Constitution amendment was again endorsed unilaterallyOn Saturday, Parliament endorsed the first amendment to the constitution in an attempt to satisfy the disgruntled communities, including the Tharus and Madhesis.
On Saturday, Parliament endorsed the first amendment to the constitution in an attempt to satisfy the disgruntled communities, including the Tharus and Madhesis. Three major parties—Nepali Congress (NC), CPN-UML and UCPN (Maoist)—claim that the amendment was made giving due attention to the concerns of the Samyukta Loktantrik Madhesi Morcha (SLMM). However, Upendra Yadav, Chairman of Federal Socialist Forum Nepal, a member of the SLMM, argues that the amendment does not address the Morcha’s demands. A day after Parliament endorsed the amendment, John Narayan Parajuli and Roshan Sedhai spoke with Yadav about the amendment, Morcha’s other demands, its future strategies, and the role of India.
What is your reaction to the first amendment to the new constitution that cross-party leaders say was endorsed with the consent of the agitating groups? Has it been able to address the Morcha’s demands?
First, the three major parties forcefully drafted and promulgated the constitution amid violence and deaths. The major parties repeated the same mistake by unilaterally making the amendment against the backdrop of Rangeli bloodshed.
Second, the amendment does not address the concerns raised by the Madhesis, Janajatis, Dalits, Khas-Aryas, Muslims, women and other marginalised and excluded communities. Major parties would have endorsed the amendment taking the agitating groups into confidence if they were honest about addressing their concerns. No efforts were made to bring the agitating groups on board despite 30 rounds of talks. Similarly, they did not think it was necessary
to make the amendment in line with our demands.
There is absolutely no truth in the claims of the top leaders that the amendment was expedited with our tacit support. It falls short of addressing our 11-point demands. Let us not forget that the amendment was endorsed amid our protests. This is against parliamentary practices.
Why did they not think it was necessary to take your consent?
It is because of arrogance and false pride of the major parties’ top leaders. Because of this, common people have stopped trusting them. The amendment has also ignored the concerns of the United Nations, the United States, India and other countries. This will erode the credibility of our leadership at the international level.
To cut it short, major parties have been making mistakes, one after the other, since the constitution drafting process began.
Prime Minister KP Oli and UCPN (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal have been saying that the border blockade would end with the first amendment. What will happen to the Morcha’s protest at the border entry points now?
The Morcha will continue its struggle as the amendment has not addressed our demands. This protest will go on until people’s rights are ensured by revising the constitution in line with the Morcha’s 11-point demands.
It had appeared as though the major parties and Morcha had almost agreed to revise the federal boundaries through a political committee in the next three months. How will that change now?
It has already been four months since the protest started. Why did they not revise the boundaries during this period? Changes in the state demarcation are our main demand. There are fundamental differences in the way we look at these issues. We have been insisting that the state should be restructured on the basis of the criteria and modality that was recommended in the State Restructuring Commission’s report [10 province model], the provisions of the interim constitution and the past agreements signed with the Madhesi and Janajati communities.
Top leaders of the major parties are trying to revise the boundaries to fulfil their personal ambitions and interests, and to institutionalise their political control. Any proposal floated with such a mindset cannot resolve the disputes.
The current impasse is the result of this mindset. The communists and the NC are trying to ruin this country by making everything dysfunctional. The Madhesis, Janajatis, Dalits and Muslims are only demanding their rights. But the ruling parties and the opposition are hell-bent on destroying this country, jeopardizing its economy and social harmony for petty gains. The time has come for the excluded and marginalised communities to also think about saving this nation, while continuing their struggle for equality.
But both sides—the three parties and SLMM—appear adamant on the issues of demarcation. How flexible is the Morcha for compromise on these issues. What can be the meeting point?
There is enough room for compromise if they agree to move as per the report of the State Restructuring Commission. The commission was formed by the major parties themselves. It is true that people gave them fresh mandate through the second Constituent Assembly election. But that mandate has been squandered. Go to the Tarai and find out what people want today.
Many allege that New Delhi is using the Morcha to advance its own interests? Do you feel exploited?
One thing we need to understand is that the current crisis is the making of our incompetent and shortsighted leaders. They are ruining this nation and blaming the neighbouring countries instead. They are unnecessarily dragging outsiders in the internal affairs of the country. Such tendency will not benefit anyone. The truth is that the current crisis is a product of the ego, shortsightedness and hubris of our leadership.
If the major parties have amended the constitution to please India, then PM KP Oli and Sushil Koirala should honestly inform the people. As far as I am concerned, I think the major parties are continuously making mistakes.
The Morcha’s blockade at the Birgunj checkpoint has chocked the country. You claim that the Morcha is fighting for the common people but the protest is making the same people suffer in the Tarai, Kathmandu and the rest of the country. Is it not time to change the form of the protest?
The Morcha would take an appropriate decision to that end when the time comes. But we must understand why this is happening. We must understand the reasons for this crisis. It happened due to the arrogant mindset of the Communist parties and the NC. It happened after they unilaterally promulgated the constitution and imposed it upon the people.
It happened due to their reluctance to address the concerns of the agitating groups.
As far as the shortage and price hike are concerned, major parties are openly promoting black marketeering. It is quite unfortunate that people are compelled to buy petrol at double the price in the black market even when all the depots of the Nepal Oil Corporation are full. Why are petrol pumps not distributing petrol even when the government depots are filled? Can black marketeering thrive without the support and protection from the government? It is hard to verify whether the government is operating the ‘mafia’ or the other way around.
People like CK Raut who are advocating secession are increasingly active along the plains. How do you assess the possiblity of the Madhes movement gradually slipping away from the Morcha’s hands?
Till now, the protest is very much under our control. Everyone who has the right to protest is protesting. If you resolve one issue, others will also fall in place. But the state is not doing anything to address the grievances of the agitating parties. In fact, it is complicating the scenario. The state’s policies, steps and actions are destroying this country. That’s the truth.
Is your party Sanghiya Samajwadi Forum Nepal working to unite with the new force of former Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai?
Rumours of unification with Bhattari’s party are baseless. Our party is the newest force in this country. We truly represent the Madhesis, Janajatis, Khas and other diverse population of Nepal. Our party has incorporated the diversity that this country is famous for. Our party is already moving ahead in the right direction with new zeal, vision and leadership. What can be newer than this?