As the three ruling parties and Nepal media celebrate the new constitution, President Ram Baran Yadav has broken his silence and expressed his concerns that the constitution should be inclusive and federal demarcation should be based on scientific criteria.
Similar to the concerns expressed by India and the United States, President Yadav has expressed concerns that the constitution has “failed” to be inclusive by incorporating all stakeholders. His comments refer to disgruntled parties from Madhesh and Tharuwan who have quit CA process after their demands were ignored. They have about 60 seats in the Constituent Assembly. Read stories from the Himalayan Times “President’s letter to CA Chairman that drew flaks made public“, and Kantipur “राष्ट्रपतिले प्रधानमन्त्रीसँग सोधे, ‘तराईको माग कसरी सम्बोधन हुन्छ ?” on this.
President Yadav is referred to as the “Head of State” and his powers are seen symbolic. He is expected to just sign papers but keep his musings to himself. The news reports claim that Constituent Assembly chairman Subhash Nembang and PM Sushil Koirala have expressed anger at President Yadav’s concerns and suggestions to make the constitution inclusive by incorporating all stakeholders (Madhesis, Tharus, and women). In response to federal demarcation, one of the most contentious issues, President Yadav said,
While carving out provinces, the scientific criteria and expert opinions should be followed.
His comment about federal demarcation is aimed at highlighting the gerrymandering of federal boundaries that the ruling parties NC and UML have been involved in. The ruling parties proposed a federalism model with six states, which was in violation of the past agreements in 2010 and 2012. The 11 state model agreed in 2012 was crafted by a team of experts and had a consensus of all major parties at that time. When the arbitrarily crafted six state model caused massive protests in the south and the west, the ruling parties shuffled some cards and came up with a seven state model to diffuse the tension in the West, completely disregarding the grievances of the South. The ruling parties instead worsened the situation each day by using making inflammatory remarks and excessive force to suppress the uprising in the South. Protests that were once peaceful turned violent due to unnecessary brutal suppression.
It is alleged that both the chairman Nembang and the PM Koirala are planning to ignore President Yadav’s recommendations and proceed with adoption of the constitution without resolving any grievances including federal demarcation. September 20 has been set as the date to adopt the new constitution, which will be endorsed by Nepali President Ram Baran Yadav.
They argue that any delay in the CA process will push the country into further chaos. Such remarks seem ludicrous and humorous at best because Nepal suffered from a decade long armed insurgency followed by almost seven years of stalemate so that marginalized groups can get equal rights and opportunities. Tharus sacrificed the most in the decade long armed struggle and account for more than 50 percent of those who were displaced or disappeared by security forces during the insurgency.
Maoist Chairman Prachanda Has Betrayed Marginalized Groups
More than 13,000 Nepalis lost their lives during this armed struggle which was dubbed by UCPN Maoist chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal aka Prachanda as “Peoples’ War”. The decade long “Peoples’ War” was waged and blood was shed to ensure equal rights for the historically marginalized groups such as Tharus, Madhesis, Janajatis and other ethnic groups. During the first Constituent Assembly elections, Maoists and United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF) unitedly advocated for rights of marginalized groups and made great strides towards driving Nepal towards federalism. In the second CA elections, both Maoists and UDMF lost seats to NC and CPN UML. So, UCPN Maoists pushed UDMF and its subsidiaries aside and aligned itself with CPN UML.
At this critical juncture of CA process, many believe UCPN Maoist Chairman Prachanda has betrayed the ideals put forward during the armed struggle by joining hands with NC and UML to suppress marginalized voices. What is the significance of a constitution that arrives after 13,000 Nepalis died in the process and yet it fails to ensure equal rights and representation for historically marginalized groups?
It should be pointed out that President Yadav is the supreme commander of Nepal Army and his genuine concerns to approve a constitution that is inclusive should not be ignored. It will be interesting to see how the ruling parties in Nepal respond to these concerns by President Yadav, its dear mighty neighbor India, and the international community. If the ruling parties truly seek welfare of Nepal, they need to adopt ‘flexibility’ in solving political problems through dialogue, instead of suppression, curfews and deployment of Nepal Army.
(The opinions expressed in this article are my own, and does not reflect the official stance of Madhesi Youth.)