CA talks panel confers with Janajati leaders

  • Identity should be major basis for federating country: Nefin
- KAMAL DEV BHATTARAI, Kathmandu

Aug 18, 2014-

The Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (Nefin) on Monday said that identity should be a major basis for federating the country. Nefin asked major political parties to reach out to ethnic and indigenous constituencies and take them into confidence for the task of state restructuring to be outlined in the new constitution.

Representatives of the apex body of ethnic and indigenous communities expressed such opinion in a meeting called by the Political Dialogue and Consensus Committee of the Constituent Assembly. Besides the parties, the PDCC is holding consultations with other stakeholders on the disputed issues of the constitution drafting process.

They suggested that intensive discussions between parties and ethnic groups are key to moderate radical agendas that threaten to derail the constitution project. Ethnic leaders, in a meeting with the PDCC, said federalism would not be lasting unless the concerns of ethnic, oppressed and excluded communities are addressed. They cited examples of Switzerland and Norway to illustrate how the concerns of marginalised and excluded communities were incorporated in the constitution to cement national unity.

The issue of single-ethnic identity is the major bone of contention among the parties. Janajati leaders were of the view that identity-based federalism unites the country, rather than divide it.

Opposition forces, mainly the UCPN (Maoist) and Madhes-based parties, support the demands of ethnic communities, while the ruling Nepali Congress and CPN-UML oppose states carved along ethnic lines in favour of capability-based federalism.

In May 2012, ethnic communities and cross-party Janajati lawmakers took to the streets after major parties agreed to go for a mixed model while naming the federal states. NC and UML leaders interpret their victory in the second Constituent Assembly as people’s disapproval for single-ethnic identity-based federalism. The UCPN (Maoist) is reviewing the agenda though it has not changed its position yet. Nefin Chairman Nagendra Kumal said they are ready to cooperate in the constitution drafting process if their demands are addressed. The federation plans to hit the streets to voice its demands more loudly.

Nefin and the PDCC agreed to continue the dialogue to seek a solution on issues concerning federalism. “We presented our views that identity should be get priority while federating the country,” said Kumal, calling on the government to implement past agreements. PDCC chairman Baburam Bhattarai said the demands raised by the federation are legitimate and would be incorporated in the constitution draft.

Published: 19-08-2014 09:08

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