Kathmandu: In what appears to be the first formal announcement against federalism and secularism by a political party after the country adopted federalism and secularism in its constitution, President of Bibeksheel Sajha Party has proposed scrapping federalism by restructuring and strengthening the local bodies and settling secularism debate through national referendum.
Rabindra Mishra, former journalist and the President of Bibeksheel Sajha Party, made this proposal through the public appeal released on his website on Monday.
Mishra has called federalism “a source of additional corruption and financial burden, another tool to erode key institutions” which can be “fatal for territorial integrity.”
“We can build Nepal, if and only if Nepal can survive. If Nepal remains Nepal only in name, then what is the point?” he has written.
“It was claimed that federalism would address discriminations created by the unitary state, and would empower the local people. But it has neither effectively empowered the local bodies nor it has addressed the aspirations for development and prosperity,” he further writes.
According to Mishra, the constitution defines secularism as “religious, cultural freedoms, including protection of religion, culture handed down from the time immemorial (Sanatan)” but the reality on the ground is different. “Instead of “protection of Sanatan religion,” divisions have emerged among religions,” he states. “Clearly, secularism has led to further religious divisions instead of vice versa. This situation can be a fatal blow to society and the country because cultural and religious sensitivities have triggered brutal and bitter violence in many parts of the world,” claims Mishra.
Recalling the times when Nepal adopted secularism, Mishra writes “during the People’s Movement of 2006 and the subsequent Madhes Movement, no one had raised demands for secularism.” “We must accept that there was no mass public demand for secularism during the 2006 movement—neither from general Nepalis nor from communities of minority religious faiths,” he further argues.
“It is clear that many leaders secretly worked on the agenda imposed by foreigners. Many NGOs linked to the leaders had been receiving financial benefits to support the agenda. On the one hand, the Western powers wanted to turn Nepal secular whereas on the other hand, India was bent on making it a republic,” mentions Mishra.
Mishra warns of consequences if we fail to realize the gravity of the situation. “The situation is becoming increasingly sensitive. Any future change of government is certainly not going to make any substantial difference. I feel that there is not enough seriousness about the growing risks of external and internal security, social harmony and territorial integrity, as well as the existence of the country itself. It may be too late when we realize the situation,” he writes.
“The “progressive” society is sure to label me “regressive.” But I do not care,” he has said. If somebody calls those leaders who emerged through killing others, who still continue to indulge in corruption and exploit the country indirectly killing many poorer people and who do not bat an eyelid to harm the self-respect of their country as “progressive leaders,” and instead demonizes me for professing my non-violent, honest, constitutional and fully democratic thoughts, then I am ready to become a “demon” to them, he has mentioned in the appeal.
Since Mishra’s proposal became public, many on social media have lauded him for speaking out the truth and urged him to take up the initiative to scrap federalism, while others have criticized him for going against the constitution.
Nepal was formally declared a federal and secular state in 2008 which was given constitutional recognition in 2015.
In recent months, voices against federalism and secularism have begun to be heard from various corners. While the Rastriya Prajatantra Party led by Kamal Thapa have opposed these two features, a section of leaders in Nepali Congress has also been advocating for a referendum on secularism.
A few days ago, Mahesh Basnet, a key aide of erstwhile Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli, had proposed to review both federalism and secularism in a public speech. Many believe Basnet made that proposal with consent from Oli to test the public pulse.
With Mishra’s proposal, one more organized voice has been lent to the fresh debate and discussion on secularism and federalism.
Click here to read the full proposal.