The Current Political Situation of Nepal in Context of the Constitution Amendment Bill (CAB)
by Mohan Bikram Singh, Nepal Communist Party (Mashal), 24 December 2016
Geographically Nepal is divided into 3 regions from East to West. High Mountains or Himalayas are in the North, and are Hills in the middle and plain areas of the South, also called Tarai or Madhesh. The North borders with China and in the East, South and West borders with India. Nepal is a land-locked country. Between Nepal and China lie high Himalayas, the East, South and West have open border with India.
pAt present, the issue of Tarai has become very serious, critical and complicated political problem of Nepal, and it is known worldwide too. Tarai is mostly inhabited by Madhesi and Tharu people, and they are mostly laboring peasants. They have been exploited or oppressed by feudal or land lords of both Hill and Madhesh origin. In the past, the Communist Party of Nepal had organized big peasant struggles against the feudal exploitation in Tarai. But at present the peasant movement has almost slackened in Terai because of growing regional trends.
To understand the problem of Tarai properly, we should make a demarcation between two terms-Madhesi people and Madheshbadis. To look at first both terms seem to indicate same meaning. But in realities, both terms have fundamental differences. Madhesis are exploited people of Tarai. But Madhesbadi are handful persons working to fulfill the interests of Indian expansionism (IE) in Nepal. In latter decades, they have formed various political organizations with the backing of IE.
The leadership of them (Madhesbadis) is mainly composed of naturalized citizens immigrated from India and big Madhesh landlord of Tarai. Many of them have been ministers in various cabinets of Nepal, and some of them are members of the parliament even today. Politically, they represent reactionary trend. In the parliament, they always have been firmly opposing any kind of land reforms. They always try their best to keep intact the existing feudal system. Regionalism has become a weapon in their bands to safeguard their pro-Indian and feudal interests and to keep exploited people of Tarai into their fold. They are in favor of curtailing the rights given to local bodies.
The political parties of Nepal, including communist party, had never demanded federal system to introduce in Nepal. The Madheshbadis were the first to demand the federalism in Nepal. Under the pressure of IE, the political parties of Nepal under the leadership of Girija Parasad Koirala had agreed to amend the Interim constitution and add the provision of federalism on that. However, our party has been opposing federalism from the very beginning.
India has been adopting the policy of penetrating many present Madhesbadis leaders for long in various prominent political parties of Nepal, mainly Nepali Congress, and the UML too, some extent. But later, IE adopted the policy of forming separate political organizations of Madheshbadis. It was in such a background that various Madheshbadis political organizations emerged in Terai and they are now working systematically in planned way to fulfill the expansionist interests of India in Nepal.
In comparison to other parts of Nepal, feudalism is most rampant in Tarai. So, the main problem of Tarai is to abolish feudalism. But the Madhesbadis have quite contradictory position on this problem. They are interested to keep their exploitation and oppression upon the people by all means. Federalism and regionalism have been the main weapons to serve their these interests of those. In the parliament, they have been struggling hard to keep the subject of land systems under Pradesh (Provinces) government so that they might always be able to obstruct the issue of land reform. Because of such a reactionary views on their part, they are unable to view the problem of Tarai people in a correct way.
Since British left India, the ruling class of India has been adopting an expansionist policy towards Nepal. They are trying not only to dominate politically or economically, but also to merge Nepal into India. Sardar Ballavbhai Patel, the then Deputy Prime-minister and Home Minister of India, had putforth the view that using armed forces like in the Hyderabad of Nizam, Nepal should be merged into Indian Union. The ruling classes of India from the very beginning have been following the line of Sardar Patel in one or another way. However, in latter days various governments of India more or less adopted indirectly a liberal policy instead of directly applying Hyderabad method used by Patel. More important factors that contributed to Nepal's independence several are the continuous movement of Nepali people against Indian interference to defend the nationality, sovereignty and integrity of Nepal. International public opinion and the presence of China in the North of Nepal are other important factors.
There was somewhat illiterate difference between the line of Patel and Nehru. The Former, as referred before, was in favor of direct action to amalgamate Nepal into India. But Nehru preferred comparatively liberal policy of domination in Nepal.
Current Prime minister of India Narendra Modi supports the line of Patel more than that of Nehru.
The Modi government is trying its best to fulfill the dream of Sardar Patel to annex Tarai from Nepal as a first step to achieve that goal. For the time being, their main emphasis is on the amendment of the constitution adopted by the constitution assembly (CA) of Nepal. At first, the proposal to amend the constitution was put forth by the Indian government, although it always have been denying that. A prominent Indian magazine India Today, had published full text of the proposal of the amendment put forth by Indian government. The Madhesbadis has been agitating to press to the parliament or government to accept amendments. It is under the pressure of Madhesbadis directly and of Indian government indirectly that the Prachanda government has brought the Constitution Amendment Bill (CAB). The main concept of the Bill is to make a separate Pradesh of the 5 districts of Tarai belonging to no. 5 by separating district from Hilly area. What makes the problem very serious is the Bill if adopted by the parliament; it will pave the way to intensify the process to make Madhes Pradeshes in whole Tarai separating from the hill district completely.
