We believe that solutions to all outstanding problems in Nepal can be found by staying within the bounds of the new constitution. The constitution is a forever-evolving document, which can (and should) be changed with the changing needs of the society it represents. This is why we are troubled when our otherwise responsible politicians start floating extra-constitutional solutions. On Sunday, during a meeting with President Bidya Devi Bhandari, Tarai Madhesh Loktantrik Party Chairman Mahantha Thakur warned that the entire Tarai-Madhesh belt could secede if the Nepali state continues with its discriminatory policies against Madheshi people. It does not behoove a politician of Thakur’s experience and stature to make such crude remarks and to use the secession threat as a bargaining chip. Such remarks are unwarranted because the government, on the suggestion of the Madheshi parties, has already tabled a motion to amend the constitution for the second time. We have our reservations with the proposed amendment bill. Nonetheless, we are inclined to believe Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal that there had been a tacit understanding with the Madheshi parties that they would welcome the proposed amendments. If not, Dahal would have been willingly committing a political hara-kiri.
What made the top Madheshi leaders change their minds is unclear. Yet we cannot overlook that the prime minister took a big political risk by agreeing to amend the constitution, with the one and only intent of accommodating the Madheshi parties, and at a time when the main opposition had clearly indicated that it would resist any amendments tooth and nail. But there does not seem to be any appreciation of the enormous risk Dahal took on Morcha’s behalf. Instead top Madheshi leaders are now openly threatening secession. This is not done. For there to be meaningful negotiations, both the sides have to be ready for meaningful give and take. If one side simply refuses to budge, then all such talks are fruitless. And what will be there to talk about if one side starts making unconstitutional demands, which undermine the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity? If the Madheshi parties want to be taken seriously, they should realize there are some limits they cannot cross and that there can be no negotiations by compromising on national interest.
We are also troubled by the rise of extremist forces in Tarai-Madhesh that see secession as the only way to end historic discrimination against Madheshis. We strongly believe in free speech. But hate speech and incitement to violence should have no place in a civilized society. We also call on the mainstream Madheshi parties to distance from those who espouse violence and call on top Madheshi leaders not to issue crass threats that will only imperil the chances of negotiated settlements. Again, the new constitution is flexible enough to accommodate every section of the society. There is no reason why it cannot be amended in a way that addresses the concerns of Madheshis, Tharus, Janajatis and other traditionally marginalized communities if there is willingness all around to find solutions by staying within the framework of the constitution. Towards this end, extremist views of any kind are unhelpful.