Consequence Of Appeasement
Dr. Narad Bharadwaj
The un-believably rigid stance of the Madhes-based political parties on the issue of constitutional amendment and the inordinate delay from the ruling coalition in declaring the election date risk leading the country to the vortex of political and constitutional crisis. With each day passing in indecision, the country is paying a very high price in terms of prolonged instability and chaos.
The ruling coalition is spending precious hours and days in appeasing the Madhes-based parties vainly hoping that these forces would relinquish their uncompromising position on constitution amendment bill and accept the agenda of election.
The country’s political transition has been caught in the present predicament because of the wrong decision of the ruling coalition to move the Constitutional Amendment Bill though it was aware of a very unfavourable power equation in the parliament. The government’s decision to move the bill forcibly without trying to forge consensus among major stakeholders was the main reason for the present state of stalemate.
The closed headed policy of the ruling coalition left the opposition block with no other way than blocking the parliamentary proceedings for over one month which was the most critical time span for resolving thorny issues lying on the way of implementation of the constitution. But the ruling party leaders squandered the precious time boasting that they would muster two-thirds majority in spite of the fact that more than 200 opposition parliamentarians had been against the bill.
The result was not far away for everyone to see. The coalition government had to incur a massive unpopularity because of its insistence on endorsing the amendment of the constitution which proposes the creation of, among other things, two provinces entirely consisting of Terai. This meant separation of hill from the Terai, weakening national integration and legitimising the diabolical concept of dual nationalism. This proposition has never gone down well with the majority population of both the hills and the Terai.
The proposal for the separation of hill from Terai has come only at the insistence of leaders of the fringe Madesh-based political parties and some external powers which are bent upon enervating, fragmenting and disintegrating the Nepalese society by setting ethnicity at each other’s throat, driving wedges among regions, disparaging the value of diversity and creating fissiparous clusters of ethnic groups in the name of identity-based federalism.
These forces had managed to infiltrate their pernicious agenda at the time of political transformation from authoritarianism to democracy when few Nepalese had time to think about the implication of ethnic and regional identity-based political mobilisation for the cohesion of the society.
The ruling political coalition appears blissfully incognizant of the fact that they are toiling hard to do what is not going to satisfy the Madhesi leaders. The ruling coalition has failed to internalise that the amendment of the constitution, which they have not even own so far, is not what they want. They had boycotted the Constituent Assembly when the constitution was about to be promulgated and they burnt down its copies when it finally saw the light of the day. They want either its total annulment or amendment at over 50 places as one of its prominent leader Hridayes Tripathi has spoken about umpteenth of time.
It is strange to note that the ruling coalition trains its ear to hear the murmurings for identity-based restructuring being amplified in the echo chambers of Madhesi elite society, but fails to notice the voice of the vast majority of the Nepalese people reverberating across the dales and valleys of Nepal’s territory.
The ruling coalition also does not appear to have coolly calculated the real situation that exists in the parliament. For lack of clear two-thirds majority with the ruling party and a well-knitted opposition movement being built against the effort of constitution amendment, there is very slim possibility of garnering two-thirds majority without sacrificing entire principles, values and morality of democracy at the altar of power.
Even if the bill is endorsed in the most unlikely scenario, the Madhes-based forces will find some issues to pick holes about to maintain a perpetual situation of unrest in the Terai. It is because what they actually want in Terai is not ethnic and racial harmony, proportional representation, equal economic opportunity, equity, justice and modernisation of Terai.
The Madhesi Front leaders are insisting that there will be no election if the constitution is not endorsed. They are saying this because they are pretty sure that the bill will not be endorsed until and unless the ruling coalition engages in egregiously immoral act of horse trading and securing floor crossing by the opposition parliamentarians, which seems unlikely in view of the political maturity of the opposition camp.
The present day psychology of the Madhesi elites appears to have emanated from rather inglorious historical records they have inherited. Their ancestors had not fought for the national unification, but had collaborated with the British. One Madhesi intellectual has admitted this in one of his most recent articles published in the Nagarik Daily on 27 January. He says, “The Madhesis had helped the British considering them as real benefactors, but their trust proved false in the long run. With their utility diminished for the British the Madhesis were again handed back to the Gorkhalis.”
This shows that a section of Madhesi intellectuals are still living in a deep contrition of not being left to be a part of British India and for whom Nepali nationalism has been like a bed of thorns.
After reading this, one need not go any farther to prove that the Madhes-based forces have been taking the ruling coalition for a ride through a labyrinth political treachery. Ostensibly, they want amendment of the constitution, restructuring of federal borders and more Madhes friendly representation in the National Assembly. But in reality, they have an ungainly objective of disintegrating the Nepali nationhood by righting the wrong done by the British in giving back the territory of Terai to Nepal for helping it in quelling Mutiny of 1857.
This is why the Madhes agitation does not have any demands relating to development of Madhes, prosperity of the Madhesi society, harmonisation of the Madhesi and Pahadi cultures and special provisions for the education and empowerment of Madhesi women, reservation or special rights to the downtrodden and strong legislation against criminal practices such as untouchability, dowry, witchcraft and child marriage which are rampant in the Madhesi society.
In view of the above, it is not difficult to see that the demand for two provincial states consisting entirely of the flatland of Terai without linking them with hills carries a design to deprive the hill people of fertile grain basket and forfeit the people of Terai of the natural bounties that abound in the hills forming an inalienable eco-system and a cycle of sustainable life in both the mountains and the Terai.
War of attrition
The general tenor of political mobilisation in the Terai indicates that agitating Madhesi Front does not expect to gain any advantage through reforms initiatives or constitutional amendment. It wants to engage Kathmandu in a war of attrition to keep alive their agenda of national disintegration. Their main thrust is to create chaos in the Terai while waiting for the subjective conditions to become mature for ripping apart the fabric of unified national existence of Nepal. It is, therefore, foolish to fritter away precious time and strength in appeasing those whose heart festers with national hatred, treachery and betrayal.