The disruption, since Thursday, of the parliamentary proceedings caused mainly by three Tarai-based political parties is untenable. Their method of protest, their choice of forum and the timing have delayed the process of a constitutional amendment vital for electing the top executive and legislative posts of the country. They have said they will allow the Constituent Assembly (CA) to resume its business only when their four-month-old agreement with the government is incorporated into Interim Constitution (IC). One of their demands is the recognition of the entire Tarai as one federal ‘Madhes’ province. In the agreement, some vague wording had been used, however, with the stipulation that the CA would determine the number of states.
Other groups, including Adivasis of the Tarai,
have been quick to react by taking out rallies against the one Madhes idea. According to them, this
concept would invite communal conflicts in the
Tarai and threaten the country’s territorial
integrity. They have also said the demand is unjustified, as it seeks to establish a concept that is
embedded neither in Nepal’s history nor in its
geography — Tarai is the word that has traditionally been used to denote the long southernmost belt of the country, to distinguish it from the country’s mountainous and Himalayan regions. The Tharus have, for instance, lambasted this new idea on the grounds that it seeks to subjugate the identities of the Adivasis of the Tarai. The CA election outcome rejected the Madhes demand. The CPN-Maoist alone
won more seats in the Tarai than the Madhes parties all together. Yet another factor that stresses the
weakness of the demand is that at the time of Nepal’s unification, there were a number of small principalities in the Tarai — not one — with many stark differences among them.
The CA being the arbiter of all disputes means resolution of all issues by vote. By ignoring this democratic practice, the obstructing parties have behaved irresponsibly. If they were allowed to get their
way with this tactic, tomorrow other parties might well follow suit (there are 25 parties represented in the CA). The CA election and the people’s
electoral mandate would lose its meaning then. If the madness of this method is to continue, the CA will not be able to write a new constitution within two years. Moreover, any amendment to the IC at this juncture should include only the minimum changes necessary to remove constitutional obstacles; it should not include any issue that the CA is supposed to debate thoroughly before deciding on it. The CA has already voted for a federal set-up; that means there will be several autonomous states within it. This has also rendered the disruption indefensible. The three Tarai parties are free to agitate again if they desire so, but their obstruction of the vital parliamentary business cannot at all be supported. It is essential to ensure that, now and in future, no political party holds the sovereign elected body to ransom. Otherwise, the CA would prove to be a mere tool for the most vociferous lot, not a free forum for democratic discussion and decision.