Constitution making: the story of full, half and empty glass
- Hisila Yami
The arrival of 1915 constitution through Constitute Assembly tells the history of Nepal since 1950s, when ironically this concept was brought to Nepal through King Tribhuban who had returned from Delhi after coming back from self-exile in India. However this concept was not bought by political parties at the time of brief democratic environment then. The agenda was thrown away after king Manhendra through coup usurped power to establish one party Panchayat system in 1960. The issue of CA kept propping in directly or indirectly in every movement that came against monarchy system. It was the Maoist People’s War augmented with the second People’s movement that the present costituion based on four pillars: republic, federal, secular and democratc was promulgated in 2015 through CA.
It is to be noted that journey from interim constituion to promulgation of final declaration of Constitution through CA was fret with many movements, involving people from Madhes, Karnali, Tharu janjati, dalits and women to fight for their identity and rights. Added to all these movements Maoists coming to power in the first CA election threatened the old established forces consisting of NC, UML and the royalist forces. They were scared that constituion through CA will legitimise interim constituion which they found too radicle. It is to be observed that most of the neavy weight leaders like Sushil Koirala from NC and KP Oli from UML, lost their seats in the First CA election against very junior cadres of Maoists. The NC and UML became second and third forces respectively after the Maoist Party . And newly formed madhsi Janadhikar forum Nepal came fourth in position.
This event triggered in toppling legal Maoist government under PM Baburam Bhattari. Ironically, the same chief justice who dissolved first CA election was made executive head to declare second CA election. The second CA election brought back old established power with their stalward leaders. The Maoist Party was pushed back to third position followed by other Madhesi based parties. The result was washing down of all the radicle points in interim cons
tituion. The first step they took was doing away with parliamentary caucus of women, nationalities who were instrumental in strenghthening inclusive issues in the constituion. They reduced the number of parliamentary committees too.
Fourteen provinces arrived based on state restructure and devolution of power committee under the parliament committee and 10+1 provinces based on recommendation by state restructure and devolution of power commission gave way to 7 provinces based on administration. Federalism arrived though state restructured committee/commissiom on the basis of 5 points of identity and 4 points of capabilities was reduced to federalism based on administration.Similarly secularism was defined as adhering to sanatam dharma giving Hindu tint to secularism. In the same light women who got equal rights to parental property were left with stateless children because citizenship could not be given to their chldren based on mother’s citizenship.
Even three tyre layers of governance the federal, provincial and local had not been given their due share of independence and rights accordingly. The central governement which in essence should be looking after security of the state, foreign affairs and financial matters is enterfering in everyday life matters at province and local levels. Take the case of controlling COVID-19 pandemic which is beingoperated at the central level. Of all the three layers Provincial governemnts are gasping for their due share of rights and resources. This has weakened the concept of federalism further.
With the promulgation of the constituion three trends were seen on the said date. When the constituion was promulgated the old established forces NC, UML celebrated the promulgation of the constituion by lihgtening light and firecrackers as if they had a fill of full brim glass of constituion. For the NC and UML who were dragged into republic, federal and secular agenda under the force of PW and people’s movement the promulgated constitution was more than they had asked for. So they were very happy and jubiliant. On the other hand Madhesi fronts switched off light alleging the new constituion offered them nothing. For them importance of identity based federalism surpassed republic agenda as a result they saw no light in the promulgated constituion. However dr Baburam Bhattrai, the chairman of the Constitutional-Political Dialogue and Consensus Committee who was fighting hard to make the Constitution inclusive and secular, saw the importance and interrelation of both republic and federal agenda. As a result he reacted to the promulgation differently. He walked out of CA hall (after sighning the new constituion) that the constituion promulgated is neither full nor empty but half filled. Within a week he left the Maoist party alleging it had coopted with old forces abandoning the agendas it had faught for during PW. He also resigned from the parliamentary post to form a new party based on inclusive and progressive democratic agendas and for forming united front based on those agendas.
Today the heat of movement during and after the promulgation of the new constituion in 2015 is at a low ebb. The executive head of the country KP Oli who had lost in the first CA election and who had said that ‘aspiring for republican agenda in Nepal is like reaching USA in bullock cart’ is now firmly seated in PM post with comfortable majority of the party he belongs. His is being co-chaired with Prachanda in party leaderahip who finds his own created agenda of republic, federal, secular and democracy being hallaled.
Interestingly the opposition party the NC seem to be happy sharing crums being thrown by Oli time and again. And Oli who is so fearful of change is fuelling fear of COVID to consolide his Raimajhi path. It is to be remembered that Raimajhi path against Pushpalal path is anti-democratic, anti-federal and anti-inclusion, which puts the present half filled glass in precarious position.
It is time the true nationalists who give importance to internal consolidation of all the oppressed nationalities, regions along with external consolidation of geographic unity of the country to form united fronts to not only implement the constituion but also augment it with unfinished agendas of federalism.
It is to be noted that the ownership of the constituion cannot be guarenteed if the two third of its population namely madhesi and janjatees are not given their due share in state functioning. Similarly women in all the three clusters, Khas-Arya, Madhesi and ethnic community need to be heard as women are the perpetuater of all nationalities that form a nation.
Famous philosopher, Jean Jacques Rousseau had rightly said in ‘Social Contract’ that : ‘The Legitimacy of the Rule of Law is based on the Consent of governed.’
Based on above saying it is time to correct all the deformities pointed by oppressed communities and to add all the elements to make the present constituion truly republic, federal, secular and democratic. It is only by adhering to these four pillars of the state that Nepal can enter the 21st century leaving behind its long history of fuedalism and backwardness. It is time it takes the sustainable path of inclusive democracy and inclusive development! Remember populist nationalism to suppress genuine internal nationality awakening can be harmful for both external and internal security of the country!