Walk the talk
Walk the talk
What we are seeing now is another peace process, one that is as important as last year’s tripartite deal. The prime minister’s late night speech was an improvement on his last one, not least in terms of tone. The coming days will show if it is acceptable to not just the plains Nepalis but also the hill Nepalis. It is, finally, a step in the right direction.
Thirty-one people are dead in three weeks of protests. Life in some parts of the tarai is slowly recovering, but travellers remain stranded, there is an acute shortage of daily necessities. Schools, offices, factories, shops, and highways remain closed. The 7+1 parties only woke up to the crisis when the fuel shortage hit Kathmandu. This dilly-dallying has cost the country, but the crisis gives us the opportunity to treat and heal this wound.
The mass protests have been on the scale of an uprising, even though competing groups seem to be involved for their own interests. It is possible some are bent upon undermining the gains of the April Uprising. Many may be out in the streets just for the heck of it—nobody wants to be left out when they see history being made. But none of this should ever have detracted from the need to address a historical neglect.
The issues being raised by the different tarai groups are often incoherent or unclear. After Wednesday night’s speech, the tarai activists will have to be more inclusive. Some of their demands are common: the excesses of the administration and police must be accounted for and the guilty punished, the constituent assembly elections can’t be rigged, marginalised population groups must have an equal voice in national decision-making. For other marginalised groups, too, the credibility of the interim legislature and executive depends on how these are carried through.
These demands can’t be addressed to universal satisfaction in one go. But to put out the fire in the tarai and defuse a parallel janajati agitation, some steps need to be taken very soon.
• The interim constitution needs to be amended quickly to reflect the promised constituency re-delineation according to population and geography and open the door for the constituent assembly to design a federal structure for the country.
To prevent another cycle of violence we need concrete gestures that ensure a just future for all Nepalis.
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