By Dr. S. Chandrasekharan
On 12th of April, Dahal’s government formally withdrew its previous amendment bill and registered a fresh one. This new bill does meet some of the demands made by the Madhesi groups, though not all. As expected, the UML, more out of its cussedness has opposed the bill on the ground that the party was not consulted before hand!
For them, it has become an ego problem and are still hopeful that they can sweep the polls on an anti-Indian, nationalistic platform. The Terai groups and the UDMF in particular should understand this point.
Strangely, the UDMF without even studying the new proposals or consulting each other has decided to renew its agitation thus making it almost impossible for the government to conduct an all-inclusive local body elections on May 14. It is immaterial whether the elections should be done in one go or in two phases. But the suggestions made by some vested interests to avoid the elections totally and go for the regional and federal elections should not be countenanced at all.
The agitation now proposed is supposed to be peaceful but one can never say how the dynamics will work out with the trigger-happy security forces on one side and a few fringe elements on the other. More than a hundred deaths have occurred in the agitation so far in the Terai and it is time for the leaders to make an introspection to see whether they should inadvertently support the UML that is desperately trying to perpetuate the divide between the Hills and the plains people.
As said earlier, the 11 point amendment proposal does take care of some of the misgivings of the Madhesi groups. Two major and important changes that should meet the approval of the Madhesi groups are-
* The revision of the federal boundaries will now be done through a federal commission and not through the transitional provisions set forth in Article 295. While the existing provisions under Article 274 (7) forbid change without the consent of concerned provinces, the amendment enables the federal parliament “to change the provincial boundary even without the consent of the respective provinces until the provincial assembly is formed.”
* The second important deviation from the previous amendment is about the composition of the National Assembly. The fresh proposal is that while each province can provide 3 representatives each, the rest 35 will be elected on the basis of the population. This in my view is an important concession to the Madhesi Groups.
It is unfortunate and totally illogical for the UDMF to call the fresh amendments as “regressive.” At the same time one cannot agree with the UML who wants the new proposals to be “owned” by the Madhesi groups. Their attempt is to make the Madhesi groups “to rub their noses” on the ground- a demand that is humiliating and condemnable.
The UML can act tough because of their numbers in the Parliament and no amendment is possible without their consent. Here is a lesson for the Terains who frittered away their advantages in the last parliamentary elections by not fighting under one unified banner. This disunity continues even now with Gachaadar and Upendra Yadav pulling in opposite directions and the poor ordinary Madhesis are getting killed by the security forces. In some cases the families have lost their sole bread winners!
The move to start a fresh round of agitation will only satisfy the bloated egos of the Madhesi leaders but not the people who have had enough of the agitations. It is time for the Madhesi groups to take part in the local body elections and fight another day for their rights rather than being on a perpetual motion of confrontation.