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The Issue of Federalism in Nepal Appears More Complex than the Peace Process and Constitution Writing

By Dr. Bishnu Pathak (Nepal)
Executive Director 
Peace and Conflict Studies Center (PCS Center)
P. O. Box 11374, Sukedhara
Kathmandu, Nepal 


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The Issue of Federalism in Nepal Appears More Complex than the Peace Process and Constitution Writing
Bishnu Pathak, PhD

Although, this article has been written sometimes ago, it is still relevant in the case of Nepal on the course to complete peace process concluding constitution writing and Maoist Army integration into society and security forces.

Federalism in present Nepal has become a topic of great contention. Nearly 5-year later to compliance the constitutional provision and after long drawn People's War and Human Rights in Nepal, by Dr. Bishnu Pathakdebate, the Government with the decision of major parties have finally formed nine-member State Restructuring Commission (SRC) to recommend the Constituent Assembly a best possible model to federate Republic of Nepal. Except a few, none of the member of SRC does have expertise in this subject. It means they simple put parties stamp on the blueprint for federalism rather than focusing to the need, desire and benefit of the people and the nation at large.  The SRC divides into two bickering: five-member favors 11-state modality, the Maoist proposal of socio-cultural concept whereas four commissioners advocate for six-state federal modality. The minority commissioners walked out of the review meeting of January 27, 2012 dissatisfying with the working style of the Coordinator. It is to true of that the number of federal state should be concluded on the basis of consensus rather than dividing minority and majority voting. The main opposition political parties, namely, Nepali Congress and CPN (UML) will reject the majority vote at the SRC (Republica: January 28, 2012 and Kathmandu Post: January 28, 2012). Without a decision of federal state, neither the writing of constitution nor the integration of the Maoist Army into society and security forces shall be concluded before the last Constitutional deadline of May 28, 2012. The extension of the tenure of the Constitution Assembly for the final six months is the verdict given by the full bench of the Apex Court on November 25, 2011. On December 7, 2011, the Supreme Court refused to register review the applications filed by both the Prime Minister and the Chairman of the Constituent Assembly stating "the final verdict given by the full bench cannot be reviewed". It is to be remarkable of that the Court gave a verdict respecting the voices of the people in general as most of them are against the extension of tenure of the CA repeatedly.    
Nepal has been a witness of several armed and unarmed struggles conducted by the Gurung, Tamang, Lama, Dalits and so forth. They have struggled against injustice, inequality, repression, absolutism, and for their freedom and livelihood. However, such movements could not attract much of the general population due to lack of strong organization, competent leadership, enough preparation, and strategical skills.  The popular movement I of 1990 made the people conscious of their rights and duties. They were also made conscious by the world’s politics. Namely, the cultural, regional, and ethnic-based dimensions that emerged in the 21st century after the US tried to impose free market and human rights policy on the communist regimes of the 20th century. The zeal of the multi-caste, multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multi-cultural, multi-religious, and multi-regional Nepali people was finally fueled when the Communist Party of Nepal - or CPN (Maoist) - initiated the armed conflict termed the “People’s War” on February 13, 1996. The issues of federalism, national-regional and cultural autonomy, secularism, and  the right to self-determination became prominent along with the intensifying of the People’s War. Federation with autonomy has now become the prime agenda of all ethnic, regional, lingual, and cultural based groups in Nepal.
Log frame I: Federal States’ politics in the world


Federal State

No. of federal divisions








Argentina (Argentina Republic)

23 Provinces (1 federal district)

Federal presidential representative democratic republic (head of the state/ government)

Bicameral - (Senate with 22 seats and Chamber of Deputies with 257 members)

President as the Commander-In-Chief

From Spain on May 25, 1810   

In 2007 Christina Fernandez de Kirchner became the first elected female president.


Australia (Commonwealth of Australia)

6 States (1 federal district and several minor territories)

Parliamentary democracy with a constitutional monarchy

Bicameral commonwealth parliament consists of Queen, Senate, and the HOR (House of Repres.)

51,000 Australian Defense Force including navy, ground and air forces

From UK on January 1, 1901

The Queen is represented by the Governor-General, who acts on the advice of his/her Ministers. The Upper House consists of 76 senators, and the Lower House (HOR) of 150 members


Austria (Republic of Austria)

9 States

Federal presidential representative democratic republic.

Bicameral - Lower Chamber (183 seats) and Upper Chamber….

45,000 joint forces

From Austrian Treaty on July 27, 1955

It is one of six European countries that has declared permanent neutrality in its constitution.


Belgium (Kingdom of Belgium)

3 linguistic communities (3 regions)

Parliamentary democracy with constitutional monarchy

Bicameral – Senate 61 and Chamber of Representatives (150 members)


From Germany in 1957

Senate is made up of 40 representatives directly elected and 21  appointed by the three community parliament. Monarchy does not cast votes.



