Way to goThe proposed constitutional amendments have raised hopes for an end to the political impasse
A four-month-long agitation and shortages of essential commodities have affected the life of the Nepali people very badly. There is no doubt that the new constitution has neither addressed the aspirations of the marginalised communities in terms of empowerment and easier access to the state nor ensured peace, stability and prosperity in the country as expected. The non-scientific demarcation of provinces became the trigger for the agitation that erupted in different parts of the country, especially in the Tarai. The top leaders, especially of the major parties, and the government should not underestimate the prolonged agitation in the Tarai as being only of the Samyukta Loktantrik Madhesi Morcha (SLMM), as it is of the Madhesi people. The fact that it has lasted to this day is proof of it.
Even though late in coming, the proposed amendments to the constitution providing for participation in state organs on the basis of proportional inclusion, and delineation of electoral constituencies on the basis of population have raised hopes for a resolution of the political impasse. The institutionalisation and implementation of federalism is not a one-day task. The present achievement is the result of a long-lasting revolution, agitation and movement. It is, therefore, a major responsibility of all the political leaders to protect and preserve the achievement, and to think collectively for the future and prosperity of the country.
Rights of the marginalised
The amendment proposal that has been presented to Parliament is a result of the agitation too. The agitating parties should consider it as their success. We should all acknowledge that the ongoing agitation in Madhes is for ensuring the rights, representation, identity, dignity and self-respect of the Madhesi people in their own land. It is a struggle for justice of the Madhesi people and other oppressed groups such as the indigenous ethnic groups (Adivasi-Janajatis), Dalits, Tharus, minorities and women. No one should use this as a platform to re-strengthen their power and politics of vote. Once there is justice, and the rights, representation, identity, dignity and self-respect are ensured, it will be a victory for all the oppressed communities.
This is the proper time to use our collective effort to ensure the genuine and addressable demands of the marginalised communities. There might be similar goals for the people and representatives belonging to different political parties. To attain these aims, no one should hesitate to forge coordination between each other. The increased participation of different stakeholders will strengthen the intensity of the issues or agendas. It will help in an easier and smoother achievement of the goals. Moreover, barring representatives from visiting their own constituencies will weaken the issues and increase the chances of hatred and confrontation. Besides, the absence of an informed debate regarding the strengths and weaknesses of the constitution was what aroused disenchantment with it. If there is any doubt about one’s honesty and dedication, there should be open dialogue in front of the people as they are the real judge. They will ultimately pass judgment with their voting rights.
The constitutional amendment proposal was registered under the leadership of the Nepali Congress (NC). This is the first step in breaking the ice between the agitating parties and the state. But now as the largest party and the major opposition in Parliament, it should be highly responsible and flexible, and modify the proposed amendment in terms of language and themes to accommodate their own disgruntled parliamentarians from Tarai and the agitating Madhes-based parties. The NC, in its capacity as a constructive
opposition, should always be ready to take the lead in addressing the genuine demands and concerns of the dissenting parties. It should also take the ruling parties into confidence. Once again, there is a need for unity among the political parties to resolve the present crisis, as they well demonstrated during the promulgation of the new constitution.
Although it does not seem easy to address the demands of the agitating parties with the proposed amendment, its success will create a favourable environment of trust. The agitating parties have set the immediate re-drawing of the state boundaries as their bottom line. The common people are not much interested in the principles and procedures of federalism; they are more concerned about the formation of provinces, their demarcation and the likely merger or division of the existing districts. The seven-province model should be reviewed with political understanding and consensus. Demarcating the provinces by violating the principles and spirit of federal provinces, and ignoring the five bases of identity and the four bases of capability has led to the present crisis. So changing the boundaries should not be done in a haphazard manner but in a scientific way.
Unity in diversity
Similarly, the concerns relating to citizenship should be addressed or resolved through negotiations and consensus. While addressing the concerns of the citizens, the state should look for a long-term and sustainable solution by respecting their sentiments and feelings. The responsible leaders should be ready to take an unpopular decision for the sake of national unity, integrity and prosperity.
Nepal is a landlocked country with great diversity in terms of caste, language, culture, tradition, religion and geography. Everyone should understand that federalism is meant to protect and preserve this diversity along with autonomy and decentralisation of power. Unity in diversity is the utmost need for the institutionalisation of change and the prosperity of the country where all the components of diversity should be respected. In terms of geographical diversity, Nepal consists of mountains, hills and plains which possess different kinds of resources. No region is highly efficient, competent or fully capable on its own. The developmental of the regions depends on each other’s resources.
Similarly, Brahmin-Kshetris (Khas Arya), Adivasi-Janajatis and Madhesis each comprise approximately one-third of the population. Mutual cooperation, coordination and harmony among each other can only bring unity in diversity, and ultimately make Nepal peaceful, stable and prosperous.
Mandal is a Member of Parliament from Siraha