Nepal proposes deal to amend constitution, Madhesis reject it as ‘drama’

  • Prashant Jha, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Dec 22, 2015 08:23 IST
Ethnic Madhesi protesters throw stones and bricks at Nepalese policemen in Birgunj, a town on the border with India, Nepal, Monday, Nov. 2, 2015. Madhesis have rejected the proposal by Nepal government to amend the Constitution to address two key demands of the agitating community. (AP)

In a day marked by hectic political activity in Kathmandu, Tarai and New Delhi, Nepal officially informed India about a cabinet resolution which outlines some steps to address the Tarai agitation. New Delhi welcomed the development and urged all sides to exercise flexibility. But the Madhesi parties - who have waged the movement at the root of the crisis - have rejected the proposal as a ‘drama’, as ‘hollow’ and lacking in substance.

The cabinet resolution is broadly a reiteration of the proposal Nepal’s foreign minister Kamal Thapa had brought to Delhi three weeks ago. It commits to the passage of two amendments - which would reintroduce the term ‘proportional inclusion’ in state organs, and ensure constituencies based on population - and proposes a political mechanism to deal with the revision of federal boundaries in three months.

From Kathmandu, Thapa informed Swaraj of the resolution, according to an official statement. He also met Madhesi leaders and handed over the text to them.

Read | Nepal to amend Constitution to address demands of Madhesis

The Madhesi leaders have categorically rejected the proposal. Former foreign minister Upendra Yadav told HT this was a ‘drama’; another leader, Rajendra Mahato said this was an old proposal which had no substance.

They had three critiques - the two amendments tabled in parliament do not reflect the language of the interim constitution, and do not ensure either half the constituencies will be in Tarai or inclusion according to population because of the increase in groups eligible for reservation benefits; there must be an ‘immediate commitment’ on the manner in which federal boundaries would be demarcated in Tarai as current proposal is too vague; and there is no commitment on citizenship.

India however ‘welcomed these developments’ as positive steps’ that helped ‘create the basis for a resolution of the current impasse’.

This is the first political initiative Delhi has welcomed in Nepal post the constitution. It also urged all Nepali forces to demonstrate necessary ‘flexibility and maturity’ - this is also significant for till now, India had placed the onus on the Nepal government to address the political problem. Addressing the issue of the supply crisis, India said ‘return to normalcy’ would create a ‘secure and predictable climate for unimpeded commerce’.

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