State of the World's Minorities 2007 - Nepal
|Publisher||Minority Rights Group International|
|Publication Date||4 March 2007|
|Cite as||Minority Rights Group International, State of the World's Minorities 2007 - Nepal, 4 March 2007, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/48a971314b.html [accessed 17 December 2014]|
In Nepal, after months of negotiations following the April 2006 mass movement that overturned King Gyanendra's direct rule, a peace agreement was signed on 21 November 2006 between Maoist insurgents and the government. The agreement ends a 10-year civil war and charts a course towards June 2007 elections for a Constituent Assembly following the formation of an interim government that includes the Maoists. Although all members of society have welcomed a cessation to the violence and instability, Nepal's minorities claim that the peace agreement was drawn up without sufficient minority input and fear that the new constitution in 2007 will not bring them real change.
Careful reading of the agreement shows that it does not propose to alter electoral systems enshrined in the much-criticized 1990 Constitution. Nepal's janajatis (which include the 59 member organizations of the Nepal Federation of Ethnic and Indigenous Nationalities and the Indigenous Peace Commission) feel that the current system of constituencies and representation has always ignored their aspirations and as a result have little faith in the approaching June 2007 elections.
Being overwhelmingly Hindu (80.6 per cent), notions of caste within Nepalese society are deep-rooted and discrimination against the 2.8 million Dalits or 'untouchables' (13 per cent of the total population) remains rife. The peace agreement promises:
'to address the problems related to women, Dalit, indigenous people, Janajatis, Madheshi, oppressed, neglected, minorities and the backward by ending discrimination based on class, caste, language, sex, culture, religion, and region and to restructure the state on the basis of inclusiveness, democracy and progression by ending the present centralized and unitary structure of the state.'
However Dalit organizations point out that, even though caste discrimination was outlawed in the 1963 and 1990 Constitutions, the legal provisions were never implemented. They argue that implementation of these promises would involve major structural changes and, up to now, they have seen no will by the entrenched political elite to relinquish their power. Yet another obstacle in the way of change is that enforcement of any new laws would mainly fall on the shoulders of the civilian police force who are traditionally unsympathetic to Dalit issues.