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Prospects For The Future

K.V. Rajan

By Mahendra Lawoti
Sage Publications, New Delhi, 2005, pp. 345, Rs. 395.00

By Surya P. Subedi
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2005, pp. 274, Rs. 595.00


Recent developments in Nepal have thrown up fundamental issues concerning prospects for its democracy as well as the quality and direction of India-Nepal relations. The issues covered by the two books under review are therefore highly topical.   Mahendra Lawoti argues that while the world’s current worry is understandably about the failure of Nepal’s polity to get its act together in the face of the nine-year old Maoist insurgency, the potential for protracted violence and conflict due to ethnic, religious and cultural divisions is much more serious, and if the latter are not urgently addressed, the already weakened Nepali nation state may simply be unable to withstand the “combined onslaught” of the Maoist insurgency and violent ethnic conflicts. He argues that Westminster-style parliamentary democracy has only institutionalized exclusion, facilitating rather than managing social tensions; he bemoans the fact that “for some groups… political exclusion has increased...as compared to the autocratic Panchayat years.” No admirer of the 1990 Constitution, Lawoti insists that it is in fact the source of exclusion faced by different socio-cultural groups in Nepal. He argues that the Constitution is “racist and sexist” and it is important and necessary to have a constituent assembly to draft a democratic constitution and completely reform the democratic structures so as to provide for the inclusion of the hitherto marginalized socio-economic groups.   This book complements the author’s doctoral thesis on lack of inclusiveness in Nepal’s political institutions by prescribing a “collective set of institutions” which together could comprehensively address the different aspects of exclusion and domination in Nepalese society…. “the problems are multi-layered (racial, linguistic, ethnic, caste, regional, gender, religious and social) and, hence, the solutions also require multilevel approaches and institutions.”   Searching for models of inclusive political institutions around the world, he seems to have drawn inspiration from Switzerland and India (“Switzerland has overcome violent ethnic conflicts while India has been able to manage its diverse population”). Among the specific reforms which he feels would help create a more stable society are federalism, a powerful elected “House of Nationalities”, proportional representation, positive discrimination in favour of the underprivileged, and declaring Nepal a secular state.   The book is written in a readable style and could be recommended to any person interested in Nepal—layman or expert. One would have few problems in agreeing with his views about the social, economic and political reasons for the Maoist insurgency, or the ...

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