The youths have spent every effort, with great clarity and enthusiasm, to become the bearers of change in the past decade. The success of the 2006 People’s Movement and the gains made thereafter have remained confined on paper, rather than transforming the lives of the people – therefore, in order to ensure the implementation of those gains and to attain newer achievements, the youths of the country have been taking to the streets regularly. These times required the revolution to be taken not only to the streets, but also to social media. The youths made the streets and social media equally the forum for their revolution, at times raising the slogan ‘Occupy Baluwatar’, and at other times shouting, ‘Enough is enough!’ Civil society movements like ‘Justice for Nirmala’, ‘Make books tax-free’, ‘Movement against exploitative lending’, and ‘Movement opposing violence against women’ established a different set of standards in comparison to movements and demonstrations that had been happening in Nepal. Groups that had, in the past, believed in the politics of violence, those who thought that to demonstrate is to burn tyres and break road-side railings, have progressed over the past decade to willingly sit peacefully on the asphalt of the Maitighar Road for pacifist and symbolic protests like ‘We Are Here’. In this sense, the decade between 2013 and 2023 proved that protests aren’t limited to vandalism and violence. It established that one’s demands can be presented in a peaceable manner, and that peaceful methods create even greater pressure on the government. The new generation also became successful in explaining that politics doesn’t mean simply taking sides along political party lines, but that true politics involves raising the issues of the citizens and working to address them. ‘Occupy Baluwatar’ became successful in increasing the statute of limitation for reporting rapes from 35 days to 6 months, and also resulted in rape cases being addressed in the courts through a ‘fast-track’ mechanism.
Regrettably, the party-politics of this decade also kept many young people away from ‘politics’. They began staying clear of politics because of the attitudes of the older political parties. History contains numerous descriptions of the political actions of Nepali youths. But our age seems to be just the opposite – most youths are disenchanted with party politics. Yet, some youths who were fed up with the status quo joined politics through various avenues, motivated by the belief that the correct solution to most of our problems is possible only through politics. The rise of Bibeksheel Nepali became a new forum for youths fed up with old-style politics. It became a centre of attraction. Bibeksheel Nepal attracted into political life the youths who preferred to stay away from politics. It cleared the path for those who were fed up with the old style of politics to begin working from a new start. To a certain extent, the rise of Bibeksheel Nepali, disenchantment with older political parties, and movements started by various different groups for political gains affected the outcome of the recent elections. However, this is but the beginning, and we can have faith that the future will be even more impressive.
The fact that those who consider children the future refuse to accept the youths as the present is reflected in the presence of our elected representatives – who are mostly over 40 years old – in the parliament, provincial assemblies, and across local governments. However, the fact that individuals like Balen, Udaya, Biraj, Sunita Baral, Toshima and Sobitas are participating as our representatives in local governments and the House of Representatives after the recent elections has allowed for Nepali youths to participate in and listen to parliamentary debates. Discussions around what issues are being debated, and where, in the parliament; the functioning of the parliament; our desired intervention in the budget, etc., point to the fact that the youths stand for transformation. In these elections, the role of youths not only in the streets and the parliament, but also of those living abroad, became really important. Although political leaders went door-to-door with wads of cash, the voters were adamant that they would only vote for capable youths. The voters also rebelled and repeatedly interrogated the older political parties with the question, ‘Correction or annihilation?’ Every family is forced to have either the husband or the children migrate away to earn a living, in the US or Europe if they have the means, or in Dubai, Qatar or the neighbouring country India. Yet, even when the country entered economic recession and the economy became sluggish, the political parties continued their desperate scramble for power, which allowed corruption to grow to the extreme. As a form of absolute revolt against that, the voters elected new and educated youths to political office.
Through the ‘Enough is Enough’ movement, we have witnessed transformations in many political and social levels, and have made our interventions also. The youths of Kathmandu, who usually stay away from politics, also joined this movement. Through the enthusiasm and participation of a large section of the youths, this movement has also helped to explain the level of political awareness and hope. It appears that the youths will become even more sensitive toward social and political issues – it has become clear that the feminist movement and anti-racism protests in the US have a significant impact on the Nepali psyche.
Many different types of movements have transpired in Nepal in the past five to seven years. For instance:
- The constitution drafting process. The drafting of the constitution was one of the major political activities of the past decade. Many years of political bickering and dissent finally resulted in the promulgation of the new constitution in 2015. However, a few groups continue to agitate to amend the Constitution to address issues like federalism and minority rights.
- The Madhesh Movement. The demand in 2015 – 2016 by people of Madheshi ethnic groups for greater autonomy and representation in the constitution led to widespread demonstrations across the Madhesh region along the southern border of Nepal. The Movement sometimes turned violent, with numerous clashes, and the effect of the Madhesh Movement can still be seen in the parliament.
- Protests against corruption. Nepal saw protests against government corruption in 2019, where citizens demanded greater transparency and accountability in public institutions. Protests were organized against the high-profile corruption where the government purchased faulty medical equipment from China. Those protests proved to be significant milestones against corruption.
- ‘Enough is Enough’. When the COVID-19 pandemic gripped the country and Nepal government failed to effectively manage the crisis, a group of active youth who emphasized that the demand for action was a faceless and non-violent citizens’ movement began the ‘Enough is Enough’ campaign in June, 2020. This movement saw enthusiastic participation by a large section of the youths.
- ‘Tolerate no more’ and ‘Justice for Nirmala’. Women’s rights activists succeeded in intervening socially, politically and legally for change through these movements. These movements also helped spark a big debate on the social level.
Youths have always been the largest groups at the forefront of these movements – the enthusiastic participation of youths indicate the clarity with which they regard their rights and duties. This is a bugle-call, because, in every country, an entire generation has to sacrifice its youth to bring about any significant change. The democratic transformations in the country have made it possible for us to be present as youths in the streets of the country, to openly and loudly speak our voices, and for me to openly write about issues like this. In the past, people who clung to a certain school of political thought said that change is possible only through the barrel of a gun. And such an experiment was attempted in Nepal. But the age of violence is over! The new generation of youths will continue to safeguard democracy, and peacefully advocate the sustainable resolution of issues faced by citizens.
The new generation is aware! The new generation is vigilant! The new generation will encourage innovative work!
Bhawana Raut is a Political and Social Activist. She is a voice that challenges socio- political injustice and holds government accountable.
This blog was initially written in Nepali and has been translated to English.