Mr. Sachit Rai, who represents the indigenous community of Nepal's eastern hill, is a journalist. He has worked for Sagarmatha TV, the Karobar Daily and other publicationa and he is now working as the Desk Editor at the Sourya vernacular daily published from Kathmandu. He is also involved in the cultural movement of Kiratis and is a member of cultural organization named ‘Kirat Rai Yayokhha’.
Sujit Mainali for the Telegraph Weekly and telegraphnepal.com talked to this dashing young man as a part of our campaign to promote youth leadership in the country. We will keep up this initiative for quite some time.
Below the excerpts of this exclusive interview: Chief Editor.
TQ1: Chairman of Unified Maoist Mr. Pushpa Kamal Dahal 'Prachanda' has accused the recent mass demonstration sponsored by the alliance of 22 political parties of Nepal that included Nepalese Congress (NC) and CPN-UML which he took as the gathering of 'anti-federalist' parties. Do you agree with him?
Rai: I think Chairman Dahal has made his remarks in haste. Time has yet not yet become opportune to accuse the NC and UML as anti-federalist forces. Both parties have their own long and glorious history of struggle for empowering Nepalese population. Let's not forget this fact.
TQ2: The leaders from the indigenous community representing NC and UML have boycotted the so-called mass demonstration. What do you think about it?
Rai: They have enjoyed their democratic rights by boycotting the demonstration. But if they decide to split their parties, it will demonstrate their juvenility and will prove that they lack political acumen. But I do not hesitate to admit that NC and UML including Unified Maoist are not flexible enough on the issue of federalism and restructuring of the state.
TQ3: Some sharp critique have accused that the ongoing struggle of indigenous communities’ has gained momentum of late under the influence of the donor agencies. Do you agree with them?
Rai: The government of Nepal is in itself dependent on donor agencies even to meet its regular administrative cost. In this situation, it will not surprise me if I found the campaign of indigenous community receiving money from abroad-the donors, for example. .
The foreigners obviously will try to cash in upon the fluid political situation for fulfilling their vested interests. It is the duty of the State to curb the unwarranted maneuvering of the Kathmandu based foreigners.
I strongly object if someone argues that the movement of indigenous communities was commenced solely with the foreign aid. The grievances of indigenous communities were being suppressed for long time in the past. It got its outlet very recently and many people knew about their concerns. Yet, rather than strengthening the movement of indigenous community, I think the donor agencies have weakened it. I am pretty sure about it.
TQ4: How can you say that the donor agencies have weakened the movement of indigenous communities?
Rai: The donor agencies provide aid along with the pre-conditions attached. They do not want the indigenous communities to unite amongst themselves. The Department for International Development (DFID) had halted its financial support to Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (NEFIN) after the latter refused to call back its street protests.
TQ5: What might be the vested interests of the donor agencies? Can you guess?
Rai: The donor agencies work as per the policy set by the Foreign Ministry of their respective countries. They are here to materialize the foreign policies of their countries in a covert manner. Most of the donor agencies’ funding in Nepal are hell bent on disrupting the communal accord and working to bring fissure(s) among the Nepali population.
TQ6: How they will extract benefits by troubling Nepal and its population?
Rai: Nepal is a member of world community. By maneuvering inside Nepal, the global and regional powers like US, China and India will bag success to project their strength in the global scale. To know their vested interests, we need to wait and see further. Let the things become matured enough.
TQ7: The International Development Minister from Norway, Heikki Holmås visited Kathmandu without formal invitation of the Government of Nepal. What might be the purpose of his suspicious visit?
Rai: It is undignified for Norway, the country which claims it to be the champion of human rights, to send its ministry official without the consent of the receiving host country. Let me not make more comments on such ridiculous behavior of the Norwegian diplomats.
TQ8: Some sociologists opine that the indigenous communities from the hills of eastern Nepal and Tharu communities are targeted by the Christian missionaries. Do you think it to have been so?
Rai: Not only indigenous and Tharu communities, but the people from all castes and cultural groups are gradually being attracted towards the Christian religion. Nepal has already been declared a secular state, and hence we should not object if someone wants to change their religion.
