Minister for Population and Health Rajendra Mahato has been involved in the Madhesh movement for a long time, comparable with late Gajendra Narayan Singh’s time. At a time when his Sadvabana Party is holding the fifth national convention in Janakpur on 4-6 May, chairman Mahato spoke to New Spotlight on various issues. Excerpts:
How important is the forthcoming convention?
We are holding the convention at a very crucial phase of the history of Nepal as we are in the process of finalization of the constitution of federal, inclusive, democratic republic Nepal from elected Constituent Assembly. The CA will promulgate a new constitution as per the aspirations of the people. Thus, the forthcoming convention is very important.
What are the agenda?
Our agenda are the same as perceived by our late leader Gajendra Narayan Singh, who raised the voice of Madheshi people and spent his entire life to end the discrimination against Madhesh and Madheshis. Madhesh and Madheshis suffered more than two and a half centuries of oppression and discrimination. When Gajendra Narayan Singh raised this issue, he was a lone fighter. However, Madhesh and Madheshi issue has not become the national agenda. Our forthcoming convention is to consolidate the agenda. Unlike in the past, we want to raise the agenda of Madhesh from all over the country including from mountain and hill.
How do you view the present state?
Our party will work with Janajati’s, dalits of hill and marginalized communities of hills to end the political, cultural, social, economic and linguistic discriminations. Our party is fully committed to sacrifice everything to bring all oppressed communities and groups from all parts of Nepal including Madhesh to the fore. We want equal representation in all sectors. By bringing all ethnic groups, Madheshis and dalits into the mainstream, we can strengthen our national unity and integrity. Equal participation of oppressed and backward community is a must to make Nepal prosperous and developed. The representation of all the communities should be based on proportional numbers in all spheres of society. Madheshi, Dalit and Janjati consist of over 50 percent of total population. They should be given their rights to participate in nation building.
Do you see any possibility of bringing the constitution by the CA?
There is no alternative other than to bring the new federal republic constitution from CA. if we fail to bring the new constitution, there will be chaos and political trouble. For the people of Madhesh, bringing the constitution written by CA will be historic. This is the reason Samukta Loktantrik Madheshi Morcha is concentrating to promulgate the new constitution by May 27.
But, Nepali Congress and CPN-UML have already demanded the resignation of prime minister saying that this government failed to write the constitution. How do you look at it?
This is not a time to change the leadership of the government as such a move will delay the promulgation of the new constitution. SLMM has already made it clear that the government led by Baburam Bhattarai will be there till the promulgation of new constitution. There is no question to change the government. Nepali Congress and CPN-UML can join this government to make a national government. As this government is formed under the four point deal, we will support this government till it is committed to our four point agreement.
How do you see the performance of the government?
This government has completed some of the historic tasks including the completion of integration process of Maoist combatants. The government has also produced an inclusive bill in the parliament and initiated the process of recurrent of Madheshi in Nepal Army. The government has initiated many new projects to address the problems faced by the people. The government has also issued directives for good governance. In the short period of time, this government has already concluded a number of works.
As the situation is gradually deteriorating throughout the country and various groups have already made it clear that they will burn the constitution if it fails to address their agenda. How do you look at it?
This is a normal process. Everyone wants that the new constitution should recognize and accept their own aspirations and identities. In the past, Madheshi, janjati and dalits were cheated by the ruling class of Nepal and they don’t want to be cheated again. This is the reason they have been holding various programs to press other parties to come out with a constitution addressing their concern.
At a time when there are so many differences over the federal structures, forms of government and judiciary, how can they all be settled?
The issues of federalism will be settled if the provinces are crafted on the basis of ethnicity and identity. Forms of government and judiciary are not big issues. People want a province on the basis of identity with the right to self determination. We don’t want decentralization but what we want is a province with all state power.
As proposal of major political parties show that they want fragmentation of Madhesh, how do you look at it?
Our party will oppose any move to fragment the Madhesh. We have waged such a long struggle to push our agenda of one Madhesh and one Pradesh. This is our bottom-line. We believe that the constituent Assembly will promulgate the new constitution accommodating our demand. If CA fails to accept our demand, we have to go for another round of struggle.