SAMATA foundation's initiation for solidarity among CA members of Dalit community
A powerful earthquake of magnitude 7.8 Richter scale on April 25, 2015 and the subsequent aftershocks of 6.9 and 6.8 Richter scale of April 26 and May 12 in Nepal, claimed more than 8000 lives and thousands were injured. More than 4, 69,000 houses were destroyed. However, in national political arena, the earthquake acted as a catalyst to the ruling Nepali Congress, CPN-UML and opposition Unified CPN (Maoists) and Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (Loktantrik) alliance to make compromises and they inked a 16-point deal late Monday night on 8 June 2015, paving the way for the Constituent Assembly (CA) to write the constitution. Monday's deal is the most important landmark in Nepal's political history after the signing of Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2006. In little less than a decade after the peace accord, two Constituent Assemblies were formed but the deal on the contents of the new constitution eluded Nepal due to bickering over models of federalism, governance, judiciary and elections.
On this background, under the initiation of SAMATA foundation, Asian Parliamentarian's Forum on Dalit Concern-Nepal Chapter called for a meeting of CA of Dalit community to analyze the agreement through Dalit perspective and to have consultation on how to ensure Dalit rights in the Constitution on 15 June 2015 in Entrance Café. During discussion, it was expressed that the marginalized communities including Dalit community were betrayed by the deal. The meeting came to the following conclusions:
· Political rights of Dalit community have been violated.
· The deal mentions only "Inclusion" and the principle of "Proportional inclusion" have been removed in constitutional and political appointments.
· Dalit representation is not guaranteed in First-past-the-post electoral system candidacy.
· The deal doesn’t address the principle of "Proportional representation" in Upper House.
· The provision of allocation of 60% seats through First-past-the-post electoral system and 40% seats through Proportional electoral system is not applicable to provincial and local elections.
· The Principle of "Compensation" has not been addressed.
· The proposed provision of "Rotational constituency" to ensure the representation of Dalit community has been sidelined.
Furthermore, they concluded with the following action points:
· It was internalized that CA members of Dalit community could not come up with "Note of Dissent" or any other kind of objection on the deal as many other groups like Inter-Party Women Coalition came up with.
· CA members should go collectively within and outside the party to safeguard Dalit rights in the constitution.
· It would be a good strategy that Constituent Assembly members raise the voice in Constituent Assembly with "Amendment Proposal" and Dalit civil society does the same job outside the Constituent Assembly.
· Dalit movement should express its solidarity and its programs should be aligned with other movement including those of women, Madhesi and Indigenous communities.
· CA representing Dalit community might have to adopt the path of revolution again if needed to safeguard the rights of Dalits if necessary amendments were not done in the Draft report of Drafting Committee.
SAMATA foundation furthermore coordinated and facilitated a series of meetings of CA members consecutively on 3, 18 and 29 June 2015. As a result, CA members of Dalit community, irrespective of their ideology and against their party leaders came to a point and submitted an "Attention Letter" to the Hon. Krishna Prasad Sitaula, Chairperson of Constitution Drafting Committee. Moreover, they met the Chairperson of Constituent Assembly Hon. Subhash Nembang and expressed dissatisfaction on the Draft report of Constitutional Political Dialogue and Consensus Committee and demanded to correct the draft report.
The "Attention Paper" recalls that CA II has provided ownership to the consensuses and achievements of CA I and the agenda of federalism, proportional inclusion, democracy, republicanism and secularism were the major guidelines of new constitution, according to which the Draft Committee has already prepared the draft report on the basis of those consensuses. CA members representing Dalit community welcomes the agreement that could remove the hurdle that has been impeding the agenda of constitution promulgation due to diverging views on various agenda. However, the report presented by Constitutional- Political Dialogue and Consensus Committee on June 12, 2015 deducted many of the previous consensuses that drew the attention of CA of Dalit community. On this context, CA of Dalit community draws the attention on the following agenda which have previously been agreed upon by CA I and II and they were:
· The agenda which were previously agreed upon by CA I and owned by CA II should be incorporated into the new constitution as they were agreed upon.
· In the preamble of the constitution, the statement mentioning "Repenting on the caste based discrimination and untouchability that has been practiced upon Dalit community for centuries" should be added.
· There should be the provision of proportional representation of Dalit community in all levels of political federal structures that included (Lower House and Upper House), Provincial Legislature and Local level with the provisions of 3%, 5% and 10% additional representation respectively in proportion to the population of Dalit community.
· There should be the provision of recommendation of at least one representative from Dalit community from each province to Upper house as well as in five seats to be recommended by the president
· There should be the provision of Proportional Inclusive Representation of Dalit community in Central and provincial cabinets and in the local level mechanisms.
