Popular Struggles in Nepal and Bolivia
Movement for Democracy in Nepal
Nepal witnessed an extraordinary popular movement in April 2006. The movement was aimed at restoring democracy. Nepal, we might recall, was one of the third wave’ countries that had won democracy in 1990. Although the king formally remained the head of the state, the real power was exercised by popularly elected representatives. King Birendra, who has accepted this transition from absolute monarchy to constitutional monarchy, was killed in a mysterious massacre of the royal family in 2001. King Gyanendra, the king of Nepal, was not prepared to accepted democratic rule. He took advantage of the weakness and unpopularity of the democratically elected government. In February 2005, the king dismissed the then Prime Minister and dissolved the popularly elected parliament. The movement of April 2006 was aimed at regaining popular control over the government from the king.
The number of protesters reached between 3 to 5 lakhs on 21 April and they served an ultimatum to the king. The leaders of the movement rejected the half-hearted concessions made by the king. They stuck to their demand for restoration of parliament, the power to the all-party government, and a new constituent assembly.
On 24 April 2004, the last day of the ultimatum, the king was forced to concede all three demands. The SPA chose Girija Prasad Koirala as the new Prime Minister of the interim government. The restored parliaments met and passed laws taking away most of the powers of the king. The SPA and the Maoists came to an understanding about how the new constituent Assembly was going to be elected. This struggle came to be known as Nepal’s second movement for democracy.
Bolivia’s Water War
- Bolivia is a poor country in Latin America. The World Bank pressurised the government to give up its control of municipal water supply. The government sold these rights for the city of Cochabamba to a multi-national company (MNC). The company immediately increased the price of water by four times. Many people who received monthly water bills immediately increased the price of water by four times. Many people received a monthly water bill of Rs. 1,000 in a country where the average income is around Rs. 5,000 a month. This led to a spontaneous popular protest.
- In January 2000 a new alliance of labor human rights and community leaders organized a successful four-day general strike in the city. The government agreed to negotiate and the strike was called off. Yet nothing happened.
- The police resorted to brutal repression when the agitation was started again in February. Another strike followed in April and the government imposed martial law. But the power of the people forced the officials of the MNC to flee the city and made the government concede to all the demands of the protesters.
- The contract with the MNC was canceled and the water supply was restored to the municipality at old rates. This came to be known as Bolivia’s water war.
Democracy and Popular Struggles
- Democracy evolves through popular struggles. It is possible that some significant decisions may take place through consensus and may not involve any conflict at all. But that would be an exception. Defining moments of democracy usually involve conflict between those groups who have exercised power and those who aspire for a share in power. These moments come when the country is going through a transition to democracy, expansion of democracy, or deepening of democracy.
- Democratic conflict is resolved through mass mobilization. Sometimes it is possible that the conflict is resolved by using the existing institutions like the parliament or the judiciary. But when there is a deep dispute, very often these institutions themselves get involved in the dispute. The resolutions have to come from outside, from the people.
- These conflicts and mobilization are based on new political organizations. True, there is an element of spontaneity in all such historic moments. But the spontaneous public participation becomes effective with the help of organized politics. There can be many agencies of organized politics. These include political parties, pressure groups, and movement groups.
Mobilization and Organization
- The struggle involved many organizations other than political parties. All the major labor unions and their federations joined this movement. Many other organizations like the Organisation of the Indigenous People, teachers, lawyers, and human rights groups extended support to the movement.
- In a democracy, several different kinds of organisations work behind any big struggle. These organizations play their role in two ways. One obvious way of influencing the decisions in a democracy is direct participation in competitive politics. This is done by creating parties. Contesting elections and forming governments. But every citizen does not participate so directly. They may not have the desire, the need or the skills to take part in direct political activity other than voting.
- There are many indirect ways in which people can get the government to listen to their demands or their point of view. They could do so by forming an organization and undertaking activities to promote their interest or their viewpoint. These are called interest groups or pressure groups. Sometimes people decide to act together without forming organizations. These groups prefer to call themselves movements. Pressure groups are organizations that attempt to influence government policies. But unlike political parties.
