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Ethnic Identity, Participation and Social Justice: A Constitution for New Nepal?

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For nearly two centuries Nepal has been governed under the hegemony of three upper caste communities: Brahmins, Chettries and Newars. Under the influence of Hinduism and the monarchy, other communities, Dalits, women, indigenous peoples and the people of the southern parts were marginalised. Struggles of democracy in the 1950s were less about social justice than the access of the elite communities to increasing shares in the spoils and administration of the state, which was achieved in the 1990 Constitution. The Maoist rebellion in the mid 1990s seriously hampered the working of the Constitution, although not the hegemony of the upper caste communities. The uprising of the people against the King in April 2006 changed the context of that rebellion, accelerated the ceasefire and introduced a new constitutional agenda, based on social justice and the inclusion of the marginalised community in the affairs and institutions of the state. However, despite the overthrow of the monarchy, a multi-party government, of parties committed to fundamental state restructuring, progress towards a new dispensation has been slow. A new Constitution should have been adopted by April 2010 by an elected, representative Constituent Assembly but disagreements between the former elites, still firmly in control of politics, has diverted attention from constitutional reform.

Affiliations: 1: Emeritus Professor of Public Law, University of Hong Kong


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