As talks fail to resume, blame game continues

  • PM, his party’s calls to return to negotiating table cut no ice with Morcha
- ROSHAN SEDHAI, Kathmandu

Apr 17, 2016-

In four days, the Constitution of Nepal will be six months old. But there is no solution in sight to the Tarai crisis, an outcome of this very charter that was promulgated on September 20.

In the last one week, the Madhes-based parties have been urged twice to return to the negotiating table—once by Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli during his address to the nation on Tuesday and again on Friday by PM Oli’s party, the CPN-UML. The calls to “return to talks table” have come amid the preparations of the Samyukta Loktantrik Madhesi Morcha (SLMM) to take to the streets from April-end, and this time the Morcha is saying its protests will be Kathmandu-centric. 

What is hampering the progress to find a solution to the crisis is trust deficit. 

The Morcha has ruled out possibilities of “talks in immediate future under current circumstances”. Ashok Rai, a senior leader of the Sanghiya Samajbadi Forum Nepal, a constituent of the SLMM, says it was the government that ended the talks despite Morcha’s readiness to adopt flexibility. 

“We are still ready to compromise if they [ruling parties] really want to end this crisis,” says Rai. “But it would be useless to come to the negotiating table just for the sake of resuming talks.”

PM Oli’s Chief Political Adviser Bishnu Rimal says the government is committed to redrawing the boundaries. “But the government cannot assure them that there will be two provinces along the plains.” A government-formed mechanism to address the issues related to Morcha’s demands has been sitting idle since it was formed on February 18. The Morcha has refused to be part of the political mechanism, seeking the statutory status for the mechanism and an unequivocal assurance that one more province will be carved out along the plains. 

The Morcha and the ruling parties had even formed taskforces to iron out the differences, but the efforts failed to yield results, thanks to, again, trust deficit. 

Efforts to find a solution to the crisis came to an abrupt end after 36 rounds of talks. The parties have not sat for talks since February 18 when the government formed the political mechanism.

The Madhes-based parties have accused the government of forming the mechanism without taking them on board, and it has also questioned its “legitimacy and jurisdiction”. 

Since then, it is all blame-game and no talks. 

“Work on state demarcation can start only when the Morcha sends its representatives to the political mechanism,” says Rimal. “We haven’t been able to give full shape to the mechanism due to non-cooperation from the Morcha.” On January 23, Parliament voted to amend the constitution in a bid to address Morcha’s demands, but the move did little to appease the Morcha. The amendment did not address the agitating parties’ demand that the provincial boundaries be redrawn. 

On Tuesday, immediately after PM Oli made an appeal to the Morcha to return to talks table, SSF Nepal Chairman Upendra Yadav told the Post: “We held 36 rounds of talks, but the government refused to budge even 36 inches. What’s the use of such talks?” Mistrust is so deeply entrenched that some Madhesi leaders believe the major parties “never wanted to revise the boundaries”.

“The major parties had no intention to revise the boundaries from the very beginning. It was the reason why 

security forces on the ground kept on opening fire on protesters while talks were going on,” Sadbhawana Party Chairman Rajendra Mahato told the Post. 

Charter promulgation and thereafter

6: Months since the adoption of the constitution which sparked protests in the Tarai

5: Months of protests in the Tarai by Madhes-based parties

1: Amendment to the charter ‘to address’ agitating parties’ 

concerns

36: Rounds of talks the Madhes-based parties and major parties held till February 18

Over 50: Deaths in the Tarai plains during the protests

Almost 0: Progress so far when it comes to addressing demands, according to the Morcha

Published: 17-04-2016 08:47

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