Land Reform and National Development in Nepal
The argument of the paper is that up to now, in South Asia, there has not been any successful model of land reform conducted legally and scientifically in the name of the state, whereas in East Asia, there has not been any unsuccessful case of land reform, whatever ideologies or institutions the governments claimed to be.
The authors are of the view that although land reform acts had been promulgated in Nepal since 1957, and there were stipulations on government recovery of fallow land of landowners and of excess land above the ceilings on land holdings, and although such “legal land reforms” had been implemented, still, similar to land reforms in other South Asian countries, there has not been any successful case. This is precisely why the “extra-legal” land revolution by force promoted by the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) (CPN(M)) under the leadership of Prachanda could spread in the decade of peasant armed struggle which started in 1996.
CPN(M) gave up armed struggle and participated in the elections to the Constituent Assembly, and came out as the biggest political party in April 2008. One of the political conditions that CPN(M) reached with the Seven Party Alliance (SPA) for joining force in overthrowing the monarchy and for CPN(M) to participate in the elections as a legal political party was to ask peasants having seized land during the land revolution to return the land and resume paying rent to the landowners, pending a legal “scientific land reform” to be launched by the new government. This line is not quite congruent with CPN(M)’s former commitment to Maoist New Democratic theory and instigation of peasants to take up the path of land revolution; this has also met with resistance from the peasants with seized land and the local party organizations.
In August 2008, CPN(M) managed to lead a coalition government. This paper will draw from the land reform experience in East Asia, and make policy recommendations as reference for avoiding another failure of the South Asian model of legal “scientific” land reform in Nepal.
Key Words: Land Reform, Peasant Struggle, State Building, Policy Recommendations