Minority parties quit last session of Constituent Assembly
by Christopher Sharma
Madhese and Tharu representatives reject proposed administrative divisions adopted by the big parties. Under a revised version, the constitution’s final draft would include a seventh province. Since it became a secular state in 2007, Nepal has not yet adopted a final constitution.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – Lawmakers for Nepal’s Madhesi and Tharu minorities (pictured) have decided to quit the final session of the Constituent Assembly, which is tasked with drawing the final draft of the country’s new Constitution, because their demands have not been met.

Since the final draft was tabled in late June, it has generated widespread and some time violent opposition, especially among ethnic Madhesi and Tharu tribal groups of Indian and Mongolian origin who live in the Terai’s southern districts of Morang and Kailali.

Scores of people have been killed in clashes and more have been injured, prompting the central government to deploy army units in the area to restore law and order.

The government's decision to divide the territory into six provinces, regardless of the presence of local minority groups, is behind the dissatisfaction.

Although the latest draft includes a seventh province, Karnali, minority party leaders claim that the constituent assembly was still not meeting the demands of the most disadvantaged groups in the country.

“The Tharu minority belongs to this land, but its voice has not been heard,” Bijaya Kumar Gachhadar, president of the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum-Loktantrik (MJF), told AsiaNews. “High caste leaders have been heard and one province was added. But when minority groups speak they are suppressed by the army. For this reason, we have decided not to participate in any further talks.”

Although Constituent Assembly Speaker Subas Nemwang allocated five minutes to each of the 598 members present, "The protest will continue until our voice is heard,” said Upendra Yadav, president of Madhesi Democratic Socialist Party, and one of the members who walked out.

Rukmini Chaudhari, an ethnic Tharu Constituent Assembly Member, agrees, noting that the protest by members of his ethnic group was peaceful “until the government and the big parties decided to humiliate us, imposing a curfew and deploying the army.”

As the final session of the constituent assembly opens today, several issues are still unresolved. Although Nepal became a secular state in 2007, after more than 240 years of an absolute Hindu monarchy, the interim constitution adopted under the aegis of United Nations by a first constituent assembly was not finalised before the latter’s dissolution in 2012.

A second constituent assembly was elected but it too has failed so far to reach a final agreement by the 22 January deadline. Since then, all attempts to work out a deal have been unsuccessful, and approval of a final draft is still far off.