After seven years, Nepal finally adopted a Constitution Sunday amid threats of violence from political and ethnic groups that opposed the charter.
President Ram Baran Yadav signed the Constitution and made the proclamation announcement which was greeted with applause by members of the Constituent Assembly in Kathmandu.
“We believe the adoption of the new Constitution has now opened the path for development of the country,” Yadav told the assembly.
“The Constitution is the common document of all of us to protect our freedom, independence, geographic integrity, and sovereignty,” he said.
With this, the Interim Constitution has been annulled.
The new Constitution has 37 divisions, 304 articles and 7 annexes.
The seven provinces will be finalized by a high-level commission within a year.
Several people celebrating the event on the streets of Kathmandu said the country can now focus on development and reforms.
Laxman Lal Karna, a senior leader of the Madhesi ethnic group in southern Nepal, said protests will continue.
The violence over the past several weeks has left at least 44 people dead. One man was killed and several others injured Sunday when police opened fire at protesters defying curfew in Birgunj, a town bordering India.
In a country with more than 100 ethnic groups, some like Madhesis say the new constitution limits their representation.
Women’s groups and campaigners allege that the new constitution discriminates against Nepalese women as it will be difficult for a single mother to pass her citizenship to her child. If she marries a foreign man, their children cannot become Nepali unless the man first takes Nepali citizenship.
But if the father is Nepali, his children can also be Nepali regardless of the wife’s nationality.
But the main parties rubbish all such complaints by arguing that the issues can be solved later.
“The constitution … can always be amended when needed,” said Khadga Prasad Oli of the Communist Party of Nepal Unified Marxist Leninist.
China welcomed the new Constitution saying that as a “friendly neighbour” it hoped for increased stability and growth.
An imperfect document is better than nothing, and the constitution can be amended, it said.
While extending best wishes to the people of Nepal for the promulgation of Constitution, India expressed its concern over the existing differences among the political forces over the new charter and ongoing violence in the southern belt bordering India.
India feels the constitution has ignored the aspirations of the Madhesis and Tharus, people of Terai (Nepal’s long southern lowland strip bordering India).
Its leaders feel the Constitution should ideally be such that people from Himal, pahad and Terai can proudly own it.
According to them, until the concerns of Madhesis and Tharus agitating for revised federal boundaries, inclusion and political representation are addressed, Nepal will have no stability in future. Such inclusiveness is essential for a durable and resilient Constitution, they argue.
Nepal faces a major challenge as the new Constitution has to bring together the people of pahad (hill) and Terai together.
Another factor upsetting New Delhi is the disinformation campaign under way in Nepal that India had instigated the Madhes movement.
The people of the hill elite-led establishment are now going to call the shots.
Maoists do not bother about social justice for marginalised and excluded groups like Madhesis and Tharus.
So the future ties between India and Nepal may hinge on how Kathmandu treats Terai people.