[lg policy] Nepal: Same as Before

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Fri Jul 22 10:50:43 EDT 2016

Same as before

   - Discriminatory provisions in the constitution have led to endless
   agitation and unrest

- Amar Kant Jha <http://kathmandupost.ekantipur.com/author/amar+kant+jha>

Jul 22, 2016- Since the new constitution of Nepal is non-inclusive and
discriminatory, long-marginalised groups like Madhesis, Tharus and other
ethnic communities have been holding various protests to secure their
political rights. One of the most discriminatory aspects of the
constitution is the way the seven federal provinces have been demarcated in
open violation of People’s Movement 2006, 12-point agreement signed between
the Seven-Party Alliance and the Maoists, and the various accords reached
between the state and the Madhesis, Tharus and other ethnic communities.

*Purposeful restructuring*

Except for Province 2, the other six provinces have been delineated in such
a manner that hill high castes form a majority of the population allowing
them to perpetuate their hegemony. The bottom line of the Madhesi-Tharu
agitators is the formation of two autonomous provinces in Tarai-Madhes. If
three eastern and nine western districts of Tarai-Madhes are included in
the two adjoining provinces of Tarai-Madhes instead of being combined with
hill provinces, this will help not only Tharus and Madhesis but also enable
Rais, Limbus, Magars and Gurungs to gain access to state authority. If this
is done, Rai-Limbu ethnic groups and high hill castes will be almost equal
in population in Province 1.

Similarly, if the western districts of Tarai-Madhes are included in
Province 5, and if Provinces 4, 6 and 7 are reorganised by retaining 10
hill districts (Gorkha, Lamjung, Tanahu, Kaski, Manang, Mustang, Myagdi,
Baglung, Palpa and  Syangja) in Province 4 and retaining 11 western
districts in Provinces 6 and 7, Magar-Gurung ethnic groups and high hill
castes will be almost equal in population in these provinces. This kind of
demarcation will allow all sizeable population groups to have a
proportional share in the power structure and the restructuring of the
state will, thus, be purposeful.

With regard to representation, the constitution states that each province
will elect eight members to the National Assembly irrespective of its
population. Accordingly, Provinces 6 and 7 with a population of 397,537
will send eight members each and Province 2 with a population of 5,402,346
will also send eight members. This is is a glaring case of discriminatory
representation. Instead, the number of representatives should be determined
on the basis of the population of the province.

*Linguistic policy*

Regarding the choice of official languages for the federal and provincial
governments, the constitution states that Nepali shall be the official
language of the federal government, and in addition to Nepali, one or two
languages most widely spoken in the province can be adopted as its official
languages. Since Nepali shall be the official language of both the federal
and provincial governments, and since a province cannot afford to use two
or three languages for its official purposes, the age-long monolingual
policy favouring Nepali will persist.

As a result of this monolingual policy, more than 2 million Nepalis have
abandoned their mother tongue and shifted to Nepali, resulting in language
loss or endangerment. Instead of such a discriminatory linguistic
provision, Nepali and one or two resourceful languages should be adopted by
the federal government as its official languages. Meanwhile, the provinces
may declare one or two languages or Nepali as their official languages.
Under this provision, the languages of the province will get priority and
help bring socio-economic transformation among linguistically oppressed
groups. The names of the languages used by the federal and provincial
governments should be listed in a separate schedule of the constitution.

This kind of constitutional provision is found in India, which is noted in
the world for safeguarding linguistic pluralism. According to the
Constitution of India, Hindi and English are the official languages of the
federal government while state legislatures can adopt any one or more of
the languages of the state for its official purposes. The South African
model is another option. The constitution of South Africa lists 10
indigenous languages and English as the official languages. The national
and provincial governments can select any two from the list for their
official purposes. Based on this model, we can enlist languages spoken by
at least one percent of Nepalis. Agreeing on any one of these language
policy models will promote multilingualism in our country.

*Top constitutional posts*

The Madhesi Front also disapproves of the constitutional provision which
prohibits naturalised citizens from assuming top constitutional posts.
Since Tarai-Madhes and the five neighbouring states of India have a unique
relationship, sharing an open border, common languages, cultures, religions
and history, and since both sides are connected by blood and marriage, a
great majority of the naturalised citizens in Nepal come from Tarai-Madhes.
They will be seriously affected by this provision, so it needs to go. The
new constitution contains many such discriminatory provisions, provoking
endless movements and unrest in the country. The top leaders of the three
big parties must be held responsible for the current political chaos in the
country. They rushed the constitution through the Constituent Assembly
without any serious discussion and backtracked on their promises to the
people. They have a duty to initiate real negotiations with the agitating
parties and resolve all constitutional issues.

*Jha is a retired Tribhuvan University professor*


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