Govt to reach out to fringe forces to set its stanceThe government has decided to reach out to fringe Madhesi parties, which are opposing the new constitution, to formulate a concrete step for addressing their demands.
The government has decided to reach out to fringe Madhesi parties, which are opposing the new constitution, to formulate a concrete step for addressing their demands.
The move, which comes amid negotiations with the Samyukta Loktantrik Madhesi Morcha (SLMM), is seen as an effort to take all the agitating groups into confidence given the diverse group of protesters on the ground.
Government interlocutors said their team is reaching out to various Madhesi fronts protesting against the constitution through formal and informal channels. Nearly 50 fringe parties are participating in the agitation under the banner of around half a dozen fronts.
“The situation is such that the protests may not stop even if we reach an understanding with one group. Therefore, we have been trying to engage with all the fronts before making our position clear,” said Ram Janam Chaudhary, minister without portfolio.
The government plans to make its position clear and amend some contentious provisions of the constitution following the consultation.
As part of the same effort, the government on Tuesday held a meeting with the Anil Jha-led Sanghiya Madhesi Morcha (SMM), a front which has been protesting in Parsa and the adjoining districts. During the discussion held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, SMM leaders sought changes in 102 clauses of the statute to address the concerns of the Madhesi communities.
SMM leaders representing various fringe parties jointly submitted their demands. Most of the concerns are related to proportional and inclusive representation of the Madhesi communities in all state bodies and an extended Madhes-Tharuhat province.
During the meeting, Kamal Thapa, coordinator of the government dialogue team, requested the alliance to withdraw its protests considering the public hardships across the country. Thapa added that the government was ready to address “genuine” concerns of the Madhesi people through amendment.
“We cannot stop our protest before our demands are addressed,” Jha said, adding that his party and its allies would continue to engage with the government to resolve the current crisis.
Besides Jha, who also heads Nepal Sadbhawana Party, Lok Dal Chairman Kaushal Kumar Singh, Bahujan Samaj Party (Lohiyabadi) Chairman Ganga Mahara, Loktantrik Party Nepal Chairman Jeevan Shah and parliamentarian Dimpal Jha were present in the meeting.
The government has also been approaching other fronts including the ones led by Matrika Yadav and Jay Prakash Gupta. The effort counts as the smaller groups hold significant influence on the ground and are unhappy with the “too much attention” given to bigger forces. The protest has seen fierce rivalry among different groups trying to win over their constituencies. Efforts from prominent Madhesi leaders to form a united alliance were fruitless due to the rivalry.
As the government holds dialogue with the groups one after another, the smaller fronts have been fiercely campaigning to portray others as “traitors and anti-Madhes”.
Joint Madhes National Movement Committee (JMNMC), a coalition of several Madhesi parties of which the Jha-led SMM was a member, has denounced the talks between the SMM and the government.
“Any meeting without an official decision of the JMNMC holds no legal ground,” said Gopal Thakur, co-coordinator of the JMNMC.
Despite a series of negotiations with the SLMM, a Madhesi front on the frontline of the protest, there has been no breakthrough. Madhesi parties have been staging sit-ins at several border points with India, causing shortage of essential commodities.
SLMM leaders claim that the government is deliberately causing the delay hoping that the protests would fade in due course of time.
“We have found them positive on other demands but this protest will not stop unless the government agrees to make some changes in the federal boundaries,” said Hridayesh Tripathi, vice-chairman of the Tarai Madhes Loktantrik Party.
The regional parties have been pressing for the inclusion of at least a few Madhesi strongholds in the eastern province into the Madhes state for an agreement.