Politicians, intellectuals, lawyers, artists, students and representatives of ethnic and indigenous communities discussed the constitution writing process, the federal system and ‘one Madhes one Pradesh’ in Janakpur last month.
Pace of constitution-writing
Rajeshwar Nepali (Janakpur Intellectual Society): Fewer than 10 per cent of CA members actually understand the process in which the constitution is being written. Even the nominees aren’t experts. If the leaders had good intentions the constitution would be written in three months. Instead, they’re dishonest. They were quick to declare the country secular but haven’t yet formed a state restructuring commission. In the Tarai, the ex-landlords and their relatives still want to enslave half the region’s population.
Shital Jha (UML): Learning from our past, the new constitution should address the possible socio-political issues that might be controversial. Conflict is inevitable if the freedom of language and recognition of languages of minorities are not addressed. There is no difference between the one language policy of the Panchayat system and those who argue Nepali should be the only official language in the country.
Raman Singh (Sadbhabana Mahato): The big parties are making mistakes and the small parties aren’t helping by complicating things. In 1980 our party called for a single Tarai province, but the big parties conspired against it.
Parameshwar Kapad (Mithila State Struggle Committee): Many have not been able to digest the issues being raised. Federalism requires negotiations. It should not be imposed. We have to have a big heart to reach an agreement and then we can make a new constitution.
Ramchandra Mandal (Maoist): There are oppressed and oppressors in our society and the oppressed are still struggling for their rights. It is normal to have conflict in the constitution-writing process in such a situation. If the oppressors corner the oppressed too much, the latter will have to take another road. But instead of renewing these conflicts, we should work together.
Brisheschandra Lal (TMLP): The dominant Khas has delayed the constitution-writing process to expand their influence. The writing process would be much faster if the CA and parliament were separate. The CA members’ focus is not on writing the constitution but on becoming minister.
Ram Saroj Yadav (NC): The different committees under the CA are working responsibly. It is true that leaders are engaged in making and breaking the government only. The country may go back to insurgency if the agendas of Janajatis, women and other backward communities are not addressed in the new constitution. These issues cannot be discussed within six months and that’s why people doubt whether the constitution will be written on time.
Reservation, privileges and inclusion
Habib Munsuri (Nepal Muslim Society): Reservations should be merit-based. We have seen that many of our CA members elected under reservations understand the issue and can actually express their opinion.
Surendra Labh (Rara Campus): Call it reservations or privilege, we need to establish an equal and just society. Only writing the constitution is not enough. There are many complications in its implementation. On what basis should we give reservations? Should it be based on caste, language, gender or region? We should reserve privileges for people because they’re poor, not because they’re Madhesis or women. We should make sure that reservations help the poor, unlike in India, where even the rich benefit.
Ramesh Ranjan Jha (Mithila Art Council): The truth is that only clever people benefit from reservations. There are high, middle and low class people within the Madhesi community. Among women, there is a wide gap between Madhesi and Dalit women. Even though the central government has provided reservations for Janajatis, women and Dalits, there is a majority of Pahadi people at policy and implementation level who only help their community.
Shambhu Thakur (Society of Backward Community): Backward community, Dalit and indigenous people from the Tarai should get reservation. We need reservation in military, politics, administration and education. The Tarai cannot move forward unless and until farmers get reservations.
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