As soon as the members of the State Restructuring Commission submitted their report to prime minister Dr. Baburam Bhattarai, people from various ethnic groups, geographical regions and districts started to burn down the document.
The first ones to oppose the document were members of the Sherpa communities from the Himalayan region. They blocked the road to the Prime Minister’s office to prevent the members of the commission from presenting their report.
Led by Constituent Assembly member Lucky Sherpa, a group of Sherpas chanted slogans against the members and criticized the commission for rejecting the Sherpa and Jadan Autonomous State in two Himalayan regions.
“The Commission’s document is unacceptable for us. It cannot deny our right to have an autonomous state in our region. Our state has the capability and identity as required to form the new state,” said CA member Lucky Sherpa.
Although the 9-member committee was divided over the numbers and names of the states, the majority members (six) led by convener of the commission Madan Pariyar proposed 11 provinces with one virtual state for Dalits. Another three members as a minority proposed six provinces and put open the names of the provinces.
Although majority members led by convener Pariyar used every method by declining to present the views of minority, minority members drew the conclusion that Nepal can sustain only five provinces. According to a member, the majority members were guided by the interest of the donors they have been working for. “Convener and other members even declined to listen to us and took all the decisions in the name of the majority.”
Sherpa led the front, followed by the youth from the far western region. Although his party endorsed the majority report submitted by the commission, UCPN-Maoist leader and Minister for Commerce and Supplies Lekha Raj Bhatta condemned the report and asked the people from far west to burn it. “The commission members undermine the spirit and sensitivity of the people of far-western region. It is unacceptable for us to be part of other provinces,” thundered Bhatta. “In a symbolic gesture, we will call an hour’s bandha next week and then a full day bandha in the far west. We will take harsher steps in the future in case our demands go unheard.”
Although deputy prime minister Bijaya Kumar Gachchhadar called for endorsement to the report, another leader and Minister for Information and Communications Jaya Prakash Gupta criticized the report terming it as malicious against Madhesh. “We cannot accept any split in Madhesh. It should be one Madhesh,” said Gupta.
Tharu leader Laxman Singh Tharu declared that those who tried to split Tharuhat will be punished. “Tharu community will punish those members in the commission who declined our right to have a separate state.”
Similarly, a recently held all-party meeting in Chitwan called to boycott the members of the commission. “They tried to break our hearts and minds. The division of Chitwan is unacceptable to us,” said a Maoist leader.
Members of the State Restructuring Commission claimed that they worked hard to bring the report in time. It took them almost three months to produce the report.
Various ethnic and regional groups have warned of taking to the streets if political parties failed to ensure autonomous states in the federal map of the country. Limbuwan Mukti Morcha (LMM), which has been demanding an autonomous Limbuwan state, said the report submitted by SRC is unacceptable to them.
Speaking at a press conference in Itahari Chairman of LMM Bir Nembang accused the political leaders of trying to kill the identity of Limbuwan. “We have been holding negotiations with pro-Limbuwan groups associated with the three major parties --UCPN (Maoist), CPN-UML and Nepali Congress (NC) -- to take to the streets against the SRC report,” said Nembang. “No power can stop the agitation.”
Meanwhile, leaders of five political parties including UCPN (Maoist), NC and UML burnt copies of the report submitted by SRC in front of the Far Western Regional Administration Office in Doti. President of NC Doti district chapter Bir Bahadur Balayar said the report submitted by SRC is not acceptable to them and that they are in favor of an integrated far western region.
“Even if our central leaders accept the report, we will not accept it,” stated Balayar.
According to a minority member, the idea of 11 provinces began to be imposed by the majority group led by Madan Pariyar from the second day. “It seems that they are carrying someone’s agenda insisting that they will not accept any other opinion. This is the reason we are compelled to write another report. We were not even allowed to use resources,” said a member.
However, convener Pariyar dismissed the charges saying that they have done it according to the regulation endorsed by all the members.
In whatever circumstances the report was produced, it generated heated debates and sparked a new round of controversy. Although the commission was set up to settle the issue of state restructuring, it generated heated debate.
Highlights of the report
The report submitted by a majority of the State Restructuring Commission--backed by Malla K Sundar, Bhogendra Jha, Stella Tamang, Krishna Hacchethu, Surendra Mahato, and Convenor Madan Pariyar--that proposes an 11-state model-- has 19 Articles. However, a separate report was forwarded by the minority group that pitches for a six-state model and has 17 articles.
The minority faction--comprising Ramesh Kumar Dhungel, Sarbaraj Khadka and Sabitri Gurung--stresses that there should be six provinces and a three-tier structure--federal level, state level and local bodies.
The majority faction, backed by Chairman Madan Pariyar, has recommended a two-tier structure placing local bodies under the provinces. In its note of dissent, the minority group has suggested three tiers of government--federal, provincial and local--with equal rights.
The majority faction has recommended political priority rights for dominant ethnic groups in the special structures within a federal set-up for once at least. Dhungel, Khadka, Gurung and Bhogendra Jha have expressed serious reservations that the provision of priority rights is against the principle of competitive politics.
Dhungel, Khadka and Gurung have objected to the recommendation of right to self determination for indigenous nationalities, Madhesis, Dalits and other marginalised groups arguing that the provision could provoke unnecessary disputes. Majority members have recommended that indigenous and local communities should have the right to self determination on politics, culture, religion, language, education, information, health, migration, social security, employment, mobilisation of resources and land, among others.