Mr. Vogiraj Chamling is the Executive Editor of the Mulyankan Monthly, a reputed vernacular magazine with Marxists leaning. Originally he hails from Khotang district and is now in Kathmandu screening national politics. He is also the editor of a journal titled 'Chamling'.
Apart from this, he has edited several books on Marxist philosophy and the ongoing movement of the indigenous communities.
Special Correspondent of The Telegraph Weekly and its online edition telegraphnepal.com Mr. Sujit Mainali approached and interviewed this young journalist on several facets of Nepali politics. Below the excerpts of this exclusive interview: Chief Editor
TGQ1: Some prominent leaders of CPN UML representing several ethnic communities are still making suggestions to the party leadership to voice strongly in favor of federalism based on single identity. Do you think such demand was justifiable considering the ethnic diversity of our country?
Chamling: The ongoing discussion regarding the single identity and federalism is being misinterpreted and wrongly informed. I even believe a section of society is intentionally spreading false propaganda in this regard with an aim to create confusion among the Nepali population.
I have reached to this conclusion after studying the report prepared by State Restructuring Committee of the dissolved Constituent Assembly (CA) wherein two separate models of federalism were proposed. The very content of both the models were splendid and they have well reflected the peculiarity of Nepali society. Nepali society is gradually becoming multi-cultural and multi-ethnic and the report has acknowledged this fact well. Nepali Congress (NC), CPN UML, Unified Maoist and Unified Madeshi Front (UMF) including other major political forces of Nepal have not opposed the report of committee.
The report has clearly mentioned that in every unit of the federal provinces; the proportional and inclusive representation of the people will be ensured. This does mean that all communities within the territory of a State will get fair, dignified and justifiable representation in the state apparatus. Secondly, the report has accepted the essence of 'self governance within the self governance'. The notion of 'self governance within the self governance' was forwarded to restrict the possibility of hegemony supposedly going to be imposed by the largest community in each state and to protect the people in minorities from being further marginalized.
The report had attempted to ensure the inclusion and representation of people from different communities. The essence of self governance is ensured and at the same time provisions needed for protecting the rights of minorities were also clearly mentioned. I have never heard any party officially opposing the very content of the report. Those who oppose both models suggested by committee can be labeled as hegemons without any hesitation. Those who oppose are status quoists and they want to further advance the hegemony of a single ethnic group currently prevailing in Nepal. At least I am convinced in this.
We all should understand the differences between single ethnic identity and single ethnic hegemony. They are two different things; but they are being projected as the synonymous terms. Some parties which are facing existential threat are creating wrong connotation of these issues. Some so-called academicians are also hell bent on misinforming population by treating single ethnic identity at par with single ethnic hegemony.
As far as the debate naming of federal provinces is concerned, this is a useless debate and the political actors of Nepal are squabbling in meaningless agenda. They are fighting for the sake of word, as if naming the provinces is going to resolve all the problems. We all should be clear that the naming of state does not institutionalize the hegemony of dominant ethnic group in their respective province.
If anyone asserts that name is the symbol of hegemony, then s/he must admit that Nepal society is under hegemonic regime since long. The names of places, rivers, etc, are associated with the history, culture and myth of any one of the ethnic group. In the beginning, such names were deeply associated with a certain ethnic group only, but in the meantime people of all communities began taking it for granted and accepted it unanimously.
We can take the example of word 'Nepal'. According to historian Baburam Acharya, different descendent of Kiratis had ruled our country in the past. 'Nepar' dynasty of the Kirati ruler named this country as Nepal. In the beginning, the word 'Nepal' was associated with a dynasty of Kirat only. But in the meantime, whole Nepali population accepts it and now this word has become a matter of pride for all of us.
This does show that the ethnic flavor of the name will be faded gradually. Some people are urging to name the state in such a way that do not resemble culture and language of any single ethnic group. But not any name can be completely unattached and unassociated with any one of the ethnic group. If we name 'Sagarmatha Province' instead of 'Kirat Province', that will also gives ethnic flavor because the word 'Sagarmatha' resembles the language of Khash-Arya community. Thus, we should ditch the ongoing useless dispute on the name and should use our energy in meaningful issues.
TGQ2: Although China has officially rejected that it has not opposed Nepal adopting federal order, some prominent political analysts still believe that China is committed not to allow Nepal to accept ethnic based federalism assuming that it may foster instability in its soft underbelly Tibet. Mr. Chamling, can you please shed some lights on the stand of China via-a-vis restructuring of the state of Nepal in general and federalism in particular?
Chamling: Mao Zedong has once said – you can hatch egg by managing temperature, but you can never hatch stone, no matter how excellently you manage the temperature. From his saying, it is obvious that internal or intrinsic quality is important, but not the external quality (temperature). External aspect can facilitate, but they cannot be a decisive one.
