Thursday, October 28, 2021

Should we celebrate or rethink about Constitution Day?


It's been seven years since the Constitution of Nepal-2015 was promulgated from the Constituent Assembly (CA) of Nepal. The CA was supposed to proceed as per the constitutional norms set by the Interim Constitution. But from the very first CA, the big parties of Nepal flouted the norms established by the Interim Constitution and trampled upon the core aspirations of progressive movements led by Maoists and Madheshi forces.

The very first CA was incepted in 2008 and it expired on 28 May 2012 without promulgating the constitution as the major parties in the CA could not find consensus on core issues. Eventually, a provisional government led by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (SC) Khil Raj Regmi came to power to conduct the election of the second CA. The election was held on 19 November 2013. The schedule set by Regmi for declaring constitution, viz. 22 January 2015 also failed to meet the goal.

In 2015, two devastating earthquakes spurred major political parties to forge a 16-point agreement to promulgate the constitution. In the process, they diluted federalism which was stipulated in the Interim Constitution. During the constitution-making process, the then Madhesh-based parties along with the apolitical marginalized people had protested hard to ensure their enshrinement of their voices in the constitution.

The state had killed dozens of protesters to quell the protests. Human rights organizations, such as the National Human Rights Commission, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the Asian Human Rights Commission, have released investigative reports detailing the state's repressive measures.

The government itself had formed a High-Level Enquiry commission headed by Supreme Court Chief Justice Girish Chandra Lal. The commission submitted its report to the government. To date, the report has to see the light of the day.

From the day the constitution was promulgated, the then Madheshi forces, which started politicking the issue of Madhesh, started observing the day as a black day. The constitution, which was brought by forcing a large part of the country to stay out of the Nepali constitution-drafting process could not provide the 'sense of ownership' to a big section of Nepali residents.  From the day the constitution was promulgated, some Madheshi parties along with the limited number of Madheshi intellectuals have marked this day as 'Black Day'.

This year, the Democratic Socialist Party is celebrating Black Day in various districts to protest objectionable provisions in the constitution. Meantime, the People's Socialist Party, being led by Upendra Yadav, is not taking it as 'Black Day.'  Unfortunately, Madheshi intellectuals who call themselves ideologues are holding political appointments under the jurisdiction of the same constitution. 

In politics, setting a bottom line and abiding by it is important. If the amendment of the constitution had been the bottom line of the so-called Madheshi forces, energy of the leaders of those parties would have spent 'inside the parliament.' However, their attention is focused only on bagging plum posts.

Although everyone had their own interests and views on the constitution of Nepal, the process of drafting the constitution was exclusionary. Moreover, consultations with people about the draft of the constitution were performed under the curfew and excessive use of force in the Madhesh. The forceful process inculcated apathy of a big section of people for the constitution. The constitution was supposed to unite the people but it shattered the spirit of the different ethnicities. Recently, KP Oli's unlawful dissolution of the House of Representatives has unveiled weaker sides of the constitution.

Any parties preferring to be proclaimed as Madheshi political forces should not limit themselves to mark Asoj 3 as ‘black day.’ Instead, they should lobby for the constitution to be repealed.

Published on 19 September 2021