Event ReportsPublished on Oct 14, 2015
Nepal is upset that India did not whole-heartedly support the adoption of the new Constitution by the Constituent Assembly, according to Mr. Chandra Kumar Ghimire, Consul General of Nepal in Kolkata.
Nepal upset India did not wholeheartedly support new Constitution

Nepal is upset that India did not whole-heartedly support the adoption of the new Constitution by the Constituent Assembly, according to Chandra Kumar Ghimire, Consul General of Nepal in Kolkata.

He regretted that despite being the closest neighbor and friend, it did not welcome the adoption of the Constitution, while congratulation messages poured in from several countries.

Ghimire was speaking at a discussion on "Nepal’s new Constitution and current situation" at Observer Research Foundation, Kolkata, on 30 September 2015. Ghimire, at the outset, traced back the movement for democracy to pre-Independence time when the Nepali Congress had fought in consortium with the Indian National Congress for the cause of Independence from British rule. He recalled that the Nepali Congress as a party had its inception in Calcutta itself. While discussing the history of struggle for democracy in Nepal, he highlighted 1950 as the first landmark when the Rana regime yielded to popular uprising and a period of constitutional rule with followed. However, this was short lived as in 1960 King Mahendra Shah dismissed the elected government, taking over control to form a one party system for next 30 years.

In 1990, Ghimire said, another round of movement for democracy began and installed an elected government. However, elected government could not sustain for too long and in 1996, Maoist insurgency led to a period of civil war. He pointed out that the period of 1990 to 1996 saw much socio-economic progress in Nepal. As a result of periodic turmoil and suppression during the Emergency in 2006, the elections were boycotted by all major parties. In 2006, a seven party coalition finally resumed control, stripping the king of most of his powers and bringing an end to monarchical rule.

Ghimire singled out the peace process leading to Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) as the milestone in the history of conflict management in Nepal. Its success paves the way in facilitating transformation from arms-driven to ballot-box politics. In 2008, the fist Constituent Assembly (CA) was formed and the elections of CA took place, formalizing with full legitimacy the transition from a monarchical to Republican system of rule in Nepal. In the second CA, all political parties made a consensus. They realized frustrating people’s aspirations will be a form of betrayal to the nation.

In September, soon after protests started over the Constitution, 8 to 14 out of 75 districts (based on ethnic communities) began agitating against the draft Constitution. According to Ghimire, these dissentious communities represent a minuscule section of about 100 communities living in Nepal. Finally, the approval was gained through voting. The drafting of the Constitution was a rigorous process. The 601 CA members went all around the country and garnered opinion. All missions abroad were activated and opinion was taken from the diaspora abroad. Thus, a long calendar has been followed. Ghimire added that on 17 September 2015 the Government of India had sent an envoy with Foreign Secretary and unofficially, it was requested to take back the Constitution following the agitation by minority communities in Nepal. This particular request was condemned by the Ghimire.

He offered a statistical overview of the voting process. Among the Chettri community, 124 representatives voted in favour, among the Janajati, 120 voted in favour and only one against, among the Brahmins, 115 voted in favour, among the Madhesi , 67 voted in favour and 61 against, among the Dalits, 38 voted in favour, 29 in Tharu, 19 among Other Backward Castes (OBC) and 14 in Muslim communities also voted in favour. Ghimire added that Dahsnmai and Sikh communities had also participated in the voting process.

The Peace Process in Nepal continuing for last decade had clear goals. They were outlined by Ghimire as first, inclusion of rebel army in national army, second, election of Constituent Assembly (which could be done with 795 participants) and finally, the Constitution making. Thus, the goals having been achieved, the Peace Process has been deemed successful. Ghimire criticised the Indian media coming out with explosive and sensational news on the protests by communities on India-Nepal border over the adoption of new Constitution.

Despite the controversy and disagreement surrounding the adoption of new Constitution, Ghimire deemed it as a legitimate and highly appreciable document. He highlighted few salient features of the Constitution. The Constitution is the fundamental law of the land, sovereignty is upheld and state authority is demarcated (three tier government with union, state and local levels). He pointed out several similarities with the Indian system such as the fact that the Nepali President will be elected from parliament, Prime Minister has the power to dissolve the Parliament if fresh mandate is desired, Constitution is amendable with two-third majority, mixed election system and a bicameral legislature at centre, to mention a few. Talking about the ministry structure, Ghimire said that a maximum of 25 Cabinet Ministers may be elected at the Centre and each state will have Chief Minister and Governor and a maximum of 20 ministers. Also the jurisdiction of union, state and local governments as well as judiciary is well demarcated, secularism will be upheld and separate commissions for four major communities will be appointed, he added.

Ghimire seconded the view of Kanak Mani Dixit calling the adoption an "advanced South Asian Experiment" although there are mixed reactions on the adoption from Indian intelligentsia. However, the adoption, for Ghimire was by and large a "process of give and take" which was supported and legitimised by a landslide majority.

Report prepared by Swagata Saha, Research Assistant, ORF Kolkata

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