Nepal is an incredibly political place. It’s kind of invigorating after spending the last several years in such bastions of apathy as Canada, Honduras, and the US. Folks here love a good protest, and not a day goes by without a “gherao” a form of dissent unique to the subcontinent that involves surrounding the offending individual, ministry, or whatever, linking arms, and making demands.
Many of the causes, like minority rights, women’s inclusion, social equality, peace, and democracy, are certainly worthy. But others… well, not so much.
My favorite example appeared in the Himalayan Times last weekend. Apparently, an “Answer Sheet Examiners’ Struggle Committee” had been formed and presented their “10 point demand” to the authorities in question. Yes, there are some irate test markers here. Their main grievance was a superior who got paid for more days than he worked, a transgression that required the formation of committees, action plans, and the threat of a sit-in and/or strike. Yeesh.
It’s amusing, but a bit alarming at the same time. Like many Asian countries, there appears to be much more faith in “People Power” than in standard democratic machinery. Why hold elections or resolve disputes through dialogue when you can just agitate?
Obviously, given Nepal’s checkered political history, this is understandable, and even admirable, but for a democracy to work, there has to be some modicum of faith in “the system” and the politicians that sit at its apex. Unfortunately, for the vast majority of Nepalis, victims of government incompetence, pettiness, and capriciousness for as long as they remember, the only proven way to make a difference is to hit the streets, or in extreme cases, retreat to the jungle.
Tempering this anger and channeling it more productively seems to be the biggest challenge facing Nepal as it moves forward. A vicious circle is a play here: obtaining justice is exceedingly unlikely in a broken political system and the natural, and effective, response is angry protest; but near constant dissent is divisive and paralyzes the state apparatus, making a corrupt and inefficient government even more useless. And so it continues, driving the public sector and the people’s confidence steadily into the ground…
Posted By Nicole Cordeau (Nepal)
Posted Jul 5th, 2006