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  • Nepalis celebrating the arrival of New Constitution in Kathmandu (EPA)Source: EPA
Nepal´s new Constitution comes into effect today after an overwhelming majority of 598 lawmakers endorsed a total of 308 articles earlier this week. The approval of the Constitution has a deep meaning for all of those involved in the 1996-2006 Maoist conflict.
Rajish Aryal / SBS Radio Nepali

20 Sep 2015 - 1:53 AM  UPDATED 2 Sep 2016 - 8:59 AM


The new Constitution establishes a federal system, with provisional seven states, and three levels of government: federal, provincial and local.

The chairman of the United Maoist party, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, says the new constitution will honour the sacrifices made by the Nepali people for the last 70 years, referring to the end of the Rana dynasty that ruled the country for more than a century.

“It has created a Constitution for a federal democratic republic and I urge parties who have not participated in the making of this constitution or parties that are currently protesting, to take part in consensus building through talks”, says Dahal.

"I urge parties (...) that are currently protesting, to take part in consensus building through talks", says the chairman of the United Maoist party.

Many unhappy with the new Constitution

Nepalese women activists argue the new constitution discriminates against women, while the opposition from the Southern plains complain about the demarcation of the country into seven states.

Many Nepalese people are also disappointed as they expected the new constitution to declare Nepal as a Hindu nation instead of a secular state, a proposal that was rejected unanimously.

Kanchan Jha runs the Human Rights organization Sano Paila (Little Steps) in rural Nepal.

He is positive about declaring the country as a secular federal democratic republic and he also agrees with the decentralised federal organisation of government. 

However, he says the new Constitution doesn´t deal appropriately with the issues faced by the marginalised communities in Nepal. He says the current demarcation is done by politicians to suit their election needs.

“The Madheshi people are not asking for a different country. What they are asking for is equal place in state restructuring where their voices can be heard. There are small points that the leaders are trying to ignore. For example, if they put three four districts within the Tarai region then that will solve the issue of demarcation.”

"There are small points that the leaders are trying to ignore. For example, if they put three four districts within the Tarai region then that will solve the issue of demarcation", says Mr. Jha.

Lawmakers have chosen to keep the proposed seven federal provinces but they have also agreed to setup a commission to solve this problem including the names of the provinces.

Mr. Jah says the new Constitution´s regulation of Citizenship is discriminatory towards the people living in places bordering India.  According to the Constitution, naturalized citizens will not be able to run for senior government posts like chief of police or ministers in the government.

“This is also going to affect a lot of Madheshi people because they have cultural ties with people living across the border in India. And that cultural relationship has existed for thousands of years because people get married across these communities.”


Security tightened

With the opposition against the new constitution continuing and some groups labelling it as a “black day”, the government officials say security has been tightened throughout the country including in the southern region where over 40 people were killed during protests against the proposed constitution.

The controversial proposal of country’s demarcation into seven federal provinces is one of the causes of these protestes.

Mainly the Madheshi, Tharu and the indigenous communities of the far west, south east and south west of Nepal have been very critical and demand a federal demarcation based on identity.


Nepalese diaspora in Australia question the new Constitution

Sydney’s Karna Rajbanshi is a co-ordinator of the organization “Kochila struggle council Australia”. The Kochila community has been demanding a separate province in Nepal.

They believe identity based federalism will help people build their own future instead of the ruling elites.

They also criticise that the new constitution is not inclusive enough and does not contemplate the needs of the people that has been marginalised.

"Until the identity based federalism is not addressed by the government or by Kathmandu then we cannot imagine economic development of those communities", says Mr. Rajbanshi.

“Until the identity based federalism is not addressed by the government or by Kathmandu then we cannot imagine economic development of those communities. People wanted inclusive constitution, people wanted federal states based on identity and people wanted life, liberty and happiness through federal states but all these aspirations, demands and commitments were denied by the government.”

The Nepali government and the leaders of the major political parties say that issues raised by the opposition groups will be discussed and the constitution will be amended if required.

The last 10 years of Nepal´s history

Nepal was a Hindu Kingdom with constitutional monarchy until 2006. On 18 May 2006, the House of Representatives unanimously voted to curtail the power of the king and declared Nepal a secular state. On 28 December 2007, a bill was passed in parliament to amend Article 159 of the constitution – replacing "Provisions regarding the King" by "Provisions of the Head of the State" – declaring Nepal a federal republic, and thereby abolishing the monarchy. The bill came into force on 28 May 2008.

On 21 November 2006, Nepal’s decade-long armed conflict ended with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA) between the Government and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). A central pillar of the accord is the writing of a new constitution that grants equal rights and opportunities to all Nepalese people. In April 2008, elections to the Constituent Assembly (CA) were held. The original timeframe of completing the constitution by 28 May 2010 proved too ambitious given the competing political agendas and the need for extensive public consultation. As a result the term of the assembly was extended four times and the last deadline was for 27 May 2012 to prepare a draft constitution. However the Assembly was not able to produce a constitution and it was dissolved on 27 May 2012. (UN)

After a few months' stalemate, the political parties agreed to go for a fresh mandate under an interim election government. Elections to the second Constituent Assembly were successfully held on 19 November 2013 and subsequently a new government and a new 601-member Constituent Assembly were formed to arrive to the Constitution approved this week. (UN)

The role of the Participatory Constitution Building in Nepal (SPCBN) project

UNDP’s Support to Participatory Constitution Building in Nepal (SPCBN) project, in partnership with Denmark, Norway and Switzerland has been facilitating international expertise to assist the Constituent Assembly (CA) Secretariat and Assembly members assess and reach important decisions.

UN support Nepal Constitutional process

Public participation in the constitution making process requires an informed public debate on the main features of the constitutional issues and choices facing the people and the CA.

In 2014, UNDP continued to promote informed debate on the major key contentious constitutional issues, including federalism, electoral system, citizenship issues, forms of government, judicial system, and inclusion. The project engaged with political party leaders and CA/committee members and facilitated the development of compromise options by forming a group of experts to brainstorm issues regularly.

Between 2013 and 2014, more than 1,930 political leaders and CA members (38% women) enhanced their knowledge on key constitutional issues through 44 dialogues/interactions, which helped to narrow
the gaps on key contentious constitutional issues.

The project also trained 8640 former local body representatives, civil society members, local leaders and activist, including general public, on these contentious issues. (UN)

Extended coverage SBS Nepali Radio

13 September 2015

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