Morcha ‘open’ to new proposal on federalism

- ROSHAN SEDHAI, Kathmandu

Nov 17, 2015-

Madhes-centric parties have said that they are flexible to consider other alternatives on federalism offered by major parties, even as a revised federal model with two provinces in the plains remains their bottom line.

One of the options could be settling the boundary issue by splitting the disputed districts of the east and west between hills and plain provinces, according to Madhesi leaders engaged in the negotiations.  

During a meeting with three major parties on Sunday, Samyukta Loktantrik Madhesi Morcha had put forward the State Restructuring Commission (SRC) report as its bottom line for state delineation. The report prepared by Madan Pariyar-led panel recommends 11 provinces with two autonomous provinces in the plains.

“Two provinces in Tarai Madhes is our bottom line, but we are ready to be flexible. But the major parties must make their views public first before going into the details,” said Hridayesh Tripathi, Vice Chairman of Tarai Madhes Loktantrik Party, one of the constituents of Morcha.

Madhesi leaders said that they are even willing to resolve the demarcation row by splitting disputed districts—Jhapa, Morang, Sunsari, Kailali, Kanchanpur, Nawalparasi—between hill and Tarai provinces. They said that Madhesi dominant areas of these districts should be kept with Tarai provinces while integrating the remaining areas into hill provinces. Till now, Morcha has demanded extension of Madhes province up to Jhapa in the East and formation of a separate Tharuhat state from Nawalparasi to Kanchanpur in the West. Morcha interlocutors have insisted on settling the boundary row through a political agreement. They said that there should be a political understanding on at least a rough sketch of federal map for the protest to stop and ask the federal commission to work on details.

Major parties have expressed readiness to rework on boundaries but have asked the agitating parties to first withdraw the protest at border entry points.

Some Madhesi leaders have said that they are also ready to discuss other alternatives to resolve the crisis.

Ashok Rai, senior leader of Sanghiya Samajbadi Forum Nepal, said that some Madhesi parties have expressed readiness even to keep parts of districts like Udayapur, Sindhuli and Makawanpur that are in the Chure region and inner Madhes with the consent of its constituents.

“We have been telling that there should be some criteria to federate provinces. You cannot form eight provinces one day and six provinces next day. Everything is subject to negotiations, but the major parties must come up with a clear view,” said Rai.

Some Madhesi leaders said that there could be a compromise even in the number once the negotiation process starts.

Bijay Kumar Gachhadar-led Madhesi Janadhikar Forum-Loktantrik and Tharu protesters have been demanding eight-province federal model with three provinces in the plains. Tharu groups have demanded three provinces in the Tarai, including autonomous Tharuhat state in the West and Birat/Kochila province in the east.

“Our party is ready to agree on anything that addresses the concerns of Tharu and Madhes,” said Ram Janam Chaudhary, Minister for Health and Population, also a Tharu leader of MJF-L.

Solicit public views before demarcation: Mahat

Nepali Congress leader Ram Sharan Mahat has said that change in demarcation of federal units could take place only after soliciting the views of people. Speaking at a programme organised by Reporter’s Club on Monday, Mahat said the people in the concerned districts should be asked before deciding on the issue of demarcation. “Rather than depending on the decision of a handful of leaders, we should take into account the views of people of the respective districts on demarcation of federal states,” Mahat said, adding that provisions of the new constitution have been misinterpreted in the international arena. “There cannot be separate principles of demarcation in the Hills, Tarai and Mountains.”

Insisting that issues over federal provinces are internal matters, Mahat said they should be resolved accordingly.

Published: 17-11-2015 08:49

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