Constitution making : Issues that cannot be avoided

While we discuss a new constitution in the constituent assembly, it does not imply that the country has no constitution at present. Rather, our efforts are aimed at drafting a constitution backed by sovereign power of the people, and through their representatives. In the country’s history, no constitution has made people fully sovereign. So a new constitution via constituent assembly was a major demand of the conflict period. Fifteen thousand lives were lost in the process. We in the CA are going to make a new constitution and take the peace process to its logical end.

We are in a period of transition. Election of CA, abolition of monarchy, establishing republic, state restructuring, inclusive democracy with the ultimate aim of solving the knotty problems of nationality, regions, gender and class were the main objectives of the 2006 April Uprising.

Another important task is restructuring of state by focusing on socio-economic transformation. Absence of visionary political leadership has been the main reason behind most of the country’s ills. But, thankfully, CA polls have thrown up some visionary leaders. Nepal’s peace process is unique, unlike that of any other country.

For real transformation in Nepal, we will have to think about addressing the root causes of Maoist conflict. If explored, socio-economic disparities and injustice will emerge as major causes. If we want a logical end to peace process, we have to transform the present socio-economic situation based on feudal culture. Elimination of all forms of feudalism will be at the heart of socio-economic transformation.

We have the traditional Nepal Army, which was strengthened in the conflict period, and the PLA. The only effective solution is integration of the two armies. Standardisation and professionalisation of both the armies is essential, without which further conflict cannot be ruled out. The 12-point agreement, Comprehensive Peace Accord and Interim Constitution as well as the later seven-point accord already provide a modality for integration.

Conflict was not caused by a single person or institution; its genesis has many reasons. Most probably it was the need of a particular time and situation, the result of colossal tussles between conflicting philosophical, ideological and political stances.

It was the Maoist rebellion which started the process of ending exploitation, injustice and disparities. The same task can now be fulfilled by writing a new constitution. If we fail to write a new, truly inclusive constitution, conflict may arise in some other

form in the near future. The constitution will be the document to ensure fundamental rights, social-cultural and economic justice, besides ensuring the realisation of pro-people aspirations.

Economic development through self-reliance and independence, guarantee of education, health and employment for all is another aspect of the constitution. Good governance, rapid economic growth, harnessing natural resources will also be essential to improving the social status of common people.

Balanced foreign policy, creation of responsible and responsive state, state restructuring and crafting an effective federal set-up through addressing of problems of class, nationality, gender and regions is the most important task. Eradication of all forms of feudalism, implementation of revolutionary and scientific land reform programme — all these aspects need to be addressed in the new constitution. Following which, integration of Nepal Army and PLA and socio-economic transformation could begin in earnest.

Now we are in the twenty-first century. The country has witnessed a decade-long conflict, and Nepalis are now using every available option to find the ultimate solution through negotiations, which is practical too. We cannot undermine the importance of the history of conflict and other irregularities that brought it about. Neither can Nepalis fail to learn hard lessons from the lack of vision and inefficiency of political leadership. After all, not much time has passed since the declaration of bilateral ceasefire early in 2006.

We have had plenty of experiences of conflict and some of conflict transformation. Now is the appropriate time to take the country forward on the path of peace and prosperity. Prejudiced minds will achieve nothing. So let us start facing the facts and tackling them rather than brushing them under the carpet in the name of creating harmony.

Let us remember the sacrifices of martyrs, the wounded and the disappeared people. Let us not forget the privileges most of us are enjoying are thanks to the sacrifices of these people. Let us try to understand that the country’s future depends on building up harmonious and equitable relationship between the haves and the have-nots, the marginalised and the mainstream.

Devkota, an advocate, is a Maoist CA member