Nepal: protests in response to new constitution
Demonstrators in Nepal gathered Sept. 21 to protest the country's new constitution, which was officially promulgated the previous day. The constitution was signed and announced by President Ram Baran Yadav, who was applauded by members of the Constituent Assembly of Nepal in Kathmandu. It was approved by the Constituent Assembly last week, following years of debate. The charter's passage has caused tensions both within Nepal and with India. It was opposed by minority groups in the southern plains, as their home provinces will be divided under its terms. India has called for the charter to be more inclusive of ethnic groups near its borders and expressed concern about continuing violence in those regions. India's Ministry of External Affairs called Ambassador Ranjit Rae to return to Delhi for consultations in light of Nepal's continuing violence.
The new constitution will replace an interim constitution in place since the end of a decade-long civil war in 2006 that led to the abolition of the Nepali monarchy. In May 2012 the Supreme Court of Nepal ordered the government to complete the final draft of the new constitution within a week. When that deadline was not met, then-prime minister Baburam Bhattarai announced the 2008 parliament would be dissolved and new elections held later that year. In January 2014 the Supreme Court ruled that the selection of a new president was not an immediate need and should be postponed until the adoption of a new constitution. When officials met in January to draft the constitution, the meeting ended in violence, but officials have stated that the April earthquake, which killed more than 8,700 people, drove the leaders to work together and resolve the disputed issues. In June leaders of the four major political parties in Nepal reached an agreement on key issues for the new constitution and settled on dividing the country into eight federal states.
From Jurist, Sept. 21. Used with permission.
Note: The new constitution is primarily opposed by the Madhesi people of the southern Terai plains along the Indian border. The Madhesi actualy constitute more than 50% of Nepal's people, but have traditionally been exlcuded from political power. Madhesi leaders protest that the new constitution denies them parliament seats in proportion to their numbers, as well as dividing their territory administratively, with some of the new states joining parts of the Terai to the hill and mountain regions. The Terai region has seen repeated violent protests over the new constitution, with over 40 killed in recent weeks. India's government is backing the Madhesi demands for changes to the charter. (Indian Express, Sept. 23; First Post, Sept. 22; ANI, CSM, Sept. 21; Nepal Times, Aug. 8)