At the mass level nationalism is often viewed positively but many academic analysts are critical, pointing to its exclusionary, repressive and violent tendencies. The nationalism scholarship discusses different kinds of nationalism: liberal versus illiberal and authoritarian; civic versus ethnic; ascriptive versus voluntaristic; Western versus Eastern; progressive and benign versus reactionary and malign and so on. This paper will analyse nationalism in Nepal and point out that within a country progressive and malign nationalism could be working against each other, pushing for contradictory outcomes: exclusion versus inclusion, repression versus empowerment.   

Nationalism of majority or dominant ethnic/national groups has led to oppression, exploitation and even genocide, of dominated groups and minorities in different parts of the world, demonstrating the bad and ugly side of nationalism. However, minority and dominated groups have employed their group-specific nationalism to organise, mobilise, launch movements to attain political equality, pointing to the good or positive dimension of nationalism. The later point is often ignored or under-discussed in nationalism literature. This positive side of nationalism needs to be highlighted in the contemporary global context of populist politics aka majority/dominant nationalism. This paper, utilising the case of Nepal, but in a comparative perspective, will discuss the Good, Bad and the Ugly of nationalism. The dominant group in Nepal, Khas-Arya, as categorised by the constitution, has monopolised the state and society for more than two centuries, leading to exploitation, oppression, and violence against the minorities and vulnerable groups like Dalit and minority ethnic and religious groups. Once the polity was opened up in 1951, the minorities began to organise and generate awareness about inequality and injustice and slowly began to mobilise politically. The Madhesi, a regional nation, was able to force the state and major political parties led by the dominant group to concede limited autonomy through federalism, citizenship rights and representation based on population, leading to significant level of political equality for the group. Different indigenous nationalities, like the Tharu and Limbu, and Dalit have also mobilised and asserted significantly even though they have not obtained the same level of rights and concessions like the Madhesi. The growing organisation, political awareness and mobilisation of the minorities may be able to force the state and the dominant group to concede to their demands of political equality in a multi-ethnic and multipolar society where the dominant group lacks a majority. The case of Nepal demonstrates that though nationalist mobilisation can be used by the majority/dominant group for bad and ugly purpose of repression and exploitation, the nationalist mobilisation of minorities could lead to their empowerment by forcing the state and dominant group to concede their political rights. The paper will discuss the cases of Sri Lanka and India to provide a comparative perspective and test the Nepali case (good, bad and ugly side of nationalism) in a regional context.