People want revisions in the draft

Wednesday 29 July, 2015   |   Law and Human Rights

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People want revisions in the draft

Babita Ghising in Lalitpur


"The draft constitution is nothing but a useless piece of paper for indigenous people like me, it snatches away from us even those rights that we enjoyed in the past."

This is a statement made by not a Janjati leader but a common indigenous person. Bel Bahadur Tamang, who lives in Malta of Lalitpur district, is not a leader, nor is he an activist. But he is aware that the draft constitution does not guarantee rights for indigenous people like him.

Tamang expressed his dissatisfaction at a program organized in Chapagaun of Lalitpur to collect public feedback on the draft constitution on 21 July. He said, "The percentage of seats reserved under Proportional Representation (PR) system has been reduced in the draft constitution, which means we will have little voice in the parliament."


Tamang was not alone to vent his ire at the draft constitution. Most of the participants looked unhappy, and they wanted a lot of revisions in the draft.
Interestingly, even supporters of those parties that signed the 16-point deal paving the way for the Constituent Assembly (CA) to  draft the constitution looked frustrated.

People were mainly concerned about three issues: religion, ethnicity and citizenship. They do not want to fight over religion, they want freedom to follow whichever religions they want. People also do not want discrimination based on ethnicity. And they want equal rights for men and women regarding citizenship issues.

Suraj Shrestha, President of the Chapagaun village committee of the ruling Nepali Congress (NC), one of the four signatories to the 16-point deal, said: "Names and boundaries of federal provinces should be determined before the constitution is passed."

Shrestha was unhappy also because there is no timeframe for holding elections to local government bodies. "Holding parliamentary elections without local body elections is impossible," he said. "But the draft constitution is silent about when local government body elections will be held."

Ganga Maya Tamang of Federal Socialist Party Forum  criticized the draft constitution for not recognizing diversity of women. "All women are not the same, Madhesi and Janjati women are more backward than women belonging to Chhetri and Brahmin communities," she said. "So, the new constitution should give more rights to Madhesi and Janjati women than other women. The draft constitution has failed to take into account these gender dynamics."

Although a majority of participants were not happy with the draft constitution, CA members were happy with the enthusiasm shown by the common people. Sushil Nepal, a CA member from the CPN (UML), said, "People were mainly concerned about three issues: religion, ethnicity and citizenship."

Indigenous people have made a huge contribution to this constitution. So, they are wary of its content. They want identity based federalism and proportional representation. They fear if the draft ignores their concerns.

She added, "People do not want to fight over religion, they want freedom to follow whichever religions they want. People also do not want discrimination based on ethnicity. And they want equal rights for men and women regarding citizenship issues."

Yogendra Ghising, a CA member from the UCPN (Maoist), said: "Indigenous people have made a huge contribution to this constitution. So, they are wary of its content. They want identity based federalism and proportional representation. They fear if the draft ignores their concerns."

Udaya Shamsher Rana, a CA member belonging to the NC, said: "People are in favour of threshold. They also want either the post of President or Vice President to go the women."

Rana added, "On the basis of these suggestions collected from the people, the draft constitution will be revised. Its main contents will remain the same. But the public feedback will not be ignored."


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