Chandra Bikram Rai
Cultural Activist, Nepal
Mr. Chandra Bikram Rai is a cultural activist. He is acting as the General Secretary of a cultural organization named Kirat Rai Yayokhha. Origanally, he hails from Bhojpur District, Danda-2, Majhuwa and is now residing in Kathmandu.
He has completed Masters in Political Science from Tribhuvan University (TU), Kathmandu. He also has conducted research on the topic of inclusive democracy in the context of Nepal.
Sujit Mainali for the Telegraph Weekly and its online edition telegraphnepal.com approached and interviewed this young activist as a part of our ongoing campaign to promote diverse youth leadership in the country.
Below the excerpt of this exclusive interview: Chief Editor.
TQ1: Many from the Rai community have been urging for the formation of an autonomous Limbuwan State in the eastern Nepal. But some Rai scholars are not favoring it. What might be its reason?
Chandra: The indigenous communities of eastern Nepal are voicing for the formation of Limbuwan, Khumbuwan or Kirat autonomous state. Let me tell you that the Rai community is favoring Khumbuwan state where as the Limbu community is favoring Limbuwan. But majority of people from the Rai, Limbu, Sunuwar, Yakhha, Jirel, Sirel, Hayum Thami and Mechekoche are voicing for the formation of autonomous Kirat state.
At the personal level, I along with the organization where I belong to, favor Kirat state. Kirat is the ethnicity, history, geography, religion and civilization as a whole and all the peoples of the proposed area will not have any problem in accommodating themselves in the broader Kirati civilization.
TQ2: The Kiratis are demanding for the formation of Kirati state. But some historian claims that Prithivi Narayan Shah, the founder of modern Nepal, had not conquered the sovereign land of Kiratis and thus the demand for the formation of Kirati state cannot be justified on the historical ground. What say you?
Chandra: Up to some extent, those historians are correct. 32 descendent of Kiratis ruled over Nepal. After being defeated by the Lichhavi dynasty, the Kiratis were confined to the eastern part of Nepal. The area stretching in between Banepa and Sunkoshi used to be called as Wallo Kirat, areas in between Sunkoshi and West Arun used to be called as Majh Kirat and the landmass in between West of Arun to Mechi River used to be called as Pallo Kirat.
Veteran historian like Gyanmani Nepal and Jagadish Chandra Regmi have also accepted that Kirat dynasty existed in Nepal and hence no any controversy should remain in this regard. When Prithivi Narayan Shah, the King of Gorkha, conquered eastern Nepal, the Kiratis were enjoying autonomy under the regime of Buddhi Karna, the then ruler of Bijayapur Gadhi. The Kirati population is now seeking autonomy within Nepal and there are ample of historical evidences to justify this demand of our community on the historical ground as well.
TQ3: Can you inform our august readers about the demands of your community in brief?
Chandra: Our demands can be incorporated into four major points. Nepal is now facing problem based on class, ethnicity, region and gender. This is the problem of all the population living inside Nepal. We want Nepal to get rid of this problem.
TQ4: Am I right if I say that you people are trying to focus mainly on the demand related to the ethnicity?
Chandra: Yes, you are right. The problem of ethnicity is enormous and hence it deserves extra attention from all concerned.
TQ5: Can you please justify your saying?
Chandra: The people of Brahmin community too are facing class based problem. A Brahmin living in the Taplejung district is living a miserable life in comparison to that of the Limbus, speaking on economic terms. But when a Brahmin gets rid of the poverty, he can live an esteemed, prosperous and dignified life because he has his own history, language and culture to be proud of. But the culture, language and religion of Kirati population is in an endangered state. They are facing identity crisis. The Kiratis are facing problems based on class, identity, linguist and culture.
TQ6: What should be done then to address the grievances of indigenous communities? Your propositions, if any?
Chandra: Well, the Maoists have made clear that they will not accept federalism without identity and constitution without the provision of federalism. But there is intense debate on whether the single identity based federalism suits the Nepali context or multi-identity based federalism? If we synthesize this debate and reach to a conclusion, the grievances of indigenous communities can be addressed.
TQ7: Can you please be further candid as to what your idea exactly hints at?
Chandra: The Tharus have established human settlement in Terai area by struggling against the Malaria and poisonous snakes. They are the real architect of Nepali Terai landmass. If they wish to name the place where they have struggled as Tharuhat, I don’t see any reason to object. Their historical contribution should not be forgotten. This will increase their belongingness towards the nation. This, in the long run, will strengthen the Nepali nationalism.
