With India raising concerns over Nepal’s newly promulgated Constitution not taking care of the Madhesis and Janjatis, Nepal’s ambassador to India Deep Kumar Upadhyay Wednesday said his country’s Constitution was the “most progressive in South Asia”, but added that it is an “open document which can be amended”.
His deputy in the Nepal embassy Krishna Prasad Dhakal, meanwhile, said, “Nepal’s Constitution is better than the Indian Constitution since it takes care of minorities as well as women.”
The Indian Express reported Wednesday that India has conveyed to Nepal’s leadership the seven amendments it wants in their Constitution to ensure it is acceptable to the Madhesis and Janjatis.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Upadhyay said that if the Indian side had conveyed the “suggestions or reservations or expectations, and I would have known timely (sic), this situation would have been avoided. This is not a good situation for both countries”.
“If before the public statements, if we had known (about India’s reservations), then something could have changed (sic),” the envoy said.
Praising Nepal’s Constitution, he said it is a “very progressive, very inclusive, participatory, gender equality and human rights friendly” document.
Dhakal, meanwhile, pointed out: “Nepal’s Constitution has both first-past-the-post system as well as proportional representation. This combination of the two ensures that minorities’ representation is taken care of.” He added that the Indian Constitution only ensures the first-past-the-post system.
Dhakal also said Nepal’s newly promulgated Constitution guarantees 33 per cent reservation for women, which is not the case with the Indian Constitution. “In these aspects, Nepal’s Constitution is better than the Indian Constitution, since it takes care of minorities as well as women,” Dhakal said.
Asked if the Constitution could be amended in the wake of protests and suggestions from India, Upadhyay said, “Why not? It is an open document that can be amended, it is just a beginning. But we have to follow certain procedures, the amendments have to be passed by two-thirds of the majority.”
Cautioning that “nothing can be done immediately”, he added, “The only thing that can happen is that there can be a political agreement or understanding between the parties.”
He said Nepal Prime Minister Sushil Koirala, who was due to leave for New York Wednesday, has decided to cancel his trip and stay back to resolve the situation. “The three major political parties are talking to the Madhesi groups, Hill groups — all those who are dissatisfied — to find an end to the crisis. They will form a peace dialogue committee very soon.”
Describing the current situation in Nepal as “painful”, Upadhyay also refuted New Delhi’s assertion that the Constitution is not broad-based. “Almost 90 per cent of members in the Constituent Assembly voted for the Constitution… that is the truth… what more widest possible consensus can you expect,” he said.
Dhakal added that the members included those from Madhes and Terai regions.
Meanwhile, K P Oli , chairman of the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML) Wednesday said they would not let “naturalised citizens” occupy head of state or any other key constitutional position.
“Under no circumstances shall we amend the constitution to pave the way for naturalised citizens to occupy the post of head of state, head of the government and constitutional bodies,” he said. Nepal has two categories of citizenship — by descent and naturalised — and Madhesis and Janjatis fall in the latter category.
With Yubaraj Ghimire in Kathmandu