SURKHET, May 29: When the protests against the monarchy escalated, Prachanda Pokharel of Surkhet was studying at Tribhuvan University in Kathmandu. Impressed by the promises of the politicians, he had joined the protests from the very beginning, risking his life for a political change in the country.
One day, one of his hands was broken and he also received head injuries when he was mercilessly beaten by the police for joining the protests. After a month-long intensive treatment in the capital, he got a new lease of life. But he feels nothing has changed over the years after the country was declared a federal democratic republic eleven years ago. He says that the politicians are yet to deliver on the tall promises they had made, though nearly a dozen years have shot by since "the great political change."
“We participated in the protests believing the politicians that the monarchy is an obstacle to the development of the country and its prosperity,” Pokharel said, adding, “But today, even after the abolition of the monarchy years ago, we have not felt much change. The politicians didn't change themselves even in the changed context.”
Most politicians who led the people's movement in 2006 have already benefited from the protests. And now, they have even started behaving like the feudal people they claim they fought against.
“We abolished the monarchy but couldn't change our politicians,” said Pokharel, who now teaches at the Mid-western University. “Mere political changes will make no sense as long as the politicians lack a good intent.”
Like Pokharel, Dirgha Thapa, a local of Dailekh, was genuinely excited when Nepal was declared a federal republic. Thapa who too was injured in the protests in 2006 joined the "victory rally" later, hoping the politicians' promises for change will be translated into reality.
“I was hoping things will change, the country will be developed and prosperity will prevail in the country,” said Thapa, adding, “But the people have not experienced any change as expected.”
Shortly after Nepal was declared a republic nation, it faced several political upheavals. The country witnessed the violent Madhes movement. Further, Tharus, Madhesis and Akhanda Sudurpachhim (unified far-western) supporters organized protests, often clashing with police before the promulgation of the new constitution.Eight police officials were killed in deadly clashes between security personnel and Tharu protestors in Tikapur, Kailali. Likewise, four people died in Surkhet as they were protesting demanding that the Karnali region be declared a separate province.
Peaceful protests turned violent as the security forces tried to suppress dissident voices instead of the politicians addressing them through dialogue.
Despite the political shortcomings, federalism has remained as "a major achievement" in the last 11 years. Three tiers of government have been formed from the center to the local levels. The local government units, which had been running without elected representatives for nearly two decades, are being run through their elected representatives now. The participation of women, Dalits, Janajatis and backward communities in state mechanism has increased significantly. Development works such as road connectivity and communication have just begun. Progress in ensuring the basic needs such as health, education and employment has been nominal.
“The change is not up to the people's expectations as the politicians rushed to fulfill their personal interests instead of implementing their words into action,” said Kumar Bikram Shahi, a student of political science, adding, “That's not good for the country.”