Kathmandu, Nov 30 Thousands of people in Nepal took to the streets on Wednesday to protest against a Constitution amendment proposal, and particularly the proposal to split Province no 5 in a bid to address the row over provincial boundaries.
A day after the Nepal government tabled a Bill related to the constitution amendment in order to address the demands and grievances of Madhes-based political parties, thousands of people took to the streets in six districts of Lumbini zone from early Wednesday.
Main opposition, Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) (CPN-UML) has already rejected the proposal before its inception while there is sharp division and discontent over the proposal within the ruling alliance -- Nepali Congress and CPN (Maoist Center).
The amendment proposal seeks split some of the districts of the present Province No 5 and to incorporate them in Province no 4 and 6. Against this proposed change and in favour of a unified Province 5, thousands of people across party lines have joined hands since Wednesday morning.
In order to woo the Madhes-based parties, the government has decided to create two provinces in Nepal's southern plain. According to the new proposal, the southern plain will have two provinces - 2 and 6 - exclusively dominated by Madhesi population.
In response to the proposal, six districts of Lumbini Zone of Nepal are tense since early morning as hundreds of people have taken into the street. These spontaneous mass rallies are supported by the CPN-UML and even ruling, NC and Maoist party cadre.
Defying the party's decision and instructions, cardre belong to the ruling parties took to the streets and formed an alliance against the spilt of Province 5.
Vehicular movements in the six districts of Lumbini Zone were badly affected, markets were closed as top leaders of the ruling and opposition alliance also joined in the movement.
A key alliance of the agitating Madhesi Morcha on Wednesday rejected the government's proposal.
Upendra Yadav, a prominent Madeshi leader and Chairman of the Sanghiya Samajbadi Forum (Federal Socialist Alliance), rejected the proposed Bill saying the government has made a "serious mistake" while registering the proposal without prior consultation with them.
After a year of hiatus and political stand-off and in order to heed the demands and grievances of agitating Madhes-based political parties, the Nepal government on Tuesday night tabled a constitution amendment Bill in Legislative Parliament. Before registering the proposal, a Cabinet meeting endorsed the four-point proposal regarding addressing the row over federal boundaries, citizenship, language, inclusive representation of all marginalized communities in various state entities, including in Upper House, on the basis of population ratio.
The amendment is meant for various marginalized and deprived communities, Yadav said in a statement on Wednesday, but without consensus and the approval from the same groups and consent from Madhes the proposal does not hold any relevance.
Though Yadav made his position clear, other Madhes-based parties have not made their position clear on the amendment proposal.
Support from Madhes-based parties is key as Nepal needs to move forward for the Constitution implementation process, like holding three-tiered elections - local, provincial and central - in another 15 months.
A meeting of the agitating United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF), of which Yadav is a member, has been called later in the day to make their position clear.
If the Yadav-led party does not support the proposal, chances of securing two-third majority votes to approve the Bill will be minimal.
Neither the demands put by Madhesi Morcha or by the Forum were addressed in the proposal, said Yadav in his statement. "Our demand is to federate Nepal in 10 Provinces but government has not prescribed any kind of remedies over settling the row over federal boundaries."
The proposal is not clear about language, said the statement; issues like provincial autonomy, ensuring representation of various ethnic communities in various state entities on the basis of proportional representation has not been made.
None of any of the proposed changes in the Bill is going to meet our demands, he said while expressing reservations over citizenship, proportional representation of Madhesis and other communities in the Upper House and others.
"If representation is not made on the basis of population ratio, Madhesis in Nepal who have have been suffering and depressed since centuries, will not get majority in the Upper House," he said, claiming that such a proposal will further escalate tension in the country, instigate conflict among the communities and castes, invite political disorder that will ultimately lead to a state of confusion, ambiguity and instability.
So, he said, we will continue our protest and agitation until our demands are met.