KATHMANDU: In a sign of first substantive discussion on contentious issues with the Madhesi parties, the government has “recognised” their concerns over the demarcation of federal provinces and hinted at revising it.
The changes would be effected through a federal commission based on a high-level political understanding with the agitating parties.
During talks with leaders from the agitating Madhes-based parties on Sunday, the government side said that cross-party leaders would soon hold “decisive negotiations” with the leadership of the disgruntled forces.
“It is noteworthy that the talks have formally entered into the demarcation agenda, recognising their demand for redrawing the federal boundaries,” said Deputy PM and Minister for Foreign Affairs Kamal Thapa, who heads the government talks team.
Law Minister Agni Kharel, Minister without portfolio Ram Janam Chaudhary and Minister for General Administration Rekha Sharma were also present in the talks.
Thapa said the government would initiate the task of constitution amendment by taking the Nepali Congress into confidence. “We will hold consultation with the NC before sitting for talks with the Madhesi parties again. NC’s support is necessary for constitution amendment,” said Thapa.
Despite commitment to state border revision, the government has not made its position on the matter public. The regional parties, which have been on the streets for three months demanding greater autonomy for the Tarai community, have demanded two provinces along the plains.
Sanghiya Samajbadi Forum Nepal Vice-chairman Lal Babu Raut said the government’s commitment to rework the boundaries through decision at the political leadership was positive.
He, however, added that commitments alone would not be enough to end the agitation.
“It’s a significant development while they have been refusing to discuss the issue of demarcation. But much will depend on how their words will translate into action,” said Raut.
He added that two provinces – including a Tharuhat state – in the Tarai is the bottom line of the agitating parties.
Raut, Tarai Madhes Loktantrik Party Vice-chairman Hridayesh Tripathi, Sadbhawana Party Co-chairman Laxman Lal Karna and Tarai Madhes Sadbhawana Party senior leader Ram Naresh Raya Yadav attended the dialogue on Morcha’s behalf.
Minister Chaudhary said the concerns of the Tharu communities would also be addressed.
“The demarcation ignored the concerns of the Tharu communities. Talks are on to address their demands,” said Chaudhary, a Tharu leader from Kailali who until recently led an agitation.
The Tharu community demands a separate Tharuhat province from Nawalparasi to Kailali.
Tripathi said there could be some “give and take” on settling the boundary row when real negotiation starts. Interlocutors from both the sides said they are flexible in dividing the disputed districts of Jhapa, Morang, Sunsari, Mahottari, Nawalparasi, Kailali and Kanchanpur between the Tarai and Hill provinces.
Meanwhile in JANAKPUR, the Madhesi Morcha has decided to intensify its protests while continuing dialogue with the government.
A two-day meeting of the Morcha held in Janakpur decided to intensify the agitation by mobilising more cadres and supporters.
“Banda, highway obstruction, border blockade, and shutdown of industries, offices and financial institutions will be stepped up,” read a statement issued after the meeting on Sunday.
The alliance of regional parties has been enforcing a Tarai banda for the past 79 days. – From Kathmandu Post