Madhesi parties in Nepal have rejected the first amendment to the country’s constitution passed on Saturday night in a bid to address their demands and end the ongoing crisis.
Nepal’s parliament passed the amendment bill — four months after the statute was promulgated — amidst sloganeering by lawmakers from Madhesi parties, who abstained from the voting.
“The amendment proposal was passed forcibly despite our opposition. We reject the changes and will continue with our protests,” Upendra Yadav, chairman of the Federal Socialist Forum-Nepal (FSF-N) told HT.
Yadav’s FSF-N is one of the four Madhesi parties comprising the United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF), which has been protesting against the statute seeking equal rights for people from the Terai region bordering India.
Saturday’s vote amended two articles in the constitution related to proportional inclusion of backward communities in state bodies and fresh delimitation to increase number of constituencies in Terai.
The amendment decreased ethnic clusters from 17 to 15, ensured population will be the primary basis (geography being secondary) for delimitation, and at least one constituency for each district in the country.
With the amendment, there will be 79-80 representatives from Terai in parliament and 85-86 from the hill and mountain regions.
Earlier in the day, five parties — four from the ruling coalition and opposition Nepali Congress — had agreed to go ahead with voting on the amendment bill despite any breakthrough in talks with UMDF.
“First they brought the constitution without taking us on board. Instead of correcting that mistake they committed a new one by amending the statute without addressing our demands,” said Yadav.
Madhesi parties are seeking a package deal on their 11-point demands with fresh demarcation of federal boundaries and proportional representation for Madhesis in all state organs being prominent ones.
Yadav said blockade on the key border point with India at Birganj, which has remained closed since September, will continue.