by Mr. Piya Ratna Maharjan, President of Track Nepal
May 5, 2018
The four major political parties of Nepal have proposed division of Nepal into six federal states. This decision has unruffled feathers of indigenous people and other political parties in Nepal. The daily news from Nepal is strife with reports of violent protests, protestors injured or even killed by Nepali security forces. Similarly, elected lawmakers from these dissident groups are boycotting the constituent assembly meetings. The political dissidents are proficient in voicing their disagreements via popular media. However, the general public is still unclear what the dissidents propose as an acceptable solution.
One of the most contentious issues is: Is the proposed demarcation of six federal states fair to everyone? This is a highly politically charged question because in order to ensure fairness, the six federal states would need to guarantee rights and privileges in a proportional manner to its residents. In order to maintain long-term stability, residents of these states need to feel unity among themselves.
Several indigenous groups have been demanding for a state that serves their interests. Madhesis, Tharus, Dalits, Limbuwans, Bahuns-Chhetris and others have staged multiple protests and full-fledged revolutions to demand a state with right to autonomous self-determination.
How can Nepal be divided into federal provinces that appeases various indigenous groups and lead the way to peace? One way to examine this question is to look at data on population of various ethnic groups in each of the states and determine if they will have a majority or not, based on proposed demarcation of federal states.
Based on census data of 2011, there are 131 different ethnic groups in Nepal. Clearly, Nepal cannot be divided into 131 states to grant one state per group. It would be wiser to have an open discussion on the number of optimum states. The charts below show the 20 major ethnic groups in Nepal, based on population.
Madhesi dispute in Nepal is a result of minority insecurity that has emerged after formation of new constitution in the country. The community inhibits Terai region and shares border with Northern Indian states. What started as some rational demands in a democratic country soon turned into agitation and blockade of essential commodities on borders.
India tried to resolve the matter by negotiation but some violent factors obstructured the peace process. And when situation became worse India demanded amendments in the constitution to secure the reasonable rights of minorities but went further when she suggested what amendments should be taken. This was seen as an interference in internal matters of a sovereign country. And was criticized as a big brother attitude.
Concerns of India were legitimate and were natural for a country who tries to include interests of all citizens but the channel that was adopted was not right. It proved costly for India itself when Nepal turned towards China for help that erstwhile were provided by India. And anti-India sentiments that were recorded in various parts of Nepal were setback to the prestige that India enjoys in hearts of Nepalese.
It was truly an interference in the matters of a sovereign nation and could have easily avoided. India should have follow the goals of her foreign policy where she pledges that sovereignty of every country would be respected. Haste in process aggravated the situation. India could have a facilitator for talk between government of Nepal and Madhesi group as both of them look positively towards India.
Relations are coming back on track again with visits of Nepali dignitaries to India. But still a lot of needs to be done to revive the same bond which has been a striking feature of our policy towards neighbor countries since a long time. Minority in India also need attention and government should turn towards their issues first. And India has to adopt that she is a big country not a big brother.
In this context HWPL DPCW’s 10 Articles is very idea for resolving the long lasting ethic and political stand in Nepal. A message from the Chairman of HWPL is very effective and applicable to resolve the ongoing dispute in Nepal.
While I am writing this article one of the Church was vandalized in Nepal to single out that we do have sporadic religious conflict in Nepal.
Spreading A Culture of Peace is the lasting path of Peace