Conspiracy theories abound as constitution deadline nears
Children playing in parks as parents watch indulgently, teenage girls having ‘paani-puri’ from roadside stalls as boys on bikes ogle, housewives haggling with vegetable vendors, couples walking hand in hand, elders discussing politics sipping cups of tea and dance bars opening shutters to welcome customers for the evening.
One could assume everything is normal in Nepal at present. But beneath this veneer of calm there is an undercurrent of tension and a feeling that all these could change in an instant.
Though routine, the above mentioned scenes happened during a 12-hour break from the ongoing strike in the country. The three-day strike called by indigenous communities seeking ethnicity-based federalism has crippled life across Nepal since Sunday.
As the country races to meet the May 27 deadline to draft a new constitution, strikes and incidents of violence, mostly by groups seeking protection of their identities in ethnic states in the new statute, has led to a feeling that the task would not be completed on time.
Conspiracy theories have started emerging on how there is an attempt by some ‘unnamed forces’ to incite communal violence, which could give lawmakers an excuse to clamp emergency and thus extend the constitution drafting deadline.
With the Constituent Assembly failing time and again to complete the task at hand, the Supreme Court has refused to allow any further extension of the time limit. But the interim constitution allows an extension in case of an emergency in the country.
Claiming that such a conspiracy is indeed a possibility, on Monday Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai asked security agencies to remain on high alert to foil any such attempt.
Leaders of the main parties also issued a statement urging agitating groups to remain alert against those who could incite violence with the intention of derailing the constitution-drafting process.
But there are some who assume that the three main parties—Maoists, Nepali Congress, Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist) and the conglomeration of Madhesi parties themselves are responsible for fuelling such attempts.
Social media is abuzz with such theories. Maoist chief Prachanda, whose party is heading the ruling unity government, urging indigenous communities to take to streets to protect their ethnic identities in the new federal structure make some including Nepali Congress and CPN (UML) believe in this possibility.
Questions are also being raised on the silence of the diplomatic community, donor agencies, INGOs against attacks on media and the frequent strikes. On previous occasions they were quick to denounce such violence and had even threatened not to provide visas to leaders of agitating groups who call for strikes at the drop of a hat.
And with most conspiracies in Nepal, India is not far from the picture this time as well. Last week, some newspapers carried a news item accusing an Indian diplomat of urging politicians in the Terai plains to “create a storm” for the rights of people in Madhes—the region bordering India.
The Indian embassy in Kathmandu was quick to issue a release terming the reports “misleading and factually incorrect”. The organizer of the reception and other politicians present at the do also clarified that the diplomat had not made any such statement. But they were not able to completely erase the damage the news reports had done.
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