· During demarcation of province and local levels, the demarcation should be done in such a way that dense Dalit settlement might lie in particular units.
· There should be the provision of representation of Dalit community in all kinds of political and constitutional appointments at all levels of the state.
· All rights provisioned for Dalit community are meant and to be divided among Dalits of Hill, Madhesh and Dalit women.
· Aforementioned are the institutional demands and agreements of Dalit community. All those agenda should be included in new constitution with utmost priority.
While the preliminary draft of the new constitution has drawn criticism from various walks of life, lawmakers and members of civil society representing the Dalit community have expressed serious dissatisfaction over provisions in the draft. Lawmakers from Nepali Congress, CPN-UML, UCPN (Maoist) and other Madhes-based parties in the Constituent Assembly and civil society members have come up with a unified voice against the provisions but with slim hope of being heard. Lawmakers representing the Dalit community have demanded that issues already owned by the first CA should be incorporated in the draft to ensure the rights of the Dalit community.
Advocacy initiations of SAMATA foundation after 16-point deal among the leaders of four major political parties are bulleted below:
1. Under the initiation of SAMATA foundation, Asian Parliamentarian's Forum on Dalit Concern-Nepal Chapter called for a meeting of CA of Dalit community to analyze the agreement through Dalit perspective and to have consultation on how to ensure Dalit rights in the Constitution on 15 June 2015 in Entrance Café.
2. SAMATA foundation furthermore coordinated and facilitated a series of meetings of CA members consecutively on 3, 18 and 29 June 2015. As a result, CA members of Dalit community, irrespective of their ideology and against their party leaders came to a point and submitted an "Attention Letter" to the Hon. Krishna Prasad Sitaula, Chairperson of Constitution Drafting Committee. Moreover, they met the Chairperson of Constituent Assembly Hon. Subhash Nembang and expressed dissatisfaction on the Draft report of Constitutional Political Dialogue and Consensus Committee and demanded to correct the draft report.
3. Hon Krishna Prashad Situala, chairman of the ‘Constitution Drafting Consolidated Task-force’ had recently handed over the draft to the Chairman of the Constituent Assembly Rt Hon Subash Nembang/released on 30 June 2015.
4. On July 14, Dalit civil society organized a protest rally of CA members, Dalit civil society, representatives from political parties and sister organizations outside the CA to give pressure to the law makers to amend draft constitution.
5. On July 20 and 21, as per the schedule of CA, the recommendations and suggestions of people on draft constitution were collected. For this procedure, CA members, Dalit civil society circulated the agenda of Dalit community to Dalit community to be incorporated in the Draft constitution and the suggestion were collected in verbal and written form accordingly. On the basis of those circulations, Dalit community from all walks of life participated across Nepal and submitted their suggestions.
6. Meanwhile, on July 19, Padam Sundas on behalf of SAMATA foundation and Dalit civil society presented the suggestions to Citizen Relationship and Recommendation Committee of CA.
7. On July 23, National Dalit Commission and Dalit civil society handed over the memorandum to Chairperson of CA, Hon. Subhash Chandra Nembang expressing dissatisfaction over the draft. The memorandum was presented on the basis of interaction program organized by National Dalit Commission on July 9 with civil society.
8. On July 27, Dalit civil society organized interaction program to create pressure on CA members of Dalit community with regard to omission of provisions related Dalit community in preliminary draft of constitution.
9. On July 28, Dalit civil society under the coordination of Padam Sundas, SAMATA organized a rally and Dalit civil society participated to create the pressure to the law makers.
10. On July 29, Citizen Relations and Public Opinion handed over the report incorporating the recommendations of the citizens. Joint Dalit Struggle Committee organized a press conference for omitting the suggestions provided by Dalit community across Nepal.
11. On July 29, CA members from Dalit community raised their voice in the CA about deleting the provisions related to Dalit community in preliminary draft of Constitution.
12. On July 29, Dalit civil society organized a sit-in-protest program in front of the CA to express solidarity to the CA members who were speaking in CA at that time.
13. On July 31, on backstopping of SAMATA foundation, Dalit Rights Struggle Committee organized a joint program and declared the First Round of Protest with an announcement of a series of Protest programs from 31 July to 5 August 2015. It was decided that next round of Protest Program would be announced gauging the response from the government.
14. August 2, due to continuous efforts of Dalit civil society (The credit goes to Padam Sundas of SAMATA foundation), the political leaders of all parties, current and former CA members representing Dalit community, Dalit civil society, Joint Political Dalit Struggle Committee gathered in one platform and expressed solidarity to move ahead and take every action required to amend Draft Constitution, if not CA members even expressed commitment to resign.
