The reigning chaos permeating the nation has now threatened to burst at its seam. As the day to promulgate the new constitution is less than a week away, several things have been taking place, but nothing concrete has happened to ease the situation. Lately, the political parties have been holding several rounds of parleys to bring out the new constitution by the May 27 deadline, but are still dogged by differences and mistrusts, which are largely of their own making. As such, the fear that the nation could slip into communal violence has come to haunt all the Nepalese.
The parties are embroiled in rounds and rounds of discussions. The nation has started witnessing anarchy and is currently reeling under several general strikes, which are likely to go on till the parties come out with a formula on state restructuring that is acceptable to all the players - the Madhesis, different indigenous nationalities, regional groups, political parties and the Ďotherí communities - the Brahmins, Chhetris, Dashnamis and Dalits.
The general strike is being observed by dissatisfied regional and indigenous groups to put pressure on the three major parties and the government to address their demands while carving the nation into several federal units. Almost all regional and ethnic groups have been demanding provinces that would bear names of their ethnicity and nationality along with priority rights for the dominating ethnic groups. However, the two major opposition parties, the Congress and the UML, are not supporting the idea. These two parties are also contending that all the provinces should be multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and should not be named after a particular ethnic group.
The three key parties had signed a 5-point agreement, in which they had agreed on the number of provinces. The parties had left the naming and demarcation of the provinces to the provincial parliament and Federal Commission respectively.
But soon after the new accord, the Maoist and the Madhesi Front made a U-turn denouncing the agreement. They stated that they would not support the proposal to carve the nation into 11 provinces "without the name of the ethnic groups and which has divided the Terai into several provinces." Maoist Chairman Prachanda, just two days after signing the agreement, disowned the 5-point agreement, saying that the agreement had lost its viability because more than 320 lawmakers belonging to different ethnic groups have renounced the agreement.
Although ridiculed by majority of the lawmakers, the 5-point agreement, however, had paved the way for the formation of a consensus government under the premiership of Dr. Baburam Bhattaraiís. The agreement, it appeared, has given a new lease of life to the beleaguered Bhattarai government that had earlier come to the helm through a pact with the Madhesi Front.
With the signing of the new agreement, the Nepali Congress and UML consented to join the government, much to the delight of Dr. Bhattarai, who wanted to give his government the shape of a national unity government participated by almost all the parties represented at the CA and legislature parliament. Earlier, the premierís dream could not be realised as the two major parties, the Congress and UML, refused to join the government till the 5-point agreement was reached.
The 5-point agreement was termed a ground-breaking accord, chalked out to resolve the state restructuring issue along with other contentious ones. However, just after the signing of the agreement, different ethnic groups, including the Madhesi parties, were quick to renounce the agreement on state restructuring.
It appears that the partiesí agreement on the 11-province federal Nepal has stirred a hornetís nest. The Madhesi parties are irate over separating the Terai into four different provinces, while the Tharus of western Nepal are angry that they did not get a Tharuhat province as per their demand. The same is the case with the Newars of the Kathmandu Valley and the Tamangs and many other ethnic groups. The indigenous people and other nationalities are also enraged over the granting of indigenous status to the Brahmins and Chhetris and others.
The issue of state restructuring took an unexpected turn after the residents to the far-western people went on demanding an undivided far western region. The people of the other regions too followed suit - they too are demanding undivided provinces, zones and districts. Some residents are demanding that their areas and locality be named the headquarters of the particular provinces.
The decision of the parties not to accord ethnic names to the new provinces and to allow equal rights to all inhabitants of the provinces has raised the hackles of all ethnic groups. To press for ethnicity-based states and priority rights, various ethnic lawmakers, coming across different parties and groups have formed a broad alliance. These lawmakers have even threatened to disobey their respective party whips and to cross the floor in support of identity-based ethnic provinces.
The country is currently in a mess. As the different groups have been observing one general strike after another, the government and parties are unable to guide the nation out of the present morass.
What is most irking is that owing to the partiesí failure in giving an early passage to the existing chaotic situation, there is that fear of inciting communal violence in the nation. Given the inability of the parties to come to a compromise on the federal and other contentious issues, the constitution-making process is unlikely to be complete by its final deadline. If that happens, several dissatisfied groups will certainly come out in the streets putting up demands. Such a situation would certainly pose a double jeopardy to the parties: they will have to quell the rousing anger of the masses in the streets while preparing a democratic constitution most suitable for a federal Nepal. If they fail on both accounts, then the parties would have to take responsibility for any misfortune that would be brought by the rising level of ethnic animosity in the nation.