Putting Nepal’s Constitution in the Right Perspective- An Interview

Mr. Udaya SJB Rana, is a Member of Parliament from Lalitpur district of Nepal, Nepali Congress. Nepal’s CA member and the President of the Nepal Tarun Dal, a sister organization of Nepali Congress party. He is also the Vice chairperson of International Young Democrat Union.

The wait for Nepal is over and they have finally managed to draft their own constitution after a long period of eight years. Yet, to everything new that occurs, the media covers its flaws and the people find problems whereas we miss the big picture. In Nepal, that is exactly what is happening. The Madhesis and other minority groups are on the streets vehemently opposing the constitution, women are protesting against Articles 13(1). The government has promised to make amendments once its promulgated but they are not ready to listen. The media is citing the negative aspects and questioning the credibility of the government. To clear all misconceptions and to keep you out of the grey, this interview will enable oneself to see the clear, big picture. This is the actual picture of Nepal and its constitution.

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Courtesy: Ayush SJB Rana, 2nd year, Delhi University

What in 8 years has changed so drastically that your government has finally arrived at a constitution?

  1. Desperation- People were getting impatient. Everybody just wanted the discussions to end and finalize the Nepalese Constitution. So, the major parties got together to put an end to the ever increasing demands of people for the constitution
  2. The Nepal Earthquake, 2015- this acted as a catalyst to the process of formulation. After the disaster, we had to do something positive for the people. People had to look up to something to boost their morale. Thus, the drafting began in full swing so that people do not lose faith any further.

 So, a combination of desperation and the earthquake, helped in arriving at it.

 

Article 13. Provisions regarding naturalized citizenship: (1) If a male foreign citizen who is married to Nepali citizen after the commencement of this Constitution, wishes to acquire matrimonial naturalized citizenship, shall acquire naturalized citizenship of Nepal as provided for in law if he Draft of the Constitution of Nepal,  has lived in the country for 15 years, and has initiated the process of relinquishing his foreign citizenship.

(2) If a foreign woman who is married to a Nepali citizen, wishes to acquire naturalized citizenship of Nepal, may acquire naturalized citizenship of the country as provided for in law if she initiates the process of relinquishing her foreign citizenship.

This is being opposed by women as they feel it is unfair and somehow propagates patriarchy. Do you think that is true?

Yes and No.Yes it is a little unfair when the “bahu” can get citizenship right away and should be changed. But if we see I would say no because we had huge problems with single mothers. The father had to declare a child as his but various cases of wedlock’s and other disputes led to the father disowning the child.

As far as the question of patriarchy or even women inequality goes, this constitution has been the most inclusive one the world has seen till date. In fact, there is by far the maximum no. of reservations for women any constitution has ever allowed. Many factors support this. The lower house, elected by proportional representation will have 40% reserved seats out of which 50% are reserved for women. For Dalits, 10% seats are reserved catering for 50% of that to be for Dalit women, The tribal community also has reservations of 40% again out of which, 50% is reserved for women, even in Brahmins and Rajputs, the reservations cater for the women. Not only at the central but down to the village level, the smallest unit being a ward having 5 representatives out of which 2 have to be women.

So, despite being so inclusive and empowering women more than any other nation (be it the SAARC nations, the USA or even the Scandinavian nations), so the question of patriarchy is answered with clear facts that there is no such aim.

The media has portrayed that the big parties have not considered the minority groups and have “rushed” into the process.

 To give an answer I would like to bring to notice that the Terai people, who we call the Madeshis, were signatories to the interim constitution which was drafted in 2007 and the present one is nothing but a child of that very constitution. So we ourselves are unable to understand why they are not welcoming it today, if they did, back then.

 As far as the demarcation of states is concerned, back then the Madeshis had initially opposed the 16 point proposal made but later on supported it and promised that they must be liberal. Thus today, where does their liberal aspect go?

 Yes, I do feel the leaders were a bit naive on this particular issue of demarcation. On the Draft Constitution, the demarcation had to be carried out making 6 states. But on the announcement, people took to roads and protested to which a hurried decision was made and 7 states were announced within a span of 5 days from the day of the first announcement of 6 states. This is something our leaders should have not done as it aggravated the whole situation further.

 As the media claims that we “rushed” the process, I feel that is completely wrong since we took 8 long years to come to a conclusion. We talked about it in seminars, in meetings, in the Parliament, in informal gatherings, in India, anywhere abroad. We discussed it everywhere and finally reached a perfect draft. So we did not “rush” anything but rather delayed the process.

 

Do you think the division of states will strengthen administration?

 I cannot say whether it will create problems or will strengthen federal administration but what is necessary to be kept in mind are two things:-

  1. The decentralization of power from Katmandu is required and therefore the federal units re a must. The strengthening of administration is questionable but political sustenance is more important.
  2. The Madhesi Andolan in 2007 began only as a revolution for restructuring the unitary system and for making Nepal a federation. So, by giving into their demand was the most practical choice we made.

Do you think freedom had brought anarchy to Nepal?

I wouldn’t say that but what had happened was that during the Maoist Andolan, all rules were broken by them. Morals, values, fundamental rules, every rule was broken. So, there had to be a compromise. They got the government on its knees and became the largest party in Nepal. This, in the region of highly volatile and unemployed population, effected them immensely. They were effected by rule-breaking and took pride in being rule breakers. That gave impetus to the youth to make that a way of living, disturbing the nation’s mentality and values. Do you think Prachanda was an anarchist? I wouldn’t go so far. No, he wasn’t an anarchist. A terrorist for some is a messiah for some other.

How much is China’s influence in Nepal going to effect Indo- Nepalese relationship?

Not at all. Chinese relationship with Nepal is not as engaging as it is with India be it cultural, social or the open border. Though the Chinese do assist our economy, they are not overly involved in Nepal. India that way has deep ties embedded in Nepal.

That way, the Chinese are pragmatic. They understand the relations between India and Nepal quite well and in fact insist upon our leaders involving India in various matters. I would say the Chinese are smart since their motive is just to avoid any anti-China feeling from budding in Nepal.

But with India, Nepal shares a great and deep connection, which is unmatchable to that of China.

This interview has cleared all controversial areas that we have been reading about vis-à-vis the constitution of Nepal. The constitution has spread its wings very wide and is the most inclusive one the world has seen. So, no matter how much it is being criticized by cynics and critics, it has opened a door of hope to the broken Nepal and set an example on a global sphere. Nepal is proud, and it has all the right to be.

 To view the whole constitution of Nepal- visit

http://himalaya.socanth.cam.ac.uk/collections/rarebooks/downloads/Nepal_1959_Constitution_English.pdf

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One Comment Add yours

  1. Sumat Mehra says:

    Very well done interview ! Captured the essence and made it interesting to read.

    Keep it up !

    Liked by 1 person

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