Nepal to amend Constitution to address Madhesi demands
Kathmandu, Dec 4: Top leaders of Nepal's three major parties today decided to amend the new Constitution within the next three months to address the demands of Indian-origin Madhesis even as a tripartite dialogue with them was put off as the agitating leaders did not turn up.
The senior leaders of ruling CPN-UML and UCPN-Maoist, and main opposition Nepali Congress made the decision at a crucial meeting held at the Prime Minister's official residence in Baluwatar to resolve the ongoing political crisis in the country.
Top leaders, including Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, Nepali Congress president Sushil Koirala and UCPN-Maoist chief Prachanda, agreed to proceed with the Constitution Amendment Bill registered at the Parliament and resolve the issues regarding the demarcation of federal units within three months.
Two major demands of the agitating Madhesi groups -- proportionatte representation and allocation of Parliament seats on the basis of population -- are incorporated in the constitution amendment bill proposed by previous Nepali Congress led government.
In the meeting, the parties discussed issues relating to blockade of key trade points at the border with India, ongoing agitation in the southern Nepal and ways to address the concerns of the agitating Madhesi parties.
The discussion of the major parties also focussed on making a common stance on the demands put forth by the Madhes-based parties, according to Nepali Congress sources.
The meeting was held a day after Deputy Prime Minister Kamal Thapa returned home from his thrree-day personal visit to India, where he met External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and discussed issues relating to Nepal-India border blockade and the ongoing agitation by Madhesi parties against the new Constitution.
Thapa had yesterday said that he had a "fruitful" discussion with Swaraj to end the blockade of border trade points by Indian-origin Madhesis and the talks helped in clearing existing misunderstandings between the two nations.
Meanwhile, the scheduled tripartite talks among the ruling coalition, the main opposition Nepali Congress and the agitating United Democratic Madhesi Front could not take place as the UDMF leaders did not attend the meeting this evening.
Since the promulgation of the Constitution in Nepal in September, Indian-origin Madhesi population has been staging sit-in on the border stopping flow of goods as they believe the country's new Constitution discriminates against them, denying them equal standing with other Nepalis.
The agitation has obstructed supply of essential commodities including petrol thereby creating a crisis in Nepal, which accused India of imposing a "economic blockade".
India maintains that it has imposed no such blockade, and the restrictions are a result of security concerns as Madhesis are protesting the new Constitution in the Terai region of Nepal bordering India.