justice and crime
OTHER LOCAL THEMES
employment and income
introducing the area
quotes about politics
key testimonies featuring politics
In the first collection of interviews most people seem to perceive politics at the national level as remote and offering no scope for participation on their part. One says: "I am not the person who is interested in politics. We do our work in the field. We hope for betterment" (Nepal 9). Criticisms of the old Panchayat administration (the administrative unit of the previous political regime, replaced in 1990) are frequently voiced - incidents of corruption and failure to meet requests for improvements in local facilities are mentioned. Although there has been democratisation in local and national politics, and several expressed forthright approval of this, some Tamang narrators complained that lack of unity within their own caste means that the vote still tends to go to Chettri or Brahmin candidates. A campaigner on behalf of women's rights blames political instability and conflicts between parties for failure to put declared principles into practice, especially in relation to gender issues; in her view, change will only come about from action at the grassroots.
Many of those first interviews were gathered in 1995. Soon after, the Maoists launched their fight against what they saw as a corrupt regime with no interest in eradicating poverty. Since 1996, their activities and influence have spread from the more remote western districts to other areas and to the heart of government. Nepal has been wracked by violence and unrest and, according to some estimates, 7,000 people have lost their lives. The new collection (Nepal 24-32) bears witness to this huge change to Nepal's political landscape; almost all of the narrators have had direct experience of the battle for power between Nepal's government and the Maoists.
Disillusionment with both sides seems common; the anonymous narrator (Nepal 26) who relates the most detailed account of being caught in the middle explains how a community that would have previously supported Congress (the party of government) no longer trusts them, having witnessed the way the national news reported a local incident in which a "terrorist" was killed: "Since hearing that news the local people of that area - that place - have changed, it is said. they are of the type likely to give votes to the Congress [the ruling political party]. But the Congress will not get votes from there in the forthcoming election.Now they've reached a point where they say they will not go to give votes to anyone." This is a fascinating interview and the narrator clearly has some sympathy with the Maoists' political agenda, but not with their methods of carrying it out: "[Maoists] also have many weaknesses. It's not good that Maoists are also levying tax, collecting 20 kg of paddy from the general public. Now for the poor, 20 kg of paddy will be enough to eat for two days. [Also] maybe one or two may have reported to the police about Maoists but on that pretext it is not good [for the Maoists] to kill ordinary people. When the police and army beat and threaten to kill someone unless he tells them who the Maoists are, that person may point to someone and say the person is a Maoist just to save his own life."
quotes about politics
"My son-in-law was a farmer. the army took him away [as a suspected Maoist sympathiser]. I don't know [why]. Poor chap, what politics would he do? He would just plough and live. He isn't educated, what kind of politics he would do? .His father died when he was just a child. He looked after five or six [family members] - how would he study or be involved in politics? .he knows nothing. Yes, I feel he was needlessly taken away."
Durga Kumari, F/50s, Nepal 25
"Both sides are going around killing or being killed. In that respect I don't care about the two sides clashing and killing each other. They have joined, knowing they might die the next day or kill."
Anonymous, F/29, Nepal 26
"The provision is confined within the constitution: women have equal rights to men. But only in theory, nothing can be found in practice.. The provisions keep remaining in the constitution and the women keep remaining in their villages. All the political parties have raised slogans for the equal rights of women as far as slogans are concerned. Rights have been given, but only in election bills and in the constitution."
Indira, F/25, Nepal 9
"I liked the Panchayat System, at least the people were good then, and for the development you need good people. But at that time, there was no freedom of speech and once there was a Pradhan Pancha no one could take his place. Even if there was an election no one could get more vote than the government candidates, because they were backed by the government morally and financially. If we tried to do something for the development of the community, we couldn't and the officials were not interested in development... We are new to the democratic system and we are just experiencing it. I think this is a good system if the people understand it."
Ram, M/53, Nepal 17
"It is all politics. Who has got money, he is on the top. Who does not have, he falls behind. You need money whether it is a multiple (multi-party) system or whether in Panchayat. In those days at least some development occurred. These days, people are too busy opposing one another."
Tek Lal, M/67, Nepal 3