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Editorial Today – The crisis in Nepal

Background Brief History of Nepal from British period.

Controversy over 2015 Constitution Madhesi protest.

Who are Madhesi The Madhesi also referred to as Teraibasi Nepali are an indigenous ethnic group of Nepalese people.

Recent developments Once again, Nepal appears to be on the brink of leadership change.

 

Background

  • Nepal was a Hindu kingdom in the past and was a monarchy.
  • During British period,  as a result of boundary disputes and repeated raids by Gurkha columns into British territory, the Governor General declared war on Nepal in 1814. After two long and bloody campaigns a Peace Treaty was signed at Sugauli in 1816. According to this agreement :
  1. Britishers will not interfere in the internal matters of Nepal.
  2. Britishers will have say in the foreign policy of Nepal.
  3. Britishers will protect Nepalese king from both internal and external adversaries.
  4. During the war a deep feeling of mutual respect and admiration had developed between the British and their adversaries, the British being much impressed by the fighting and other fine qualities of the Gurkha soldier.

 

  • Under the terms of the Peace Treaty large numbers of Gorkhas were permitted to volunteer for service in the East India Company’s Army.
  • In 1947 when British forces withdraw from India, there was no one to protect Nepalese kingdom and thus revolution was launched by anti king forces led by Nepali Congress (NC). Because of this king had to draft constitution under settlement and elections were held.
  • After election National Congress (NC) form government but the power struggle continued between the Prime Minister and the King. As a result in 1960’s king assumed all power by passing a new constitution and banned all political party.
  • But in 1990 there was huge uprising by people which is known as First Jan Andolan. Under settlement the king had drafted new constitution in which king remained head of state similar to Indian President but the real power was with PM. Multiparty parliamentary system was accepted and elections were held.
  • But the government was not able to upgrade the life of people. Corruption was rampant. Power was held in the hands of elite people only. As a result ethnic division sharpened in an already divided society.
  • These issued led to the emergence of Maoist element and they started armed struggle against government. They took control over various areas in Nepal. Their demand was to abolish monarchy and draft a new constitution.
  • As Maoist menace increased King dissolved the government and assumed all power to itself citing that government was not able to tackle Maoist effectively in 2005.
  • But because of people uprising king was forced to restore the government.
  • After restoration the parliament passed a law according to which the army will now take command from PM and not King. It also declares Nepal a secular country.
  • Finally in 2006 Maoists sign a Comprehensive peace accord with Nepal Government, under which Maoists will stop violence and join mainstream.
  • After this an interim constitution was made replacing 1990’s constitution and according to this Constituent assembly was elected which was to draft a new constitution.
  • Election was held under this but no party got absolute majority thus coalition government was formed.
  • But for a very long time the constituent assembly was not able to deliver result because of disagreement between various parties.
  • Finally on September 20, 2015 new constitution of Nepal came into force replacing the interim constitution of 2007.

Controversy over 2015 Constitution

  • The promulgation of the new constitution was immediately followed by virtual blockade of all checkpoints at Nepal-India border. Various Human Rights Activists and some ethnic groups in lowland Nepal have accused the Constitution of being gender discriminatory especially in regards to citizenship provisions. They allege that the new constitution makes it difficult for woman to pass on the citizenship to their children as compared to men.
  • Similarly, Madhesi and indigenous population say that the new constitution fails to address demands of marginalized communities and support status-quo of the ruling groups. They are protesting mainly over the federal delineation of new states as proposed in the constitution fearing existing demarcation could affect their political representation.

After the formation of constitution Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli was elected as Prime Minister by the parliament of Nepal.

Who are Madhesi

The Madhesi also referred to as Teraibasi Nepali are an indigenous ethnic group of Nepalese people who are natives of the Madhesh plains in Southern Nepal. The Madhesis have castes and ethnicity similar to Bihar and eastern UP, with frequent inter-marriages between families on either side of the border. Madhesis have historically been a part of the larger Mithila region. Most of the affluent of the Terai are educated in India, and the democracy on the other side of the border has kept levels of political awareness high.

Recent developments

  • Once again, Nepal appears to be on the brink of leadership change. The past few days have seen frenetic activity, driven by Maoist leader Prachanda’s desire to oust Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli just months after he took charge.
  • There is a difference of only 24 seats between Mr. Oli’s Communist Party of Nepal (UML) and the Nepali Congress. With their 83 seats, the Maoists can always tip the balance. Keeping the confidence of a fragmented Parliament was always going to be a challenge for Mr. Oli. But he finds himself embattled so early in his tenure is also the result of failing to deliver on three important promises.

First is that of a more equitable Constitution and polity, that accommodates the sensitivities of Madhesis,  Janjatis and other marginalised groups.

Second is that of reversing the estrangement with India.

Third, and possibly most pressing, responsibility that Nepal’s government has failed its people entirely: speeding up reconstruction after last year’s earthquake that killed nearly 9,000 people.

Some experts believe that India is also responsible for this crisis in various ways:-

  • India has criticised Nepal’s Constitution, banding with other countries at the UN Human Rights Council as well as with the European Union to rebuke Nepal’s government.
  • Behind the scenes, Foreign Ministry and PMO officials have expressed their discomfort with Mr. Oli’s                         leadership and his overtures to China.

Note:- Recent agreement between Nepal and China

China agreed to Nepal Prime Minister K P Oli’s request to build a strategic railway link between the two countries through Tibet to reduce land-locked Nepal’s total dependence on India, as the two sides cemented their ties by signing 10 agreements including a landmark transit trade deal.

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