Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Fix your house first

As Nepal begins to ration petrol on account of the massive line-up of trucks at the border with India, some serious questions need to be asked over what led to this and what is being done about it. Firstly, there is no blockade by India as being claimed by the usual elites in Katmandu - trucks with supplies are lining up, and the only blockade is by the Madhesi and Janjati citizens of Nepal who have been effectively turned into second class citizens by the Hill elites in the new Constitution, and whose protests have been met with violent police repression. Indeed, some of the after effects could very well spill into poll-bound Bihar, which is the only thing that the Indian government is really concerned about.

The fact is that Nepal has to clean up its own house, and blaming India as usual won't do it. Despite all the measures Prime Minister Narendra Modi has taken to cooperate with Nepal while respecting its independence and values, the pro-China elites in Nepal turned a blind eye to the plea to take the concerns of the Madhesis into account before promulgating the new Constitution. What that has led to is the current state of violence and self-imposed blockade that is wrongly being blamed on India. The current Constitution is a recipe for disaster unless the political class renders some assurances to the aggrieved. The federal gerrymandering and  politics of citizenship that it imposes will tear Nepal apart, pushing the people of the Hills further away from those of the planes. This is the worst possible way to start a new era.

If anything, Nepal should take a leaf out of India's own process of writing the Constitution, where all views were taken into account and even those that were rejected, were given assurance to allay their fears. Moreover, the Indian Constitution guaranteed universal adult franchise and political participation by all, with representation representing population, both of which the Nepali Constitution fails to do. The disaster of the proportional representation system on the Constituent Assembly did not seem to have sunk in, and the same disaster has now been made permanent till amendment.

From the views of the Madhesis, not only have they been virtually stripped of electoral power, they have been denied political office and even citizenship, which is why protest is their only resort. For all the hope India had on it, Nepal has proven to be a disaster and playing the same India-versus-China card will not solve anything.

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