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New Constitution should accommodate dissenting voices for its longevity

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New Constitution should accommodate dissenting voices for its longevity
New Constitution should accommodate dissenting voices for its longevity

Kathmandu, Sept. 9: With the beginning of the clause-wise discussions on the Amended Bill relating to the Constitution of Nepal 2072 BS on Tuesday, the nation has come to the final stage of completing the constitution writing process. And if things go ahead as planned, Nepal is expected to get a new statute through the Constituent Assembly (CA) within the next two weeks.

The 7th constitution in the country’s history has some key agendas to fulfill including institutionalization of the federal democratic republic, federating the country into different units and ensuring dignified participation of the marginalised communities in the state apparatus and also maintain the much-needed political stability in the country.

Above all, this constitution has the historic responsibilities to incorporate the aspirations of women, historically secluded ethnic communities, groups and the people of the backward regions. This would ensure longevity of the constitution, and self-respect and sense of pride to all Nepalis.

By and large, no decision is all in all in itself and the constitution too cannot be an exception. But, it is an agreed assertion that the constitution should largely accommodate the voices of the dissenting groups so that all communities would welcome the main law of the country by cheering up with a national dream of prosperity.

However, developments to date are not going as smooth as we expect in regard to constitution promulgation and its ownership, some dissenting yet crucial voices of activists and politicians are yet to be addressed. Many activists even claim that some clauses of the new constitution are against the spirit of the People’s Movement-II and the political parties’ agreements made in the past.

Disagreeing with the three major political parties’ deal to federate the country in seven different provinces, almost all Tarai-centric political parties have taken to the streets for almost a month, even by pulling out of the CA. The people in the districts of the southern plains are at the receiving end due to the general shutdown and consecutive agitations by the Madesh-based parties. The voices of the disgruntled parties and groups are glaring in the recent days as the big three rarely consult with the stakeholders before taking decision on the issues of federalism, rights to women, Dalits, Janajati and other backward communities as well as in the issue of citizenship in mother’s name.

“To be honest, I am not optimistic that our demands would be incorporated; but I don’t want to lose hope,” noted women rights activist Dr Renu Rajbhandari said.
A total of 28 women lawmakers of the UCPN (Maoist) and one each from the CPN (ML) and RPP-Nepal have lodged amendment proposals regarding the women’s rights at the CA Secretariat on the revised bill of the constitution. Some have argued that even the existing rights of the women have been curtailed in the revised draft. But, chances are slim for the approval of the amendment proposal.

Rajbhandari said that this constitution should ensure women’s rights. “But, I am fed up after reading the draft of the new constitution. They have even reduced our rights. The issues of citizenship through mother’s name and women’s participation in the state bodies are not addressed at all,” Dr Rajbhandari expressed her frustration. She wants 50 per cent share of the women in the VDC level for the gradual increase of women in the central-level politics.

She also shared that they want the amendment proposal being tabled at the CA meeting for the discussions and want to see that who goes against the women’s demands.

Until recently Bijay Kumar Gachchhadar-led Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (Loktantrik) was on board the constitution writing process with the three major political parties– Nepali Congress, CPN (UML) and UCPN (Maoist). However, dissatisfied with the haughty presentation of the major parties and their reluctance to meet the demands of the agitating Tharu community, Gachchhadar announced the CA boycott on Tuesday saying that his party would not take part in the constitution writing process until the three parties prepare an environment conducive for forging consensus.

Finally, given the critical situation looming large in the country, the top leaders of the major four political parties are required to seek the middle way for garnering consensus on the revised draft of the new constitution and thereby ensure a win-win situation to all agitating parties. Similarly, the political parties should come with the broader perspective regarding the issues raised by women, Dalit, Janajati, Muslims and other backward communities. Trampling their voices in this stage would be a historical blunder and costlier to the major political parties in the days to come.

By Mahendra Subedi

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