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An Unending Political Transition

Pradeepa Viswanathan

By Lok Raj Baral
Sage Publications, Delhi, 2012, pp. 308, Rs. 750.00


Nepal is in a state of turbulent peace. Peace prevails, albeit negatively, with an overall decrease in the level of violent outpourings post the 2006 movement. The dissolution of the Constituent Assembly (CA) without fulfilling its mandate of creating a new constitution has resulted in unrelenting turbulence in the country. Nepal—Nation State in the Wilderness aspires to knit together three underlying themes: the ‘viability of the Nepali State, prospects and challenges of the liberal democratic setup and the strategies for managing the emerging geopolitical trends’. The book is divided into six chapters with the above themes reverberating in each chapter. The history of Nepal is paradoxical. It was widely believed that with the end of the institution of monarchy and the participation of the Maoists as a systemic party in the 2008 CA elections, Nepal’s transition into a secular democratic republic from a Hindu monarchical State would be completed peacefully. However, inter- and intra-party conflicts among parties and the lack of political will of the elites have pushed the country into uncertainty. Nepal’s political history is not sequential and coherent and, therefore, defies many commonly held generalizations of such developments (p.13). Confusion prevails over the composition of the State, which is not a monolithic entity. Till the end of the people’s war, monarchy was seen as the seat of power with the continuous affirmation of it being ‘both the substance and symbol of political stability’ (p. 2). The traditional composition of a State would entail a territory, population, government and sovereignty. Territorially, Nepal’s boundaries were delineated by the Treaty of Sugauli signed in 1815 between the Rana rulers and British India. The population of the country steadily rose but the process of assimilation and integration established the domination of Hindu religion and the Gorkhali culture resulting in an identity and citizenship crisis in the marginalized sections. The third element—the Government in Nepal—is a victim of both the Monarch’s desire for absolutist power and the bickering among political parties for narrow objectives till date. Fourth, despite the sovereignty of the country being established in 1923, it remained contested until the admission of Nepal into the United Nations in 1955. Other crucial elements are the competitive structures of the Nepali state, the Royal Nepal Army (RNA) now Nepal Army (NA) in particular. As such, ‘decline of the State apprehended as its writ is beyond repair’ (p. 44). Closely intertwined with the ...

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