Protests Flaring Over Amendment Bill

Uttam Maharjan

 

The government has presented the amendment bill to the Legislature-Parliament for the sake of appeasing the Madhesi parties. Since the registration of the bill, protests have erupted in various parts of the country. One of the interesting parts of the protests is that even the leaders of the ruling coalition are leading the protests and the Madhesi parties, for whose demands the amendment bill tries to fulfill, are also up in arms against the bill.

The opposition parties are all against the bill. The main opposition party, the CPN-UML, has expressly said that it will foil the passage of the bill at any cost. On the other hand, the ruling parties are saying that they will bring both the Madhes-based parties and other parties on board and have the bill endorsed.

 

Angry locals

The bill is aimed at amending some provisions of the constitution like re-drawing of provincial borders, citizenship, language, representation in the Upper House and constitution of the Federal Commission for resolution of demarcation issues. In the name of re-demarcating the provincial borders, it is proposed that the hilly districts located in province No. 5 be sliced off and added to province No. 4. This has angered the locals and as such they are out in the streets, demanding that the hilly districts not be separated from province No. 5. The protests have flared up so much so that they have also spread to Kathmandu.

The constitution of Nepal was promulgated last year. It is yet to be implemented. But it has already been amended to pacify the Madhesi parties. But the Madhesi parties are not happy with this amendment. So this time around, the amendment bill has been put to the Legislature-Parliament. Even this has not been able to convince the Madhesi parties.

The ruling coalition, the CPN-Maoist Centre and the Nepali Congress, is hell-bent on having the bill endorsed at any cost. But as the CPN-UML is diametrically against the bill, the chance of the bill getting endorsed by a two-thirds majority is very slim.

It seems the ruling coalition has stirred up a hornet’s nest. The people are in favouring of keeping the districts of the country intact. That is why, they have been fired with rage when the amendment bill sought to slice some hilly districts off province No. 5 and merge them with province No. 4. Till now, there has been harmony among the Himalayan, hilly and Terai people. The amendment bill seems to roil this perpetually-remaining harmony by bringing about ethnic conflicts.

The Madhesi parties are also clamouring for adding to the Terai three districts in the east: Jhapa,  Morang and Sunsari and two districts in the west: Kailali and Kanchanpur. The ulterior motive of the Madhesi parties is to make the Terai even more prosperous by slicing off these hilly districts and ultimately maintain hegemony over the Terai.

It seems the political parties in the country have a proclivity for creating provinces without scrutiniaing the concept of balanced development and changing the boundaries to pacify a certain section of people. It should dawn on them that the Himalayan, hilly and Terai regions are not at the same level of development. So it would be prudent to demarcate the provinces scientifically so that lopsided development can be rooted out.

But the seven-province model with two provinces in the Terai has already been formed. This model does not, however, commend itself to the Madhesi parties. They are trying to merge some hilly districts with the Terai. Viewed thus, their motives are suspicious. In a sense, they are gunning for disintegrating the country in due course for their self-interests at the cost of the whole country. One of the Madhesi leaders has defiantly said that if the government fails to fulfill their demands, they may declare the Terai a separate nation. This goes on to show, without an iota of doubt, the ultimate desire of the Madhesi parties.

The violence that has grown out of the proposed amendment bill in some parts of the country is not a trivial thing. This has shown that the people are in favour of topographical cohesion. So it would be foolhardy to tinker with the boundaries of the districts as they have identified themselves with the districts.

 

Public sentiment

On the one hand, the constitution of Nepal says that the people are sovereign, while on the other the government tries to play havoc with this inalienable right. Before amending the boundaries of the provinces, the government should have taken into account the sentiments of the concerned people. It would be against the sentiments of the people to re-draw the boundaries of the provinces as they like just to pacify a certain group of people.  

Further, it is bizarre that the constitution is undergoing major amendments before it is implemented. However, at this juncture the Madhesi parties cannot be appeased without making some amendments to the constitution. So the government should hold serious negotiations with the Madhesi parties as well as the main opposition party, the CPN-UML, and make amendments to the constitution so as to fulfill only the genuine demands of the Madhesi parties. After all, the proposed amendments should not be just like a sop to Cerberus.   

 

 

 

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