Nepal's Madhesi Morcha rejects constitution amendment bill

Indo Asian News Service

Kathmandu, April 12 (IANS) A day after the Pushpa Kamal Dahal 'Prachanda'-led Nepal government tabled a constitution amendment bill in Parliament to woo Madhesis, an alliance of seven Madhesi-based parties on Wednesday rejected the bill and decided to continue its protest.

Madhesis form a sizeable portion of the country's population, especially in the Terai region. They have been threatening to boycott the local elections if changes in the constitution are not made to get them greater statutory rights and representation.

A meeting of Madhesi Morcha on Wednesday decided to boycott the May 14 local polls and announced fresh protest, saying that the new constitution amendment bill was even more regressive than the previous one.

In November last year, too, the Prachanda-led government had tabled a bill in Parliament but later withdrew it after it failed to elicit support from Madhesi-based parties and main opposition CPN-UML.

With the latest decision, the fate of upcoming local elections proposed to take place after nearly 20 years has become uncertain.

The meeting concluded that they would not be party to the amendment bill tabled in Parliament, as the the new bill did not address their key demand -- revision of provincial boundary -- and no provisions pertaining to citizenship, national assembly and language in the old proposal had been changed.

"The fundamental demand is to make changes in demarcation of the provincial boundaries, where the government has grossly failed," the Morcha said in a joint statement signed by seven top Madhesi Morcha leaders.

Over six dozen people have been killed in Nepal's southern region since the start of anti-constitution movement, after major parties in Nepal promulgated the new constitution in September 2015 without seeking approval of the Madhesi-based parties.

Prachanda has repeatedly told in public that he had prepared a draft of new amendment bill in consultation with Madhesi leaders, but the latter denied having given their consent.

"Madhesi Morcha was not taken into confidence before tabling of the bill," said a Morcha leader.

According to them, the content of the bill is different from what was agreed upon by the taskforce comprising ruling parties and Morcha leaders. To prepare the bill proposals, the government and the Morcha had formed the taskforce.

According to their statement, initially they will picket all district election offices based in their stronghold in Terai from next week and then announce their detailed agitation programme.