According to constitution, Nepal is divided into 7 Pradeshes. Out of these Pradeshes No. 2 is fully composed of districts belonging to Tarai. All other Pradeshes are made by combining districts of both Tarai and Hill areas. India has been emphasizing to make separate two Pradeshes of all districts of Tarai separating them from the hill. This is a part of their strategy to separate the whole Tarai first to make free, and later to merge that into India. Such a success on the part of IE will make its line clear to bring the whole Nepal into Indian domination and fulfill the dream of Sardar Patel.
In the present condition, government is composed of Moist-Center and Nepali congress led by Parchanda under the “grand design” of India to make it work to fulfill its expansionist objectives in Nepal. It is due to such a liability that Prachand government has put forth the CAB.
Modi government of India first, imposed blockade on Nepal to compel to accept the amendments in the constitution. The objective of such amendments was to pave the way ultimately to make Nepal 2nd Sikkim. Secondly, the after the Indian efforts failed, India tried to internationalize the problem of Madhes and constitution of Nepal. India is trying to influence by giving impression to international community, mainly focusing on two major points: 1) the constitution of Nepal is incomplete and 2), the rights of Madhes people are not well defended in the constitution. Our party, NCP (Mashal) also has many fundamental differences with the provisions of the constitution and we have been struggling to amend theme. We are opposing the federalism from the very beginning with an emphasis to amend the provision of federalism. Similarly, we differ with many other provisions regarding citizenship rights, land system. Strategically, our fundamental objective is to replace the existing political system, including the constitution, by new democratic system. But tactically we struggle to defend the constitution, republic, secularism and many other positive provisions. But the way India wants to make amendments in the constitution conforms neither to the national interest of Nepal, nor of the interest of Madhesi or Tharu people of Terai.
However, the Madheshbadis are not satisfied with the Bill as it proposed to make only five districts of five number Pardesh. It is far beyond than their demand to make two Madhesh Pradeshes in the whole Terai from East to West.
After the CAB is registered in the secretariat, a mass movement is going on in the whole country in general and in five number Pardesh in particular. It is worth mentioning that almost all members of the parliament of the ruling parties and the grass root workers of them have too raised voice against the Bill and have joined the movement. Because of such a strong opposition in the parliament and outside the government has not been able to table the bill in the parliament till now.
The CAB requires two-third majority of the total member of parliament to endorse it. But not only the combined opposition of the parliament, but also many of the members of the parliament belonging to the ruling parties, Maoist-Centre, Nepali Congress also have already declared to vote against the Bill if that is put in the parliament for voting. So it is obvious that there is very little chance of it being adopted by the parliament.
The Indian government has publicly supported the Bill, although it is far behind than the requirements of India. Yet they seem to think that it is better to secure whatever is achieved and continue their efforts to gain what is still left out. remaining. The separation of the No. 5 Pardesh and the formation of a Madhesh Pardesh out of that also will be a big gain for them. On the other, that is a tactical move of them. The Indian Embassy held a meeting of all prominent leaders of the Madhesbadi leaders and instructed them to follow their tactical move. Such an instruction on the part of Indian Embassy to Madhesbadis also shows that the so called movement of Madheshbadis is not an independent one, but a part of the Indian expansionist strategy.
India had faced many failures in the recent months. They failed to compel the political parties or government of Nepal to write the constitution as they had wished and their effort to make them postpone the declaration of the constitution also proved to be a futile exercise. They also failed to make Sushil Koirala, the President of Nepali Congress, Prime Minister of Nepal. Their blockade also failed to achieve their goal, i.e. to compel the government of Nepal to assert the amendments put forth by them. However, they partially succeeded to topple the Oli government and replacing it by a coalition government of Maoist Center and Nepali Congress led by Parchanda. Such a success on their part was due to the Maoist Center, a major partner in the Oli government, which had withdrawn its support to that (Oli government). As a price of that, Prachanda is made Prime Minister with the support of Nepali Congress and IE.
Pressure upon the Prachand government is increasing more and more to withdraw the Bill. But he again and again has declared that he would not withdraw the Bill at any cost. He is afraid of that if he withdraws the Bill he will lose the support of Madhesbadi and Indian government and that might cause him to lose the post of Prime Minister immediately. According to the understanding reached between Maoist and Congress, after 5 months, he will handover the power to Sher Bahadur Deuba, the president of the Nepali Congress. Thus he (Prachanda) is only a temporary prime minister. But in spite of that, he is trying his best to serve the interest of the IE by pushing forth the Bill. In such a case even if the Bill could not be adopted he will have ground for face saving that he had done his best to make the Bill adopted in the parliament.
At present, the country wide movement in the country is centered against the CAB. But even if the effort of government Bill to carry out is through the Parliament fails, the danger put by the IE will not be solved. The IE and Madheshbadis will take another step to make the coalition government of unity center and Nepali congress to serve their expansionist objectives. So the danger posed by IE to nationality, sovereignty and integrity has a long term character. The situation created by the CAB today has a long background and it is certain that in future it will go through a various phases. The pro Indian character of Nepali political parties will make the problem of Nepal many times more critical and complicated. But it has bright aspect too. Nepali people have successfully faced the danger put by Patel and we are convinced that Nepali people will succeed to defend the nationality, sovereignty, and integrity of Nepal in coming days too.