Tarai leaders plan change in agitation

- ROSHAN SEDHAI, Kathmandu

Jan 25, 2016-

The Samyukta Loktantrik Madhesi Morcha (SLMM) is planning to change the form of its protest as its leaders insist that their struggle should continue unless all their demands, including the redrawing of federal boundaries, are addressed.

Morcha leaders said the first amendment to the constitution had failed to “adequately address” their concerns. However, they have said they would take an “appropriate” decision soon to change the form of protest “to save the country from falling apart”.

Amid the protest of the agitating parties, Parliament on Saturday endorsed the first amendment to the newly adopted constitution revising articles pertaining to social justice, formation of the House of Representatives and constituency delimitation.

“Major parties appear hell-bent on ruining this country, putting its economy and social harmony at stake. Now, common citizens including the excluded and marginalised communities have additional responsibility to save this nation, besides continuing their struggle for equality,” said Upendra Yadav, chairman of the Sanghiya Samajbadi Forum Nepal.

The SSFN on Sunday announced to launch Kathmandu-centric protests to mount additional pressure on the government. Yadav said the Morcha would take a decision on lifting the blockade, stressing that the people concerned should also speak against the government that “protects mafia and promotes black-marketeering”.

Other Morcha members are in favour of gradually restoring the supplies as the shortage of essential commodities has hit people in the Tarai harder than others. Tarai Madhes Loktantrik Party Chair Mahantha Thakur had proposed a change in the form of stir last month though it did not materialise due to the parties’ differing positions.

Morcha leaders concluded that it was indispensable to seek an alternative to their border obstruction as it had been lost ground after the constitution amendment. Despite refusing to own up the bill in public, Morcha leaders admit that the amendments are progressive to a large extent.

“Major parties disrupted the talks on purpose as they were reluctant to make any pledge on demarcation. We had clearly told them that we would accept the amendment in its current form upon receiving credible assurance on demarcation,” said a Morcha leader engaged in informal negotiations with the major parties.

TMLP Vice-chairman Hridayesh Tripathi refused to comment on the amendments immediately. “Morcha will make its position public after an internal meeting on Monday,” he said. In an interview with the Post, Tripathi had said two weeks ago that the revisions to the amendment bill proposed by Nepali Congress parliamentarians Bimalendra Nidhi and Minendra Rijal addressed Morcha’s demands to a large extent.

Sadbhawana Party Chairman Rajendra Mahato said it was futile to talk about “progressiveness” of the amendment bill as it had failed to take them on board. Mahato said his party proposed to intensify the protests by forming a broader alliance.

“Our protest won’t end without an agreement on demarcation. We are in discussion with other agitating parties to launch a joint protest,” Mahato told the Post.

Morcha and the major parties are still divided over demarcation though the two sides seem to agree to redraw the federal boundaries through a high-level mechanism in three months. Morcha has sought credible assurance of at least another province in the plains.

Amendments positive developments: India

KATHMANDU: India on Sunday described the first amendment to the new constitution undertaken as “positive developments.”

The External Affairs Ministry (EAM) has regarded the two amendment bills endorsed by a Parliament meeting on Saturday as positive developments in Nepali politics.

“We regard the two amendments passed yesterday by the Nepali Parliament as positive developments. We hope that other outstanding issues are similarly addressed in a constructive spirit”, said a statement issued by the Indian EAM.

Senior Indian politicians and officials, including External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Indian Ambassador to Nepal Ranjit Rae, stressed amendment to the new constitution in order to address the demands of the agitating Madhes-based parties as a first step for defusing tension in the Tarai.

Officials in Kathmandu said the Indian gesture is significant towards mending the strained bilateral ties. If a political understanding on the delineation of federal units is reached, it could set the scene for Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s visit to India in February. Four months after the charter was adopted, the House endorsed the first amendment. Article 42 (social justice), Article 84 (formation of the House of Representatives) and Article 286 (Electoral Constituency Delineation Commission) were amended with 461 votes. The agitating Madhes-based parties did not participate in the voting. (PR)

Published: 25-01-2016 08:59

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