Divisive politics

  • Social divisions could deepen if Amendment Bill doesn’t take Madhesi parties on board

Dec 21, 2015-

The major parties tabled the Constitution Amendment Bill in parliament last week. It will presumably be passed soon after discussions are held on it. However, the Madhes crisis, which it was meant to resolve, only seems to have increased in complexity. Madhesi leaders have remained staunchly opposed to the bill, stating that while it deals with two of their demands, it fails to resolve the crucial problem regarding the delineation of provinces. Anger towards the government has increased further in the Tarai and the Madhesi parties’ call for renewed agitation seems to have been heeded in various parts of the Tarai. In Birgunj and in Gaur, there have been several incidents where protestors have clashed with the police. Many people, including both protestors and police personnel, have been injured in these clashes.

The dispute between the Madhesi parties and the state has also led to increased hostility between social groups. The debacle surrounding President Bidya Bhandari’s visit to Janaki temple in Janakpur is a case in point. Madhesi protestors tried to obstruct her visit and even threw stones at her cavalcade. According to media reports, some Madhesi activists launched a ‘purification’ campaign of the temple after the visit, claiming that Bhandari, as a widow, had defiled it. Many opponents of the Madhesi movement have taken this as a sign that the protestors believe in a regressive, anti-women ideology. If it was indeed the case that the protestors decided to launch their campaign with the stated justification that Bhandari had polluted the premises because she is a widow, then this should be condemned. Such antediluvian thinking should have no place in contemporary society. But there are also claims from the Madhesi parties and civil society leaders that such an insulting remark was never made and a group of people are recycling the stories with the sole objective of maligning the Madhesi movement.   

At the same time, it should be recognised that the anger towards Bhandari was not just because she is a woman. Rather, protestors attacked her cavalcade because they perceive her as a member of the Kathmandu establishment, and especially as a member of the CPN-UML, the party that they perceive to stand against the demands and desires of the Madhesi people.

There is a strong possibility that political and social divisions will further increase in the days ahead if the Constitution Amendment Bill is passed without taking the Madhesi parties on board. We urge therefore that negotiations are urgently held to take these parties into confidence before passing the bill. The Nepali Congress recently held talks with some Madhesi leaders towards this end. But it is clear that this will not be sufficient. Members of the ruling coalition themselves need to be involved in talks. It may even be necessary to make some amendments to the bill, including by making some concessions regarding how provinces will be re-delineated. It is essential that genuine efforts be made in order to ensure that social and political relations do not deteriorate further. That only will resolve the crisis, not perfunctory call for talks.

Published: 21-12-2015 08:30

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