Youth Movements & Youth Radicalization In Nepal
Nepal, as at the most crucial social political cross-roads at the moment. It has gone through six decades long political transition with four major political changes (1950, 1960, 1990, and 2005.) with seven constitutions, 36 prime-ministers in 66 years of its democratic political practices and governance of Nepal. At present, newly structured federal system of the state is facing an uphill task of maintaining political harmony, restoring peace and development. Failing to steer the country into a successful federal democracy, Nepal may turn into a fragile state or even a failed state. In that case, there is a great apprehension of radicalization, extremism, violence and even terrorism that may engulf the country as a whole.
Radicalization is defined as to radicalize someone to shift a person or groups opinion toward either end of the political spectrum. The word comes up a lot during times of political upheaval or revolution when peoples opinions stray far from the mainstream. To radicalize people is to cause a shift in their beliefs that make them want to take action for social reform. Once theyre radicalized, theyll want big political or social changes and work to make them happen.
In other word, radicalization is a process by which an individual or group comes to adopt increasingly extreme political, social, or religious ideals and aspirations that reject or undermine the status quo or undermine contemporary ideas and expressions of freedom of choice.
Therefore, the main issue in Nepal is to fathom and understand terrorism, extremism, radicalization, political training and orientation, social deviances and criminalization of the youth of Nepal.
It shows that the politics of Nepal is still too fragile to be termed as a radically driven extremist led operated by radicalized leaders and cadres. The good point is there is less chance that Nepal will face a suicide bomb or devastating terrorist attacks as witnessed in other parts of the world lately. Under the present circumstances, there has been cases where the political cadre of own party have assaulted their higher command couple of times.
After the political transformation of Party-less Panchayat to the Multi-party system and constitutional monarchy, Nepal has gone through rapid economic political change that is gradually passing through a radicalization process. This assumption is supported by a Slippery Slope or True Believer syndrome which explains as Gradual radicalization through activities that incrementally narrow the individuals social circle, narrow their mindset, and in some cases desensitize them to violence. This is a process in which one becomes increasingly serious about their political, social, and religious beliefs as a product of taking the next step. One can begin by participation in non-violent activities such as mutual aid, wherein the best way to raise ones in/group social status is to demonstrate seriousness about the cause and increase the level of commitment in terms of belief and activities. As an individual commits act after act, sunk cost are developed. Even if activity initially only ideological or only criminal, the process of radicalization conflates the two such that criminal acts are justified for intellectually radical purposes and radical purposes are invoked to justify what are ultimately criminal act.(Ibid).
However, there may be some inherent factors that may contribute Terai Madhesi Youth to get radicalized. But, if the government and people of Nepal do not identify the root cause and address this problem adequately on time, this situation can lead Nepal into another bout of violence and extremism in future.
It shows the symptom of hate crime for the first time in Nepal. But the government and the political parties are too clumsy and are not showing any interest to address it adequately. Although, the visible actors of the conflict are only Madhesis, there are many hidden factors and unseen agenda of domestic and foreign interests. Such indications have developed distrust and hostility that may be the purpose of many external players to disintegrate Nepal so that external forces can enjoy free reign over the government and rulers of Nepal.
This process is going through two different paths in Nepal. One is the weak internal governance due to problems and challenges posed by prolonged political transition and lack of good governance, corruption, unstable government and so on. On the other hand, Nepal is going through a lot of external pressures directly and indirectly through international organizations. For example, Nepal has faced three blockades since its democratic transition of 1951 till 2015. Besides, there is a direct and indirect pressure from various international groups and actors that have undermined Nepalese values and sentiment to dictate their own interest and agendas.
Besides, there is a vast difference between western perspective of youth radicalization which is focused more on Islamic radicalization known as Jihad, IS, ISIS and so on. As Nepal has less number of Muslim population, the direct role and impact of IS may be less or even negligible at the present circumstances. On the other hand, political change of 2006 has seen a larger proportion of the population proselytizing and conversion campaign that is also a form of radicalization in our context.
Addressing the Root Causes
Since the promulgation of the new federal constitution of 2015, Tarai Madhesh that is the southern plains of Nepal has become disturbed and politically volatile in terms of radicalized youth.
The threat of violence and radicalization among the Terai Madeshi population is getting more complicated and confrontational since the promulgation of the constitution of 2015.
Currently, there is a political stalemate in Madhesi demand of the constitutional amendment that has been brewing since the promulgation of the Constitution. This has been further stalled by announcement of local elections of Region No. two. In fact, ever since the political change of 2006, there has been a new surge of unrest on the issues of ethnic identity, indigenousness and caste (Anya Jati or non-indigenous race).