But if we find any person being coerced to change his or her professed religion, legal actions must be taken against such practices. In the past, Hindu religion and culture were imposed upon the non-Hindu communities. This mistake should not be repeated at any cost in the future.
TQ9: Let's change the topic of our conversation. Maoist Chairman Mr. Dahal has begun talking about the possibility of the reinstatement of the dissolved Constituent Assembly (CA) whereas Prime Minister Dr. Baburam Bhattarai has very recently ridiculed any possibility of such a restoration. Is this the manifestation of the upcoming fissure among Dahal and Bhattarai camp inside the Maoist party?
Rai: The issues of the confrontation and unity within the Unified Maoist party are very suspicious. I can be able to make comments about the intra-party wrangling inside Maoists only after the vertical or horizontal split ever happen in this party.
Since the days of armed struggle, the looming threat of immediate split of the Maoist party has remained an issue of hot debate. This trend prevails even as of now. But at personal level, I sincerely hope the Maoist party to remain united. If this party splits, it will be very unfortunate for the entire country and its people.
TQ10: What might be the ultimate goal of the Maoists?
Rai: Maoist had commenced armed struggle for capturing the state from the barrel of gun. They have not yet deterred from their ultimate goal. At least I am not confused in this regard.
TQ11: Do you think the state capture is possible in Nepal?
Rai: The national population and international communities, both are now largely divided over Nepal's political issues. It is very difficult for the Maoists to manage divided national opinions and to bridge the opposing interests of international communities for paving way for the State Capture. This work is very difficult; however, it is not yet impossible.
TQ12: Nepali society is a diverse, multiethnic and multicultural. But the indigenous communities are advocating for the creation of federal units on the basis of distinct identity. Mr. Rai, don't you think it to be irrational?
Rai: If this demand were irrational, it would not have brought brouhaha and not have risen to such a large scale.
Nepali society was multiethnic and multilingual in the past as well. But the Hindu-Brahminic community spitefully tried to homogenize the national identity.
TQ13: That means indigenous communities are trying to repeat the same mistake? Is it that?
Rai: Absolutely not! The demand for the creation of federal units on the basis of distinct single identity is aimed towards ending the long prevailing discriminatory practices of the state. Its main aim is to mainstream the marginalized groups and community.
TQ14: How can the tricky problems be solved if one wants to impose its separate identity upon others?
Rai: The indigenous communities have ever not tried to impose their identity upon others. They have just tried to provide indigenous flavor while naming the state. But it is being misunderstood by others. They think that ‘we are trying to restructure the state on ethnic basis’.
No one is asking for ethnic based state. In this 21st century, it would be irrational if anyone makes such a demand. We are urging for the preservation of linguistic, religious and cultural identities of the indigenous community to be respected and acknowledged. Nothing more than this. We want the State to practice the essence of 'equality in access' in its real sense.
TQ15: You are talking about equality. But the campaigners are voicing for the provision of "special privilege" to the ethnic groups in their respective states? Don’t you think it to have become a contradictory version?
Rai: At the personal level, I also favor providing "special privilege" to the indigenous community for 2, 4 or 6 years. This will help them to empower themselves and become competent enough to acquire excellence in the free competition.
However, the quota system, positive discrimination or special treatment will paralyze the community if it is practiced for long period of time.
TQ16: How do you analyze the stand of NC, UML and the Unified Maoist towards federalism?
Rai: I am yet confused about it. Sometime I think that the CA was dissolved due to the reluctance of these two parties in accepting federalism. However, I am not sure on this.
But I firmly believe that the NC and UML have unwillingly accepted the issue of federalism. Maoists claim themselves to be the messiah of indigenous and marginalized communities; however, they are also reluctant to accept identity based federalism in the country.
TQ17: Why the Maoists are unenthusiastic towards identity based federalism?
Rai: It is because if it so happens, their intent to capture state will be foiled once and for all. The Maoists have rightly analyzed that the Nepali population will not be reenergized once again through the slogan of class struggle. Ethnicity is the most potential issue with the help of which the Maoists have thought that they can garner people's support for capturing state. Exclusive for telegraphnepal.com