(A rebuttal to Rights for all by Suprabha Baniya Chhetri )
The constituent-assembly-cum-parliament should amend the constitution to accommodate the legitimate demands of the protesting groups. No one should not use “vested interests, conspiracy, hidden-agenda” etc. as a ruse to block the progressive amendment in the constitution.
The straw man argument that since 90% of the Constituent Assembly (CA) members voted to adopt the new constitution, it should be widely accepted does not reconcile with the protest that we observe throughout Nepal; mainly in Madhesh. Also, after the political parties introduced whip in the voting of CA, this argument doesn’t hold any water. Particularly, many CA members openly derided their party decision and some even resigned after the CA voting. This indicates that the CA members were coerced into voting in the party lines. Hence, if we take into consideration of realpolitik, this argument is nothing but a red-herring to justify the legitimacy of the new constitution. After the 55+ days of continued protest from Madhesh, where 51% of the population lives, anyone pretending a wide acceptance of the constitution needs a reality check.
We have a representative, not a participatory democracy. Hence, when an elected representative votes for any agenda, she might not be representing the majority voice of her electorate. To assume that “elected representative” is the view of majority in her electorate is a fallacy that we must avoid, else the Madhesis would not be protesting.
Constitution is a historic document, a minor mistake and the whole nation suffers. The previous constitution was opposed only by 5 members of Sadbhawana party in the then constituent assembly, and we ended up with a decade long civil war. Hence, the drawbacks in the constitution should be amended without reservation. Those who are against the amendment, just because the constitution is neo-natal, are in-fact knowingly/unknowingly/naively institutionalizing the discrimination against women and marginalized communities. If a child is born with certain medical condition, it is not particularly smart to avoid medicine, just because it is a neo-natal. Constitution needs to be amended overnight, to stop the 55+ days and nights of protest from Madhesh; not for any other reasons. The demand of changes needs to be discussed, accessed and addressed. Blaming neighboring country for our internal conflict and using it as a justification for brutally ignoring the demands of southern plains is counter-productive. This will only agitate and alienate Madhesh further, which in turn, may give the neighbor to arm twist our government.
“Riot,” MLK said, “is the language of the unheard” and to use the argument that, since Madhes was violent, their demands should not be addressed will only escalate the conflict. There is no place of violence in the 21st century. We must reconcile with reality and give peace a chance, we must listen to the unheard and bring an end to further riot. To argue otherwise is in-fact taking Nepal to another level of conflict and prolonging the protest. As far as non-violent movement is concerned, the incumbent government has set a wrong precedence of ignoring and betraying non-violent movements. . Be it Ganga Maya Adhikari, Dr. K.C., Sharda Bhusal Jha or women fighting for citizenship issues, all have been betrayed in one way or the other. This sends a wrong message from the establishment that it does not heed to non-violent movements. Mind you, Dr. K.C. was on hunger strike for 7th time recently and already been already betrayed by the government 6 times.
The current establishment is blaming Madhesis for violence; they need to introspect about how air-firing can kill 45+ Madheshis. The rules of engagement from protesting communities cannot be dictated by the privileged groups when an epitome of non-violent protest, i.e. human-chain is completely ignored by the government. The human-chain gave clear message of solidarity among Madheshi community and once again renewed their commitment for their demands. There is substantial anger and frustration amongst certain groups of people for blockade of people, putting aside the political correctness, truth be told, many of the same people acted indifferent when Madhesh had been protesting for a month. This shows lack of empathy among fellow countrymen. Irony when people angry at blockade, pose loaded questions such as, “How can your fight for political equality be justified when you have no concern for others’ right to live in peace?”, forget that the “right to live in peace” for Madheshis has been violated for almost two months.
The paranoia of India has eaten up our rational thinking and delusional ultra-nationalists do not press for resolving internal crisis. The focus should be on hashtag such as “#StopKillingMadheshis”, “#LeadersGoToMadhesh” or something empathizing Madhesh, but we threw our weight on trend “#BackOffIndia”. The anti-India sentiment is one of the pillars of Mahendrain Nationalism, and I appeal ultra-nationalists to get over it. Their suspicion is nothing but a bogyman emanating from thin air. The blockade came after more than a month of protest and death of many Madheshis, ignoring these facts and clamoring over the blockade in isolation is equivalent of seeing the world through toilet-paper-roll.
To blame the oppressed for not empathizing with other oppressed, hence being selfish is not only ludicrous, but also a deliberate attempt to discredit the fight of right. No one is opposing the right of hill people in fair distributing of resources. Those who are trying to make it look like, Madhesh vs Pahad or Madhesh vs Others are creating a misunderstanding. They should look into the demands of Madhes, it is not “against” anyone, but its legitimate demands for social justice through representation Those who are arguing that they are yet to see “Jana-andolan in the name of equal distribution of resources, based on ethnicity and geographical representation”, as if there is any such oppression for Pahadi community, needs to look into annual budget allocation throughout history of Nepal. Also, we must make distinction between the geographical problems Pahad and inclusion agendas of Madhesh. Last budget by Dr. Ram Saran Mahat was such that only around 20% of the budget reached Madhesh, where 51% of population lives. Does it not violate the per-capita budget principle? It is worth noting here that the Mid-Hill highway was completed in stipulated time, while even after decades the Hulaki Sadak is still in lurch. If this is not deliberate unequal distribution of national resources than what is?
Those who ask, “Why can’t the Madheshi movement be peaceful?”, need to look into mirror and also ask “Why can’t the government be sensitive towards their demands? And why can’t government stop killing them?” The violence in Madhesh cannot be justified by any means, but we must understand the context.
In terms of inclusion we are doing badly, not even 5% of Madheshis are in our bureaucracy, the recent appointment of judges only saw one Madheshi and Zero Dalit. Is there any reason to take pride in terms of inclusion? I certainly don’t see any milestone achieved. The data betrays those who claim that we are inclusive nation. As rational citizens, we should demand accountability from the CA and press for a constitution which fits the 21st century. Our approach should be not to ignore, betray or crush the protest of people, but rather to listen and address their legitimate demands.