For example, C.K Raut, one of the proponent separate independent Madhesi State is going all out to segregate Nepal into Pahadi (Hilly) and Madhesi states. For this reason he has already demarcated the new map of Nepal and designed the Madeshi Flag also. It is yet not clear where he receives financial support for his cause. His demand does not look any different than the demand of Tamil Tigers leader Veluppillai Prabhakaran of Sri-Lanka.
In this context, an eminent columnist C. K. Lal writes, Technically speaking, Madheshis too are as Nepali as any other, but they are not so easily permitted to feel a part of us. He further enumerates, The three Madesh uprising since 2007 have tried to correct the anomaly through politics of dignity, but events since the 16 Point Conspiracy (SPC) of June 2015 have shown that a prolonged struggle lie ahead if unity and integrity of the country is worth saving and have to be saved. (CK Lal, Republica, Monday, March 13, 2007). There may be some truth in his assertion. But there is no doubt that such an unprecedented situation had never prevailed in two and half century Nepalese history. This can be taken as a new surge of radicalization to turn one race against another on the basis of ethnicity and geographical location.
According to Anil Kumar Karna, ‘Historically, a strong political movement seeking enlarged participation is not a new agenda in Nepal, but the more violent Madhesi movement emerged in 2007, decisively setting the agenda for federalism.
Symptomatic Indicators of Youth Radicalization – (CPN) Maoist Factor
The peoples armed struggle initiated by the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) in 1996 changed the political and societal landscape of the country. CPN (M) used the ideas and tools that could train, indoctrinate, motivate and radicalize Nepalese to turn against the state forces that made it possible for them to come to power.
As timely and rightfully quoted by Krishna Hachhethu, This plan of initiation of the peoples war would be based on the principle that everything is an illusion except state power. While remaining firm on the principle aim of the armed struggle as to capture political power for the people, the Party expresses its firm commitment to wage relentless struggle against all forms of deviationist thought and trends including reformism, and anarchism.
Hachetthus assertion is that the Maoist insurgency expanded on three major grounds gas, bas, and kapas; i.e. food, shelter and cloth. According to him, CPN (M) applied three major instruments to lure, motivate, indoctrinate, and radicalize the people at large; i.e. 1) to radicalize people by advocating radical and revolutionary changes and achieving economic equality even at the cost of political liberty. 2) Play and synchronize with the ethnic revivalists to cash on the post-1990 ethnic uprising. In this regard, CPN (M) achieved exceptional success up to the stage where it could develop and propose 14 ethnic based states in Nepal.
The formation of CPN (M) battle formation to brigade, battalion to company on ethnic base and strategic defense, strategic equilibrium, and strategic offence were very effective jargon to impress the outside world and indoctrinate and radicalize the peoples sentiment. However, after 11 years of signing the Comprehensive Peace Treaty (CPA-2006), now it seems these were just a strategy of CPN (M) to give an impression that they really had a well-structured military formation to fight with the government forces. Internationally, CPN (M) also became active member of the Coordination Committee of Maoist Parties and Organizations of South Asia and RIM that CPN (M) utilized to impress the international community about their legality and higher stature.
Therefore, it is necessary to examine and assess the state of affairs in Nepal on the stage, conditions and root cause of terrorism or radicalization and its probable outcome in future.
After the cessation of ten years armed conflict, CPN(M) were given a safe landing along with a good package of political power sharing. But due to lack of proper orientation and motivation, CPN (M) showed the difference in their ideology. The first victim of this was the demise of Prachanda Path. Then there was the division within the party that led to the split of the Baidhya group.
At the present moment there is another party led by Dr. Baburam Bhattarai who has formed a new party called Naya-Sakti Party. Similarly, another party led by Netra Bikram Chand, Biplav is supposed to hold the original extreme ideology of the CPN (M) by Biplavs Communist Party (Maoist).
But, in Nepalese context, it is not so easy to find proper narration of youth radicalization and what it entails. For example, when a police officer gets stabbed to death in Indonesia, the news is circulated all over the world and condemned vehemently.6 On the contrary, even after the senior superintendent of Nepal Police and other senior officers get lynched and burnt alive in daylight, the government as well as the world keeps mum, rewarding the suspect with compensation of 17 million Nepalese Rupees. (US $170.000 equivalent).
People of Nepal may be equally angry and frustrated like any other nation of the world, but why they do not blow themselves up and kill the people that they hate? There are three incidences where incumbant Prime ministers of Nepal were attacked by the people, but even their attack they had shown enough empathy and compassion and not so violent so as to call it terrorism.
