Nepal’s New Constitution –Reflection of Manipulative Elite

Nepal’s New Constitution –Reflection of Manipulative Elite

 
Nepal promulgated a constitution on 20 Sep 2015 after 8 years of deliberation.  Salient features of the constitution are:

  • It declares Nepal as a secular, federal, democratic, multi-lingual, multi-ethnic and multi-religious republic.
  • It restructures Nepal into 7 provinces, leaving the Madhesis divided into 5 provinces, with only one of them having their majority.
  • Though the major parties like Nepali congress, CPN-UML and CPN- Maoist have affirmed that boundaries could be changed later, it is clear that Madhesi interests have been deliberately compromised.
  • Delineation of electoral constituencies in Terai (51% population) has not been done based on the population of the plains.
  • Children born to Nepali mothers, married to foreigners, will not get Nepali citizenship.
  • The Madhesis, Tharus and Janjatis were sidelined in the entire constitution making process due to prevailing distrust towards them among the mainstream political parties.

While the Nepalese elite celebrated the occasion, violence erupted in the Southern plains to protest against the discriminatory aspects of the constitution. Nepal being a landlocked nation is heavily dependent upon supplies from India. The violence and blockade created great hardships, not only for the Southern region, but entire Nepal. Nepalese elite have blamed India for causing a blockade and generated considerable anti India sentiment by false propaganda. The situation in Nepal is tense and India is in an awkward position. The situation is very grave. Let us analyze the problems caused by the constitution and seek remedial measures.

Nepal’s Powerful, Manipulative Elite

Nepal for long was a patriarchal, Hindu kingdom. Democracy as defined by Abraham Lincoln has not taken roots in Nepal. Both under the rules of the Kings and the Ranas, large tracts of land in Terai were gifted away to civil servants, army officers and family members of the ruling class. The Kings of Nepal advocated a policy of not employing the Madhesis in the civil services. This deficit of trust towards the Madhesis and the Tharus was one of the major reasons why their presence in the civil services, judiciary and security agencies have remained minimal. Even their presence in the corporate is low. Until the mid-1950s, the Madhesis had to receive permits from the government authorities to enter Kathmandu. Even in matters concerning the grant of citizenship, they were discriminated against. The Madhesis comprise the bulk of stateless citizens in Nepal even to this day. All the major political parties usually field hill-elites as their candidates in the Terai region during the elections. They would never allow any Madhesi as their candidate in the hill constituencies. The constitution reflects the historical attitude of the manipulative elite.
 

Madhesis, Tharus and Janjatis

Madhesis, Tharus and Janjatis inhabit the Southern plains. Many have familial ties on the Indian side of the border. During the 1960s, the Madhesis formed the ‘Terai Liberation Front’ to wage an armed struggle as they saw their land being grabbed by the people from the hills even while they could not register the land they tilled in their own name due to lack of citizenship certificates. In order to spread influence in Madhes, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoists) included the problems of Madhes in their agenda. However, the Maoists compromised and they joined the peace process by signing the Comprehensive Peace Accord in 2006. Armed conflicts began and the Maoist – Madhesi tension escalated. After strong protests in 2007 and 2008, demanding federalism, inclusion and proportionate representation, the mainstream political parties incorporated these in the Interim Constitution and agreed to attend to these issues while finalizing the constitution. However, they have now failed to fulfill the promises made. By remaining divided the Madhesis have not been able to achieve the required representation through the electoral process. Disunity has been their biggest mistake. This has led to the current situation.
The non grant of citizenship to children born to Nepalese women has apparently been promulgated in the constitution to deprive the Madhesi women marrying Indians.

Madhesi Demands

The major demands that are being raised by the Madhesis are –

  1. Group the 20 districts of Madhes in 2 federal provinces.
  2. Delineate electoral constituencies based on population, geography and special characteristics which were accepted by the Interim Constitution.
  3. Incorporate right to participate in state structures on the basis of proportionate inclusion, which was accepted by the Interim Constitution. Since Madhes has 51% of the population, out of the proposed 165 electoral constituencies being proposed for direct elections, 83 should be allocated to the provinces in the Madhesi region.
  4. Interim Constitution had provided for the re-demarcation of electoral constituencies every 10 years, as per the census; the new constitution has increased it to 20 years. The Madhesi parties do not approve of this change.
  5. Citizenship should be passed on through the name of the mother as well. There should be no discrimination based on citizenship acquired by descent or naturalization.

India’s Position in Current Tension

India shares an open border with Nepal. India’s concerns are the following:

  • Madhesi discontent is creating disturbances on the Indo-Nepal border.
  • Conflict in Nepal will directly impact India. There would be a refugee influx.
  • Indian trucks carrying goods and oil are reluctant to venture into Nepal. Economic hardships due to shortage of fuel and goods would have long term impact on Indo-Nepal relations.
  • This may threaten the security of Indian businessmen and traders who are engaged in business with Nepal.
  • Being a guarantor of peace, India has a moral duty to involve herself in the process of change taking place in Nepal. However, she has to tread cautiously, without being perceived as encroaching upon Nepal’s sovereignty, to get the genuine rights for the historically marginalized groups, recognized in the Constitution. Madhesi struggle should not be projected as Madhesi jingoism encouraged by India.

