Last Sunday, September 20, Nepal formally adopted a constitution, a process which has been in progress for nearly a decade. The weeks preceding and following that formal adoption have been filled with unprecedented violence, particularly in the Terai which the Madhesi and Tharu indigenous groups have called home for decades. The violence started in early August when the four major Nepali political parties reached an agreement to divide the country into six provinces. This plan would connect the Madhesi region in the southern plains to the Tharu region in the far western plains, a move which the minority groups say will hinder their political bargaining power and, moreover, empower local political elites to overtake their politics and erode their rights. India quickly responded, condemning the violence and closing their border with the country, restricting Nepal’s access to food and fuel imports, while the rest of the international community has voiced continued concern over the violence.
A New Constitution
Passage of Nepal’s new constitution has alienated many of the minority groups living in the Terai including the most prominent Tharu and Madhesi people who feel marginalized and fearful of the potential consequences of this constitutional agreement.
Sharma, Bhadra and Nida Najar. “Plan to Redraw Internal Districts in Nepal Prompts Violent Protect.” New York Times. August 10, 2015.
Haviland, Charles. “Why is Nepal’s new constitution controversial?” BBC. September 19, 2015.
Sharma, Bhadra and Nida Najar. “Amid Protests, Nepal Adopts Constitution.” New York Times. September 20, 2015.
Pokharel, Sugam and Salim Essaid. “More than half a century in the making: Nepal enshrines new constitution.” CNN. September 21, 2015.
UN Calls for End to Violence
The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed concerns about the level of violence taking place in Nepal and urged stakeholders to participate in open dialogue.
“UN rights office calls for end of violence and dialogue in Nepal.” The Himalayan Times. September 23, 2015.
India Seeking Constitutional Changes
India recommended seven constitutional changes to Nepal’s political leadership including “delineation of electoral constituencies based on population alone, the right to participate in state structures on the basis of principles of proportional inclusion, to allow naturalised citizens to hold highest offices both at the federal and provincial level.”
“India sought changes in Nepal statute: Media.” The Kathmandu Post. September 24, 2015.
India’s “Unofficial” Blockade
Earlier this week, in response to the growing violence in Nepal, India blocked all traffic flowing across its Nepali border with officials emphasizing security concerns. While protesters are claiming responsibility for blocking some of the trade posts, India and Nepal are still debating who is at fault. India claims the problem is with instability and insecurity in Nepal and Nepal claims India is punishing the landlocked nation for passing the constitution last Sunday.
“SLMM decides to block all entry points to Nepal from India.” The Kathmandu Post. September 23, 2015.
“Nepali minority group blocks India-Nepal trade route.” The Himalayan Times. September 25, 2015.
In the border town Kakadbhitta of the Jhapa district, locals protested against the ‘unofficial blockade’ imposed by India.
“Border locals protest against India’s ‘undeclared blockade’.” The Kathmandu Post. September 28, 2015.
Nepali Government Restricts Transportation
The Nepali government has begun rationing fuel and has restricted the movement of cars to alternate days based on license plate numbers. Even with strict limits on the sale of fuel to personal cars, buses, and taxis, the Nepal Oil Corporation says the country will run out of fuel in ten days.
The Associated Press. “Nepal Restricts Driving to Head Off Fuel Shortage.” The New York Times. September 27, 2015.
Sharma, Bhadra and Nida Najar. “Nepal Rations Fuel as Political Crisis with India Worsens.” The New York Times. September 28, 2015.
Government Talks with Madhesi Leaders
Leadership in the governing parties, including Nepali Congress leader and Forest Minister Mahesh Acharya, UML Chief Whip Agni Kharel and UCPN (Maoist) senior leader Narayan Kaji Shrestha, met with Madhesi leaders including Tarai Madhes Democratic Party (TMDP) Chairman Mahantha Thakur and the Madhesi Janaadhikar Forum-Democratic Chairman Bijay Kumar Gachhadar. Both leaders presented a set of pre-conditions for ending the protests, some of which the government has agreed to and is currently working on implementing.
“Three-party talks team meets Thakur, Gachadar.” The Himalayan Times. September 28, 2015.
“Govt initiates talks with agitating Madhesi parties.” The Kathmandu Post. September 28, 2015.
India’s “Communal War”
While distributing prizes to the second-level futsal championship, Nepal Workers and Peasants’ Party Chair Narayan Man Bijukchhe said that India was starting a communal and ethnic war and trying to disharmonize Nepali society.
“India has begun communal war with Nepal: leader Bijukchhe.” The Kathmandu Post. September 28, 2015.
Border Point Reopens
The Nepali border point at Bhairahawa reopened on Monday, September 28 letting in as many as 40 vehicles including one petrol tanker. Two days later India resumed sending food and fuel into Nepal, but many more hundreds of trucks holding food, water, fuel, and medical supplies were still sitting on the India side of the border.
“Border entry point at Bhairahawa reopens, 40 vehicles enter Nepal from India.” The Himalayan Times. September 28, 2015.
Associated Press. “India resumes sending food, fuel to shortage-stricken Nepal.” The Himalayan Times. September 30, 2015.
Former PM and UCPN-Maoist Baburam Bhattarai Chased Out of Janakpur
Former Maoist prime minister of Nepal, Baburam Bhattarai, resigned from his party and parliament in an expression of disappointment over the new constitution. Following this resignation, Bhattarai went to Janakpur to address a mass assembly of largely Madhesi parties about the failures of the new constitution; however the stage was set on fire, and party leaders Ram Chandra Jha and UCPN-Maoist leader Ram Kumar Sharma were manhandled and beaten up and Bhattarai was escorted out and chased to Janakpur Airport.
“Nepal’s former PM Bhattarai quits parliament, party.” The Daily Sun. September 27, 2015.
Bhaskar, C Uday. “Nepal: Will former PM’s resignation be catalyst for rethink?” The South Asia Monitor. September 28, 2015.
Yadav, Brij Kumar. “Baburam Bhattarai’s stage set on fire, Ram Chandra Jha beaten up in Janakpur.” The Himalayan Times. September 29, 2015.
The views expressed by Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice Interns are those of the author and are not necessarily those of the IPJ or of the University of San Diego.