Just another dayEven as we celebrate the constitution, we must remember that large sections still feel neglected.
Another year, another day, yet the problems remain the same, especially for those seeking social justice. One may grit one’s teeth, but the feeling of helplessness does not help one forget being marginalised, of being cast aside and robbed of an opportunity to cast off the archaic yoke that has suppressed the aspirations of the marginalised. Nepal today completed six years of the constitution’s promulgation. Amidst all the revelry and fanfare, there are important issues that need quick redress for large sections of society that have been overlooked.
If the promulgators are touting the charter as progressive and even the best in the world, it has certainly failed to live up to its expectations. Large sections of society are up in arms about it, and yet, the political class turns a deaf ear to their concerns. The masters well equipped with the gift of the gab are quick to provide lip service to uphold progressive values, but none of it really exudes functional application. Every government that steps up to hold the mantle has made a mockery of the fundamental law book of Nepal. What’s more, constitutionalism has gone for a toss as political parties abuse the constitution even as they try to outperform each other in doing politics sans principles.
It’s not that the constitution is not forward-looking at all. It has imagined Nepal as a secular state, although its very definition of secularism is somewhat archaic. Federalism, one of the founding pillars of the current charter, has given way to decentralisation and devolution, but the centre still calls the shots. With a mind-boggling 550 members in the provincial assemblies and nearly 60 provincial ministers, the strain on the state coffers has been immense. Stretched to provide for remuneration and pay for their upkeep, there is little money left for regional development. This begs the question of priorities. At least we can rest assured that those that represent us have utilised an opportunity borne out of a crisis to further their own gains.
The protests of the marginalised Tharus and the Madhesi communities have largely gone silent for now. The leaders of the Madhes based parties that once objected to the discriminatory provisions of the constitution, have over time joined the federal government, leaving the marginalised community disillusioned. The face of ‘‘New Nepal’’ has been served another blow, where provisions have been made to uplift our brethren from the Dalit & Muslim community, but in stark contrast, they still languish in the depths of despair. It is not just the minorities that have been cast aside. Women, comprising more than half the population, have yet to overturn their demand for unequal citizenship right into reality.
The preamble of the constitution clearly imagines ending all forms of oppression and discrimination created by the feudalistic societies of the past, and yet we seem unable to meet the basic rights listed therein. At a time when the country is grappling with the snags heaped on it by the pandemic on an unprecedented scale, the voices that now seem inaudible too need to be given an ear by those at the helm. The ruling class that is celebrating the triumph of the constitution must remember that large sections still feel dehumanised and neglected. Without a doubt, the onus lies on the architects to ensure wider acceptance of the charter.