- Pressure groups do not aim to directly control or share political power. These organizations are formed when people with the common occupation, interest, aspirations, or opinions come together in order to achieve a common objective, describe many forms of collective action: Narmada Bachao Andolan, the movement for right to information, anti-liquor movement, women’s movement, the environmental movement. Like an interest group, a movement also attempts to influence politics rather than directly take part in electoral competition. But unlike the interest groups, movements have a loose organization. Their decision-making is more informal and flexible. They depend much more on spontaneous mass participation than interest groups.
Sectional interest groups and public interest groups
Sectional Interest Groups
Usually, interest groups seek to promote the interest of a particular section of groups of society. Trade unions, business associations, and professional (lawyers, doctors, teachers, etc.) bodies are some examples of this type. They are sectional because they represent a section of society: workers, employees, business persons, industrialists, followers of a religion, case group, etc. Their principal concern is the betterment and well-being of their members, not society in general.
Sometimes these organizations are not about representing the interest of one section of society. They represent some common as the general interest that needs to be defined. The members of the organization may not benefit from the cause that the organization represents. The Bolivian organization FEDECOR is an example of that kind of organization. In the context of Nepal, we noted the participation of human rights organizations.
Public Interest Groups
These second types of groups are called promotional groups or public interest groups. They promote collective rather than selective good. They aim to help groups other than their own members. For example, a group fighting against bonded labor fights not for themselves but for those who are suffering under such bondage. In some instances, the members of a public interest group may undertake activity that benefits them as well as others too. For example, BAMCEF (Backward and Minorities Community Employees Federation) is an organization largely of government employees that campaigns against caste discrimination. It addresses the problems of its members who suffer discrimination. But its principal concern is with social justice and social equality for the entire society.
Most of the movements are issue-specific movements that seek to achieve a single objective within a limited time frame. Others are more general or genetic movements that seek to achieve a broad goal in the very long term.
- The Nepalese Movement for Democracy arose with the specific objective of reversing the King’s orders that led to the suspension of democracy.
- In India, Narmada Bachao Andolan is a good example of this kind of movement. The movement started with the specific issue of the people displaced by the creation of the Sardar Sarovar dam on the Narmada river. Its objective was to stop the dam from being constructed. Gradually it became a wider movement that questioned all such big dams and the model of development that required such dams. Movements of this kind tend to have a clear leadership and some organisation. But their active life is usually short.
- These single-issue movements can be contrasted with movement that are long term and involve more than one issue. The environment movement and the women’s movement are classic example of such movements. There is no one organisation that controls or guides such movements environmental movement employes association and most of the movement groups often resort to these tactics in order to force the government to take note of their demand.
- Business groups often employ professional lobbyists or sponsor expensive advertisement. Some persons broad movements have a loose umbrella organisation as well. For example, the National Alliance for People’ Movements (NAPM) is an organisation of organisation. Various movement groups struggling on specific issues are constituents of this loose organisation which coordinates the activities of a large number of people’s movements in our country.
How do they influence politics?
Pressure groups and movements exert influence on politics in a variety of ways.
- They try to gain public support and sympathy for their goal and their activity by carrying out information campaigns, organising meeting, file petition etc. Most of these groups try to influence the media into giving more attention to these issues.
- They often organise protest activity like strikes or disrupting government programmes. Workers’ organisations, from pressure groups or movement groups may participate in official bodies and committees that offer advice to the government.
- While interest groups and movements do not directly engage in party politics they seek to exert influence on political parties. Most of the movement groups take political stance without being a party. They have political ideology and political position on major issues. The relationship between political parties and pressure groups can take different forms, some direct and others very indirect.
- In some instances the pressure groups are either formed or led by the leaders & political parties or act as extended arms of political parties. For example, most trade unions and students’ organisations in India are either established by or affiliated to one or the other major political party. Most of the leaders of such pressure groups are usually activities and leaders of party.
- Sometimes political parties grow out of movements. For example, when the Assam movement led by students against the foreigners came to an end, it led to the formation of the Assam Gan Parishad. The roots of parties like the DMK and the AIADMK Tamil Nadu can be traced to a long drawn social reform movement during the 1930 and 1940s.
