A basic lesson

After twelve days of disruption, the Constituent Assembly (cum Legislature-Parliament) resumed its business on Wednesday (July 9) after the Madhesi parties demanding One Madesh One Pradesh and the three biggest parties worked out a formula for introducing a supplementary bill to the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution Bill. The supplementary bill contains mention of ‘autonomous’ provinces for Madhesis and other communities and their participation in the Nepal Army based on ‘equality and inclusiveness’. However, the Madhesi parties boycotted the House over non-inclusion in the amendment bill of the exact wording used in the eight-point agreement between their joint front and Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala. At that time, the accord had been hailed mainly on the grounds that it cleared the last hurdle to the Constituent Assembly (CA) election. But it had been criticised for its ambiguous wording, for mention of ‘group entry’ of those communities into the NA, for its obvious neglect of the rights of the Adivasis and other marginalised communities in the Tarai who refuse to be lumped together under the terms ‘Madhes and Madhesis’, as well as for its procedural faults.

Now, its effects are being seen in rows over interpretation of certain terms and phrases used in the accord, as well as in the current agitation of the Adivasis, such as the Tharus, and other marginalised communities. The CA is the only forum where these and any other differences should be settled through free and open discussion and debate. That is why the Nepalis have fought long and hard for, and finally won, an elected CA. If consensus is not possible on any issue, the CA is to decide it by a two-thirds majority. But the spectacle of disrupting the proceedings of the House by gheraoing the rostrum and chanting slogans has struck at the very meaning and spirit of the CA. The disruption would not have been so ominous had it been short and symbolic.

Irrespective of which party may be involved in such a disruption — now or in future — it will be a mockery of the election and the people’s mandate and an assault on the dignity and function of the sovereign elected body to take it hostage and try to force it to decide against its free will or in ways that go against the basic pledges made by the majority of the CA members and their parties to the people during the election. Unless the political parties in the CA unite to remove the possibility of such obstructions by any party on any issue in future, the CA will be less than sovereign in practice and its decisions will not reflect the wishes of the people. However, if any party or group is not satisfied with the decisions of the CA, it should try to obtain a sufficient majority in the general election to amend the constitution next time, or in extreme cases, it has the option of taking to the streets. But frequent obstructions

of the House proceedings will also delay the constitution-making process, and all will suffer as a result. The Nepali political parties are not unaware of the universal democratic processes evolved so far. But they should learn to practise them — and now, by allowing the CA to act freely.