Interview with Sarita Giri
Interview with Sarita Giri
Sarita Giri, 46, is among those who are lead by their conscience. If she had not been involved in politics her only mission would be to educate people. Although her education had to be ended with her entry into politics she believes that she has learnt a lot through politics. After her involvement in the popular movement of 1990 her association with Nepali Congress increased. As a result she sincerely got engaged in the activities of the party. But, in 1996 her political career took a turn.She was highly influenced by the Samajwadi Janata Dal, a political party established by the Late. Gajendra Narayan Singh. She says, “I joined the party after Gajjubabu gave the membership of the party to me.” Later both the Sadbhawana and Samajwadi parties amalgamated into Nepal Sadbhawana Party (Anandidevi) of which Giri is the Central Member at present. She was born in Champaran which is situated on the Nepal-India border and is also known to as old Nepal. Later she got married to a Nepali. She was the speaker of her party earlier and also member of the Janaandolan Working Committee. At present she is the chairman of Nepal Bharat Maitree Sangh and the Centre for Women and Politics. Here is an exclusive interview with Giri who strongly thinks that the Interim Constitution and Interim government is responsible for further delaying the Constituent assembly elections.
Q. Why are you so busy these days?Sarita Giri: It is only natural for a political cadre to be busy. Especially after the Janaandolan 2, new issues are arising that need attention. People involved in politics are even busier during a transitional phase. In addition to establishing peace, social, economic, and political issues are also in the process of institutionalisation. Even the issues related to women need attention. What are the women issues?
Giri: It’s not that we have been raising the issues related to women only recently. The contribution that women have made in making the Janaandolan 2 a success cannot be ignored. The challenge now is how to rightfully utilize the capabilities of women for good governance.
Q. Women like you who are involved in politics have an additional responsibility of raising issues related to women, besides the issues of their respective parties?
Giri: Yes, I joined politics for political independence. But, it is also my duty to define independence and democracy from a woman’s point of view. It is a challenge for us to recognize how democracy is being understood by us and by others? In a country like Nepal where the status of women is still very low, it is difficult to fight for our rights.
Q. Let’s talk about the reservation given to women. Which level of women is it meant for?
Giri: It is not a question of level and rank. For the time being, we must follow the state’s policy, which seeks one-third women involvement in every sector. But our ultimate goal is to create a proportionate society.
Q. Will the situation be any different for the common Nepali women if only those women who are capable and have already got opportunity get to benefit from the reservation?
Giri: I do not agree with this question. At present, isn’t it that the men who are the policy makers represent the educated, intellectual and middle-class society? Why are no questions raised against them? Educated and capable women will definitely get opportunities. But, the very same parties who once hesitated to give women 5% reservation will be compelled to give them a 1/3 reservation. This will give a chance to the women who have the calibre but have been deprived of the opportunity. But serious consideration needs to be given to those women who are less capable and have been deprived of any opportunity so far.
Q. Is the government right in addressing women along with the Dalit, nationalities, and disabled people?
Giri: How could it be right? In fact, I think there should be special reservations for the Dalit and disabled women.
Q. In the interim legislature to be formed soon, Nepal Sadbhawana Party will probably get 3 seats. How many women will be included?
Giri: At least one has to be included. In my opinion, Anandidevi should be given the seat because of her contribution to the party.
Q. Let’s change the topic. What do you think of the interim constitution?
Giri: I disagree with the preamble itself. Why is the government reluctant in saying ‘Janaandolan-2, 063 saal’ (April Movement, 2006)? Is the country still waiting for another political revolution? Also, there is no clear roadmap for the restructuring of the state. It’s wrong if someone understands the institution named the Prime Minister as Girija Prasad Koirala. In the interim constitution, the prime minister has been endowed with excessive power; this needs to be changed. We may not expect Girija Babu to misuse this power but there is no guarantee that another PM will not abuse these powers.
Q. What is your party’s stand on this?
Giri: Our party’s central committee has been meeting regularly to discuss these issues. So the party’s stand will be declared soon. But, a political science student can confidently say that a prime minister who is not answerable to the Constituent Assembly is no less dangerous than the king in the past days. The king’s autocracy was a result of the faults in the 1990 Constitution. Are we now ending one tyrant’s rule and giving rise to another one’s? If the Constituent Assembly elections are not held in future, do we lack the right to approach a court?
Q. Could it be that the power and status acquired by the Maoists has incited the Jantantrik Terai Mukti Morcha (JTMM)?
Giri: A person who has understood the politics of 2007 BS will surely not talk like that. The Terai Congress was formed in 2008 BS. I have just returned from a tour of Terai villages. I also talked with some local JTMM leaders. They were of the opinion that in the decade-long Maoist rebbelion, many Madhesis (people of Terai origin) lost their lives. They accused the Pahadi (hilly) people of using the arms which they had toiled hard to make and collect. A better person to answer this question would be Prachandaji (Maoist chairman). The Maoist party which approved the five development regions of the “old state” has not given Matrikaji (Maoist leader Matrika Yadav) a respectable place. Even during the recent bandhas people shouted slogans like ‘Desi Murdabad’. They said those people who shouted such slogans were given protection by the administration. As long as the people of Terai origin do not have access to the security bodies, this kind of discrimination will continue.
Q. So are you saying that the politics of bandhs is okay?
Giri: We demand that the country adopt a proportional representation system. Though the interim constitution has ended the unitary system in the country, it is very obvious that Madhesis are raising their voices because there has been no mention of a federal government system in the guidelines for state restructuring. The government has also ignored the fact that the electoral constituencies should be based on population. Under such circumstances, a bandh is acceptable. But, the right way to do it would have been to give an ultimatum beforehand. There have been some mistakes in this regard.
Q. If you people carry on in this manner don’t you think the country will disintegrate?
Giri: How is that possible? In a politics of identity, it is proper to demand your rights. Isn’t the betterment of the Terai people good for Nepal as a whole? The government collects 77% of its revenues from the Terai, but only 18% of the development budget is allocated to the region. If the state benefits most from it why not invest in it? I can only say that the centralised politics has lead to the exploitation of the Terai. This has to improve. And again, even the hilly people who have migrated to the Terai would also benefit. The government is expected to be aware of this fact.
Q. On the one hand you remain in the government and claim your share, on the other you put forward endless demands to the same government. What kind of politics is this?
Giri: Yes, I agree to a certain extent with you. Sadbhawana has never indulged in racial politics. It is our political religion to take care of the betterment of the entire Terai region. From a developmental point of view if we are concerned about them why is the government scared? As far as our participation in the government is concerned, the party’s Central Committee meeting will bring forth a concrete decision.
Q. Earlier, you people used to talk about citizenship. Now with that demand fulfilled, you have put forward another one?
Giri: We welcome the passing of the Citizenship Bill. We gave priority to the cause of around 4 hundred thousand people who were without citizenship. If citizenship was to be given then why has the government become serious about it only now? Even in this politics has been played. If 4 hundred thousand people had citizenships before the former elections then I’m sure the results would have been different.Isn’t it true that feminists complain that the citizenship is not practical from a feminine point of view?
No matter how strongly I condemn this it will not be sufficient. Can a woman be asked to give up her citizenship just because she gets married to a person from another country? How can you compare getting married or liking someone to getting a citizenship? What kind of a nationality is this? Don’t the policy makers of Nepal know that once you have expressed your consent to international protocol the citizen of that country can acquire rights according to international laws? In future any woman can go to a court of justice if she is discriminated under any grounds. Why hasn’t the government being paying attention to this?
Entry filed under: Articles.