How Madhesi Journalists Association views the current debate on constitution making:
Marginalization and deprivation of Madhesis, Janajatis, Dalits and women are at the root of Nepal’s current problems. Disenchantment of marginalized sections of society fueled the Maoist insurgency. The Unified CPN-Maoist could spread their base in the far flung areas rapidly because they cashed in on people’s disenchantment. The signing of the 12 point agreement between the major political forces paved the way for popular movement II in 2006 that ultimately overthrew the monarchy. The UCPN-M joined the political mainstream and a new Interim Constitution was promulgated but without the provision of federalism, a long held demand of Madhesis who are the worst sufferers of discrimination.
There was an uprising in Madhes in 2007 for federalism which forced the state to incorporate the provision of federalism in the constitution.
Federalism, inclusion and social justice are the major issues that are dominating the current debates inside and outside the Constituent Assembly. Resolution of these issues alone can restore peace in the country but the major political forces of the country are still divided on these issues particularly on federalism.
The UCPN-M, Janajatis and Madhesi forces are in favour of single identity based federalism in the country. The Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML, however, oppose it and advocate multiple identity based federalism. NC/UML’s advocacy for north-south division of federal units has put them on collision course with Madhesis . A reconciliatory approach on federalism is, therefore, needed to complete the constitution making drafting process. If the NC and the UML used their numerical strength (these parties have almost two thirds majority in the Constituent Assembly), most likely the UCPN-M, Madhesi parties and Janajatis would boycott the CA and hit the street and that will make the statute an embattled document from the beginning.
Two things seem to have worked better as far as Nepal’s transition from conflict to peace is concerned. The first thing is that some inclusion policies have been incorporated in the new laws. Although the goal to mainstream the deprived and marginalized sections of society remains to be fulfilled but ever since the state incorporated the provisions of reservation for marginalized communities, these provisions have helped increase the presence of these communities in the state organs, giving a sense of relief to the deprived communities.
Another approach is the national and international stakeholders’ quiet lobbying with the politicians and academicians about a reconciliatory approach on the thorny issues of constitution particularly on federalism had worked better in the past. National and international stakeholders need to quietly lobby with the politicians on the constitutional issues. Persistent lobbying with country’s intellectuals is also necessary on the issues of constitution because these intellectuals give important feedback to major political parties which shape their official positions on the negotiating table.
Quite lobbying with some intellectuals has begun to show results as they now advocate rational views on federalism.
Madhesi Journalists Association (MJA) was established in 2013 as an umbrella organization of Madhesi journalists working in the country’s various media outlets. The main goal of the MJA is to enhance professional skills of the working Madhesi journalists by organizing seminars, trainings for them in Kathmandu and other parts of the country.
MJA conducted workshops the eastern hill and Terai districts including Udaypur, Morang, Rauthat and Mahottari districts in the month of July on the safety of journalists with financial help of UNESCO. The aim of the programs was to sensitise local journalists on how to safely report from sensitive areas particularly from the areas where armed groups are active. Often journalists working in sensitive areas are targeted by both the armed groups and security agencies for their coverage. Enhancing journalists’ skills also serves the purpose of restoring peace in the country. Only well informed and skilled journalists can fairly and adequately inform the public. If a journalist is not fair and impartial in his writing particularly in a country like ours where the wounds of communal tension have not healed fully, his/her work can create tension in the society.
MJA will be happy to work in close cooperation with International Alert in future.