Why Dig up the Graves?

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Why Dig up the Graves?

The 11-province model and the multi-nationality issue are dead and buried for good.There is no need to dig up the graves.

--BY SHANT SHARMA

Some politicians are trying to resurrect the dead agenda of ‘11-province Nepal’ and ‘multi-nationalities Nepal’. This is bad news for those who have been at ease for the last three-four years, thinking the issue of the number of provinces in federal Nepal and the number of ‘nationalities’ living here was resolved for ‘good’ in September 2015, when the Constitution of Nepal 2015, the latest among the nearly half a dozen constitutions that Nepal has tried over the last seven decades – was issued. May be the issue was resolved, but without the ‘good’ factor. Claiming to be searching for that ‘good factor’, the leaders of Rastriya Janata Party Nepal (RJPN) and the newly-formed Samajwadi Party Nepal (SPN) are, many say, doing bad - they are raising the”11 provinces” and ‘multi-nationality” issues. 

The SPN, which was formed early May this year following the merger of Upendra Yadav-led Sanghiya Samajwadi Forum Nepal and Dr Baburam Bhattarai-led Naya Shakti Nepal, raised the issue of 11-province in the base paper prepared at the time of the merger. Similarly, the RJPN, the unified form of six Madhes-based parties (though the term ‘Madhes’ has been surprisingly dropped from the new, unified party’s name) has included the same agenda in the preamble of its party statute. In their manifestoes, both parties have raised the term “multi-national” with high priority.
Nepal has already adopted a federal set up even without properly considering, let alone answering, the question: did it really need it? But let’s not cry over spilt milk. It’s a bitter reality today that the country has been divided into seven provinces. However, claiming that the 11-province model was one of the prescriptions made by the then State Restructuring Commission (SRC), both parties have raised the 11-province model once again – 10 geographic provinces and one non-geographic province and politicians like Mahanth Thakur, Rajendra Mahato, Upendra Yadav and Dr Baburam Bhattarai are acting in unison.

In its manifesto submitted to the Election Commission, the SNP has raised the term ‘multi-national’ or words indicating it many times. “Development of multi-nationalism will be carried out by giving all nationalities equal rights,” says SNP’s manifesto submitted to the Election Commission. The manifesto further reads, “The identities of different indigenous nationalities, Madhesis, Tharus, Khas, Aryans, Shilpi (Artisans), Muslims etc are national identities. They all are the nationalities of Nepal. The communities which have their own historical, human, geography, common language, common culture, common economic life and common feeling  are all different nationalities in Nepal’s context.”

Hope everyone notices the confusion and contradiction here. Through a deceitful web of words (Shabdajaal in Nepali), it calls what are basically communities, nationalities. (Please read the last sentence of the quote used above once again.) The truth is communities are communities and nationalities are nationalities. Everywhere. No need trying to prove a point when actually there is no point at all with “…in Nepal’s context.” 

To know what nationality means, let’s ask a simple question to ourselves. What have we all been writing on our citizenship certificates or other official documents under the term nationality (Rastriyata)? Obviously, Nepali. Don’t we like it the way it has been? Or do we want to write Khas, Arya, Madhesi, Tharu, Muslims, etc instead of Nepali and encourage those trying to divide us to go along communal or ethnic lines? Aren’t these different people the different communities of this country with their common national identity or nationality being Nepali, the people of Nepal? 

Let’s look around and observe what others have been doing. What do the citizens of India, China, the United States of America etc call themselves? Obviously, Indians, Chinese and Americans. All these three countries are many, many times bigger than us. But the simple ‘formula’ for ‘nation and nationality’ has been working there well. It was working in Nepal too. But it has been made to look as if it was not working.

The RJPN, too, had used the word ‘multi-national’ many times in its election manifesto submitted to the Election Commission (EC). However, according to news reports, the party had revised the word after EC officials questioned its relevance, however, in the election manifesto distributed among its cadres right before the election, the term ‘multinational’ was used freely.  Similarly, the party has raised the 11-province agenda in the draft of the party statute to be presented at its general convention “to be held soon”. According to media reports, the issue of 10+1 provinces has been raised with priority in the preamble of RJPN’s draft statute.

It is worth-noting here that around mid-May, 2012, when the three major parties of that time – UCPN (Maoist), Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML agreed on the 11-province model, an alliance of cross-party Madhesi lawmakers known back then as the Broader Madhesi Front (BMF), and different indigenous groups had protested against the decision. In fact, the BMF and the then Indigenous Nationalities Joint Struggle Committee (INJSC) had launched joint protests against the agreement among the major parties to adopt the 11-province model. Back then, while the INJSC had supported an indefinite general shutdown in the Tarai, the BMF had supported the INJSC’s nationwide general strike in return.

According to media reports, addressing a press conference, chairman of the then Madhesi People’s Rights Forum (MPRF) Upendra Yadav, who represents the newly-formed SNP in the current PM KP Oli-led Cabinet as the deputy prime minister and health minister, had back then said that both the BMF and the INJSC would protest against the 11-province model and support each other in their struggle. “From now on, we will struggle jointly for our common causes. The forms of our struggle will be changing, but we will be agitating until our demands are addressed,” media reports had quoted him as saying.

The issue of federalism in Nepal is akin to the proverbial bone that gets stuck in the throat. The State Restructuring Committee of the first Constituent Assembly (CA) had proposed a 14-province model while the State Restructuring Commission formed according to the Interim Constitution-2007 provided two options for state restructuring – an 11-province model and a 6-province model.

Almost everyone said the 14- and 11-province model would be too expensive, and so the 6-province model was agreed upon. However, around 2015, the major parties had to agree on a proposal to divide Province 6 into two due to the protests in the country’s far-west. And thus, the current seven-province model was endorsed by an overwhelming majority of lawmakers who do nothing but listen to the “party high command” in such matters, without feeling any need to use their own discretion, and thus it became possible to promulgate the new constitution in September 2015.

Fast forward to 2019, the RJPN and the SPN have been formed by merging Madhes-based parties and different indigenous groups which once protested against the idea of creating an 11-province Nepal. And now, quite astonishingly, the leaders of the SPN and RJPN such as Upendra Yadav, Dr Baburam Bhattarai, Mahanth Thakur and Rajendra Mahato are trying to resurrect the long dead and buried 11-province model. For that, they have already started digging the grave.

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