Migrants Workers and Potentiality of Radicalization
Nepalese youth are in large number in the Middle East, working and sending back remittances to their families which is sustaining the economy. But this phenomenon if left un-checked can produce radicalized people in the future due to their frustration coming out from their misery. There are many instances where the frustrated disgruntled youth from European countries have volunteered as IS fighters without any valid reason or rationale. There are reports that some of the Nepali youth in the Middle East and Malaysia are converting to Islam, their return to the country, whereabouts and future plans need to be properly studied and analyzed by the state.
NGO and Threat of Youth Radicalization in Nepal
A large number of NGOs and INGOS are doing a great contribution to Nepalese society. They have become the vehicle of engaging youth aspirations with youth related programs and activities. But, at the present juncture a lot of NGOs and INGOs have come to close scrutiny and criticism for their nefarious activities. It may give ample space to the radicalization of Nepalese youth to engage themselves in illegal and criminal activities including criminal and terrorist activities within Nepal and use Nepal as a safe-heaven.
Gang Extremism, Terrorism and Radicalization
The daunting challenges of identifying threats and challenges of gang, extremism, and radicalism is hard to differentiate in our society. Unfortunately, the government and the community are not serious on these important and sensitive issues. Various students unions and trade unions affiliated to political parties rule and dominate industries, educational institutions and most construction and development projects. The environment at the academic institutions are controlled and dominated by student unions. There is no juvenile justice administration to address the problems of teens. Drugs and substance abuse is rampant and increasing day by day. There are certain gangs identified and linked with the major political parties who dare to challenge society and government openly. Nepalese youth gang-leaders are becoming role-model and icons for petty criminals. Newer, unknown gangs are mushrooming day by day. One of the most notorious gangster Dines Adhikari aka Chari was killed in a cross fire with police on Aug 6, 2014. He was considered to be a closely affiliated to a major political party. When he was killed in a police encounter, the major ruling political parties demanded the suspension and prosecution of the responsible police officers. Similarly, another notorious don of the capital, Kumar Shrestha alias Ghainte was also killed in another police encounter in August 25, 2015 in which top-leaders of another major political party even came to the media and the parliament to condemn the killing. It shows the close nexus between extortionist, gangs and political party leaders. Thus, politicization of crime and criminalization of politics has become a buzzword. In all these incidents, the police force was appreciated and thanked by the general people.
At the current scenario, there are many social and legal loopholes for any interest group to radicalize Nepalese youth whether it is political, social, religious or ethnic issue. Till date, there is no specific government plan or policy to address youth radicalization problem in Nepal. Most of the countries of the world have well advanced de-radicalization and counter-radicalization programs. They have also developed intelligence and data-base system to monitor and retrieve data and developed adequate intelligence and security apparatus.
In the year 2015 Government of Nepal, Ministry of Youth and Sports has formulated a National Youth Policy that states that there are 40.3 percent youth population. By youth it has taken the age group between 16 to 40 years of age.8 It has emphasized on streamlining youth population on their capacity building and preservation and promotion of their minimum basic needs.
But it has failed to address any concrete policy on the rehabilitation and reintegration of the Maoist Combatants who were recruited when they were middle level students. The negative impact and the after effect of ten year long armed conflict has radicalized Nepalese youth to such an extent that they have become more violent and aggressive, but still at a lower level compared to its other SAARC Regional countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sri-Lanka and Bangladesh where there are incidents of suicide bombing and assassination of higher government personalities. But the recent incidents of lynching of the security personals on duty in Tikapur and Saptari, and kidnapping of business people and killing has shown the tendency of political and criminal violence that may lead to more violence and crime in future. Therefore, Nepal must take necessary measures so that it will not fall prey of youth radicalization and turn Nepal into a safe-haven of radicalized criminals and terrorists of the world.
The Government of Nepal needs to keep close vigil of burgeoning local, regional and ethnic aspirations. Inability of the successive, fragile, short lived coalition governments of four political parties have concentrated more on survival of their administration than long-term planning. As a result, it has created a chaotic situation that is leading to another bout of hopelessness and despair. After two rounds of successful local elections, state has to show enough flexibility to facilitate them with enough laws and autonomy as promised by the federal constitution itself.
On the other hand, failing to address their demand of constitutional amendment, the government and the Madhesi parties both will lose their legitimacy and pave the way for Madhesi radicals in the long run. Tarai is a volatile area along with the open border of most backward states of India. Terai is the area where there were more than 107 armed outfits during 2007 who had run amok with looting, murder and extortion in the name of political movement. Besides there are other groups like Limbuwan who tend to defy and challenge government decrees in the pretext of rules imposed by the Khas Bramhin and Ksheriya Hegemon invaders. Therefore, both the state and civil society of Nepal need to be careful as regards to the issue of youth radicalization.
-AIGP (Retd) Rabi Raj Thapa