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Who cares Constituent Assembly?
There seems to be no end to the political gridlock in Nepal even after the formation of the Constituent Assembly to draft a new constitution for the country. For many, the Constituent Assembly does not matter. What matters to this group is a guarantee against the Assembly itself -- its powers to frame the issues, discuss them through the active participation of the people and take decisions on the basis of the constitutional process internalized by Article 70 of the Constitution. This is madness.
Following an agreement with the tarai parties, which have been successful to disrupt the Assembly proceedings for the fourth time, the three main parties – Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), Nepali Congress and CPN (UML) – have finally constituted a three-member taskforce to revise the draft of the constitution amendment bill by incorporating the tarai parties' demands agreed by the government before the April 10 elections.
This refers to the demand of the Madhesi parties to get recognized the entire lowlands of Nepal (east-west plains) as a single province of Madhes -- no matter what it entails to the rest of the communities found there. Their demands also included the recognition of this new province as an autonomous region and the inclusion of the Madhesis in the civil service and their group entry into the Nepal Army. This is yet another attempt by the so-called major parties to reduce the significance of the Assembly to a bare minimum.
As far as the low lands are concerned, they were mostly inhabited by the Tharus and other 'local' indigenous groups, although they formed the territory of the adjacent hill principality in most parts of the country. For example, the Siraha and Saptari districts, which have been the hub of the Madhesi movement recently, used to be the territory of the Chaudandi principality before their unification into the modern Nepal. This principality was ruled by the Kirants, although the administration was shared with the local Khas and other communities as well.
Whatever the history, the modern Nepal is prepared to devolve power to all constituencies, no matter where they are, and how big or small is their size. It is a shrill question why the issue of 'one Madhes' is being insisted on out of proportion. If the hills and mountains co-exist with the rest of Nepal without becoming one province; why the lowlands need such a new status is hard to answer.
Claims to self-determination are frequently in conflict with one another, and no clear standards have been established to distinguish those claims that will be accepted from those that will not. Equally important is respect for territorial integrity and political unity of the constituents of power. States should not encourage the break-up of other states because virtually all states are vulnerable.
However, why to blame Madhesi leaders only? The tragic question is - if the Maoists (and those supporting them from invincible quarters) can decide the fate of monarchy and the question of federalizing the country by amending the existing Constitution and without subjecting them to the Article 70 procedures in the Constituent Assembly, why should there be a double standard in the case of Madhesis? If Madhesis are granted why not Kirants, and if Kirants why not trans-Himalayan people? And if the Maoists could be used for such strategic returns, why not the rest of the communities?
Is it not then important for the whole country to recognize the Constituent Assembly and its procedures and start the deliberative process without attaching any conditions to its decision-making capacity?
Strangely enough, why the 'loktantrik' partners of the Maoists, not to mention the most primate among them, should find serious stock losses now when the Madhesis want the right to self-determination - something that they have been demanding for all ethnos? Is democracy still on their agenda? Or, it has disappeared the way the 'horns' of the jackals of Nepal disappear once they finish howling everyday after dusk. (Jackals do not have horns. But a small bunch of hair with horn emerges from their forehead when they howl facing downwards). Very funny.