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Nepal: Moving Ahead with Constitution Making Amidst Violence: Update No. 316

Note No. 745                                    Dated 15-Sep-2015
 
By Dr. S.Chandrasekharan
 
Amidst intensified violence in the Terai- Madhes, with the continuing crackdown by Police and mobilization by the Army, the Constituent Assembly  has begun voting on the various clauses of the new constitution.  This followed the decision of the three top political parties- the Nepali Congress, the UML and the Maoists- UCPN (M) to go ahead despite the protests.
 
The Chairman of the 601 strong interim Constitutional Assembly Subash Nembang has indicated that the new constitution will be promulgated formally by the President on 20th September at 5 P.M..  The steps toward promulgation will include
 
* Clause by clause voting of the draft constitution that will be over in a day or two.
 
* This will be followed by the Constituent Assembly voting in bulk the entire constitution.
 
* The law makers (Parliamentarians) will first sign the constitution followed by the Chairman certifying the bill.
 
* The certified bill will be handed over to the President for promulgation.
 
There was a pause of two days on 12th and 13 in constitution making, to enable the leaders from Terai to visit Kathmandu informally and start the talks.  Accordingly, Upendra Yadav, Rajendra Mahatao and Mahendra Yadav travelled to Kathmandu for day on 12th and returned to Terai the next day.  
 
No progress could be made and therefore the ‘top three’ decided to go ahead with the constitution making.  The reason given by Dahal the Maoist leader for going ahead with the constitution with the other two parties appeared to be a bit strange.  He said that though he did not agree with some of the provisions in the new constitution, he decided to go along to prevent conspiracies being hatched by outsiders to scuttle the constitution!
 
It is very painful to go through all the main incidents that have resulted in loss of life and property in Terai. A visitor to the area said that 20 of the 22 Terai districts look like  war zones.  Vehicles are stranded everywhere. Nine of the districts are under curfew but the protestors do not seem to follow the curfew resulting in avoidable deaths.
 
The districts of Siraha, Mahottari, Dhanusha, Bara, Sunsari ( this district is not to be added to the Terai in the new dispensation) and even Rautahat appear to be badly affected.  
 
Death toll is said to be 34, but could be more as there have been many firing incidents in the last two days.
 
82 parliamentarians from the  Madhes centred parties have formally withdrawn from  constitution making proces.   Many of those elected from the Terai in the top three parties are also said to be putting pressure on the leaders to go slow and find a solution before promulgation.  But it is too late now.
 
The top three leaders are seen to be determined to go ahead with the promulgation despite violence and boycott of Madhes-based parties.  Not one of them, in this month long agitation has visited the south to explain to the people why a new constitution is urgently necessary and how accommodation could be made on the controversial portions in the constitution even after promulgation.  Their lack of vision and intemperate statements have only exacerbated the situation.  The conspiracy theory put forward by the Maoists is nothing but rubbish.
 
India while welcoming the progress in constitution making has urged for “flexibility” on the part of all the political parties. This is a wise stand and it is hoped all the stake holders will review their positions, though it may be too late now. Heavens will not fall if the constitution is delayed a little more!
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