Nepal’s government has registered the Constitution amendment bill in Parliament despite opposition from CPN-UML, aimed at carving out a new province to meet the demands of agitating Madhesis and other ethnic groups whose protests last year left more than 50 people dead.
The bill, registered at the Parliament Secretariat after the Council of Ministers passed its draft yesterday, also proposes to address three other key issues — citizenship, representation in the Upper House and recognition of languages spoken in various parts of the country.
The Cabinet meeting was held at the Prime Minister’s official residence in Baluwatar in the afternoon yesterday. The government took the step a day after the 15-day ultimatum served by the Federal Alliance for implementing the three-point deal expired.
Federal Alliance is a grouping of Madhesi parties and ethnic groups that have been launching agitation demanding more rights and representation for the marginalised people. Re-demarcation of the provincial boundary and citizenship issue are the two major demands put forth by the agitating Madhesi parties.
Madhesis, mostly Indian-origin, launched a six-month-long agitation from September last year to February this year in which more than 50 people were killed. The agitation had also crippled the landlocked country’s economy as supplies from India were blocked.
The government has proposed to include parts of Nawalparasi, Rupandehi, Kapilvastu, Banke, Dang and Bardiya in another Tarai province that will be known as Province 5. The Cabinet also decided to form a commission to address concerns about five districts Jhapa, Morang, Sunsari, Kailali and Kanchanpur. Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Bimalendra Nidhi said that the government decided to form a commission through an executive order to address all concerns about boundaries.
The bill proposes to list all the mother tongues of Nepal in the schedule of the constitution on the recommendation of the Language Commission. It also states that all languages recommended to be official languages by the Language Commission will be listed in the constitution’s schedule.
On citizenship, the bill proposes that foreign women married to Nepali men can obtain naturalised citizenship after initiating the process to renounce their citizenship. The bill does not say anything about the rights of the naturalised citizens and citizens by birth.
Opposing the bill, main opposition party CPN-UML Vice Chair Bhim Rawal said the constitution amendment bill was not in the interest of the country and the people. He said the bill would polarise the society further and create conflict between different political groups.