Administrative Divisions. It has 10 cantons which split  into 74 municipalities

Federal democratic republic

Bicameral – House of Peoples (15 delegates; 5 each from Bosnians, Serbs and Croats and House of Representatives 42 (HOR) members

110,000 civilians killed by the military with 1.8 million displaced

From Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia on March 1, 1992

In the referendum for independence from Yugoslavia in early 1992, a great majority of Bosnian Serbs boycotted.  The remaining Bosnians voted for independence by 81%.  Tensions escalated as Bosnia and Herze.g.ovina declared independence in April 1992.


Brazil (Federative Republic of Brazil)

26 States             (1 federal district with 5561 municipalities)

Presidential Federal Republic. President is both head of the state and government

Bicameral – Chamber of Deputies and Federal Senate

190,000 ground, navy and air soldiers

From Portugal on Sept. 7, 1822

It has the largest  armed forces in Latin America



10 Provinces and 3 territories

Parliamentary democracy with constitutional monarchy

Bicameral – House of Commons and Senate

90,000 re.g.ular and reserve forces

From the UK on July 1, 1867

Canada and the US share the world's longest undefended border and comprise of each other's largest trading partners. Canada maintains an independent foreign policy – full relations with Cuba/declined to participate in the Iraq war with the US.



3 Islands

Federal and Islamic Republic. President heads the state/government


500 each police and  defense force

From France on July 16, 1975



Ethiopia (Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia)

Semi -autonomous regions  (2 chartered cities)

Federal Democratic Republic

Bicameral – The first national parliament and regional legislatures were conducted in May and June 1995.


Established in 10th BC

The 547 CA members of June 1994 adopted a New Constitution by December of that year.  Ethiopia is a hybrid between semi-democracy and an authoritarian regime. It ranks 106 out of 167 countries in the democracy index, where Cambodia ranks 105 and Burundi 107.


Germany (Federal Republic of Germany)

16 States   with 439 districts and cities.

Federal Democratic Republic. President heads the State and Federal Chancellor to Government.

Bicameral – Federal Diet and Federal Council


From holy Roman empire in 962; federal republic May 23, 1949; and reunification October 3, 1990

It is the world's 3rd largest economy by GDP with the largest exporters in 2007. It allocates the 2nd biggest annual budget for development aid while its military expenditure ranks 6th in the world.


India (Republic of India)

28 States     (7 Union Territories) 

Federal Republic Parliamentary Democracy. President heads  the State and the PM the Government

Bicameral – Rajya Sabha (Council of States) 245 members and Lok Sabha (House of People) 543 members


From UK on August 15, 1947, but republic declared on January 26, 1950 only.

It has quasi-federal form of government. The 7 union territories – Andaman and  Nicobar Islands, Chandigarh, Dadra and Nagar Haveli , Daman and Diu, Lakshadweep, National Capital Territory of Delhi, and Puduchery).


Iraq (Republic of Iraq)

18 Governorates  including 1 autonomous region

Islamic democratic federal parliamentary republic.



From UK on October 3, 1932

President heads  the State and the PM to Government



13 States     (3 federal territories)

Parliamentary democracy with federal constitutional monarchy

Bicameral – House of Representative (222-member) and Senate (139- member)


From UK on Aug. 31, 1957; Singapore on Sept. 16, 1963

In the first Millennium Malay people adopted Sanskrit. This lasted until they converted to Islam.


Mexico (United Mexican States)

States 31

Presidential federal republic. President heads the both state/government

Senate and Chamber of Deputies


From Spain on September 16, 1810

It is the 4th largest country in Americans, 14th largest in the world by total area, 11th most populous and the most populous Spanish-speaking country in the world. 



States 4




From the US on Nov 3, 1986




14 zones
75 districts

Federal democratic republic

Unicameral. 601 members to draft a new constitution

94,000 Nepal Army

Kingdom declared on De. 21, 1768

On December 28, 2007, the Interim Parliament passed a bill that Nepal would declare a federal republic. Nepal finally declares a republic by the CA on May 28, 2008.


Netherlands (Kingdom of the Netherlands)

3 Landen

Parliamentary democracy since 1848; constitutional monarchy since 1815

Bicameral – Upper House with 75 members and 150 member in the Second Chamber

70,000 including civilians and military personnel


It is a founding member of the EU, NATO and OECD. It was a republic from 1581 to 1813. The Economist ranked the Netherlands as the 3rd most democratic country in the world.


Nigeria (Federal Republic of Nigeria)

36 States    (1 territory)

Presidential federal republic. President heads the State and the Government 

Bicameral – Upper House and Lower House

115,000 (ground, navy and air forces)

From the UK in 1960

Military coup lasted from 1966 to till the death of Sani Abbacha in 1998


Pakistan (Islamic Republic of Pakistan)

4 Provinces  and 4 Federal territories 4

Semi-presidential federal democratic republic.

