After 10 rounds of negotiations, the Interim Government and Janajati organisations on Tuesday struck a 20-point deal, meeting the latter’s key demand for representation of the 59 scheduled Janajati groups in the Constituent Assembly (CA). They have now agreed to concentrate on the CA elections. Accordingly, even in the first-past-the-post (FPtP) part of the CA polls, all those groups will have to feature in the roster of candidates of the political parties. However, if any community is left out even after the FPtP and proportional representation elections, one member from such a community will be inducted. Regarding federalism, a state restructuring commission will be formed to submit suggestions to the

CA for carving out federal states based on ethnicity, language, geographical region, economic reality, and cultural characteristics. The deal also provides for a task force to ensure their proportional participation at all levels of political parties and all organs of the state.

The agreement marks an encouraging development. Minimum participation of the recognised Janajati groups in the polls will certainly help make the CA inclusive. The Janajati groups, however, had to drop their demand for elections on a fully proportional representation system. Minister for peace and reconstruction Ram Chandra Poudel, who headed the government’s negotiating team, described the agreement as ‘ice-break’ and Dr Om Gurung of the Janajati dialogue team termed it ‘historic’. However, these Janajati negotiators do not represent all Janajati groups agitating for their various demands. Yesterday, another Janajati organisation staged a ‘Singhadurbar Gherao Programme’ and a number of protesters were arrested in the process. Other Janajati outfits have organised an indefinite bandh in the eastern part of the country, affecting 16 districts. They are demanding separate Limbuwan and Khumbuwan states within the federal structure.

The need is there to talk to these groups also. The same thing applies to various groups in the Tarai, including the Chure Bhavar agitators. The government has held talks with the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (MJF), which has been changing or adding demands. However, the MJF and the government have agreed on a number of points, but still more remains to be done. Recently, the talks were suspended indefinitely. There is no guarantee either that an agreement with the MJF would bring peace to various Tarai districts. Because of Indian connection with and influence on Tarai groups, certain politicians (e.g. Surya Bahadur Thapa) see the need for an Indian role in resolving the disturbances in the Tarai, and others the need to tell New Delhi to help cut off any supply lines or links various (armed) groups in the Tarai may have with elements in India. But the fundamental issue is that any solution should be non-discriminatory to any Nepali citizen, his or her right to travel or reside anywhere in the country, and with full respect for Nepal’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.