Prognosis

The marginalized communities would definitely unite against the injustice.
If the government and the main political parties are really serious about defusing the present crisis, they should accept it as a political problem and take steps to ensure that  the constitution is truly representative of the aspirations of all people, including the marginalized ones, through dialogue.
This appears unlikely in the near future because the powerful Nepalese elite would not like to share power with the marginalized people easily. If they had been fair minded then this unfair and manipulative constitution would not have been promulgated.
It is quite likely that the Nepalese elite will blame India for all these problems. This approach would lead to a long drawn out violent and political struggle in which India would in the long run, have to support the Madhesis.
The situation is grim. We are likely to witness a long period of violence and political unrest in Nepal. India will perforce get involved in the strife and will have to suffer from the unrest on the border and influx of Madhesis.

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1 Comment

  1. Dear Mr. Nehru,
    I humbly request you to write honestly about ongoing “Bihar’s” elections and its voting agenda attached with those adjoined border areas of Nepal. If you are not aware please go through the Indian Medias and how they are telling to the world that BJP wants to win those votes in the current election by supporting this unusual agenda. It will not be a surprise if this problem of blockade will end after the election.
    Also please make us clear about the Indian interests and influence in South Asian nations, especially about annexation of Skkim, Control of foreign policy of Bhutan, Supporting of Tamil in Srilanka, Conflicts in Maldives, Creation of Bangladesh, about Myanmar and also in Nepal. Why India does not care about the sovereignty of all these nations? (I would urge every reader to check the facts about these issues to be clearer about the situation of Nepal) It will clarify India’s desire to intervene in the sovereignty of these nations. The so called largest democracy and its imperialistic nature is very transparent being in the world nowadays.
    Also, I humbly request an intellect like you to read 2012 ethnic census of Nepal before putting the data “51%” and find out the actual composition of population in the region called “Madhes”. You will find that 51% includes all kinds of population, not only those who are protesting. The region has all kinds of ethnic population. So it is nonsense and false statement in saying that, the constitution is undermining the 51% of Nepalese. Nepal itself has 123 types of ethnicity, one of the most diverse mixes of population in the world. Now, the protesting portion in that region consists of 20.2% and among those 20.2%, a lot of people voted for the current leaders in power and protesting parties got very less seats. (They got least number of seats because their agenda is unpopular, but I am sure you will say it is undemocratic and probably because they lost? That is why the majority in the constitution was almost at 90%.
    Also if you may, please look at numerous successful examples in the world how a state division must be done and population alone cannot develop a region, it needs combination of resources and population. But it should not be because it is so undemocratic and undermines the interest of 51%. Everyone who thinks that the protesting population represents those 51%, I request them to come to Nepal and see the fact for themselves in order to remove this bluff.
    I am a Nepali and I realized I was also called “Pahadi” only after people started to use those label. They say that I have in my 27 years, somehow suppressed them from their liberty. I keep on thinking how? They blame me because of not my own actions but because I am from this “Pahad” part of Nepal and supposedly an elite. It is important to understand the constitution does not provide me any extra rights. But probably in past, in the times of king those acts might have happened, that is why we have this new constitution that provides equal rights to every Nepali citizen. Now for an example, if I decide to marry an Indian, or Srilankan or a European, my wife will also fall in the same category of citizenship like those in the Madhes. In the same way, the right is the same about all “so called elite” pahadi women. If they marry a foreigner, it is the same case. (Probably this is not fare for women of all regions, but where is the discrimination only to Madhesi?) If anyone doubts, please check your facts and read the current constitution of Nepal.
    But I am equally disappointed because of Nepal’s corrupt leadership and their inability to give any proper agenda to Nepal’s development. By corrupt, I do not separate “pahadi leaders” or “madhesi leaders”, and all of them have probably one agenda, that is to ensure their political interests along with Indian interests. Exactly like Pahadi leaders, I do not remember one single Madhesi leader doing any campaigns on jobs, opening of universities, education, industries, use of resources etc that gives rights to the citizens in true sense. Their agenda’s (Pahadi or Madhesi Leader’s) all have been with their own self interest of power. So, I see this situation is to blame to those nonsensical leaders of all fractions who never actually cared for Nepal’s development.
    Now, we are all aware of issues in India too about Gorkhaland, Gujarat, (also recent issues of eating beef) and there are a lot of other things that can be pointed out and presented with an opinion, but there is a big difference in opinion and intervention and I am sure an intellect like you understands it properly. The rushed actions of Indian ambassador by visiting every Nepali Leader before the constitution and the flashing of 7 points to be amended from Indian Express, is more than proof backed up by a lot of open debates in media by Indian Ambassadors.
    All of the regime changes till date in Nepal have happened with Indian backings and now India feels Nepali leaders are defying its order. I have only to blame the political leadership in Nepal for this situation but Indian interests-as if like being righteous to citizens of Nepal, is firstly security interests, more so a buffer zone if any war breaks out, and secondly, using the resources of Nepal in regards with water, electricity and other natural resources that Nepal has in abundance but unused due to poor economic and infrastructure conditions.
    It is a fact that Human Rights have been violated in Madhes and I firmly believe those involved must be punished. But the situation that gave rise to this (the killing of 8 policemen by burning them alive, which I do want to believe that the sound waves of peaceful protests burnt them, but it was not the case) I am just worried; there are people like you who write articles without checking the facts or enlarging the issues, and also the corrupt leadership in our country which do not really care of Madhes of Pahad. The only people effected are not those leaders of Madhesi or Pahadi or Indians, (They have ample money to fund these protests and protect themselves. The general peace loving people of Nepal will have to suffer.
    Mr. Nehru, thank you for what you have written, may your words always shine in golden letters of history.

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