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Nepali Youth And Tomorrows' Politics

By C. D. Bhatta

In December 2006, I had a chance to attend two seminars organised by Friedrich-Ebert Stiftung (FES), a German think tank based in Kathmandu, on the role of the youth in the democratisation and social transformation process in Nepal. Both seminars placed important emphasis on the role of the youth in driving the nation ahead by shelving the recurrent political instability and deconstructing the existing social bias in the country or by straightening the political as well as social health of the country for that matter. The seminars were attended by a good number of youths and would-be politicians.


What was observed from the interaction with the youngsters is that the Nepali state can certainly bank on this generation for the overall upliftment of the country provided an opportunity is given to them to serve the nation. In the words of Dev Raj Dahal, a noted political scientist and head of the FES in Nepal, the young generation has a better sense of belonging, patriotism and is more learned compared to the generation that has been at the helm of governance for generations and has staged multiple political movements in the country.

This generation can meet the demand generated by modernity factors such as globalisation and its undercurrent effects that are noticed in every sector of human governance. But the problem in Nepal, as Dahal pointed out, is that there is no proper acumen - policies and programmes - to tap the potential of this generation in the national mainstream. Neither is there an established culture to introduce youths in the politics ?that makes decisions for the nation? instead of engaging them in ?street politics? to consolidate the vested interests of the political elite.

The contribution of the Nepali youth in the democratisation process is immense. In fact, all the yesteryear political movements - anti-Rana movement of 2007 B.S., student movement of 2036 B.S. against the Panchayat regime which ultimately pushed for a referendum in the country, the people?s movement of 2046 B.S. and the April uprising of 2063 - are classic examples in this regard. In contrast, successive generations of Nepali youngsters have been used and abused by the politicians and ruling elite to fulfil their own mundane objectives right from the time of its unification some 240 years ago.

As a result, to our dismay, all the past political movements remained only in ?movement? to be recalled in political history as they have failed to bring about necessary changes in the political culture of the nation. In Nepal, all national policies and programmes are influenced by politics not by national demand. And the state and society both have only understood the language of nepotism, favouritism rather than civility. This practice has instilled a feeling of being more fatalistic than pragmatist in nature among the Nepali youth. But this is bound to change in the days to come.

Nepal is going through various highs and lows - be it in political, economic or social issues. Every comfort, discomfort, approval, disapproval or breach of law either by a governmental or non-governmental sector is being challenged through severe street protests. The protests are largely participated or led by youngsters and show the major concern of the nation dwellers about the state?s affairs. It clearly reflects their anger against the ?oldies? polices? and exhibits the youngsters? ability to judge between right and wrong.

In fact, the level of consciousness in the new generation has increased by leaps and bound, and it appears that the existing practice of ruling the nation by sidelining the youths will change and will have to change for the better in a new Nepal. There have been many occasions, in addition to the protests for the cause of democracy per se, in which the youth have been showing their disapproval by actively participating in the rallies and demonstrations. They?ve been in the streets to protest price hikes of basic commodities like petroleum products, electricity tariff and consumable commodities. It is good to show concern about day to day affairs, otherwise the state would turn anarchic.

Having said this, however, the biggest challenge that lies ahead for the Nepali youth is to change the existing form of governance that does not allow them to take active part in the institutional life of the nation (decision making process). Perhaps, the barrier that comes on the way in this regard is the ?partisan student wings? that have been patronised heavily by the central party leadership of the political parties for ages.

Vertical division

The party leadership has created ranks and files in the student wings deliberately to consolidate their political future. This practice, in contrast, has vertically divided the Nepali youth and has produced twin repercussions in them. First the ?politicisation of youths? and second the ?political youths? - who bred on party patrimony - have failed to assimilate non-political youths (secular youths) in the mainstream.

Hence, the simple analysis of the situation is that as long as this vertical division remains in place, the youth organisations can neither claim their writ on governance nor can they make vibrant organisation(s) of their own which can bail this country out from the intermittent political instability.

Note: This article was published in The Rising Nepal dated 12 January 2007

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