Home Minister said they will revert to the pre-agreement state if Raut insisted on interpreting “people's mandate" as “referendum”.
KATHMANDU, March 11: Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa on Sunday said that Friday's agreement between the government and secession campaigner CK Raut will be null and void if Raut interpreted "people's mandate" mentioned in the agreement as an understanding to hold “referendum” on secession.
Responding to queries from lawmakers at the meeting of the House of Representatives (HoR) on Sunday, Home Minister Thapa told lawmakers that the government has not and will not agree to the demand for referendum. He argued that the government cannot reach any such agreement with anyone because the constitution does not allow referendum on secession.
Second point of the 11-point agreement reached with the Raut mentions that both sides agree to resolve dissatisfaction seen in different places including the Tarai-Madhes through democratic means based on 'people's mandate'. As Raut has claimed that government had agreed to hold “referendum' to meet its, this sparked huge controversy in political circle.
Home Minister Thapa also said that they will revert to the pre-agreement state when the government treated Raut's group as 'anti-national', if Raut insisted on interpreting “people's mandate" as “referendum”. The minister argued that the government agreed with the Raut's group to address their grievances through democratic means—i.e. periodic elections.
Not convinced by the home minister's answers, several lawmakers including those from the ruling party had asked supplementary questions to him. They had reminded Home Minister Thapa that Raut through his social media had announced that government had given in to his demand for referendum.
“The agreement has no mention of a referendum on secession. If he insists on a referendum, then the state will revert to the pre-agreement situation,” Minister Thapa said.
Stating that the activities of Raut's Alliance for Independent Madhesh had posed security challenge, Thapa said that political agreement was reached with the group to safeguard country's territorial integrity and sovereignty. “This group has renounced its objective to disintegrate the country or establish independent Madhes,” he further said. The minister also said that Raut's outfit will have to change its name if it is to register with the Election Commission.
On the occasion, Minister Thapa also said there was no role of any external elements in the agreement. He, however, said that they are being criticized by various quarters after the agreement was signed.
Speaking earlier during the special hour of the House meeting, NCP leader Bhim Rawal expressed serious concerns over the agreement and demanded both the government and Raut to clarify the ambiguities. “Raut has to apologize for spitting venom in the past against the motherland. He has not yet withdrawn his secessionist remarks,” he said.
Similarly, the main opposition party, Nepali Congress (NC), lawmaker Gagan Thapa said although the effort to bring Raut's group to mainstream politics was a good thing the issue of referendum was controversial. He asked the home minister to clarify if the government had agreed to Raut's demand for referendum.
Similarly, another NC lawmaker Minendra Rijal said any referendum on secession is impossible.