23 May 2012
Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP), in a statement today, has called for urgent decisive actions within human rights framework to uphold inclusive democracy and peace based on social justice for resolution to political tensions on adoption of Nepal’s new constitution. It has also expressed unity with Nepal’s indigenous peoples in asserting their individual and collective rights in the new constitution as per international human rights obligation of Nepal.
The South Asian country has been plagued by political disputes since the civil war between Government forces and Maoists, which claimed 16,000 lives, formally ended in 2007, and its monarchy was abolished. Several deadlines to draft a new constitution through a Constituent Assembly (CA) have been missed. With time fast running out before the 28 May deadline, debate over the future federal system, among other issues, has led to rising tensions and disruption of daily life throughout the country with protests from different groups.
The government has recently agreed to enlist Khas-Arya (including Chhetri, Brahmin, Thakuri, Dasnami and Dalit) under category of ‘indigenous (adivasi) with rights‘ against internationally accepted standards set out by ILO Convention 169 that Nepal has ratified, following protests from those groups. “This agreement is clearly aimed to allow certain groups to continue to dominate and muddle and diffuse the rightful entitlement of indigenous peoples to self-determination in the new constitution,“ said Joan Carling, AIPP’s Secretary General. ”AIPP thereby calls for the withdrawal of this irrational agreement as it only serves to exacerbate the existing social and political conflicts.”
AIPP has also expressed solidarity with Nepal’s indigenous people in their demands for legal recognition of their distinct collective identities and cultures, right to self-determination under a federal set-up of autonomous units, the right to their lands, territories and resources, the right to political participation and the requirement for their free, prior and informed consent on matters that concerns them – those are in line with the international human rights obligations of Nepal under ILO Convention 169 and UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
In response to an agreement among Nepal’s major three political parties last week about future federal structure of the country without effective participation and consent of CA members representing indigenous and other marginalized communities, around 320 of current 594 CA members submitted a petition demanding federal set-up based on ancestral territories and settlements of indigenous peoples as per reports of CA committee and State-Restructuring Commission, proportional representation in all state organs and levels and rights of indigenous peoples to self-determination to autonomy and Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) as fundamental rights in new constitution.
Following long drawn protests of indigenous peoples, the government on Tuesday has also signed an agreement with indigenous representatives to present their demands, mostly similar to those in the petition, in the CA. “AIPP thereby calls upon all the political parties and CA members to adhere to these demands of indigenous peoples and marginalized groups so as to ensure inclusive democracy in the new constitution of Nepal,” Carling added.
Further, in light of information of many incidents of excesses by police forces during peaceful protests of indigenous peoples, particularly in the south-western Nepal, that seriously injured tens of Tharus, AIPP has called on Nepal’s police forces to exercise restraint and respect rights of citizens to peaceful assembly.
AIPP has expressed sadness that most large media agencies have never given due prominence to or balanced reporting of organized actions and other public programs of Nepal’s indigenous peoples that generated widespread support of communities while even small actions of other groups have received prominent media coverage. “AIPP respects freedom of media and rights of journalists but it is also important for media agencies to reflect diversity in their reporting and give attention to the issues and actions of marginalized groups,” Carling said. “Meanwhile, AIPP particularly requests the international media agencies to independently monitor and report on the developments in Nepal including the issues and actions of indigenous peoples and other marginalized groups so as to facilitate the needed global attention to the struggles of these groups long denied of social justice.”
“Finally, AIPP calls for unity among all political parties and CA members to set aside their vested interests and act decisively to grant the urgent need for inclusive democracy that empowers the marginalized groups and ensure social justice respect for human rights as foundation of Nepal’s new constitution; otherwise, the political tension will escalate leading Nepal back to its dark history of violent conflicts,” Carling added.
Click here for the full statement.