On the issue of the restructuring of state and federalism too, China or any other countries can act only as an external factors. What China says or what are China's interests is not a primary thing for us. What are our interests and what type of decision we want to make considering the historical peculiarity and aspiration of Nepali population is and should be of major concern to us. However, we should try our best not to confront with any other countries. But our right of self decision should not be ever compromised.
China has already rejected the media report where it was stated that China is opposing federalism based on ethnic identity tooth and nail. In these circumstances, it is better for us not to exaggerate this issue. However, I think it is impossible for China to oppose identity based federalism in Nepal on moral and realistic grounds. If China does so, then it must accept that the essence of 'self governance' practiced in its vast landmass was wrong. I don’t think China will ever reach at this conclusion and will oppose identity based federalism in Nepal.
Some analysts say that although China is regarded as a unitary/centralized country, it is in fact a federal nation-state. The governance system of China is much similar to that of federalism and due to it China has calm down ethnic resentment. Conflict is being managed in China in an awesome manner due to which China has yet not experienced widespread escalation of conflict. By awarding governance right to the minorities, it has won their confidence. If China would not have done so, it was almost sure that it would have already engulfed in the whirlpool of long-drawn-out conflict. Despite of awarding autonomy to the Tibet and respecting its historical and cultural peculiarity, the Tibetans are creating uproar. Can you just imagine to which extent the Tibetan would have gone if they were deprived from it?
TGQ3: Prime Minister Dr. Baburam Bhattarai, during his address at the summit of Non-Align Movement recently held in Teheran, urged for the independence of Palestine. Some political scientists in Nepal heavily criticized Dr. Bhattarai for unnecessarily meddling in the affairs of Middle East arguing that the act of Dr. Bhattarai in no way will promote Nepal's national interests. Do you agree with the opinion of those political analysts?
Chamling: Dr. Baburam Bhattarai is handling Nepal’s foreign policy in a dubious manner. On the one hand, he is trying to stand in favor of the sovereignty and independence of Palestine (which is genuine) and on the other, he is fostering 'bilateral relations' with India by putting even his own party and officials in the absolute darkness (which is deplorable). Let me not make more comment(s) regarding his contradictory comments and his dubious conduct of foreign policy.
TGQ4: President of Nepali Congress Mr. Sushil Koirala has recently said that political conflict in Nepal, if not resolved on time, could take gigantic dimension and Nepal’s immediate neighbors China and India will be dragged into the conflict to safeguard their respective prime security interests. Mr. Chamling, what might have made Mr. Koirala to make such a thrilling remark? Do you think the conflict of China and India inside Nepali soil is likely to follow in the days ahead?
Chamling: I do not say that the comment of Mr. Koirala is totally baseless. Up to some extent, I too believe that political conflict in Nepal if not resolved; acrimony between our immediate neighbors is certainly going to rise steadily and this may result to the increase of their acts of maneuvering inside Nepali soil. We can take Pakistan as a best example where international powers have themselves become restive inside Pakistani soil in the name of safeguarding their respective security interests.
If someone analyzes the comment of Mr. Koirala in the light of the reluctance he and his party has been exhibiting in accepting the urge for socio-political change of the people, one can find his comments more jocular than a thrilling one. The root cause of ongoing socio-political instability is the status-quoists tendency prevailing among a section of the society. His party Nepali Congress is providing leadership to such tendencies. If this instability facilitates fertile ground for the foreign maneuvering, then the status-quoists tendency of NC will primarily be held responsible for that unfortunate situation.
TGQ5: One senior economist of Nepal, Prof. Dr. Madan Kumar Dahal, in his article recently published in telegraphnepal.com has hinted that if current state of political stalemate prolonged, Nepal may witness the creation of a puppet government with joint support of external powers and Nepal Army. Do you foresee the possible emergence of such an unfortunate situation?
Chamling: The political-economic base of this unfortunate situation had been institutionalized in Nepal since long. The national capitalists who act as the broker of alien forces have taken Nepali economy under their firm grip. They are not loyal towards Nepali nationalism and they are hell bent on serving their personal interests even at the cost of national interests. They always oppose the change aimed towards strengthening national interests and nationalism.
These sections of broker capitalist are trying their best to weaken Nepali nationalism, national industries and Nepalese economy. They prefer to bag money by working as an agent of multinational companies, rather than establishing their own industries. This section of national capitalists had conspired and had influenced the government to demolish some good national industries in the name of nationalizing them. The ongoing struggle of Nepal, in terms of political-economic perspective, is the struggle between the politicians and capitalists who have become subservient to foreign forces and those who want to strengthen Nepali national interests. If the group struggling to restore national dignity and to strengthen sovereignty fails, it is obvious that Nepal will be ruled by agents and marionettes of foreigners. But Nepali population have always stood strongly in favor of revolutionary forces. Against this backdrop, it is almost impossible to install a puppet regime here with joint support of external powers and the Nepal Army.
Exclusive for telegraphnepal. com
( Published in the Telegraph Weekly, September 12, 2012.).