Bicameral – Senate 100 and National Assembly 342 members

It is the 7th largest in the world in terms of soldiers

Seceded from India in August 1947.

President acts as the Commander-in-Chief of the army.


Russia (Russian Federation)

83 Subjects  (47 oblasts, 21 republics, 9 krais, 4 autonomous regions and 2 federal cities)

Semi-presidential federal democratic republic

State Duma 450 members and  Federal Council 176 members

1.037 million (ground, navy and air forces)

Founded in 862.

It became independent after the Soviet Union Collapse in 1991. It is a federation within a transcontinental country.


Saint Kitts and Nevis (Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis)

Islands or Parishes

Parliamentary democracy and federal constitutional monarchy



From United Kingdom on September 19, 1983

Monarch – Queen Elizabeth II


Sudan (Republic of Sudan)

26 States

Presidential Republic.

After the military coup in April 1985, regional assemblies were suspended.


From British Empire and Egypt on Jan. 1, 1956

First civil war (1955-1972) and second war (1983-2005) between north Muslim and south Christian. It is considered a failed state due to military government and Darfur war (2003 till date). More than 2 million people have been killed and 4 million displaced. 


Switzerland (Swiss Federation)

26 Cantons (communes, cantons, and federal units)

Federal democratic republic

Bicameral – National Council 200 seats and State Council 46 members.


August 1, 1291 (Old Swiss Confederacy through Federal Charter).

It has a long history of neutrality that resulted high degrees of economic freedom and many immigrants. The UN, Red Cross, WTO etc. have established there. It joined the UN in 2002.


United Arab Emirates

7 Emirates

Federal constitutional monarchy


Paramilitary and Maritime Police Unit.




United States (United States of America)

50 States (1 federal district, 1 incorporated territory, and 13 unincorporated territories)

President heads the State and the Government.  Tenure is four years with no more than two consecutive terms.

Bicameral congress- Senate and House of Representatives (435 members)

2.3 million troops (1..3 million active plus reserve and national guard).

From Kingdom of Great Britain on July 4, 1776

In 2006, over $528 billion was spent by the US on military expenditure which was 46% of the entire military spending in the world. This is greater than the next fourteen largest national military expenditures combined. The proposed defense budget for 2009 is $515.4 billion; a 7% increase over 2008 and a nearly 74% increase over 2001. The estimated total cost of the Iraq war till 2016 is $2.267 trillion. As of June 6, 2008, the United States had 4,092 military personnel killed during the war and 3,000 wounded.


Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela)

23 States     (1 federal dependency)

Federal Presidential Republic.

Unicameral national assembly with 167 deputies

100,000 including ground, air, navy and armed forces

From Spain on July 1811 and Gran Colombia on Mar. 30,1845

President to be elected to single consecutive term for the six years. Three seats at the national assembly are reserved for indigenous people.

Critical Analysis

There are several different titles for a federation of states: (i) Federal republic – Brazil, Germany, Nepal, and Nigeria; (ii) Federation – Russia, Saint Kitts, and Nevis; (iii) Republic - Argentina, Austria, India (Indian Union), Iraq, and Sudan; (iv) Confederation – Switzerland; (v) Commonwealth – Australia; (vi) Bolivarian republic – Venezuela, (vi) Federal democratic republic – Ethiopia; (viii) Federal states – Micronesia; (ix) Federative republic – Brazil, (x) Kingdom – Belgium and the Netherlands; (xi) Union – Comoros and India; and (xii) United Mexican state – Mexico.  Bosnia and Herzegovina, Malaysia, Canada, United Arab States, and United States of America have none.
There are several types of federation: (i) Geographically divided federation, e.g., Switzerland, Canada, Russia, etc.; (ii) Corporate federation, e.g., Nepal, Nigeria, etc.; (iii) Unequal/mixed federation, e.g., Quebec of Canada, Sikkim and Kashmir of India, Pakistan, etc.; (iv) Confluence federation, e.g., Belgium, etc.; and (v) Union federation, e.g., US, EU, etc. It would be better if Nepal could adopt mixed federation providing greater autonomy to Karnali region and other poor, marginalized, disadvantaged and vulnerable groups or communities.
Once Nepal has constitutionally formed federal government, that is not the end but the beginning. Some countries who declared republican federation with a small number of states now have 1200% more. For example, Nigeria left federal constitutional rule despite a series of people’s movements for regional autonomy and rights to secession even as a British colony in 1954. When Nigeria attained independence in 1960, its three earlier federal regions had already become autonomous, and when it declared itself a Federal Republic in 1963, its three regions had already become independent. It has now gained 36 federal states in a 5 decade period. Sudan, which had three ethno-federal states, now has divided into 26 such states in 50 years time. India which is 2nd in terms of population had not been satisfied when it declared its self a republic through a New Constitution. Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, Chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee in India and the PM, Jawaharlal Nehru, were very disappointed when they were compelled to incorporate federal states into the Constitution of India. Sardar Patel, the then powerful Home Minister, played a pivotal role in that cause. Instead of a federation of states, India wisely incorporated into a Union of 7 with 29 States . India can be called a quasi-form (unitary/federal) state, as its Constitution reserves presidential power to declare national/state emergency. It first announced self governance in 1950, and now has 22 more ethno-federal, regional, and cultural groups demanding their own identity-based federal state with autonomy.
Nepal’s federalism has been a common agenda of all caste, ethnicity, region, culture, and gender based groups. The 4th amendment of the Interim Constitution of December 2007 has incorporated it and it has now become the world’s 26th nation to unequivocally declare its self a federal republic along with Brazil, Ethiopia, Germany, and Nigeria. But, history shows that Switzerland became federal seeking greater regional autonomy, the European Union for greater regional integration, and many others for independence from colonial states or to end a unitary state mechanism composing a number of self-governing states.
In the case of Nepal, there is no clear-cut model of a federation of states from the mainstream parliamentary forces except the CPN (Maoist) along with donor driven intellectuals. It had put forward a federation of nine autonomous states during the course of the People’s War (February 13, 1996 to April 25, 2006). This has been restructured into 11 federal states and 3 federal sub-states from the earlier 9-autonomous states after the Peace Accord. They are:

