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Hold dialogue, whet discussions, make violence a history

Hold dialogue, whet discussions, make violence a history
Hold dialogue, whet discussions, make violence a history

Kathmandu, Aug. 26: Flurry of ire, angst, castigation, condemnation, sympathy, suggestion and recommendations have flooded the media, especially the social media after the Monday’s unimaginable scourge at Tikapur in Kailali, a district in west Nepal. On the social media, political parties and their leaders have been highly castigated. Some have even particularized the political leaders behind the horrendous incident – excruciating killing of security persons including senior superintendent of police and a toddler.

However, some political leaders argue that such an act could never be a political struggle but only a crime. A day after the incident, some political parties and leaders have even begun alleging one another for provoking and inciting violence that actually led to the unfortunate and unprecedented incident. Putting blame of anything wrong on the other is however a long-standing culture of our political parties/leaders.
A committee has meanwhile been formed to probe the incident and let’s hope that we will soon know who actually is responsible behind such carnage- political stands, security agency, failure of intelligence, incendiary remark makers, infiltrators or other reasons.
It may however be noted that few days back, the Legislature-Parliament was resonated with the demand to take action against the political leaders who made incendiary remark in Kailali district thereby provoking communal hatred and conflict.

The violence that spread both in the hills as well as the plains of the western region of the country followed the proposal of the six-province model by the major political parties- Nepali Congress, CPN-UML, UCPN (Maoist) and Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (Democratic)- having more than 90 percent representation in the CA on August 9. The demarcation of federal units had come in response to people’s feedback during their submission on the draft constitution on July 20-21.

The draft constitution had put aside the naming, numbering and delineating of provinces, one of the most debated and controversial issues in constitution writing for nearing a decade now, as per the 16-point agreement the big four inked. It was to be later decided by a federal commission and endorsed by the parliament.

However, the four parties’ consensus on the six-province model was taken as a great achievement by many, reasoning it would clear the impasse, and lead to the new constitution being promulgated soon. Astonishingly, as the draft constitution bill provisioning six provinces was tabled before the CA and passed for discussion by a majority, some CA members in the back benches disapproved the developments by tearing the draft copies within the CA hall.

The six-province model was also heavily criticized by the people in different parts especially in the far and mid-west of the country. The banda (general shutdown) again became normal, including in the capital city. The political parties then considered issues/demands of the Karnali people more pressing than that of the Tharus in the southern plains of the far-west, resulting in the decision of seven provinces. Yet again, it got both reactions- welcomed by the Karnali people, but criticized again by the indigenous Tharu people in the west plains and the Madhes-centric parties in the central plains. Against the seven-province model, a separate autonomous Tharu province was demanded by the agitators mobilized by the Tharuhat Struggle Committee.

Meanwhile, in the aftermath of the carnage, the Tharuhat Struggle Committee that was leading the protests in the western plains, has put the blame on government while also expressing the possibility of infiltration in their struggle. On Monday evening, a Tharu leader, Dhani Ram Tharu, told in a radio interview, “It was not the agitating indigenous Tharus to take on spear, sickle, axe and other homemade weapons and attack security personnel. The attackers were infiltrators.”

Reasons abound from different sectors and parties including from the allegations as mentioned above to the sympathy to particular community. Yes, there is no doubt that the Tharu is the indigenous community which is also a long-time oppressed community in Nepal. Not a long back, the Tharu people in the west Nepal were liberated from bonded labour. Still, they are backward for lack of access to, and representation in politics, policy, and government bodies. At such, their grudges are normal, and their genuine demands need to be addressed. The political parties therefore should adopt right measure to hear the grievances. Their empowerment is essential.
But, is making a separate autonomous province dedicating to Tharu community is the solution of the present problem? If the big political parties sat again and allocated an autonomous Tharu province covering the Banke, Bardiya, Kailali and Kanchanpur, would it be justice to them, setting a precedent for others to follow. Or, will it lead to copycat demands for similar provinces in the southern plains in the central and eastern Nepal?

When inquired on the fresh violence after the proposed seven-province federalism, constitutional expert Dr Bhimarjun Acharya flatly rejects the idea of adopting federalism in Nepal. Why? “Because federalism is against inclusive system which Nepal is advocating; there are no evidence to suggest that federalism will prosper diversity in our country; and Nepal lacks robust economy, lacks able leadership/statesmanship, and has no strict rule of law,” argues Dr Acharya.

Moreover, the constitutional expert said the 16-point agreement the big political parties had made before bringing the draft constitution was judicious to some extent, as it had sought experts’ commission on delineation of provinces. In the recent 25 years of history, no country in the world has been successful to bring constitution in the way Nepal has adopted, he said, adding that federalism will be a very costly system for Nepal.

Then what’s the solution? Dr Acharya precisely suggests, “Either postpone or do away with federalism if we are to bring the new constitution.”

Similarly, senior journalist Dev Prakash Tripathi argues the country failed to make ample debate and discussion on federalism. “The concept of federalism- its merits and demerits- did not percolate throughout the country. I see the fresh violence over seven-province model of federalism has the root cause on it. If the country had fully implemented decentralization, the forceful concept of federalism would not enter in Nepal. Intention behind foisting federalism was not clear.”

Both of them admit that Nepal has numerous problems as of caste and ethnic discriminations and oppressions, but are univocal on the matter that federalism is not a solution to the problem- be it to quill fresh violence or long term addressing of discrimination and suppression. Senior journalist Tripathi suggests immediate postponement of the constitution-making process, holding of dialogue and percolating debate on federalism as a measure to hear grievances.

On the other hand, the indigenous leaders and some Madhes centric parties are still advocating of continuing agitation till their demands are met- autonomous Tharu province and separate Tarai/Madhes province.

At such moment of uncertainty, making any recommendation is difficult. Although today’s suggestions turn irrelevant tomorrow, it may not be unfair to say- the pressing need is the dialogue- first the dialogue with disgruntling sides/political parties to quell the unrest then the broader dialogue on the pressing issues of constitution. Nepal has the history- once the consensual move through dialogue was adopted, the decade-long conflict came to an end.

Giving up individual, and party interests are obviously the best measures to seek short and long-term solutions. And importantly, are we linking country’s development and people’s interest and welfare to the goal of federalism or not? It is a vital question to our political parties. Any political maneuvering against people’s interest not only disrupts communal harmony but also flares wider conflict. Given the recent turmoil, political parties can take time on constitution writing but must not hurry for bad curry. It is high time the political parties both in the CA and out held serious dialogue with disgruntling sides, whet discussion and make violence a history.

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