MIN RATNA BAJRACHARYA
Initially, the Maoists succeeded in bringing ethnic issues under the class struggle but could not contain it for long. Maoist leaders themselves admit that it is the Maoist movement that gave rise to various ethnic organisations after the restoration of democracy. From Upendra Yadav to Jaya Krishna Goit, they are all ex-Maoists.
Now, this has opened a pandora's box of militant ethnic groups that are not under the command of the Maoists. However, they are not free from Maoist ideology. For instance, ex-Maoist Laxman Tharu of Tharu Autonomous Province Council has been demanding that the provinces should be created on the basis of ethnicity and their history and they should be given the right to self-determination like the Maoists had demanded. The Limbuwans in the east are also demanding a state of their own with the right to self determination.
There are three interpretations of the right to self determination. First is Lenin's model of the right to self-determination which arranges the autonomous regions under a centralised state. Second, the UN charter has mentioned the right to self determination in the context of colonised countries, allowing them independence. Third, the ILO Convention's Article 169 provides the right to self-determination for indigenous nationalities to preserve their ethnic, linguistic and cultural identity.
This article says the Janajatis have the right to ethnic autonomy but not the right to separate from the state.
The Maoists are advocating Lenin's self-determination model. Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal writes, "The reactionaries who think that right to self-determination and autonomy lead the country to fragment are as orthodox as those who think all women will leave their husband after the right to divorce."
Baburam Bhattarai writes, "First of all, we have to understand the dialectical relationship between the right to self-determination and autonomy. This is the policy of liberal unification, which can't be truly autonomous without the right to separate."
The Maoists have given continuity to this policy since their 1996 Politburo meeting. In 2001, they divided the country into nine autonomous regions then later into 11 and 13 provinces and 15 provinces in June this year.
No doubt, the Maoists created awareness among Nepal's ethnic groups about their rights. But by being copycats of Lenin, they are making a mistake. Lenin's right to self- determination wasn't for the liberation of ethnic communities but for the nation. Nepal's ethnic groups have not developed into nations as believed by the Maoists. As per the Marxists definition, common history, land, economy, culture and language are the basis of a nation. Nepal's ethnic groups have everything except economic sustainability which is why autonomy doesn't make sense. It also means that we can't allow the right to separate in the right to self-determination. If this is done, it will lead to disaster.
In Nepal, the right to self-determination should be understood as mentioned in the ILO Convention Article 169 to preserve their ethnic, lingual, social and cultural rights.
The Maoists seem to have realised their mistake, but only recently. After the party's unification with Unity Centre, Dahal has mentioned the danger of separation in his political documents. The Maoists' draft constitution has also defined the right to self determination in line with ILO article 169.
But the Maoists risk losing support of their ethnic fronts by abandoning the Lenin model. If the regional ethnic fronts gets stronger at the expense of the central leadership, the party gets weaker. History shows the separatists emerge when national parties get weaker. Therefore, the Maoists should hold discussions within the party and convince the ethnic fronts before finalising the issues of ethnicity.
Sarjan Gautam is the president of Maoist-affiliated Intellectuals' Society of Dang district.
"The Maoists raise issues, not solutions"
Ram Krishna Chitrakar, CA member from Nepali Congress, Kathmandu
The work hasn't been properly done, even after the schedule has been revised four times. The Constitutional Committee and subject committees should have finished their deliberations and preliminary drafts by 22 May, but that didn't happen. All in all, the drafting bodies aren't working as they should.
What does your committee do?
My committee will decide the country's new justice system. We're getting information from experts on the subject, the parties and those who will have a stake in that system. We've had 18 meetings under committee president Prabhu Sah, but we haven't made much progress, partly because the Maoists keep raising new issues without proposing solutions. Sometimes they say the power to appoint and sack judges belongs to the parliament, other times, the president. Congress and other parties think both options suggest an improper separation of powers. The Maoists also say that each province/state should have their own supreme courts but we say they should only have their high courts. They argue that the parliament should interpret the constitution and we say the Supreme Court should. They want to destroy all existing structures, but we think we should preserve the good ones.
Will the constitution be written on time?
Not unless politicians and CA members change their mindsets and become more accommodating.
Do you think you accomplished less than you could have this year?
I've been working as hard as I could have, but the politicians should treat the constitution with more urgency.
What's delaying the constitution writing process?
Political instability, the lack of determination of the part of politicians to fulfill their election proclamations, inattentiveness among CA members, inactive drafting mechanisms and poor time management.
The Constitutional Committee is leaderless. Will this affect the constitution?
That committee won't have work until the subject committees finish their drafts, so for the time being, at least, it doesn't matter. But, the politicians better work things out soon.
"Elected to write, not quarrel"'
Bhotani Devi Khabas, Nepali Congress CA member from Morang
First, we went to the villages to ask people what they wanted in the constitution. We've finished our deliberations and are currently preparing a draft. Two other committees have finished their discussions and five have submitted drafts. Those that haven't finished their drafts are working hard to do so quickly.
What does your committee do?
I'm in the Capacity Enhancement and Resource Management Committee. Although we're not writing a draft, we're helping others to do so. We're putting into operation suggestions to make the assembly run more smoothly.
So will the constitution be written on time?
We're already behind schedule and yet the politicians continue squabbling. How, then, will we finish the constitution on time?
What's delaying it?
Besides the wrangling, it's being held up the lack of peace and security and the grasps for cabinet positions.
How was the last year spent?
I'm not satisfied with the work we have done. As soon as a government is formed, everyone else stands in protest. People forget that we were voted into the assembly to write the constitution, not quarrel endlessly.