15. August 3, as a part of the Protest program, Dalit civil society and sister organizations of political parties sent "Love Letter of Dalit Movement" mentioning about the demands of Dalit community to all CA members to reinstate Dalit rights in the Draft Constitution again.
16. August 4, Dalit Human Rights activists, and Joint Dalit Struggle Committee organized 'One Hour Road Blockade' program across Nepal. Many Human Rights activities were injured during demonstration in Bijuli Bazar,, Kathmandu due to Police Brutality. This act of police was condemned by National Dalit Commission, civil society. The incidence became a hot topic in the CA and both Dalit and non-Dalit CA members condemned on inhuman act of police. Chairperson of CA issued an order to Home Minister to clarify the matter in the CA. The incidence was widely covered by all national dailies.
17. August 5, a rally was organized a protest rally against the police brutality of the previous day. It was believed that more than 5000 people participated in the rally.
18. August 5, Home Minister had to address the CA with regard to police action against Dalit protest of the previous day and ensured that "Use of force against Dalit protesters will be probed".
19. August 7, Joint Dalit Movement announced that it would announce Second Round of Protest Program soon and formed a task force to list protest programs. Padam Sundas is one of the members of the task force.
20. August 8, SAMATA foundation in collaboration with Dalit civil society organized an Advocacy meeting with CA members and sister organizations of political parties to express solidarity and continue protest till Dalit rights ensured in the Draft Constitution.
21. August 9, Joint Dalit Struggle Committee and Dalit civil society announced Second Round of Protest.
22. August 10, rally was organized under the leadership of Dalit women where many Dalit rights activists, Dalit civil society and journalists participated.
23. On the same day at August 10, representatives of Joint Dalit Movement met PM Sushil Koirala and put forth their demands. PM requested Dalit community to withdraw the protest programs and said that Dalit rights which were omitted can be ensured in the constitution.
24. August 11, Joint Political Dalit Struggle Committee, CA members of Dalit community, Dalit civil society and Dalit Rights Struggle Committee jointly enforced "Two-Hour Road Blockade program" or "Chakkajam" and organized "Whistle rally". Whistling is the symbol of awaking politicians who turned their deaf ears to the demands of Dalit community. This program was carried out across Nepal.
25. August 12, Joint Political Dalit Struggle Committee, CA members of Dalit community, Dalit civil society and Dalit Rights Struggle Committee jointly organized "Coffin Rally" and later converged into corner assembly.
26. August 13, as a part of Protest Program, United Dalit Movement organized an interaction program in Anmol Catering. Main speakers of the program were Pushpa Kamal Dahal |"Prachand" (chairman of Unified CPN-Maoists), Jhalanath Khanal (Leader of CPN-UML) and Prakash Sharan Mahat (Nepali Congress). All political leaders expressed that new Constitution to be promulgated should be Dalit friendly.
27. August 15, United Dalit Movement organized "Demonstration Rally and Assembly" taken out from Babarmahal to New Baneshwar.
28. August 19, Unified Dalit Movement announced "Third Round of Protest Program" that included "Demonstration in Chain" (August 20), "Collection of Signatures as an expression of solidarity for Dalit movement" (August 21), "Civic Dialogue" (August 22), "Interaction with Non-Dalit communities" (August 23 & 24), "Whistle Demonstration" (August 25), "Public Demonstration" (August 26) Symbolic Protest in the presence of artists (August 27), " Motorcycle Rally" (August 28), "Unified Protest and Assembly" (August 29). The protest programs were carried out by United Dalit Movement as per the program.
29. In the meantime, SAMATA foundation in collaboration with Dalit civil society organized an Advocacy meeting with CA members of Dalit community to review what have so far been achieved due to protest programs of various rounds in Indreni Complex on 28 August. In the program, Dr. Yam Bahadur Kisan and Udbir Nepali jointly analyzed modified version of Draft Statute and presented what and where are the spaces still required to be addressed in the Draft through Dalit perspective. Dalit civil society indicated the need to go with "Amendment Proposal" to ensure the demands of Dalit community in the Constitution. On behalf of SAMATA foundation, Dr. Yam Bahadur Kisan prepared "Amendment Proposal" and distributed to all CA members to be presented in the CA.
30. August 29, following the call from PM Sushil Koirala, CA members, representatives from United Dalit Movement met PM. In the meeting, PM requested to stop the protest programs and said that "Constitution promulgation is vital at this critical juncture". Representatives of Dalit community could not get satisfied by the address of PM.
31. So, United Dalit Movement announced "Forth Round of Protest Program" that included the programs of demonstration and meeting with senior leaders of major political parties on September 1.