotiations. That is why overwhelmingly reject the government’s ‘arrogant’ position on the conflict. They blame the royal government for the latest incidents of fighting because, they think, Maoists “did show their intention of solving the conflict the peacefully by ceasing fire. But the government blatantly ignored the offer.” I found almost all of them reading the Prachanda interview published in Kantipur. Many of them find hope of peace and solutions of the problem in the interview. But a few of them think that Maoists should unilaterally surrender the weapon before coming to the table of talks.

Girls of V S Niketan

“Politics manages all other sectors of a society. It is natural that when that other sectors are affected by any developments in politics. That is why young generation can’t just get themselves away from it.” Punam Mahato, (second from left in the pic above) V S Niketan School.

“I can’t trust Maoists,” Sandip Nepal of Don Bosco (Science) said. “They were busy collecting arms and ammunitions even at the time of cease fire. They should first surrender their weapons before coming to the talk.” When Nepal was saying this, almost all of the students in the class disagreed with him. Some of his seniors raised from their seats, made their voices louder and started arguing with Nepal saying it would be a day-dream to expect Maoists surrender to the state like that. Many of his class-mates also strongly disagreed with Nepal. As Prachanda has said in the interview, they said, the process of negotiation should start with both armies under the UN supervision. A girl in Himalayan White House said that the 10 year long armed rebellion has brought awareness among Nepalis in villages. “Especially the women have got their status in the society improved,” she observed.

All student agreed that the ultimate sufferer of the war were Nepali people and that situation of the country as aptly summed up by Birendra Puri of Don Bosco: “Army-Maoists clash, two unarmed civilians killed. This is the situation of Nepal.”

On King
I found very few supporters of His Majesty among young students. They blame the king for not holding peace-talks with the Maoists. “The king should have worked as a political catalyst,” remarked Sagar of Noble Academy. “But he started functioning as a political reactor. That’s why the problem got complicated. If he really wishes to be a political reactor, it’s better that he goes to the election opening a party and finding an election symbol. If not, he should quietly stick to his position [as a constitutional monarch].” Sagar said that the constitutional mistakes that give more power to the king should be corrected. The army shouldn’t be under the king, he said, but under the people. After listening to the arguments put forward by Sagar about ‘powerless ceremonial monarchy’ his junior fellow Krishna Pokharel was quick enough to registered his note of dissent.

“What’s the meaning of keeping a king decorating like a doll and feeding from taxpayer’s money?” he asked. “There is no alternative to republicanism.”

Sagar countered stating that giving how much power to the king is more important than keeping him or not. “We need a head of state anyway,” he said. “Even if a people’s son becomes the president, he should given facilities and respect that the post of presidency demands. So we should strip the king off all powers that be and keep him in a respectable manner.” But Sagar agreed with Krishna without commenting further that if there is a presidency system, any son of Nepali citizen would be eligible to be the head of state and that would be a great system to have.

Krishna Pokharel of Noble Academy. His friends listen to him as he makes point

“King has tried to take the country back to the old dark days of Panchayat. He also successfully diverted the attention of the country from municipal election to different matter by letting the Supreme Court decide against the RCCC. That is his ploy. But we have been made to believe that the court decided that independently. The same court that did not issue a stay order in a write filed against the media ordinance is now being portrayed as the independent. King will say, look we have an independent judiciary in Nepal. He is so clever. Now he will move ahead with his plans of holding general elections. Parties will do nothing more than reacting to royal actions.”- Krishna Pokharel, (extreme right) Grade 11, Noble Academy

Dissatisfaction over king doesn’t simply end here. Youngsters start to dig out the past. “Nepal never got real democracy,” said Suraj Kumar Dev, a bachelors level student at Himalayan White House College. “Constitutions made after the revolution of 2007 BS gave power to the king. Same happened even in 2046 (1990). Political leadership failed to make people feel democracy. We have seen [that the king’s] ‘golden wish’ after Magh 19 (Feb 1) has gone to the opposite direction.” After saying that the boy went on talking about the recent annulment of Royal Commission for Corruption Control (RCCC) by the Supreme Court and concluded, “That is certainly an achievement [for democratic movement]. Each and every royal actions should be discouraged.”

In a separate discussion, Sandip Nepal of Don Bosco gently defended the His Majesty. Just like children follow their father’s orders, he said, Nepali people should act as per the king’s wishes. As Sandip started talking like this almost all of his friends and senior folks present in the classroom tried to stop from by shouting, standing up from their seats and shaking their heads in strong disagreement.

Sandip Nepal of Don Bosco

“I can’t trust Maoists. They were busy collecting arms and ammunitions even at the time of cease fire. They should first surrender their weapons before coming to the talk.” Sandip Nepal ,(left) Kathmandu Don Bosco College.

Abhima Upriety of Noble Academy

“They say that young people are the future of the country. But they keep us disturbing by launching protest programs and strikes. Ultimately, we need democracy but why not give a chance to the king. I think king needs power. I am against curtailing the royal power. I think army will be able to take situation under control.”Abhima Upreity (pic, above), Noble Academy

“I disagree [with Abhima]. You should go outside Kathmandu valley to see the real situation of Nepal. You have not seen outside Kathmandu that is why you think army can win the war. No one can win this war militarily.” Himamshu Lekhak, Noble Academy

Shaligram Aryal of Don Bosco makes his piont

“King is doing unofficial visits spending official money. He should stop that.” Shaligram Aryal,(standing) Kathmandu Don Bosco College.

don bosco agressive boys hands up to make his point

“No change will come by pelting stones on the street. Change should come from above.” Bishal Tamang, (right) Kathmandu Don Bosco College

v s niketan group

“Reading his Kantipur interview, I feel that Prachanda wants to solve the problem.” – Ram Prasad Pandey, (first from left) V S Niketan

UWB: Below is the Kantipur article (in Nepali language and first published in the Special Supplement of Falgun 7 brought out by the daily on the occasion of 13th anniversary of Kantipur Publications and National Democracy Day) by Dinesh Wagle based on interviews and discussions he conducted with GenNext.