Madheshi Crisis in Nepal

The constitution was passed by a clear majority with 507 of the 598 constituent assembly members voting in favour. However, around 60 members from the Madhesis and Janjatis community boycotted the vote. The Tharu and Madhesi groups had demanded that provinces should be demarcated keeping in view the ethnic populations. Further, the 2008 Eight Point Agreement between Government and Madhesi parties had committed for a separate Madhesh province.

However, this was objected by three major parties, the Nepali Congress (NC), Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) (CPN-UML), and the United Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) (CPN-M). These parties argued that fulfilling such demands would cause other protests and violence demanding still more ethnically based provinces. They signed a 16-point agreement to federate the country into eight provinces and promulgate the constitution. This led to violent protests in southern Nepal causing an economic blockage and crisis of essential commodities in Nepal.

Key Issues

  • The Nepali constitution has given equal representation on the basis of “geographical area” , while the Madhesis demanded that the constitution should ensure their representation as per their “population” size. The government in Nepal contends that if population were to be sole criteria for inclusion, some minority groups such as Dolpa would never get represented.
  • The interim constitution had proposed that various groups of nepal would have right to participate in state structures on principle of proportional representation. But the adopted constitution has dropped the word proportional. Madhesis want representation in terms of proportion. Madhesi parties want representation in National Assembly to be based on population of the Provinces.
  • Most of the key constitutional posts have been reserved for only citizens by descent. This is a problem because a huge number of Madhesis have acquired citizenship by birth or naturalization. They cannot hold office of President, Vice-President, Prime Minister, Chief Justice, Speaker of Parliament, Chairperson of National Assembly etc.
  • The interim constitution had fixed delineation of the electoral constituencies every 10 years. The newly adopted constitution has fixed it to 20 years.

What has been India’s stance?

Madhesis account for 50% of Population of Nepal. The new constitution has not brought any cheers in India because India sees the new constitution as unrepresentative of a significant fraction of the population.  However, India has been hesitant to openly speak for the Madhesis mainly because of allegations coming from Kathmandu that India has an invisible hand influencing politics of Nepal.

What is the Current Status?

As of October 20, 2015, the Nepal Government has created a team to hold dialogue with agitating Madhesis. This team will be headed by Nepal’s Deputy Prime Minister Kamal Thapa, who visited India to speak to PM, Home Minister and External Affairs Minister here in New Delhi.

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