  1. Limbuwan State Committee: Taplejung, Panchthar, Ilam, Terhathum, and Dhankuta districts.
  2. Kochila State Committee: Jhapa, Morang and Sunsari districts.
  3. Newa State Committee: Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur districts.
  4. Tamang-Saling State Committee: Chitwan, Makawanpur, Sindhuli, Ramechhap, Dolakha, Sindhupalchowk, Kavre, Rasuwa, Nuwakot and Dhading districts.
  5. Tamuwan State Committee: Parbat and all districts of Gandaki zone – Gorkha, Lamjung, Tanahu, Syanjya, Kaski and Manang.
  6. Magarat State Committee: Rukum, Rolpa, Salyan, Pyuthan, Arghakhanchi, Gulmi, Palpa, Baglung, Myagdi and Mustang districts.
  7. Kirant State Committee: Solukhumbu, Okhaldhunga, Udayapur, Khotang, Bhojpur and Sankhuwasabha districts.
  8. Bheri-Karnali State Committee: Humla, Jumla, Mugu, Kalikot, Dolpa, Jajarkot, Dailekh and Surkhet districts.
  9. Tharuwan State Committee: Dang, Banke, Bardia, Kailali and Kandhanpur districts.
  10. Seti-Mahakali State Committee: Darchula, Baitadi, Dadeldhura, Bajhang, Bajura, Achham and Doti districts.
  11. Madhes State Committee: Saptari, Siraha, Dhanusha, Mahottari and Sarlahi districts as Mithila sub-state committee; Rautahat, Bara and Parsa districts as Bhojpura sub-state committee; and Nawalparasi, Rupandehi and Kapilbastu districts as Awadh sub-state committee.

Nepal is a landlocked, mountainous, multi-ethnic, and multi-lingual country similar to Switzerland. Thus the Maoists are considering the Swiss model of federation in Nepal as well. However, the Swiss incorporated 160 years ago ending the civil war between Catholic versus Liberal cantons. Nepal has different geopolitical structures, socio-cultural patters, and economic disparities.
The Swiss federation is comprised of three-fifths (64%) German-speaking, one-fifth (20%) French-speaking and 6% Italian-speaking people whereas in Nepal almost half (48%) of the population speak Nepali, 12% Maithili, 8% Bhojpuri , 6% Tharu, and 3% Awadi and so forth. Moreover, the German speaking population is predominant in 17 cantons, French in 4, and Italian in one out of 26 in Switzerland. The 2001 census of Nepal states that 113 different caste/ethnic groups exist in Nepal who speak at least 92 different dialects. That is eighteen times less than India’s 1,652 dialects. If half the population of Nepali speakers do not find a linguistic federal state in Nepal, but only those speaking Maithili, Bhojpuri, and Awadh do, could this positive discrimination not raise conflicts in the future?
The Maoists proposal is centered on ethnic, linguistic, and regional federal autonomy. The Maoist proposed Limbuwan State comprises 27% Limbu with 1.6% national population, whereas there is an equal number of Bahun and Chhetri in the same state. Of course Bahun and Chhetri are the largest population (29%) in Nepal. Kochila State is again a proposed minority state encompassing a population of 24% Rajbanshi, Satar, Harijan, Dusadh, Dhimal, Tharu, Teli, Kurmi, dhanuk, etc.

