New statute to ensure rights of minorities

KATHMANDU: Minorities and marginalised groups' rights will be taken care of in the new constitution. The previous constitutions, including the one promulgated in 1990, had mentioned nothing special about the rights of these communities.

A 15-member panel formed to study reports of all the thematic committees of the Constituent Assembly, led by CA member Agni Kharel, today submitted its revised report on the Committee on Protection of the Rights of Minorities and Marginalised Communities to CA chairman Subas Chandra Nembang.

The report on the minority and marginalised groups would be tabled in the CA full House for its approval on Tuesday. It would be sent to the Constitutional Committee for further consideration.

Sources said the Kharel panel had revised the definition of the minorities and marginalised communities, their constitutional provision and a suitable mechanism to implement their rights guaranteed by the new constitution.

The revised definition on minorities states that a community having less population than the percentage set by law, having distinct ethnic, linguistic and religious identity and having a desire to preserve such identities will be recognised as a minority group.

The marginalised communities are those groups of people who have been left far behind from political, economic and social point of view, the group of people who were suppressed or discriminated against, the community which is deprived of basic services and facilities due to geographic remoteness and, others whose Human Development Index (HDI) is below the standard set by law.

The definition of the marginalised community will be equally applicable to the highly-marginalised and the communities on the verge of extinction. The Rautes and the Kusundas, for example, are highly-marginalised groups, both of who are on the verge of extinction.

The Kharel panel has suggested creating a mechanism in one of the six new constitutional bodies to monitor the existing status of the minorities and marginalised communities.

The mechanism will keep updated records of their population and HDI, based on which the state will formulate policies and implement them.

The panel has identified their rights to be guaranteed by the new constitution. Its report states that the minorities will enjoy the rights to participate in the policy-making body affecting their interests.

The minorities will have the right to preserve their cultural heritage, traditional knowledge and skill and right to preserve language as well as right to claim their land and natural resources. They will also enjoy the right to information in their mother tongue.

Likewise, the marginalised community will have the right to proportional representation in all the structures of the State. The community will be given reservation in public service and special rights on education, health and social security. The marginalised community is also entitled to rights on its land and natural resources, which it has been using traditionally. It is expected that the CA full House will give its approval.