Kathmandu, September 4

Nepali Congress leader Shekhar Koirala today said the country might see ethnic and religious conflict if leaders do not halt the ongoing constitution-making process to address the concerns of agitating parties before 5:00 pm tomorrow.

Suspending the constitution-making process or adopting a go-slow policy could be the initial steps towards preventing the country from a disaster. Withdrawal of Nepali Army mobilized in the riot-hit areas and release of arrested protesters would help create an environment to bring the agitating parties to the negotiation table, he said.

“Agitating communities, mainly Madhesis, Magars and Tharus, are not demanding separate provinces. They want their issues of identity to be addressed. It can be ensured by creating clusters of dominant communities and terming them special protected zones,” Koirala said, adding that he had reached this conclusion after holding discussions with the Madhesi, Tharu and indigenous CA members of NC.

“Newar, Rai, Limbu, Tamang, and other castes have not demanded separate provinces as their clusters are addressed in the seven-province model. However, Magar and Tharu communities, which have third and fourth largest population, claim they have been left out. So their demands can be addressed by creating special protected zones,” he said.

He maintained that the leaders ought to follow some formula to prevent any untoward situation. Suspending the CA process for 20-30 days, forming a talks team for the withdrawal of NA from riot-hit areas, forming a state restructuring commission and mandating it to draw provincial boundaries on the basis of identity and capacity could be some of the preventive measures.

The demands of indigenous communities, Muslims, and labourers scattered across the country can be addressed by forming separate commissions for them, he said.

“NC leaders are more concerned about promulgating the new constitution, but they have undermined some serious questions. What will happen if there is ethnic and religious conflict in the country? Does the country have the capacity to control it? Where will the Unified CPN-Maoist stand ?” said Koirala.

If the process was not suspended to bring the agitating parties into confidence, CA will enter into a tunnel of uncertainty. “There may be darkness or light at the end of the tunnel when we emerge out with the new constitution,” Koirala said talking to THT.