Log frame II: Federal States’ demographics in the world


Federal State

Area in  km2


(PPP) in $ US)

Ethnic group

Mother tongue/official language


Literacy rate




Argentina             (1853)

2,780,403 (8th) 


13,307 (23th)

Spanish, Italian, German, Jewish, Arabs, Armenian, Irish, British, French, etc.


Roman Catholic 93%


It is second in size in South American continent after Brazil and 8th in the world.


Australia (1901)

7,741,220 (6th)


34,359 (14th)

British or Irish origin 90%


Secular state


Christian 64%, No religion 19% which includes  humanism, atheism, agnosticism and rationalism, non-Christian5%, and others.


Austria               (1920)




German, Slovenes, Croats and Hungarians.

German 89% locally  2% each to Hungarian, Slovenian and Croatian

Christian 79%, no religion 12%, Muslims 4%, etc.


9% immigrants are presently living. It’s education ranks 18th best in the world.  


Belgium         (1990)

30,528      (139th)

10,296,350  (76th)

31,400 (13th)

Dutch, French and German

Dutch 58%, French 32% and German

Secular Catholic, Islam,


There is god 43%, some sort of spirit 29%, and not believe on god 27%.


Bosnia-Herzegovina (1992)



10,714 (87th)

Bosnians, Serbs and Croats

Bosnian 48%, Serbs 37%, and Croats 14%

Orthodox  Muslims 40% , Orthodox Christians 31%, Roman Catholics 15%, and  others.


There is a strong correlation between ethnic identities. 95% Bosnians are Muslims, 95% Croats Catholics, and 95% Orthodox Christians. Tensions between the three peoples remain high due to religious differences.


Brazil                 (1891)

8,514,877 (5th).

183,987,291  (5th)

11,873 (65th)  

Multiracial and ethnic groups – White 50%, Pardo (mixed) 43%, Black 7% including 60 ethnic sub-div.


Catholic 74%, Protestant 15% and others


Brazil possesses the largest (25 million) population of Italian origin, the largest Japanese (1.6 million) population outside of Japan, and the second largest German with 12 million.


Canada              (1867)

9,984,670  (2nd)



43 ethnic origins, every 1 in 5 are foreign born where 60% immigrants hail from Asia.

Bilingualism - English and French although English pop. comprises 68% against 22% French

Christians 77%, no religion 17%, others including Islam and Judaism 2%.


It is a multi-ethnic where the largest ethnic group comprises English 21%, French 16%, Scottish 15%, Irish 14%, German 10%, Italian 5%, non-aboriginal 16%, etc.






African-Arab origins including Malagasy, Chinese, and Indian minorities

Trilingual – Comorian, Arabic, and French

Sunni Islam, but Arab culture is  established 


It is an island nation located in the Indian Ocean. It has an Islamic law inherited by French Napoleon code.



1,104,300  (27th)

75,067,000 (16th)

823   (175th)

Oromo  32%, Amhara 30%,  and 6% each to Tigray and Somali


Christian 62%, Muslims 33% etc.


It is one of the oldest landlocked countries in the world and 2nd most populous in Africa. 80 different ethnic groups and some of these are as few as 10,000 people.


Germany    (1919)

357,021  (63rd)

82,210,000 (14th)

34,181  (23rd)

Germans -Americans  the largest ethnic group

German       It is one of the 23 official languages in EU.

Christianity 64%, no religion 30%, Islam 4% etc.


With 82 million inhabitants it comprises the largest population among the EU member states. It is home to the third highest no. of international migrants worldwide.


India (1950)

3,287,590 (7th)

1,132,446,000 (2nd)                  8%  constitutes tribal population

2700 (165th)

Indo-Aryan (74%) and Dravidian (24%) population in linguistic families.

Hindi/English. Constitution recognizes 21 local languages with 1,652 dialects

Secular state (Hinduism 81%, Muslim 13%, Christian 2%, Buddhist 1%, etc.


It is the most populous liberal democracy in the world. It is 12th largest economy and 2nd fastest growing large economy too.



438,317      (58th)

29,267,000       (39th)

2,900     (61st)

Arabs, Shia, Kurdish, and Sunnis

Arabic, Kurdish

Muslims 97% and others


Arabs 75-80 %, Kurds 15-20%, Assyrians, Iraq,   Turkmen others (5%).





14,400 (57th)

62% Malays, 24% Chinese, 8% Indians and others

Malay (Telugu, Malayalam, Chinese and Hindi)

Secular nation, but Islam is the official religion


Islam comprises 60%, Buddhism 19%, Christianity 9%,  Hinduism 6%, and traditional Chinese  2.6%. 


