As the nation inches towards the constituent assembly (CA) elections, the Maoists have come up with their own set of demands — scrapping of the present constitution, dissolution of the parliament, an interim constitution and an

all-party government that will include the Maoists. But prior to all these demands, they want a national convention that will lay the groundwork for these processes. The convention will include delegates of different parties and organisations and representatives of civil society, among others.

It is important that the public gets to see the proceedings of the convention and perhaps even take part in it. Closed door meetings will not constitute “people’s participation” since it is well known that power is concentrated in the hands of a few no matter who is in the government. Televising convention proceedings will not only set precedence, it would also recognise the public as an integral part of the process. Transparency would act as a safety valve that guarantees the convention does not degenerate into some farcical event in which various groups fight to ensure their voice is heard while important issues are ignored.

However, differences may arise for many reasons. The seven-party alliance (SPA) has said that the present government and constitution can continue to serve in the transitional period. But with continuing Maoist pressure, will the government eventually relent? In the event that a transitional government if formed, will the SPA be able to maintain its leverage? On the other hand, will it be the Maoists who will be calling the shots? Will all parties participate on equal footing regardless of differences in size and popularity? If the present constitution is scrapped and a new interim one framed, will it only be a namesake constitution or will it serve as a blueprint and guiding document for the final constitution?

How will polls be held in Maoist -controlled areas? Will the Maoists allow an intimidation-free environment for voters? If these prerequisite are not met, holding free and fair elections is a far-fetched dream.

Will the CA be empowered to decide on the shape of final constitution? What would happen if the constitution-making process falls into the hands of a single majority party? The new constitution should be regulated and needs to work within the framework of constitutional norms.

There is an urgency among the stakeholders to start the process as soon as possible and come up with a final draft constitution soon. There is also a fear that the final constitution may be an outcome of manipulation and coercion, which will only benefit the adherents of a particular ideology. We need to bear in mind that the constitution we all desire should be the one that not only addresses the grievances of the people now, but also includes mechanisms that the nation can proudly bequeath down to many generations — with the sole pledge that people’s right to life, individual freedom and dignity will never be impinged upon.