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Nepal civil society leaders seek India’s democratic influence

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New Delhi: Warning that there is every possibility of the ongoing agitation in Nepal over the newly adopted constitution spilling over into India, a group of visiting civil society leaders from the Himalayan nation has sought India’s “democratic influence” to resolve the crisis.

“The continuous disturbances in the Terai region has a political and socio-economic impact in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal,” former Nepalese ambassador to Denmark Vijay K. Karna told journalists here.

“The second impact is that the continuation of the agitation for such a long period may make our young people go for a separatist movement, militancy, which will lead to more killings, disturbances,” he said, adding that he did not want what happened in Sri Lanka to happen in Nepal.

Over 50 people have been killed in the now more than five-month-old anti-constitutional protest by Madhesis in the southern Nepali Terai.

Most of the 41 transit and customs points along the southern portion of this open border with India have been besieged by the Madhesi protestors who are demanding, among other things, a redrawing of the boundaries of the provinces in Nepal as proposed in the new Constitution — promulgated on September 20 last year — and representation in parliament on the basis of population.

“Long-term disturbances will lead to migration of people to India for security,” Karna said

Stating that they did not want India to get involved as in the case of Sri Lanka, Karna, however, sought India’s democratic influence to end the impasse.

“India has been facilitating our democratic process for a long time. We never considered it as an intervention,” Karna said.

“We are expecting the government of India to use its democratic influence because your border is also being disturbed.”

Unnerved by the prolonged Madhesi agitation, the ruling major-Left coalition as also the main opposition Nepali Congress last week approved two amendments to the four-month-old Constitution partly meeting the demands of the protestors.

However, the Madhesi Morcha spearheading the agitation on Monday rejected the amendments to the statute and announced a fresh agitation programme besides calling for a broader alliance among all forces in the Terai-Madhes region.

“This amendment is a farce,” Karna said.

“This has nothing to do with addressing the issues of representation and inclusion of the marginalised communities of Nepal. Actually it has again cheated the people. Without consulting the agitating political forces, they have done it on their own,” he said.

Dipendra Jha, a constitutional lawyer working in Nepal’s supreme court, said that the very fact that amendments have been made show that the political parties have accepted that there was a flaw in the new constitution, which they at one time claimed to be the best in the world.

“One was on reservation policy which we call inclusion in the state structure and another was on electoral system,” he explained.

“In the first amendment, they have definitely included the ‘proportional’ term but they continued with the term ‘reservation’ for Brahmins, Khas Arya Brahmins. It is against the principle of reservation to give reservation to the Khas Aryas. They coined the term ‘economically weaker Khas Arya’ which is actually economically weaker Brahmin,” Jha said.

“So, worldwide if you look at the principle of reservation, nowhere can you find that reservation is given for the ruling class or the Brahmins. It is for the scheduled caste, scheduled tribe, OBC, Dalits. So that is against the principle of reservation.”

The second issue, Jha said, was the electoral system.

“In the electoral system, you have to understand that the recent amendment has not been able to recognise our aspirations. Definitely they have accepted that population would be the main basis but they have continued with the term geography as the second basis,” he said.

“So, what we questioned was how are you going to define geography and population ratio?”

Then again, Jha said, the constitution says that there should be one seat in one district.

“Our concern is that there are 55 districts in the hill areas and only 20 districts in the Terai. The population is higher in the Terai but from the geographic point of view, there are only 20 districts in Terai. So, that would automatically affect our representation in the legislature,” he said.

The visiting group of civil society leaders, which also includes Daman Nath Dhunguna, former speaker of the Nepal parliament, Tula Narayan Shah, a Madhesi activist, Shankar Limbu, a lawyer working for tribal rights, and Krishna Choudhury, a journalist, have met leaders of the BJP and the Congress as also Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar among others seeking their support.

PTI

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