Mexico               (1917)



12,775 (55th) 

Spanish with 62 indigenous

Spanish 97%

Christian 95%


62 Indigenous Amerindian languages, but English is used for business.






Chuukese 49%, Pohnpeian 24%, Kosraean 6%, Yapese 5%, Yap 5%, Asian 2%, Polynesian 2%, others




Languages  such as Ulithian, Woleaian, Yapese, Pohnpeian, Kosraean and Chuukese in the state and municipal levels).










The CA election successfully held on April 10, 2008 where the former insurgent Maoists became the largest party with 229 members (38%) out of 601.





35,078 (10th)

Multi-ethnic groups

Dutch  81%      (English, German, and French)

Catholic and Judaism


It includes 81% Dutch, 2.4% Indonesian, and Germany each, etc.


Nigeria             (1963)




More than 250 ethnic groups (Fulani/Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo account for 68%)

English, but locally 521 languages with ethnic diversities

Secular state (Islam, Christianity, Orisha and Animism)


Four types such as English, common, customary and sharia laws are practicing.




132,352,279 (6th)


Punjabi 45%, Pashtuns  15%, Sindhis 14%, Seraikis 8%, etc.

English/Urdu      with 7 regional languages

Islamic republic


It is the 6th most populous country and has the 2nd largest Muslim population in the world after Indonesia.



17,075,400 (1st) 

145,166,731 (9th)


Multi-ethnic/cultural state (160 ethnic groups - Russian 80, Tatars 4, etc.

Russian (100 native languages)

Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism


Constitution guarantees the right to make their native language co-official next to Russian.


Saint Kitts and Nevis








It is the smallest country in the Americas –  by area and population.



2,505,813 (10th)


2,522 (134th)

597 tribes speak 400 dialects.

Arabic and English

Islamic republic


It is the largest country in Africa and 10th largest country in the world by area. It has two distinct cultures – Arab and non Arab.


Switzerland      (1848)




Multi-ethnic/cultural nation

Multilingual - German, French, Italy and Romansh

Secular state, but Christianity/Protestant dominant








Sunni and Shia




5th positions in the CIA in GDP.


United States     (1787)




World’s most diverse multi-ethnic/cultural nation

English (82%

76.5% Christian


3rd or 4th world’s largest country by area. It does not have formal diplomatic relations with Cuba, Iran, N Korea, Bhutan, Taiwan, and Sudan.






70% Mestizo (mixed races); 20% (unmixed Caucasians); and others

Spanish (31 indigenous languages spoken)

Indigenous, Spanish and African,


A colony of Spain from 1522-1821, it is considered as the world’s 17th most diverse culture.













































































































































Kirat State is also a minority federal state which consists of one-fourth (26%) Rai and Limbu with 2.84% of the Rai population in Nepal. The 6th highest population (5.5%) of Nepal is Newar. They are still in the minority in their native Kathmandu valley with 35% next to an equal population of Bahun and Chhetri. Due to rapid urbanization the population except Newar has been increasing steadily. Tamang is the 5th largest population in the Census of 2001, which comprises just 30% of its population at the Maoists proposed Tamang-Saling state, but Bahun and Chhetri make up one-third of the same state. Gurung is in the minority (27%) in the Maoist proposed Tamuwan State which comprises 2.4% of the population with 11th position in the national population, although Bahun and Chhetri is 12% more than that.  Magar is the third largest rank with 7.1% population and even it is in the minority (28%) within the Maoist proposed Magarat State. It’s 14% smaller than the Bahun and Chhetri population in that state. Tharu, which comprises the fourth largest population 6.7%, is still just one-third (35%) in the Tharuwan State which is 2% less than the combined population of Bahun and Chhetri there.

Federation is an acceptance of majority and recognition to minority from center to grass-roots. Federalism refers to greater autonomy which varies between the federation of states to central government in terms of power sharing, civic freedom, economic distribution, and socio-cultural liberation or identity. For example, in the federalism of Canada, Quebec maintains greater autonomy with constitutional recognition of a sovereign and independent Quebec nation. It retains corresponding rights and political power along with economic union and de facto asymmetry within the Canadian federation similar to the setup of the EU. Quebec consists of French speaking people with a distinct socio-cultural life, pension plan, employment, and immigration authority than the other nine provinces. Quebec could be a good example for Nepal to ensure greater cultural and regional autonomy within an asymmetrical federalism. Federalism is also found in the constitutional monarchial states; for instance, Australia, Belgium, Canada, and Malaysia. Although China is a unitary state, it could be another example of asymmetrical federalism for Nepal, as China has given Special Administrative Region (SAR) authority to Hong Kong and Macao through “Basic Law.”  The UK adopted a unitary state with a series of
parliaments established through asymmetrical devolution of powers such as the Scottish, Welsh, and Northern Ireland parliaments created between 1998 and 1999. Nepal could ensure two more official/co-official languages similar to Belgium, Spain, and Switzerland or it could adopt no official language, like the U.S.  The EU may also provide and example of how to respect different national traditions.
Nepal is the latest entrant to the group of countries with a federal republican form of government and has become the 26th country in the world to do so. In Nepal there are demands for ethno-federalism (among indigenous minorities) similar to Canada, Finland, Bangladesh, and Japan, in the name of fair/inclusive representation in national governance. The federalism shall also give special attention and advantage to the nearly extinct ethnic group, Kusunda, whose population is just 166 and only exists in Nepal. All caste/ethnic groups are for the most part spread throughout country besides the Tharus who reside in the Tarai particularly.
Will Nepal be similar to Palau/Balau (lies 900 miles east of Bangkok and 3200 miles of Tokyo) whose population is just 20,842 but is divided into 16 states? (see Table III ). Palau was seceded in 1994 from Micronesia due to its language. It follows American language. USA provides financial and security supports to it. 