- In most cases the relationship between parties and interest or movement groups is not so direct. They often take positions that are opposed to each other. Yet they are in dialogue and negotiation. Movement groups have raised new issues that have been taken up by political parties. Most of the new leadership of political parties come from interest or movement groups.
Is their influence healthy ?
- It may initially appear that it is not healthy for groups that promote interest of one section to have influence in democracy. A democracy must look after the interest of all, not just one section. Also, it may seem that these groups wield power without responsibility. Political parties have to face the people in elections, but these groups are not accountable to the people. Pressure groups and movements may not get their funds and support from the people. Sometimes, pressure groups with small public support but lost of money can highjack public discussion in favour their narrow agenda.
- On balance, however, pressure groups and movements have deepened democracy. Putting pressure on the rulers is not an unhealthy activity in a democracy as long as everyone gets this opportunity. Governments can often some under under pressure from a small group of rich and powerful people. Public interest groups and movements perform a useful role of countering this in due influence and reminding the government of the needs and concerns of ordinary citizens.
- Even the sectional interest groups play a valuable role. Where different groups function actively, no one single group can achieve dominance over society. If one group brings pressure on governments to make policies in its favour, another will bring counter pressure not make policies in the way the first groups desires. The government gets to hear about what different sections of the population wants. This leads to a rough balance of power and accommodation of conflicting interests.
- Maoists : Those communities who believed in the ideology of Mao, the leader of the Chinese Revolution. They seek to overthrow the government through an armed revolution so as to establish the rule of the peasants and workers.
- Organisation : A systematic arrangement of people who work collectively to achieve certain objectives for a common benefit.
- Multi National Company : (MNC) i.e., a company held by a different nation. This term signifies privatisation.
- Politics : It refers to the power – oriented behaviour with respect to the process of government. It involves conflict power and policy as its basic elements.
- Seven Party Alliance (SP) : It is seven party alliance of Nepal formed for the struggle for democracy. This alliance includes some big parties that have some members in the parliament.
- Public Opinion : Opinion of the people of country on an issue of national importance. It is mostly an aggregated, organised and considered opinion of a section or sections of people of an issue of public concern. It is neither a private opinion and nor an expert opinion.
- Fedecor : An organisation of Bolivia comprising local professionals, including engineers and environment alists. The organisation was formed to protest against water privatisation in Bolvia.
- Interest Groups : It is a group of persons formed to promote a specific goal/interest. This group represents the social, economic and political interests of a particular segment of the policy. It has common aims and try to get them fulfilled through different means and not by capturing power.
- Pressure Group : It is an organised aggregate group, which seeks to influence the governments decision making without attempting to place their members in formal governmental capacity.
- Electorate : It refers to the entire body of people who are qualified to vote and participate in the election of representatives for the legislative or a local body.
- Election Manifesto : A written document on statement published by each political party that consists of the policies and programmes of the party the manifesto is implemented when the party comes to power.
- Movement : The struggle in order to achieve certain aims like democracy is known as movement. It aims at many forms of collective action. Movement mostly attempts to influence the politics rather than directly take part in electoral process.
- Electoral Competition or Participation : It is a part of political participation which entails participating in the election procedure through voting a contesting elections campaigning.
- Universal Adult Franchise : This term refers to the right to vote given to all the adult citizen of a country to elect their representatives periodically. It ensures political equality and emphasis popular sovereignty.
- Ballot : It is a secret vote in which people mark a piece of paper to indicate the person they choose to represent them. This is to ensure that he/she votes without fear or favour.
- Alternative Voting : In this system of voting the first method voters are asked to rank the candidates in preferential order.
- Polarisation : Alignment of votes/forces i.e. ? Political forces along distinct ideological lines.
- Section interest groups : The interest groups which seek to promote the interest of a particular section or group of society are known as section interest groups. Trade unions, Business Association & Professional bodies are some examples of this type.
- Public interest groups : The groups which seek to promote the interest of the general people rather than a particular section are termed as “Public interest groups”. They are also called hromotional groups because they promote collective rather than selective good.
- BAMCEF : It is a short form of Backward & minorities community employees federation. It is an organisation largely made up of govt. employees that campaigns against cast discriminations. Its principal concern is social justice and social equality for the entire society.
