Source: Al Jazeera
The leader of Nepal’s ethnic Madhesi community, which is waging mass protests against the country’s new constitution, has accused mainstream political parties of racism.
“The mainstream Nepali parties don’t consider Tarai people as their own,” said Upendra Yadav, the leader of the Sanghiya Samjawadi Forum, referring to those living in the southern plains bordering India.
“The Nepali ruling class discriminates against Madhesi people, who comprise [nearly] half the population. But according to the new constitution, our representation won’t even cross 25 percent in parliament,” he said in an interview with Al Jazeera.
But Sherdhan Rai, Nepal’s communication minister, dismissed accusations of discrimination.
He said that the government is ready for constitutional amendments through political consensus – an onerous task in divided Nepali politics.
The current constitution was passed five years late, with political bickering and the personal ambitions of politicians slowing the process after a second constituent assembly was elected in late 2013.
On September 20, when Nepal finally adopted its new charter replacing the 2007 interim constitution, it was met with cheers.
But not everyone was happy, saying that some of the progressive elements of the interim charter were diluted.
The new charter defines Nepal as a secular republic divided into seven federal states, and has provision for proportional representation for historically marginalised groups such as Dalits, Madhesis and other minorities.
Redrawing provincial boundaries
People in the southern Tarai plains, who share close cultural ties with India, want the boundaries of the new provinces redrawn. They are seeking measures to address underrepresentation in parliament, as well as in government jobs.
Since the new charter was passed, they have staged mass protests calling for amendments to accommodate their demands.