Civic group marches in Kathmandu to demand amendments to constitutionActivists call for unity among the marginalised, as they call for efforts to ensure wider acceptance of the charter.
While the government was celebrating the seventh Constitution Day with much fanfare at the Tundikhel parade grounds Sunday, campaigners of the citizens' movement—Brihat Nagarik Andolan—were marching at the Maitighar Mandala demanding amendment to the constitution saying that it failed to address the concerns of marginalized people and communities.
The government has announced to celebrate the constitution day for three days and the authorities including the President, Vice-president, the Prime Minister and the Speaker have been issuing congratulatory messages on the occasion.
But a large chunk of society including Dalits, Madhesi and Janajatis are not happy with the constitution and they are burning copies of the constitution demanding several amendments to it claiming it is incomplete and discriminatory. Some have even gone on to demand that the constitution must be rewritten to ensure the rights of the marginalized.
The Brihat Nagarik Andolan campaigners gathered at the Maitighar Mandala and marched towards New Baneshwor where they organized a corner meeting.
“Today is a black day for us,” said Shrawan Tharu, acting coordinator of the Tharuhat Tharuwan Rastriya Morcha while addressing the gathering at New Baneshwar.
At the gathering, Dalit activist Dhan Kumari Sunar said the constitution is flawed and serves the interests of the people from the dominant ruling class, which has been in power for a long time.
She said it was ridiculous to provide reservations in education and employment to the same group which has been ruling the country. “Even the Khas-Arya community has been provided reservations. When did they suffer discrimination? This is ridiculous,” she said. “We now need to think of alternative to the existing political system to ensure the rights of the indigenous, Dalit and other marginalized people.”
The rally at New Baneshwar was addressed by several renowned figures including columnist CK Lal, writer Khagendra Sangraula, political analyst and civil society activist Rajendra Maharjan, former member of the National Human Rights Commission Mohna Ansari and representatives of various marginalized groups including Madhesi, Tharu, Muslims and Indigenous groups.
Tharu, acting coordinator of the Tharuhat Tharuwan Rastriya Morcha also questioned the Language Commission for recommending languages for official use in the provinces without consulting experts and community members.
“How can they recommend languages based on the data collected ten years ago,” Tharu said. “They took the decision without consulting the experts.”
Addressing the gathering Convener of the Tarai Madhes Cultural Council Bikas Thakur said there was racial character in the constitution and therefore no one owns it.
“All marginalized groups have a problem with it. So whose constitution is it?” he asked. “This constitution takes us nowhere therefore we observe it as a black day.”
He said no one is going to give people their rights and they have to be snatched through strong movements. He also said the major problem with the marginalized and the deprived lot is they are not united.
“Madhesi people are always discriminated against just like the Janajatis, Tharus and Dalits,” Thakur said. “Why cannot we marginalized communities unite and fight together?”
In his concluding remark writer and activist Narayan Wagle said the existing constitution was promulgated by suppressing the movements of the marginalized lot and there are weaknesses and discriminatory provisions.
Referring to pro-monarchy protests, Wagle said there were scenes of regression and they wanted regression.
The protestors burnt several articles of the constitution saying they are discriminatory and chanted slogans “Asoj Teen Kalo din.”.
The Loktantrik Samajbadi Party led by Mahantha Thakur, a splinter of the Janata Samajbadi Party, has decided to observe this year’s constitution day as black day. While the Upendra Yadav and Baburam Bhattarai led Janata Samajbadi Party—a partner in the ruling coalition— has decided to boycott the constitution day celebrations.
Earlier on Friday, issuing a press statement, the Brihat Nagarik Andolan had demanded some amendments to the constitution to address the concerns of various disaffected groups.
The movement’s representatives have said there has not been any political effort to take the dissatisfied communities into confidence.
“To ensure people’s inherent rights through the constitution, let's raise our voice to amend the constitution on September 20,” the Brihat Nagarik Andolan had said in the statement.
According to the Andolan, Nepal’s Constitution was hastily promulgated in 2015 without addressing the major political issues raised by the people’s movement and on the day the country got its new constitution the wish of many Nepali people to institutionalise an inclusive democratic political system and a public welfare state system was trampled upon.
The struggles of Tharu and Madhesi people for their right to self-determination were brutally crushed.
“The conduct of those leading the major organs of the state and the behaviours of the parties after the promulgation of the constitution shows that there is still the need for movements to safeguard the achievements of the people,” the movement said.