Talks make no headwayDespite several rounds of talks since Monday, three major parties and dissident Madhesi forces have failed to make headway as both the sides remain adamant on their positions.
Despite several rounds of talks since Monday, three major parties and dissident Madhesi forces have failed to make headway as both the sides remain adamant on their positions.
Cross-party leaders held separate discussions with representatives of the Samyukta Loktantrik Madhesi Morcha and the Bijay Gachhadar-led Sanghiya Loktantrik Morcha for the second consecutive day on Tuesday.
During the meeting, Tarai Madhes Loktantrik Party Chairman Mahantha Thakur sought a common position of the major parties on demands of the Madhesi communities before formal talks may be held.
“We have made our views clear on the disputed issues. It’s futile to talk unless we get assurances that our concerns will be addressed through constitution amendment,” said Hridayesh Tripathi, a TMLP leader.
Talking to the Post, Thakur also demanded withdrawal of the armed security forces, free treatment for the injured, unconditional release of arrested leaders and due compensation to the families of deceased before taking dialogue further.
SLMM leaders have put forth revision to the federal map as their main agenda while retaining the Interim Constitution provision on issues pertaining to inclusive and proportional representation and electoral constituency delimitation.
Article 63 (3) of the Interim Constitution-2007 set electoral constituencies based on population, geography and special characteristics, “and in the case of Madhes on the basis of the percentage of population”.
It would allow Tarai, which constitutes 17 percent of the country’s total land to have more than 50 percent representation in Parliament.
The SLMM wants two provinces along the Tarai plains. They have proposed to split several districts between Hills and Tarai provinces. “We have proposed splitting districts including Jhapa, Morang, Sunsari, Siraha, Nawalparasi, Kailali and Kanchanpur between Hills and the Tarai,” said Tripathi.
Morcha leaders said there could be a “give and take” on a number of issues when real negotiation begins.
Forest Minister Mahesh Acharya, UML Chief Whip Agni Kharel and UCPN (Maoist) Vice-chairman Narayan Kaji Shrestha—discussing on behalf of the major parties—said they were serious about addressing the “legitimate” demands of the Madhesis and Tharus through constitution amendment. They, however, have not prepared any specific proposal on state delineation. The UML in particular is said to be unwilling to make any changes to the federal set-up.
“Morcha should first stop the protest as it is creating a lot of difficulties. We are ready to make proper amendments to the constitution to meet their demands,” a leader present in the talks quoted Acharya as saying. They also urged the agitating parties not to create disturbances on the border with India. Madhesi parties have been obstructing two of the five trade routes with India.
During separate discussion, Madhesi Janadhikar Forum-Loktantrik Chairman Gachhadar urged the major parties to come up with a common plan to address the agitation. “The major parties’ stance on the disputed issues could lay the foundation for talks,” said Gachhadar.
The SLMM and its allies have proposed to federate the Tarai districts into two or three provinces while remaining open to keeping several disputed districts with the Hills.
Gachhadar also held talks with Thakur later in the day. Speaking after the meeting, he said the border blockade was caused by the Indian side. He asked the government to take initiatives to end the embargo.