KATHMANDU, April 21: As top leaders from the major political parties prepare to hold “decisive talks” on major disputes in constitution writing on Saturday, various groups and leaders representing indigenous, dalit, Madhesi, Muslim and other communities have stepped up campaign to press the political leadership to incorporate their agendas in the new constitution.
Several meetings between various pressure groups and top leaders, gatherings and demonstrations were held on Friday as part of the campaign.
A group of senior lawmakers representing indigenous and ethnic communities on Friday met UCPN (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal and pressed him to bat for ethnic-based federalism in the new constitution.
Maoist standing committee member and Finance Minister Barshaman Pun and Minister for Culture, Parliamentary and Federal Affairs Gopal Kiranti, Amik Sherchan, Hitman Shakya, Bishwabhakta Dulal from the UCPN (Maoist), Jip Chhiring, Tuali Subba and Sita Gurung from NC and Ashok Rai, Rakam Chemjong and Kiran Gurung from CPN-UML and other lawmakers including Pari Thapa and Buddha Ratna Manandhar, among others, met the Maoist chairman.
Stating that the 14-province model proposed by majority members of the CA committee on state restructuring is more scientific and appropriate for the country, they urged Dahal to lobby in favor of the model.
CPN-UML politburo member Prithivi Subba Gurung, who heads the caucus of lawmakers from ethnic communities, said they told Dahal that identity must be the primary basis for state restructuring and the 14-province model should be the major foundation. "We also made it clear that identity should be defined as the identity of individual ethnic community and not a common identity of all multi-ethnic communities," Gurung told Republica.
In response, Dahal assured them that he is also for taking the 14-province model as major basis.
The leaders also expressed serious concern over the reports that the top leaders at a recent two-day Hattiban meeting had reached an understanding on the seven or eight-province model. "He tried to allay our concerns saying the reports were just rumors," said Gurung.
According to him, they suggested to Dahal to not make any compromises on issues of state restructuring. "You have already shown flexibility on your part over the issue of army integration and now it is the turn of the leaders from NC and UML to reciprocate," UML leader Gurung told Dahal during the meeting.
He said the caucus of lawmakers from ethnic and indigenous communities and other leaders also plan to meet top leaders of NC and CPN-UML to push their agendas. In the 601-seat CA, altogether 218 lawmakers represent ethnic and indigenous communities.
With a view to chalk out a uniform and consistent policy on state restructuring, around 21 Nepali Congress lawmakers representing the Tarai-based districts gathered at Singha Durbar and discussed the matter on Friday. Altogether 41 NC lawmakers represent 20 Tarai-based districts.
A participant, Mahendra Yadav, said they decided to lobby for two to three provinces in the Tarai-Madhes region and there should be altogether seven to eight provinces in the federal map of the country.
According to him, those who aired their views at the gathering were against north-south delineation of provinces.
"Provinces in the Tarai should stretch from east to west covering areas from Chure Mahabharat range and some hill districts adjoining the Tarai districts," Yadav described.
Deep Kumar Upadhyay, Balkrishna Khand, Shekhar Koirala, Ajay Chaurasiya, Ajay Dwebedi, Kiran Yadav, Mahendra Yadav, Ramesh Lekhak and Ramesh Rijal, among others, aired their views at the gathering.
Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers and other leaders representing dalit communities from various political parties submitted separate memorandums to Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai and Speaker Subas Nembang on Friday demanding that new constitution ensure proportional representation of dalit communities in the federal, provincial as well as local bodies.
Also, an inter-party network of dalit lawmakers has decided to lobby for proportional representation in the electoral system to be adopted in the new constitution.
A group of lawmakers including Khadga Bahadur Bishwakarma and Bishwa Bhakta Dulal from the UCPN (Maoist), Man Bahadur Bishwakarma from NC, Chhavilal Bishwakarma from CPN-UML and Santa Bahadur Nepali from Rastriya Janamorcha, among other leaders, plan to meet top leaders of the major political parties on Saturday.
Similarly, National Muslim Struggle Alliance has launched a campaign demanding that the rights of Muslim communities be ensured in the new constitution.
A group of Muslim leaders and lawmakers, including former state minister for home Rijwan Ansari were arrested in Kathmandu while they were heading for the prime minister´s office to submit a memorandum demanding proportional representation of Muslim communities in the new federal set up as well as the new electoral model.