Parties dispute over ‘disputed districts’

- Post Report, Kathmandu
tarai crisisThe hardened positions taken by the parties has made it difficult for them to reach an early deal on demarcation issue Pushpa Kamal DahalDuring several rounds of talks in the last four months, major parties have never brought the boundary issue on the table Mahantha Thakur

Dec 24, 2015-After chopping and changing for months, major political parties and agitating Madhes-based forces are now disputing with each other over whether to define Jhapa, Morang, Sunsari, Kailali and Kanchanpur as “disputed districts’ or not. As a result, talks have stalled.

Earlier, three districts in the East—Jhapa, Morang and Sunsari—and two districts in the West—Kailali and Kanchanpur—were largely regarded as “disputed” and the agitating forces were forcing the major parties to come up with a clear position on them.

Among other issues, redrawing of provincial boundaries is the key demand of the agitating Samyukta Loktantrik Madhesi Morcha (SLMM), an alliance of four Madhes-based parties, which has rejected the government’s Sunday’s three-point offer, terming it “ambiguous, incomplete and abstract”.

While the agitating parties have been insisting that the five districts be defined as “disputed” and they be realigned accordingly in provinces in the plains, major parties have rejected the call. The Madhesi parties that have been demanding an advance deal on demarcation of federal boundaries have said they are positive on redrawing the boundaries through a high-level political committee in the next three months “only if major parties lay out a clear roadmap on these districts”. 

Major parties—the CPN-UML, UCPN (Maoist) and Nepali Congress—are also unwilling to make any prior commitment on details of whatever revision is done on provincial boundaries.

UCPN (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal on Wednesday said that parties indeed were at odds over defining the five districts as “disputed”. 

“This hardened position has made it difficult [for parties] to reach an early deal on demarcation issue,” he said.

Stating that the movement in Madhes “is related to our party”, Dahal, while addressing a press conference organised to unveil his party’s Central Committee decisions, said, “We are serious about resolving the issue.” The UCPN (Maoist) has also decided to intensify talks with the Madhes-based parties to find a point of compromise on redrawing the federal boundaries, he said. 

Earlier, the UCPN (M), the third largest party in Parliament, had proposed an eight-province federal model to address the demands of the SLMM. The proposal, also supported by Bijay Kumar Gacchhadhar-led Madhesi Janadhikar Forum-Loktantrik, however, failed to materialise after the ruling CPN-UML and main opposition Nepali Congress rejected it.

Dahal’s proposal calls for creating an eighth province comprising Morang, Sunsari, Siraha, Saptari and Udayapur and incorporating Tharu-dominated areas from Kailai and Kanchanpur districts in Province 5 of the seven-province model. Jhapa, Morang and Sunsari in the proposed federal model are in Province 1 while Kailali and Kanchanpur are in Province 7.

Tarai Madhes Loktantrik Party Chairman Mahantha Thakur said that the Morcha has been repeatedly asking the major parties 

to make their position clear on “disputed districts”. “But during several rounds of talks in the last four months, major parties 

have never brought the boundary issue on the table. In every meeting, we have been asking them ‘how far they can go’ when it comes to provinces in the East and the West, but in vain,” said Thakur. 

Besides demanding two provinces in the Tarai, the Morcha has said that the constitution should at least retain provisions of the interim constitution in other disputed clauses pertaining to electoral law, citizenship and proportional and inclusive representation of the new constitution. 

Published: 24-12-2015 09:00

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