Rajesh Rai is the newly elected General Secretary of Kirat Rai Journalist Association, an umbrella organization of journalists from Rai and Kirati community of Nepal. He is also a central committee member of Press Chautari, a journalist wing of CPN UML party. Congratulations Mr. Rai.
Mr. Rai has completed Masters in Social Anthropology from Tribhuvan University (TU) and had conducted a research on the dispersion of Gurkha Migrants throughout the world. He has worked as a full timer journalist in several leading dailies and FM radios of Nepal.
Sujit Mainali for The Telegraph Weekly and its online edition telegraphnepal.com approached and interviewed this young media man as a part of our ongoing campaign to promote youth leadership in the country.
Below the excerpts of this exclusive interview: Chief Editor
TQ1. We have heard that some identity based differences lies in between the Rai and the Limbus. Is this correct?
Rai: Well, this question deserves a long description on ethnological and anthropological ground. Rai and Limbu have their own claim regarding their identities. Rais claim that Limbus were the descendents of Rai.
In the past, those who now claim themselves as Limbu migrated across the Arun River of eastern Nepal and settled their living there. This, in the meantime leads to the development of separate culture, language and identity of the migrants. Both Rai and Limbu are the descendents of same ancestors. But Limbus out rightly reject this claim. They say they have their separate identity which is very much different with that of the Rais.
TQ2: What is your personal opinion regarding this controversy?
Rai: Limbus believe that the Imansingh Chemjong is the authentic interpreter of their identity and culture. Some Limbus even claim that their identity is very much different than those of Kiratis. But majority of Rai and Limbu population largely believe that their respective identity can be accommodated with the broader Kirati culture.
TQ3: Some analysts had, in their Face book status, claimed that ethnic acrimony and confrontation was averted with the dissolution of Constituent Assembly (CA). Do you agree with those opinions?
Rai: Only moral less people can make such ridiculous and nonsense comments. The tragic dissolution of CA has pushed our country back to 10 years.
Sooner or later, Nepal must adopt identity based restructuring of the state. But the political quarter which out rightly reject identity became rigid on its stand and Nepali population witnessed the tragic demise of the CA body.
After the sidelining of the institution of monarchy which was regarded as the preserver of feudal order, some analysts are thinking that our country has already begun its march towards capitalism. I don’t think so. Nepal was engulfed into a transitional period after the ouster of monarchy and this period will last for more 8 or 9 years. During this period, identity based politics will overwhelm class based or other form of politics. Take it for granted.
TQ4: Do you think that the grievances of indigenous communities would have fulfilled, if the constitution would have been drafted by the CA body?
Rai: Indigenous communities were not in a position to enforce all of their demands to be addressed in the new constitution. In the eleventh hour of the demise of CA, members of Adivasi Janajati caucus in the dissolved CA had even said that they were ready to accept federalism based on multi-identity. But the political parties failed to grasp this awesome opportunity to address the quest for identity of the indigenous communities. They failed to provide an outlet to the current stalemate regarding the restructuring of state.
TQ5: During the recent protest, the members of indigenous community made brutal attack on the media. But international agencies who claim themselves as to be the champion of press freedom did not utter even a single word against the attack. What you would like to say on such silence of the international agencies?
Rai: The attack on press was a highly deplorable act. But the anger of indigenous community towards press has made the Nepali press to analyze itself say its own shortcomings. If you see the contents of printing, broadcasting and online version of Nepali media, you can find it more rigid towards the voices and concerns of the indigenous communities. The resentment of indigenous community towards press has exhibited that Nepali media has failed to gain confidence and loyalty of indigenous community. Nepali media must self-analyze it and should make necessary reform.
Regarding the silence of international agencies, I do not have anything to say. People from Brahmin and Chhetri community accused the indigenous community for flaring up their concerns to fulfill the vested interests of foreigners. They say that the movement of indigenous community was a mere drama sponsored by alien forces. I out rightly reject such baseless accusations.
I do agree that the donor agencies are funding for sensitizing indigenous community of Nepal. But people from Brahmin and Chhetri community are largely reaping benefits from such funding. NGOs headed and run by Bahmins and Chhetris are receiving huge amount of money in the name of sensitizing indigenous community. But the people from the Brahmin and Chhetri community accuse us for being sponsored by alien forces in order to tarnish the image of our ongoing movement.
TQ6: Don't you think that the long prevailing ethnic and communal harmony is gradually diminishing in Nepal?
Rai: We should not forget to talk about justice while talking about harmony. Integration and equality are the two wheels of same chariot. Justice and equality should not be forgotten while talking about harmony and integration.
TQ7: Indigenous communities are shouting "Right to Self Determination". What does it mean in your personal opinion?
Rai: Two schools of thought have tried to explain 'Right to Determination'; one is Marxist where as the other is the declaration made by the United Nations.
Vladimir Lenin has urged that each nationalities should be provided with the right to split away from their country if they so desire. However, I am against this radical definition of 'Right to Self Determination'.
The UN International Covenant on Civil and Political rights has stated that 'all peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development. Further, the covenant has said that 'the States parties to the present Covenant, including those having responsibility for the administration of Non-Self-Governing and Trust Territories, shall promote the realization of the right of self-determination, and shall respect that right, in conformity with the provisions of the charter of the United Nations.'
In my view, UN model of Right to Self Determination properly suits the Nepali context. The central government should look after national defense, national security and foreign affairs of the country. Apart from this, it should not poke its nose into the internal matters of the states or provinces. State government(s) should be independent to carry out all activities freely, even without consulting central government, if it felt so.
TQ8: Leaders from indigenous community of the UML are saying that they will split the party if the party failed to address the concerns of their respective communities. Which faction do you belong to inside the UML?
Rai: Not only me, but all the leaders of UML from indigenous community are favoring party unity. We want the party to abide by the decision made by the party's 8th National Convention and 12th Central Committee (CC) meeting.
General Convention and CC meeting of our party has decided to create federal units in Nepal's hilly region on the basis of identity. Similarly, on several formal platforms of the party, UML has decided to create 15 provinces on identity basis. But Brahmin leaders like Jhalanath Khanal, KP Oli, Ishwar Pokhrel, are hell bent on disregarding the identity of indigenous communities. We are not ready to tolerate with such hegemonic tendency prevailing inside the party.
Chairman Jhalanath has proven himself as a defunct leader. He failed to take any stand. KP Oli is at least clear on his vision. He is committed not to restructure Nepal on the basis of identity.
Chairman Khanal is surrounded by and limited to his coterie who take themselves as the Nepali version of Karl Marx. This coterie will eventually destroy Chairman Khanal if he fails to keep himself at a distance with the men in the said coterie.
TQ9: The last question Mr. Rai! Which party among the Unified Maoist or the newly formed Maoist party, will eventually emerge as the strongest one in days ahead? Your personal view please.
Rai: After the split, Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal is in a highly problematic state. The committed party cadres are with comrade Kiran where as Baburam Bhattarai enjoys the unconditional blessing of India. Prachanda neither have any committed cadres, nor the blessing of India. He is surrounded by opportunist leaders and followers, who will surely abandon him in the days ahead.
To survive in Nepali politics, one must need either the support of people or the blessing of Indian regime. Prachanda lacks both. Baburam is the leading Indian agent in Nepali politics and chairman Prachanda cannot surpass his deputy in this regard. Even the subservient leaders of India like Surya Bahadur Thapa and Girija Prasad Koirala had not dared to signed BIPPA agreement with India. But Baburam did it and thus has gained the India's trust.
Exclusive for telegraphnepal.com