The protests have been subsiding, but violence related to the protests has killed at least 45 people in recent weeks.
The rejection of the demand for a Hindu State and the assertion that Nepal will be a secular republic has outraged the Hindutva forces in India. The press advisor to Nepal’s prime minister also wrote an op-ed in which he said it’s time India “respected the voice of Nepali people”.
A tough message from New Delhi telling its smaller neighbour to find a way to curb ongoing protests over its new Constitution has prompted accusations from Kathmandu of Indian interference in its politics. India has to rise above the usual ministry of external affairs line that these issues are an “internal matter of Nepal”.
But this last week, ties took a nosedive over India’s lukewarm reaction to Nepal’s new Constitution.
The placatory moves followed a week of public diplomatic statements issued by India asking Nepal to hold fresh consultations with the Madhesi and Tharu communities in the Himalayan nation’s plains over controversial clauses in the constitution that these communities are opposing. This is where the danger of confrontation lies between two nuclear countries India and China. BJP MP Avaidyanath had written to the president of Nepal and the chairman of the Constituent Assembly calling for Nepal to be declared a Hindu Rashtra. Some are asking supporters to block supply trucks at border entry points while other are advocating separatism.
The objective of a new constitution was to lay the foundations for an innovative state and society.
Last week, India sent Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar to Kathmandu to urge it to work for a political consensus before adopting the new Constitution. The Indian Ambassador has unhampered access to the highest offices in Nepal and is seen as perhaps the most important political mover and shaker.
Supporters saw a new constitution as a way to cement the peace process and pave the way for national reconciliation and the entrenchment of democracy.
The Indian envoy said the government’s deputing Forest Minister Mahesh Acharya, a close confidant of Prime Minister Sushil Koirala, for talks with the agitating Madhes-based parties was a welcome step, aides close to Oli and Nepal told IANS. Finally, on 20 September 2015 Nepal has formally adopted a new constitution, the first to be drawn up by democratically elected representatives after centuries of autocratic rule. The battle for the idea of Nepal needs to move away from the streets and into the parliament.