Women peacebuilders for strengthening friendship between India and Nepal

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Nepalese people will not forget that India was one of the first countries who sent their rescue team to help Nepal during the Nepal Earthquake 2015 on 25th April 2015 responding within six-seven hours after the devastating earthquake which has seen over 12,000 Nepalese dead to date and has pledged to help with rebuilding of Nepal.

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Invitation

“March With Women Peace Builders for Harmony”

3rd October 2015

10am to 11am

King Street, Rockdale, NSW 2216

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As many of you all may know the current situation between India and Nepal is like living in a void where we continue to make speculations about what exactly is happening between the two nations who have enjoyed a robust and healthy relationship since the 1950s.

Modern-day India and Nepal initiated their relationship with the 1950 Indo-Nepal Treaty of Peace and Friendship and accompanying secret letters that defined security relations between the two countries, and an agreement governing both bilateral trade and trade transiting Indian Territory. These accords cemented a “special relationship” between India and Nepal that granted Nepalese the same economic and educational opportunities as Indian citizens in India and preferential treatment to Indians compared to other nationalities in Nepal. The Indo-Nepal border is open; Nepalese and Indian nationals may move freely across the border without passports or visas and may live and work in either country. Similarly, since the independence of India in 1947, as per the terms of the Britain–India–Nepal Tripartite Agreement, six Gorkha regiments, formerly part of the British Indian Army, became part of the Indian Army and have served ever since. The troops are Gorkhas, residents of Nepal and ethnic Gorkha (Nepali) citizens of India

1Nepalese people will not forget that India was one of the first countries who sent their rescue team to help Nepal during the Nepal Earthquake 2015 on 25th April 2015 responding within six-seven hours after the devastating earthquake which has seen over 12,000 Nepalese dead to date and has pledged to help with rebuilding of Nepal.

On 20th September 2015, Nepal finally adopted a fully secular and democratic constitution — it’s first as a federal democratic republic. This constitution defines Nepal as a secular country where multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multi-religious and multi-cultural Nepal is recognised as pronounced by the President Ram Baran Yadav, but it is also heavily opposed by some pro-Hindu groups who want to establish Nepal as the only Hindu nation in the world. While there are debates on the rights to citizenship that is considered discriminating against women in terms of passing on citizenship, it has been successful in announcing as one of the strongest constitution in the South Asia and as the first in Asia ABC 2015 to specifically protect the rights of LGBTIQ communities UNDP 2015  . It is noticeable that it is not the women’s groups protesting but mainly the ethnic minorities against this Constitution. “The Constitution aims to reinforce Nepal as a secular, democratic republic with a provision for the protection of religion, and establishes seven provinces [which has been met]….but the new Constitution has deeply alienated much of Nepal’s southern plains and the Madhesi people there, who have said that it dilutes their representation….the Ethnic Tharus in western Nepal have also strongly objected to the provincial boundaries”,Sharma & Najar 2015.  Nepal saw an end to a decade-long Maoist insurgency in 2006 and abolished its centuries-old monarchy two years later. It spent years since then grappling with writing a new constitution in an attempt to end a period of political drift and admit violent protests by minority groups over a seven-province federal structure (Business Standard 2015). This adoption of a long delayed charter was welcomed by Nepal’s major political parties, but then opposed by ethnic and religious group. “The politicians of Nepal are heavily criticized by the grassroots leaders for failing to consult and engage the representatives of southern plains in Nepal” Kanak Mani Dixit shared with the New York Times.

The youths are now seeking platforms that can provide the opportunities for the Nepalese to understand the gaps in knowledge, skills and attitudes to build a new Nepal that is so far limited to a lip service and is merely a day dream of many incompetent leaders of the country.

India has been accused of mishandling the situation — not having a process that engaged with intelligence and discreteness with events in Nepal in the first instance, and then coming across as heavy-handed (Majumder 2015). The interference of India is hence argued and articulated as their concern for those affected in the southern plains of Nepal (Dominguez, 2015), which has led to a souring of ties. Although Delhi was one of the major backers of the process over the past decade, it believes the new constitution is not broad-based and is concerned that it could spur violence which could spill over into its own territory. Just a couple of days before the constitution was formally adopted (but after it had been passed by the Constituent Assembly/CA) India’s top diplomat was sent to Kathmandu at the behest of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He is believed to have pressed the Nepalese government to delay the adoption of the constitution and hold discussions with political groups opposed to it (Reuters 2015). People in Nepal have shared twits #backoffindia, also on Facebook feeling hurt that India as their nearest ally have not shared their moment of joy (Nepal Foreign Affairs 2015), which has finally arrived after a decade of empty promises by the CA members.  Hundreds of trucks and tankers carrying everyday supplies have been halted at the Indian border, preventing them from entering Nepal, a landlocked country that has open borders with India to the south, east, and west, and relies on supplies — most importantly food and fuel — coming across. The blockade of supply which is unofficial has created a humanitarian crisis in Nepal (Pokharel 2015). With the northern boarders still under damage by the recent earthquakes, Nepal is grappling between the diplomatic unrest between the two nations, political unrest within Nepal across the southern border and finding a solution to provide basic needs to its people by clearing roads and reopening from China to Nepal (Havana 2015).

