A day after the two pigeons sent by CPN-UML leader KP Oli failed to appease India and Nepali media misinterpreted India’s statement, the Indian ambassador to Nepal, Ranjit Rae held a press conference in Kathmandu to educate Nepali media on how to properly interpret India’s statement. During his interaction with Nepali media, he expressed remorse that the Indian foreign minister’s statement was not correctly interpreted in the Nepali media. In particular, he pointed out explicitly that Nepali media has failed to draw attention to two paragraphs in the statement that express India’s concern for horrific violence and the need for ‘flexibility’ on part of all political parties.
In reference to India’s concern regarding violence in Terai, ambassador Rae said,
India is very concerned about the ongoing violence in Terai. You [Nepali media] need to analyze and report why this violence is going on in Terai. What is the reason behind this violence?
In reference to India’s desire to see ‘flexibility’ on part of all parties, he said,
If you look at the second paragraph, the answer to this question is there: we have said that all the political forces in Nepal need to adopt flexibility, ‘flexibility’ is the important word here.
A popular argument in Nepali media and supporters of the current constitution is that, the three parties command more than a two-third majority so, the current constitution is legitimate. He stressed that even though the parties based in Terai do not command a majority, this historic document should honor the aspirations of a significantly larger population of Nepalis in Terai.
The parties based in Terai had a proportionate representation after the first Constituent Assembly(CA) elections based on population but their lack of any seriousness or achievements during the CA process made them unpopular. They lost miserably in the second Constituent Assembly elections, which strengthened the current ruling parties NC and CPN UML. In politics, this is a natural process. When the ruling parties fail to deliver, the people vote the opposition parties into office during the following elections. The ambassador Rae stated,
I understand that they [parties based in Terai] do not have a majority but it is very important to incorporate their grievances for the long-term stability in Nepal. Their feelings should be addressed with flexibility.
Ambassador Rae added
What is the maximum possible consensus? It should move forward by including everyone.
He claimed the statement above was made by Nepali leaders themselves during various visits to India.
Many Nepalese leaders had told us that this constitution will be the consensus of all regions, communities, and sectors and therefore will bring peace and prosperity.
He made it explicit that the intent of the press conference was to leave no confusion about India’s stance on Nepal’s constitution drafting process. Given his strong statements, one of the Nepali media ameliorated shortcomings and revised their previous headlines.
Previous Headline – India, US welcome progress made in statute making process
Revised Headline – My Republica – Indian envoy concerned over Tarai violence, urges maximum flexibility
Surprisingly, most of the Nepali media still has not reported about Indian ambassador’s press conference. Most of them have published celebratory notes about how many articles in the constitution have been approved. Others have echoed UML Leader KP Oli’s call to celebrate this constitution along with Deepawali (festival of lights), a very popular and joyous festival in Nepal.
In response to KP Oli’s invitation to celebrate Dipawali, a Nepali student writes,
A constitution whose bearers want to do a “Dipawali” when half of the country is burning is #NotMyConstitution.
— Heema Rai (@HeemaRai) September 16, 2015
Below are some headlines that celebrate the new constitution of Nepal. Kantipur – पारित भयो नेपालको संविधान The Kathmandu Post – CA makes history, endorses the new constitution of Nepal My Republica – CA endorses ‘Nepal Constitution 2015’ with overwhelming majority The Himalayan Times – Constituent Assembly endorses Nepal’s Constitution 2072 with two-third majority Nepali Times – CA passes Nepal’s Constitution
None of these media reports include the funeral procession or have attempted to investigate cause of the deaths. It is easy to stay in Kathmandu, insulated from the violence in the southern Nepal and write “X number of protesters were killed today in jhadap with security personnel” or “According to Nepal Police, X number of people died today in violent protests in Y town”. Nepali media has ignored the suffering of Nepali citizens in the South. It is celebrating a constitution that has ignored demands of more than 36% of the population (Madhesis and Tharus) through a brutal suppression by state. It should not be forgotten that the constitution has not guaranteed gender equality either in regards to citizenship based on mother alone.
A respected Nepali journalist Subina Shrestha writes,
— Subina Shrestha (@ShresthaSubina) September 16, 2015
Similarly, a popular Nepali author Manjushree Thapa writes,
“Nepal’s new constitution gives its first slap to 51% women, passing Clause 11, denying women’s right to confer citizenship independently.” — Manjushree Thapa (@manjushreethapa) September 14, 2015
Several female members of intelligentsia have repeatedly expressed their grievances. In response, Nepal’s Finance Minister writes,
Contrary to allegation, Nepal’s constitution most inclusive in South Asia n other countries in terms: gender,ethnicity n other marginalized. — Ram Sharan Mahat (@ramsmahat) September 16, 2015
In response to FM Mahat’s comments, Preeti Karna writes,
Similarly, many women and Madhesis are expressing their dissatisfcation over the constitution by tweeting with hashtag #NotMyConstitution. See our post for a live Twitter stream of #NotMyConstitution.
Preeti Karna writes again,
A constitution tht shames me as a woman, a citizen, a Madhesi, a democrat & is stained w the blood of my fellow citizens #Notmyconstitution
— Preeti A. Karna (@preeti_karna) September 13, 2015
At a time when domestic media shares the jubilant mood of ruling parties and marginalized groups are saying, this is #NotMyConstitution, the foreign media is reporting with somewhat a balanced approach. See our post “Domestic Media Celebrates a New Constitution, Foreign Media Warns of Disaster”. If the three ruling parties who command a two-third majority choose to ignore the concerns raised by India, this will be one of the few rare events in Nepal’s history. It would have been an achievement in the name of patriotism but by choosing to ignore the justified grievances of Madhesis, Tharus, and women, this constitution will push the country into further chaos, rather than usher long-lasting peace and prosperity as hoped. Together, Madhesis, Tharus, and women account for more than 68% of population of Nepal. Since the two-third majority failed to represent interest and desires of the 68% of the population, we wrote,
I am beginning to ask myself, “Has democracy failed in Nepal? What should madhesis, tharus and women do now?”
(The opinions expressed in this article are my own, and does not reflect the official stance of Madhesi Youth. The quotes by Indian Ambassador Rae was translated from Nepali to English, based on भारतीय राजदूतको विश्लेषण : मधेसी र थारुलाई समेटिएन भने भविश्यमा स्थायित्व हुँदैन in onlinekhabar)