Table III: State, area and population of Balau/Palau



Area (km)  

Census 2005  



































































Source: Comparing the models of federations, August 24, 2009 by Dr. Bishnu Pathak

Nepali people have high hopes and expectations that the federal state will provide food, shelter, clothing, employment, education, freedom, and so forth. If it does not fulfill people’s interests, expectations, and demands it may either invite communal violence or recurrent demands for secession (or merger to neighbors). It could join the extensive list of 23 historical defunct federal states.  These are: Austria-Hungary (1848-1918), the Inca Empire (1197-1572), the Confederate States of America (1861-1865), the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (1922-1991), the United Provinces of Central Africa (1823-1838), French West Africa (1904-1958), French Equatorial Africa (1910-1960), the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (1945-1992), the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (1992-2003), the United States of Indonesia (1949-1950), the United Kingdom of Libya (1951-1963), the Federal Malay States (1896-1946), the Malayan Union (1946-1948), the Federation of Malaya (1948-1963), New Granada (1855-1886), the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland (1953-1963), the West Indies Federation (1958-1962), the Mali Federation (1959-1960), the Federal Republic of Spain (1873-1974), the Federal Republic of Cameroon (1961-1972), the Federation of South Arabia (19621967), Czechoslovakia (1969-1992), and Uganda (1962-1967).











The approaches from unitary states to federal states in the world are as follows: (i) To strengthen mutual security; e.g.: the former USSR, Yugoslavia, etc. Czechoslovakia formed one united state merging the Czech and Slovak into two distinct political entities seeking strength in economic opportunities and mutual security. Yet, the former federal republics of Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia are limited in history. (ii) To maintain friendly relations (save nation from secession) amongst the castes/ethnicities; e.g.: Nigeria and Ethiopia proclaimed themselves federal republics in order to save the nation’s sovereignty and integrity from secessionist groups. India also declared its self federal to ovoid more secession after that of Pakistan. (iii) Independence from colonialism; e.g.: Argentina from Spain, Australia from the UK, Belgium from Germany, Brazil from Portugal, Canada from the UK, Comoros from France, India from the UK, Iraq from the UK, Malaysia from the UK, Mexico from Spain, Micronesia from the US, Russia from the former USSR, Sudan from the British Empire and Egypt, the US from the UK, and Venezuela from Spain. (iv) Ousting a communist regime; e.g.: Bosnia-Herzegovina. (v) Protection from Communism; e.g.: West Germany. (vi) To maintain neutrality; e.g.: Switzerland and Nepal (declaring 14 zones and 75 districts in the past), (vii) People’s harmony; e.g.: United Arab Emirates and the Netherlands. (viii) An enormous country; e.g., Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Ethiopia, Germany, India, Nigeria, Russia, and the United States.