- Movement groups : Groups involved with movement are called ‘Movement groups’. They include a very wide variety – movement groups which are both. specific and general in order and strive to achieve desired goals.
- NAPM : It is an organisation of organisations which stands for National Alliance for People’s Movements. This organisation coordinates the activities of large no. of people’s movement in our country.
Very Short Answer Type Question
- In which year Nepal witnessed an extraordinary popular movement and Why ?
- What was the mystery 2001 in Nepal ?
- What does SPA stand for ? Examine its aims.
- What were the aims of the movement started by SPA ?
- Write a few lines on the Nepal’s second movement for democracy.
- Mention the differences between popular struggle took place in Nepal & Bolivia for popular demands.
- Write some objectional activities of Nepali communist party.
- ‘Popular struggles are integral to the working of democracy prove the statement.
- When does defining movement of democracy start ?
- Give a brief introduction of FEDECOR and also write its political achievements.
- What are the indirect ways of protest in democracy ?
- What is meant by interest group ?
- What are the various techniques used by the Pressure groups assnd Interest groups ?
- Distinguish between Interest groups and movements i.e. pressure groups.
- Write about Sectional Interest groups.
- What do you mean by public interest groups?
- Examine the term Bamcef.
- Examine the environmental movement.
- Write about a loose umbrella organisation.
- What is a single-issue movement? How is it contrasted with long-term movement?
Short Answer Type Question
- List out the main characteristics of the popular struggle of Nepal and Bolivia which took place for democracy.
- Describe the Bolivia water war. How the people of Bolivia started their struggle?
- Give a comparative analysis of the protest movement in Nepal and Bolivia.
- How the deep disputes are resolved in the democracy?
- List out the organizations involved in the mass upsurge of Nepal’s struggle movement.
- Give a comparative analysis of Sectional Interest Groups and Public Interest Groups.
- Write a note on movement groups.
- Is the influence of mobilization and movement groups healthy?
- Discuss the role of Sectional Interest groups.
- Distinguish between Pressure Groups and Political Parties.
- Distinguish between issue-specific movement and long-term movement.
- What are Public Interest Groups?
- Name any 2 political parties which have grown out of the movements.
- There are many indirect ways in which people can get the government to listen to their demands. Mention any two ways.
- Distinguish between single-issue movement and long-term movement.
Long Answer Type Question
- How do struggles and movements shape democracy?
- Give a brief description of mobilization and organizations keeping in view their activities in Nepal and Bolivia?
- Examine the methods adopted by the interest groups in India to put pressure on the government.
- What are movement groups? Explain with the help of examples.
- How do Pressure Groups and Movements exert influence on politics? Explain.
Multiple Choice Question
1 “Third wave” country is used for which country –
2 The world MNC is related to which issue –
(A) Nepal’s popular struggle
(B) Bolivia water war
(C) Environmental movement
(D) Narmada Bachao Andolan
3. Organisation that undertake activities to promote the interest of specific social sections are called –
(A) sectional groups
(B) Pressure groups
(D) All of them
4. Nepal won the democracy in
(A) 1989 (B) 1990 (C) 1991 (D) 1992
5. The second movement was started in Nepal by ……………….. in 2004.
(A) SPA (B) Moist groups
(C) both of them (D) None of these
6. Nepal’s king ……….. was killed by his son.
(A) Birendra (B) Gyanendra
(C) Koirala (D) Vikram
7. FEDECOR’s movement was also supported by the ………….. party of Bolivia.
(A) Socialist (B) Communist
(C) Labour (D) Democratic
8. What was the aim of the popular Nepal movement of April 2006?
(A) To form a constitution
(B) to make an alliance
(C) To restore democracy
(D) None of these
9. The interest groups which seek to promote the interest of the whole society is called ………..
(A) Pressure group (B) Political group
(C) Interest group (D) Public interest group
10. The political party which has grown out of movement is …………..
(A) Congress (B) BJP
(C) AIADMK (D) SP
11. When did Nepal become a constitutional monarchy?
(A) 1990 (B) 1991
(D) 1992 (D) 1993
12. Under the …………… the head of the state has absolute powers.
(A) Constitutional monarchy
(B) Absolute monarchy
(D) All the above