Nepal Proposes Constitution Amendment to Meet Ethnic Demands

By The Associated Press 1 December 2016

KATHMANDU — Nepal’s government proposed amending its new constitution to carve out a new state to meet the demands of an ethnic group whose protests for a bigger federal state last year left more than 50 people dead.

The government registered the bill in parliament late Tuesday that proposes a second state in southern Nepal where there is large presence of Madhesi ethnic community.

Hridesh Tripati of the Terai Madhes Democratic Party said Wednesday it was welcome progress but still inadequate.

“It is one step forward and a good progress but it is still not enough. This new proposal does not cover the districts we have been demanding to be included in Madhesi state,” Tripati said, adding an alliance of Madhesi parties would meet to decide if it was going to accept and support the government initiative.

The Madhesi ethnic groups are unhappy with the constitution that was adopted last year in parliament. They were dissatisfied with the territory assigned to them in the new federal states in the constitution.

Protests that lasted for months last year left more than 50 people killed and paralyzed southern Nepal. Border points with India were blocked, causing severe shortages of fuel, medicine, and other supplies in Nepal.

A new government that took over power in August promised the Madhesi groups they would look into their demands, and Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal also got their support in a parliament vote for his position.

The Madhesi community says they have always been discriminated against, and do not get equal opportunities in government, employment, education, and other rights.

Police reported small protests Wednesday in southwest Nepal opposing the government plans, but there were no reports of violence.

The proposal will be debated in parliament next week. The government needs the support of two-thirds of parliament to approve the change. The main opposition Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) has not said yet if it will support the bill, and passing it would be difficult without their support.