Argentina is the world’s 8th largest nation with a total area of 2,780,403 sq. km. slightly smaller than the 7th largest, India (3,287,590 sq. km), although the 5th largest, Brazil, with a total size of 8,514,877 sq. km, is almost three times larger than India. Similarly, the 6th largest, Australia (7,741,220 sq. km), is two-and-half-times larger than India. The largest country, Russia, with a total area of 17,075,400 sq. km is two-times larger than the 3rd largest, the United States, with 9,826, 630 sq. km.  The 32nd largest, Nigeria, is 923, 768 sq. km, two-and-half-times larger than Germany, with a total size of 357, 021 sq. km. Nepal (147,181 sq. km) is seven-and-half-times smaller than the 27th largest, Ethiopia, that has a total size of 1,104,300 sq. km, but is almost twice as large as the 115th largest, Austria (83,872 sq. km), and more than three times as large as the 135th largest, Switzerland (41,285 sq. km). It is to be noted that Nepal is twenty two and a half times smaller than India. The smallest federal state is Saint Kitts and Nevis which has a population of 42,696 compared to India’s 1.13 billion.
The Congo is not a federal state, but in practice, it uses both forms - unitary and federal/ united and indivisible state similar to Nepal with 14 zones and 75 districts. Congo in unitary form, the center has a great deal of authority over the entities of provinces and territories, with a single hierarchical judicial system, security force, elected governors, etc.  It also acts as a federal state due to constitutional division between exclusive prerogatives at the central government and the provincial government. The provinces have independent identities for budget, administration, physical assets, and civil service corps.
Despite huge internal moral pressure particularly by the foreign forces and external public pressure by the mainstream political parties including the Maoists and Janadhikar Madhesi Forum (JMF), Girija Prasad Koirala, PM of the caretaker government lead by the Nepali Congress (NC) finally tendered resignation at the legislative assembly of the Constituent Assembly (CA) on June 26, 2008. While he was leaving the Session, he gestured, slapping the back to his former close colleague Bijaya Kumar Gachhedar. The MJF, TAMALOPA, and Nepal Sadbhawan Parties then encircled the premise of speaker demanding the fulfillment of their 8-point agreement signed on February 28, 2008 between the government and themselves. Their prime demands are that the Madesh be an autonomous region along with group entry of Madhesis into the Civil Service including Nepal Army.  As a result, the House has been adjourned six times and postponed thrice. Making the rounds are several of the following speculations about the agitation. First, these groups want to clear the way for PM Girija to be the first president of Nepal through agitation. Second, the move was started against the Maoists-proposed, first advocate of republic in 1962and Madhesi leader, Ram Raja Prasad Singh; although the Forum has stated that they will support anyone from Madhes for the first President. Last, these groups are serious about ensuring constitutional rights to the Madhesis. It is too early to say which option is correct. Madhesi CA members of other mainstream parties believe that the agitators act at the direction of other forces rather than in their own political goal, value, and interest. The Maoist refusal to accept PM Girija as President and the agitation started immediately after his resignation may have been just a coincidence. Some harbor the suspicion that if Girija were to be first president of Nepal, his role would be either Sikkim’s Lendup Dorje or would make Nepal the second Bhutan- to exact revenge against the Maoists. This suspicion made a closer ally out of the Maoists and the UML. All have a notion that “One Madhes One Pradesh” will sew the seeds of either a very weak nation or secession. Besides the mainstream parties (the Maoists, NC and UML), the Association of Tharus and intellectuals, the aboriginals of the Tarai (Madhes), who occupy the fourth largest population 6.75% in Nepal, are against the One Madhes One Pradesh proposal. To protest against the demand of One Madhes One Pradesh, about two dozen socio-cultural, ethnic, and regional groups have also been demanding their own autonomous state with right to self-determination. Due to an explicitly spatial population, none of the castes/ethnicities are in a majority in one region or particular area. Indeed, Nepal is a country of minorities. Today, Nepal’s great challenge is to determine the foundation of federal state structures.
The sovereignty and geo-integrity of countries have been endangered in both unitary (Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, etc.) and federal states (Pakistan, India, Sudan, Ethiopia, former USSR, former Yugoslavia, etc.). India’s Jharkhanda, Uttaranchal, and Chhatisgad have already been declared autonomous states. Gorkhaland people’s demand had the oldest one but yet to become autonomous, although Nepali language has been a national language since 1992. Similar, Bangladesh seceded from Pakistan in 1971 for its lingual identity in the face of ethno-Islamic federalism. Eritrea seceded from Ethiopia. Russia’s Chechen struggle, Sudan’s Muslim versus Christian armed conflict, India’s Kasmir Hindu versus Muslim, Assam’s Bodo clash, Croatia’s minority fight, etc. are today’s major ethno-federal, religio-federal, and culturo-federal violence within federal states. 
With regard to federalism, Nepal would do well to account for geopolitical structure, population density, regional/economic disparity, ethnic diversity, linguistic multiplicity, regional variety, religious array, administrative accessibility, unequal development, and geographical/spatial elements rather than divide on an ethno-federal, linguistic-federal, culturo-federal or region-federal basis. Moreover, Nepal should give extreme attention to national security, foreign affairs, monitory policy, big hydro power, national highways, and an international airport in the course of declaring a Federation of States. Indeed Nepal neither be One Himal One Pradesh nor One Madhes One Pradesh. Such federal states will ultimately lead to the corrosion of Nepalese identity, united strength, and harmony as each shall fight for supremacy. Our weak efforts shall be the fertile playground for those who would “watch and encircle” the country. Otherwise, we are inviting more communal violence, more chaos, and more bloodshed than in the past. 
References: Kitts and Nevis Arab Emirates States of America Kingdom
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Situation Update: April 30, 2007. Constituent Assembly Elections: Will Former Insurgent Maoist Lead Nepal. Kathmandu: CS Center
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