Nepal crisis over constitution

SANSAD News-Release November 2, 2015

Respect the Sovereignty of Nepal

South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy (SANSAD), an organization of South Asian diaspora in British Columbia, Canada, is anguished by the enormous hardship of the Nepali people as a result of the agitation over the recently adopted constitution. We deplore the intervention of India in the internal affairs of Nepal that has significantly aggravated this distress.

The new constitution of Nepal establishing it as a secular federal republic was adopted on September 20 after seven years of wrangling when the process was made urgent by the devastating earthquakes in April and May. Yet the process left many in Nepal unhappy at the continuation of their marginalization, when they had every expectation of an end to their traditional subordination and oppression.The people of the Madhesh region, who make up half of Nepal’s population, comprising Madhesis, Tharus, Janjatis, dalits, adivasis and other social groups demanded adequate representation, and many of them began an agitation in August that blocked all goods coming from India across its extensive border. More than 40 people have died in the agitation and many more have been injured. The agitation has also brought economic and daily life to a standstill with severe shortages, producing what a month ago the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce (FNCCI) called an “Impact worse than the earthquake” (quoted in theguardian.com, Oct. 5).

This agitation has been supported by the Government of India, which made its intervention open when it sent its Foreign Secretary, S. Jaishankar to Kathmandu to attempt to delay the adoption of the constitution two days before its adoption. Despite its official denials India has continued to maintain an unofficial blockade, creating acute shortages of fuel and other essential goods. On November 2, according to bbc.com, an Indian national engaged in the blockade was shot dead by the Nepali police, while several others were injured. More than 200 Indian owned/operated empty trucks that had been stranded in Birgunj were allowed to cross from Nepal to India but thousands of trucks bringing fuel and other goods from India to Nepal that had been waiting for the past two months were still blocked by Indian customs officials.

SANSAD deplores India’s intervention in the internal affairs of Nepal and the unofficial blockade imposed by the Government of India on the transportation of essential goods into Nepal that violates several international laws and conventions, including the Transit Treaty and the Bilateral TradeTreaty that India has signed with Nepal. We demand that the Government of India immediately lift the blockade and desist from all attempts to intervene in the internal affairs of Nepal. We implore the Government of Nepal to engage in dialogue with the agitating minorities, to heed their grievances, and to amend the constitution to accommodate them. We stand in sympathy with the suffering people of Nepal and the minorities who are agitating for a constitution that gives them the rights and dignity of full citizenship.

—Thirty—

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