Maoists were not the first to demand federalism

Sujit Mainali / March 28, 2017

Photo: Youtube grab

During his recent visit to India, Naya Shakti Nepal coordinator and former prime minister Baburam Bhattarai was interviewed by Indian journalist Siddharth Varadarajan and asked about the allegation by some Nepali politicians that the Madhesi movement is instigated by the Indian government. In reply, Baburam Bhattarai said the following:

“The federalism issue was raised firstly by the Maoists and then the Madhesi political parties, later on supported by the NC and the UML.”

South Asia Check has examined whether Maoists were the first to demand federalism in Nepal, as claimed by Dr Bhattarai, or not.

Nepal Tarai Congress, a Madhes-based party formed in 1951 under the leadership of Vedananda Jha had stated the establishment of an autonomous tarai state among its three principal objectives. (Joshi and Rose, Democratic Innovations in Nepal, A Case Study of Political Acculturation, pg 138, Mandala Publication, 2004: Frederick H. Gaige, Regionalism and National  Unity in Nepal, Pg 109, Himal Books, 2013)

Also, the Nepal Sadbhavana Party formed after the restoration of democracy in 1990 made federalism as its main goal. The party’s election manifesto issued in 1991 mentioned the introduction of federalism in Nepal as its objective. “Nepal is a multilingual, multi-communal and a country of various indigenous communities, therefore, in order to strengthen the national unity and to ensure a balanced participation [of all communities] in the administration, Nepal Sadbhavana Party believes that a constitutional provision for federal governance will be appropriate for the country. This party is in favor of declaring mountains-hills and tarai as separate autonomous regions on the basis of the similarities in terms of language, costume, culture, and geography,” the manifesto states. (Nepal Sadbhavana Patry’s eleciton manifesto, 1992, Pg 4)

Federalism did not figure in the 40-point demand submitted to the government by the CPN (Maoist) in 1996 before it started an armed insurgency. It was only after 2000, that the party stated federalism as one of its goals.

Therefore, Dr Bhattarai’s claim that the Maoists were the first to raise the issue of federalism is incorrect.

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