24-30 July 2015 #768

Let’s move on

Chance to finally have a constitution for the people, by the people, of the people
Damakant Jayshi

Just when it looked like that the feedback process on the new constitution would be nothing more than a show, the Nepali people have once again proven naysayers wrong by their massive participation in which they displayed political astuteness and alertness.

After all, they have waited over eight years in the current run and over six decades if you consider King Tribhuvan’s promise of a constitution through a Constituent Assembly, long before the Maoists launched their revolution in 1996.

The challenge and responsibility of the political leadership now is to respect this and accept suggestions from the people to the extent possible. True, it will not be practical to accommodate everyone’s views since many are diametrically opposite. But wide acceptability should be the guiding principle to improve the draft.

Most of the political parties, including the Madhes-based and Janajati ones, have agreed that Nepal would be a democratic republic which should be inclusive, federal and secular. Keeping these as unchangeable principles, the political parties should now bow down to the wishes of the people in democracy.

There is a real danger, though, that the political parties may interpret this participation as endorsement of their roadmap and ignore suggestions that came out of the consultations. This would be a big letdown. The road ahead should not be mapped by the pre-agreed script of a few top politicians nor by a handful of loud commentators who have opposed this exercise all along on one pretext or the other.

There are two main historically oppressed communities in Nepal: women and Dalits. When it comes to the rights of women, this draft is shameful and the UML would do well to read the writing on the wall on citizenship through mothers. In the case of Dalits, too, the draft is woefully short of addressing their genuine grievances.

Citizenship through mother is a legitimate and natural right. When the UML or others try to deny this, they are forced to come up with multiple sub-clauses in the draft. These xenophobic leaders infest most parties, including Madhes-based ones, and justify their stance on citizenship because of fears of Indian inundation.

This whole exercise of public consultation on the draft of the constitution would have been far more fruitful had the parties demarcated the boundaries of the new states by rightly leaving the names of new provinces to elected state legislatures.

Now, with the Indian establishment reportedly signalling its displeasure, the parties are singing a different tune. They might now attempt to demarcate the boundaries, and at this point it is difficult to say how successful they would be. After all, the subject of federalism has led to failure of many political agreements between political parties in the past. Moreover, the UML has already termed such an exercise a ploy to delay its party chairman’s ascension to power. Even if the parties do attempt a demarcation of boundaries, it means people would not have a say.

In the name of inclusion and identity, there was reckless adventurism on state restructuring. The original plan, inspired reportedly by outside intelligence agencies was to have one, or at the most two, state(s) along the Tarai from east to west bordering India and call it Madhes. This was presented before us as panacea to address the historic wrongs in the Tarai. Whereas, in the hills and mountains with nearly an equal population, there would be no less than 10 provinces based on ethnicity. All this in the name of protecting and preserving the identity of the marginalised communities.

The UCPN (M) with its close connection with India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) before, during and after the conflict believed that such state-restructuring would increase its presence and influence and help it reap electoral dividends. The Madhesi and Janajati parties saw in the plan their own advantage. But all these forces were routed in the second Constituent Assembly election in 2013 when they asked for votes specifically for this idea. Some supporters of this line are still in absolute denial and haven’t been able to come to terms with the defeat of identity politics.

The political parties have another great opportunity to make this a people-owned constitution. But for that they would first have to look beyond their partisan interests to what would ultimately benefit the nation and address the more pressing needs of the Nepali people.


Read also:

Made to jump through hoops, Editorial

The constitution as if the people mattered, Anurag Acharya

#citizenshipthroughmothers, Tsering Dolker Gurung

There is a draft, Editorial

Egos at the door, please, Bidushi Dhungel

For politics’ sake, Bidushi Dhungel

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