Lost opportunitiesThe political class is not showing any urgency to end the drawn-out stalemate
The reduction of the rights of the Madhesis, women and the problematic demarcation of Nepal into seven states reveal how indifferent Nepal’s new constitution is to the aspirations of the masses. This constitution is more progressive than the 1990 constitution as has institutes the first-past-the-post and proportional representation system of elections. But it would have been even better had it incorporated the demands of the marginalised sections of society.
It seems as though the large political parties clearly failed to engage in broader consultations. To make matters worse, they marginalised the Madhesis and Tharus during the process. This is why nearly half of the population of Nepal is opposed to the statute even though this should have been a joyous occassion for all Nepalis as the constitution was written after almost a decade of political transition and by spending Rs 150 billion in taxpayer’s money.
Being big brother
Sadly, even when the country has suffered unimaginable losses on the social and economic front due to blockades and curfews, the political class is not showing any urgency to end the stalemate. But KP Oli and Prachanda need to realise that the Madhesis are closely watching their moves.
Meanwhile, India stepped in and send its Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar to register its disagreement, and alas, not to forward expert consultation. His arrival was a reminder of the mistakes committed by Chandra Shekhar in the early 1990s and Karan Singh’s role during the last days of the monarchy in Nepal. Therefore, the reaction of the Nepalis towards India’s ‘big brother’ attitude was hardly surprising. When India put forward seven-points that need to be amended in Nepal’s new constitution, the Nepalis lost no time in criticising the Indian Constitution in response. This shows how misinformed diplomatic engagements can be at times, even among the friendliest nations like India and Nepal.
Amid these political squabbles, the fact that Nepal was recently ravaged by an earthquake and many people are still suffering due to delay in inefficient reconstruction work seems to have taken a backseat. Kathmandu is yet to begin reconstruction of destroyed infrastructure and the help rebuild the lives of the people. Therefore, Nepal must work to strengthen its democracy to harness its potential and keep the vicious trap of poverty and inequality at bay.
The political parties should know the art of burying the hatchet in times of discontent to pave the way for talks. More so, because life in the Tarai has come to a standstill for over 40 days now. This has severely hit economic production. Supply is erratic and products have become pricey. While the rich have the option to fly to their destinations as the roads are blocked, the poor are suffering as they are neither able to travel nor work. The Nepalis living in inhospitable conditions abroad are equally dismayed by the state of affairs in Nepal.
Recently, two Nepali women were allegedly kept as sex slaves by the first secretary at the Saudi Embassy in New Delhi, Majeed Hassan Ashoor. The matter was effectively highlighted by the Indian Police, Nepal Embassy in New Delhi and Maiti Nepal India, a civil society organisation. But Nepal stopped pursuing the case arguing that the Vienna Convention that provides immunity to diplomats working in foreign missions. However, considering the nature of the offence, the Saudi diplomat could easily have been declared persona non grata.
India had a good chance to take the lead and forge international consensus to reform the flawed and unethical clauses in the Vienna Convention. They have now become outdated and should not be followed blindly. But sadly, nothing happened. Not only was India shockingly defensive, but even Nepal let matters go instead of raising a hue and cry.
This is just one among the numerous inhuman cases that poor migrant Nepalis face in alien lands. This is so because Nepal’s polity and economy do not serve all segments of the population. And it seems to be a chronic malady with no cure in sight.
Thakur is a New Delhi-based journalist and writer