The situation in Nepal is precarious, not because there are disagreements of principle; any society will have them. The political unrest is due to the 2unfulfilled demands of the people from the plain regions of Nepal seeking proportional representation in the proposed parliament of Nepal (Aiyar 2015). Conversely, there are different sides to this story because many other also believe that this unrest is fuelled by the recent migrants from India to Nepal. Many Nepalese are not pleased with the interference on the internal political matters from its close ally soon after the promulgation of its Constitution as it is coming across as a challenge to the sovereignty of Nepal. While many are protesting on the current lack of inclusion in the Constitution, the Government seems to have acknowledged the current inaptness, but these are amendable. On the contrary, the other groups of youths are celebrating the turning off of Indian television and blockage as this may open doors to becoming a much awaited financially and economically independent Nepal. The youths are now seeking platforms that can provide the opportunities for the Nepalese to understand the gaps in knowledge, skills and attitudes to build a new Nepal that is so far limited to a lip service and is merely a day dream of many incompetent leaders of the country. The youth are now keen to launch different entrepreneurial ventures and use local produce so that what was so far taken for granted will now contribute towards developing the national economy. The current situation, therefore, if taken positively, may actually become a turning point for Nepal (Kaagmandu Magazine, 2015).

5Regardless, the friendship that was once celebrated is undeniably turning cold (Bagchi 2015). On the one hand India is concerned about the growing violence in the border region of Nepal it is also silent on its blockade by not making any formal announcement in support or against such actions. In Nepal, there has been a curfew and unrest resulting in 40 deaths, the minorities including Nepali Muslims are worried about their wellbeing, people are locking themselves at home refusing to participate in any kind of protest. It will require political trust and generosity to deal with these issues. Therefore, the experts recommends Indian government to play a diplomatic role by publicly urging the Nepali Prime Minister Koirala to address the recent unrest in Nepal and to invite talks between the stakeholders (Dominguez 2015). In addition, the Modi government should also support and respect the leadership in action that is demonstrated by the Government of Nepal for promulgation of this Constitution following the recent earthquakes. Here, we have to move beyond becoming the world’s only Hindu nation to executing equal rights to all religious and ethnic communities living in Nepal where everyone’s human rights are protected instead of further enflaming the minorities. This will lead to the unfavourable situation to both India and Nepal on a longer term (Dor 2015).

Our aim is to demonstrate that our friendship between the two countrymen is stronger than ever and that the current situation is not going to deter us from providing a peaceful world for our future generations to live in. 

Hence, in such a situation, it is predictable to have misunderstanding between the two countries and its people. Our leaders have made mistakes on both sides, but peace is what we need in moving forward. The current situation is concerning, “a political unrest can generate unwanted migration, seeking refuge, human trafficking and class-based violence” Haegeland 2015, all of which are already few of the biggest after marks of our decade long civil war in Nepal in the recent past. As a member of the Nepali Diaspora living in Sydney and as a representative of few women-led organisations, we are making this request to the multicultural Australian communities to support our mission to organise a peaceful and non-violent gathering to demonstrate our solidarity at the grassroots. Our aim is to demonstrate that our friendship between the two countrymen is stronger than ever and that the current situation is not going to deter us from providing a peaceful world for our future generations to live in. Along with our well-wishers from the broader Australian communities and we hope to get the support from Indian and Nepalese communities to make a pact for peaceful resolution between the two nations in this political debacle.

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As a women peacebuilders, we believe, that during crisis, it is our civic duty to strengthen friendship between different stakeholders, to ensure multi-sectoral prevention of violence and to work with national and international governments to develop policies and services that benefit all members of the society. In doing so, we are requesting both the Government of Nepal and India to work closely with the international stakeholders and UN for national peace and harmony. We understand that the new Constitution is not ideal, but it can be amended with consultations and community engagements. We also condemn the blockade, although unofficial, as it is considered unlawful act by the United Nations and international communities. Nevertheless, we request the Governments of Nepal to address the major socio-cultural issues that have resulted into unanticipated protests in Nepal and the Government of India to work as an ally of Nepal. Our wish is to see a mediation of this conflict so that the disputes can be settled without violence and a bigger mishaps. Our aim of the new Constitution is to empower our communities and sustain developmental regions. Our aim is to bring all the communities together. Nepal has struggled for decades, but now it is time to reconnect, support, and to stay united as one coherent nation. We want peace. 

Our action is proudly supported by the following women-led and community organisations in Sydney –

  • Community Migrant Resource Centre (CMRC)
  • Immigrant Women’s Speakout Association NSW
  • Muslim Women’s Association
  • Guru Nanak’s Free Kitchenette Sydney
  • ALL Ladies League Committee for Community Care, Australia
  • Asian Australian Alliance Women’s Forum (AAAWF)
  • Asian Australian Alliance
  • Asian Australian Alliance Young Leaders (AAAYL)
  • Global Asians for Action and Social Change
  • The Nepali Times Australia (NTA)

Coincidentally our call for peace is also close to the World Non Violence Day (2nd Oct) and World Sisterhood Day (5 Oct).  So, let’s make our small contribution towards the peace in the world.

 This is prepared by Anjana Regmi and Deepa Rai, members of the Nepali Diaspora living in Australia with reference from various online sources for the purpose of the peace event in Sydney. The writers seek consent before making any further publications of this article. For consent to publish or further information, please contact Anjana Regmi or email aaawomensforum@gmail.com