The omens don’t look good as today, September 20th, the country marks a year of the promulgation of the new constitution. The all-party meeting that Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal had called for Monday had to be cancelled after Madheshi parties refused to take part, saying that they were busy with their own programs to mark the ‘black day’. Earlier on Monday, the government had held a gala event at Tundikhel to celebrate the first anniversary (according to the Bikram Sambat) of the constitution. A year ago, we had heartily welcomed the promulgation of the new constitution because, even with all its flaws, it was a document of compromise that enjoyed the backing of nearly 90 percent members of the sovereign Constituent Assembly. It was a long time in coming since the election of the first Constituent Assembly back in 2008. It had started to increasingly appear that the underlying political issues were so knotty that we would never have a constitution through the CA mechanism. The major political parties proved us wrong.
In the aftermath of the devastating earthquakes, they were able to set aside their differences to offer Nepal a way out of the prolonged constitutional logjam.
The few disagreements that remained over its content, we believed, could be sorted out in due course through consultations. A year later, we still believe that there is no constitutional issue that cannot be resolved through continued dialogue. But for there to be solutions the two sides should at least start talking. Yet a month and a half after the formation of new government under Pushpa Kamal Dahal, who rose to the top post with the backing of the Madheshi parties, there has been no progress. We are glad that the prime minister has chosen to cancel his long trip to the US—where he was going to take part in the annual United Nations General Assembly—so that he could focus on resolving outstanding issues in the country. This hints that he is serious about getting the dialogue process up and running again. As the country marks a year of the new constitution, there could in fact be no better time to resume the talks.
A hard reality that we all have to accept is that unless the contestations to the new constitutions are adequately addressed, there will not be peace and stability in the country. The involvement of external actors in constitution-making, which should have been a purely internal affair of Nepal, has further complicated things. This is why no time should be wasted in order to try to find solutions from within the country itself. This will by necessity involve meaningful give-and-take. If the two sides continue to stick to their guns, there can be no progress. They should realize that at stake is nothing short of the country’s sovereignty and its continued existence as a unified nation-state. So on this first anniversary of the new constitution, we would like to urge all our major political actors to see the writing on the wall and to work with the broader national interest in their mind.