Why should we unite the plains in a single Madhesi province, but chop up the hills into little pieces?
The new constitution is not yet ready and the old constitution is not yet dead. But the 2006 Interim Constitution
is being ruthlessly amended by using the obstacle removal provisions in Clause 158.
The way it is being invoked to bulldoze through all barriers on the path to elections reminds one of the way Kathmandu’s streets are being widened. Nothing is allowed to stand in the way of this tearing juggernaut as it crashes up a dead-end street. If Khil Raj Regmi can’t hold elections on time, he will have to hand power back to the old government with what remains of a comatose constitution.
We have abandoned a sovereign democratic path to elections and taken an undemocratic one. From among the 118 parties, we couldn’t agree on one leader to take up to elections. Instead, the four main parties put the chief justice in charge, who formed a government of ex-bureaucrats. The political leadership of this country certified itself incompetent.
But this doesn’t mean the parties are completely out of the picture. They are still pulling strings through the four-party committee. Ex-secretaries who wanted ministerial positions were seen to be lobbying door-to-door and the cabinet is made up of ex-bureaucrats nominated by the Big Four in the same old give-and-take that got us into this mess.
The authoritarian streak of the UCPN(M) has put us here. Every one of the slogans they raised during their so-called ‘revolution’, has by now proven to be fake. Their demands during negotiations since 2006 were all a hollow charade, excuses to take them closer to the goal of total state capture.
The party fooled progressive Nepalis and self-admittedly hoodwinked the international community with its rhetoric of liberation, equality, and an end to discrimination. Using violence, threats, intimidation, and extortion the Maoists ruled with lies and hypnotised all stakeholders into believing a cause that they abandoned long ago. Their slogans about uplifting women, Dalits, and Janajatis were empty slogans.
Now, they are talking about a united electoral front with the Janajati and Madhesi parties. This is another trick. The Madhesi demand for a single Madhes province and the Janajati’s one-ethnicity province together represent the greatest threat to the Nepali nation state and to our nationalism. Why are Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Baburam Bhattarai so desperate to back such a proposal?
Cheap populism seems irresistible to both leaders. But in doing so they will destroy what is left of our sovereignty, integrity, and national unity. Otherwise why would they so single-mindedly devote themselves to an agenda which can bring nothing but fragmentation? Why else would they back a proposal to unite the plains under a single Madhesi province, but chop up the hills into little pieces?
Nepal is a multi-ethnic state, but Dahal insists on single-identity provinces. Why? The answers are clear: the Maoists want a united electoral alliance with ethnic and regional parties for votes so that they can divide and rule the country.
Most Nepalis have seen through the Maoist strategy and know that this will lead to national disintegration. They don’t want to be divided by caste, ethnicity, or territoriality. They want to be united because only that will guarantee our dignity and pride as Nepalis.
It is necessary to ensure rights to all excluded Nepalis: women, the poor, Dalits, Janajatis, Madhesis, the minorities, and the marginalised, but not at the cost of the breakup of Nepal. The excluded must be given a voice, they need to be brought into the political, economic, and cultural mainstream, mostly so that they can have equal opportunities as the rest. And until they can catch up, they need affirmative action in political representation, education, health, and employment.
Single identity-based provinces in a future federation are not going to warrant that, in fact they will guarantee the dismantling of the Nepali nation state.
Our goal is prosperity, equality, and justice. Only that will ensure future peace and the road to those goals lies in multi-ethnic, cross-territorial provinces integrating the Madhes and Pahad and their natural resources within federal provinces.
The reason it is important to think about these issues is because we are now supposedly headed to new elections for a new Constituent Assembly. Let’s not make the same mistakes as last time, let’s put Nepal’s national unity and integrity above all else. Once we ensure that, all other rights will fall into place.
Ushakala Rai is a former UML CA member from Khotang. The original Nepali version of this op-ed appeared in Kantipur, 26 March.