But some people guided by vested interests are spreading false rumors about the identity based federalism and they are saying that indentify based federalism and ethnic based federalism are synonymous. The ongoing movement of indigenous community must unveil the truth.
In fact identity based federalism is an attempt to end ethnic based federalism in Nepal. Since the time of Jung Bahadur Rana till 1990, Nepal was under ethnic rule where a single identity, single religion, single language and culture was imposed upon our country which is basically multiethnic, multilingual and multi religious in nature.
TQ8: You have just said that Nepal is a multiethnic and multilingual nation. If so then, why you people have problem in accepting federalism based on multi-identity?
Chandra: We are not against multi identity as well. But why the ruling Brahmin elites have problem in naming the federal unit on the basis of identity of the local people? Do you think it will ruin the Nepali nationalism if eastern Nepal is named as Kirat state and western Terai as Tharuhat state?
TQ9: Will that be sufficient for you?
Chandra: Yes, after naming the state, all the people residing there will have fair access on the State apparatus on proportional basis and in this way; the long prevailing discrimination and marginalization can be ended forever.
TQ10: But some activists from the indigenous community are making demand of having special privileges?
Chandra: That is the mere proposal on which we can initiate healthy debate(s). The people who are in minority and under marginalization must get special treatment to increase their competency.
If we find anyone making ultra-fundamentalist remarks, the media must blackout their thoughts. Long prevailing peace and communal harmony must be preserved at any cost. Harmony must not be disturbed.
TQ11. Some critiques of federalism opine that in a federal structure, the center becomes too weak to deal with the issues related to foreign policy and diplomacy. What say you?
Chandra: This is just a mere propaganda. The center will get absolute right to make and take necessary decisions on issues like monetary policy, foreign policy and national defense.
TQ12: What is your opinion regarding the 'Right to Self Determinism'?
Chandra: Right to Self Determinism is being understood as a right to split away from the main landmass. But we should try to understand it as a right to remain together.
TQ13. It is being said that Nepali nationalism is weakening. Do you think so?
Chandra: If we closely analyze the unfolding events, it seems to be so.
TQ14. Why and how our nationalism is getting weaker?
Chandra: The issue of citizenship is a sensitive issue of Nepal. Particularly in the Terai region, citizenship certificates are being misused. The real sons of the land are still being deprived of the citizenship certificate(s), however, the Indian citizens from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bangal are easily acquiring the certificate. A grand design of our neighboring country is associated with the politics of citizenship certificate. This will create terrible problem if not checked on time.
TQ15. Which neighbor is playing behind the scene in this issue and what might be its intention?
Chandra: To tell you frankly, India wants overwhelming presence of its citizen in Nepal. To fuel protracted instability in this Himalayan nation is its ultimate goal.
TQ16. What India receives in turn by fueling instability in Nepal?
Chandra: India wants its hegemony to be institutionalized in the whole of South Asian region. If permanent peace prevails here, Nepal will become stable and prosperous. A prosperous Nepal will not abide by India's dictation. India does not like this situation to come tooth and nail.
Cuba is adjoined with USA, however, it out rightly rejects the dictation and hegemony of its bully neighbor. US dollar is valid all over the world, but the Cuban economy still does not recognize it. India fears the same thing may happen in this region and hence it is fuelling instability in almost all neighboring nations. Indian ruling elites are guided by the imaginary threat. To get rid of this threat, they are nurturing enmity with all neighboring country like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and China.
TQ17. Can you refer some good books which can be helpful to know about Nepal and Nepalese people?
Chandra: Maile Dekheko Nepal by Dr. Harka Gurung, Kirat: Hijo ra Aaja (Kirat: Yesterday and Today) by Durga Hang Yakhha, are some of the books I refer to the youths of Nepal to grasp the ground reality of Nepal's demography and indigenous culture. Some Brahmin writers like Prof. Krishna Khanal, Dr. Sundarmani Dixit, Khagendra Sangraula, Yug Pathak, Jhalak Subedi, etc, have better understood the sentiments and grievances of indigenous community and thus their piece of writing is worth reading. Apart from this, I love the novel 'Radha' penned by Krishna Dharabashi.
Exclusive for telegraphnepal.com