The discourse on self-determination originated from Mesopotamia and Greek city states in the manifestation of radiant light of democratic ideal. The growth of self-determination holds its genesis in ancient political thought to its evolution as human rights in modern times. It has acquaintances with people’s privilege, right to self-determination, state sovereignty and territorial integrity. Self-determination is the most cherished ideal since ancient times as it embodies highest evolution of free will. Self-determination brings the logic of free will of an individual that can never be restrained or compromised no matter how resolute the power of the sovereign is to incarcerate. The treaty of Westphalia is the formal token of the right of self-determination and sovereignty in the 17th century in Europe. Voices against the continental empires such as the Ottoman, Russian, Austrian/Habsburg, the Qing, Spanish, Portuguese, British, French, Dutch, and German were echoed for self-determination-- seeking salvation from colonialism and imperialism. However, the demands for self-determination were highly ignored with a few exceptions until the end of the First World War in 1918. The American Revolution was the first assertion and legitimization of the right to self-determination. Thomas Jefferson has explicitly narrated the reasons of revolution for self-determination in the United States’ Declaration of Independence. The French Revolution paved the way forward as a follow-up legitimization of self-determination. These revolutions were generally influenced by the philosophical thoughts of 16th and 17th centuries. The post-first World War period saw some important steps moving towards further confirmation of the discourse of self-determination through decolonizing process. Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Afghanistan, Iraq and Egypt gained independence from Britain. Yet, Japan, Germany and Italy were in competition of extending their territories by brutally violating the right of self-determination of the people of the countries they had colonized.
The end of the Second World War and the ratification of the UN Charter in 1945 legalized the right of self-determination into the framework of international law. Article 1.2 of the UN Charter states: "To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace." The UN Charter and other resolutions were remarkable milestones for concretizing the discourse of self-determination. The Charter highly contributed green signals for decolonizing process of almost all colonized states across the world. The UN discourse of self-determination was entirely external since it was invented to end the colonialism and imperialism. By 1990, the accepted view of external right of self-determination was consummated if self-determination were confined to the decolonizing of the colonized states.
The ongoing character of self-determination is reflected in several relevant international resolutions and declarations. Article 1 of the International Covenants on Civil & Political Rights as well as the International Covenant on Economic, Social & Cultural Rights bestows the right of self-determination in the following words, “All peoples have the rights of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.” Article 15 of UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights informs everyone has the right to a nationality and no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality. These treaties and resolutions clearly reflect that the right of self-determination is not limited to colonial or oppressed people but all peoples as the holders of right of the self-determination, a terminology that denotes its universality and continuity.
Internal self-determination, within the state level, involves the right to passionately contribute to the democratic process from the general population and make certain the form of government they wish to be governed by. It embraces the right to establishing political, linguistic, cultural, or religious autonomy within the confines of an existing state. Demands of self-determination are seen in every level from state, nation-state to individual. Self-government is seen as necessary to preserve the philosophical uniqueness in the discourse of self-determination. People demanding self-government aspire to develop their own institutions and shape laws to reflect and enhance their traditional cultural values. They anticipate to restore their relationship with the natural environment rather than try to assimilate into the dominant culture because the province they live have time immemorial relationship with their past and they are the aboriginal people of that particular province. However, it definitely holds double standards: unity and disintegration. It unites when only one ethnic group as one nation speaking one language, following one culture, one social and economic life exists in that particular region but it disintegrates if one dominant or minor ethnic group demands for autonomy at the expense of other ethnic groups living in the region, following heterogeneous culture, social, economic way of life and speaking different languages. Each group agitates and invokes as gaining freedom and upholding power is a basic human desire to assert one’s identity by excluding others.
Translating these perspectives into Nepalese context and drawing an analysis dipicts a very vulnerable picture of Nepal. Etymologically, the terms Adivashi or Janjati are only suitable for Tharus, Dhimals and Routes. Historically, no countries colonized Nepal. Shah, Chhetri, Rana, Brahmin, Thapa-Magar-Gurung, Madhesi and Pahadi etc. have been living in harmony. Historical analysis confirms that all of these groups had held rein of power and they are doing so in Nepal since the history of Nepal originated. History also confirms that there are three different groups of people in Nepal: Indo-Nepalese; Tibeto-Nepalese and Indigenous Nepalese. The Indo-Nepalese after migration settled down in more fertile land of Terai, valleys and lower-hills. The Tibeto-Nepalese occupied the highest hills from East to West. The Indigenous-Nepalese who are only Tharus, Dhimals and possibly Routes formed a small minority. Gradually, as people continued internal migration, almost all the regions of Nepal have been melting-pots. This historical truth cannot be changed by a few ill-willed politicians’ interests of gaining power by dividing Nepal by hook or crook.
Most of self-determination scholars have dismissed the discourse of self-determination after the end of decolonization and actually it did end there. Yet, the internal right of self-determination cannot be ignored if the people demanding it meet the criteria. The right to self-determination is essentially the right of a people to determine its own destiny. In particular, the principle allows a people to choose its own political status and to determine its own form of economic, cultural and social development. But to demand this right of self-determination, a people (not people) must be aborigines, must follow only one homogenous culture, interest, social, and economic aspects of life. In heterogeneous society, the demand for right to self-determination from a group of people that consists of 25 to 30 or even 50 per cent of total population is the gross violation of the right of self-determination of the other people living in the region. It induces emotions, expectations and fears which often lead to conflict and bloodshed. Does Nepal want it? Do Nepalese want it? Nepal and Nepalese do not. The key political leaders, constituent assembly members and all Nepalese people must be aware of it before drawing the demarcation line and giving name to new states in New Nepal. If mistakes are made, only players of the political games are changed that will not have any effect in making the country economically, socially and politically independent and vibrant.