Critics say NEFIN's protest programs are too late and too mild
The Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (NEFIN) has unveiled a series of protest programs to mount pressure on the top four political parties to accept ethnic identity-based federalism, secularism and proportional representation. At a press conference held in Kathmandu a few days ago, the NEFIN vowed to carry out protest programs unless their rights are guaranteed in the new constitution. But critics say the NEFIN's announcement is too late and too little.
The NEFIN has vowed to burn copies of the new constitution on 18 August. And for the five days after that, district committees of NEFIN will be organizing protest programs at various places. And the NEFIN will be organizing mass gatherings in different regions from August 25 to 27. But the Constituent Assembly (CA)'s Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) is all set to prepare the ordinance of the new constitution on 17 August, just a day before the NEFIN's stage-wise agitation begins. So critics say the NEFIN's agitation will be pointless. They say if the NEFIN is really concerned about the new constitution it should launch a street movement right away.
"The new constitution has introduced federalism without identity, which is against the past agreements. The top leaders have almost agreed to get rid of secularism. This is our agitation is against."
At the press conference, the NEFIN General Secretary and CA member Pemba Bhote said, "The new constitution has introduced federalism without identity, which is against the past agreements. The top leaders have almost agreed to get rid of secularism. This is our agitation is against."
The NEFIN president Nagendra Kumal is also a CA member. He said: "We will not sit idle unless the new constitution addresses our concerns." He said the NEFIN will join hands with the Madhesi, Tharu, Dalit and other religious organizations for its agitation.
But not many are convinced by the NEFIN. The fact that both Kumal and Bhote are CA members but they did not raise their voices in the CA and decided to start a stir very late has raised suspicions that its protest is just a face-saving way.
"Once you get appointed as a lawmaker by some party, your allegiance would certainly go to that party. And you are no longer capable of speaking out for rights of your movement. This is what exactly has happened with the NEFIN now."
At the press conference, Bhote had asked the NEFIN's former president Raj Kumar Lekhi to inform journalists about the Tharuhat Struggle Committee's agitation. But Lekhi refused to speak at the press meet. He later told Indigenous Voice: "I am not satisfied because the NEFIN did not consult us before unveiling its late protest programs. Had it consulted us, we could have prompted it to carry out torch rallies immediately."
Earlier, talking to Indigenous Voice, Dr Krishna Bhattachan, a noted scholar advocating for rights of indigenous people, had said: "The NEFIN was supposed to lead a movement for rights of indigenous people. Unfortunately, its leaders are carrying agendas of their respective parties."
Dr Bhattachan, "Once you get appointed as a lawmaker by some party, your allegiance would certainly go to that party. And you are no longer capable of speaking out for rights of your movement. This is what exactly has happened with the NEFIN now."