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Thousands protest in Butwal against Province 5 split

  • Leaders, locals vow to foil government amendment bill
  • Ruling NC, Maoists join hands with main opposition UML

Thousands of locals and cadres of both the ruling and opposition parties took to the street in Butwal opposing the government proposal to split Province-5 by separating hill districts from the southern plains in course of revising the federal boundaries.  Leaders from both the ruling and opposition joined the protests organized to oppose the government's move to make changes in federal boundaries in their areas. The government has proposed shifting five hill districts of Province 5 to Province 4 to make Province 5 plains-only province.

Defying party lines, senior leaders from ruling Nepali Congress (NC) Chandra Bhandari and deputy parliamentary party leader Top Bahadur Rayamajhi of CPN (Maoist Center) joined main opposition CPN-UML in the demonstrations. Irate cross-party cadres took to the street waving national flags. Senior ruling and opposition leaders had reached Butwal as their part of continuous protest against the government announcement to revise federal boundaries.

The government earlier this week registered a bill to make changes to the boundaries of Province-5 and a few other provisions of the constitution. Along with the NC and Maoist leaders, CPN-UML deputy general secretaries duo Bishnu Poudel and Ghanshyam Bhusal, and the party's secretaries Pradeep Gyawali and Gokarna Bista also participated in the demonstration. UML Vice-chairperson Bam Dev Gautam had reached Butwal but returned to Kathmandu before the processions converged into a rally. Immediately after addressing corner meetings organized prior to the mass rally, Gautam returned to the capital city citing some urgent work.
Addressing their supporters, the leaders vowed that they would force the government into withdrawing the amendment bill from the parliament arguing that the proposal was floated with an ill-intention. They argued that the proposal was registered in parliament with intent to lay the ground for breaking up the country and that the street protests will foil the parliamentary conspiracy.
UML Deputy General Secretary Paudel addressing the rally said that splitting Province-5 would not resolve the current political impasse and instead complicate the problem further.  "It was only after serious study that we decided to protest against the government plan," said Paudel. "The amendment proposal has invited fresh conflict. So, we will not back out of the protests until the government withdraws the bill."
Leader Paudel urged party leaders and cadres to exercise restraint while protesting against the government. "Let's not vandalize public property, don't burn tires because the people's power is always above such acts," said Paudel.
Going against their party line, leaders of ruling Nepali Congress and CPN (Maoist Center) also appealed to their supporters to participate in the protests until the govenrment withdraws the amendment bill. "The people are always above parties. That's why I am here respecting the people will," said Maoist leader Rayamajhi adding that any political party without public support becomes irrelevant.

Arguing that the constitution was endorsed by an overwhelming majority of 90 percent of the Constituent Assembly, Rayamjhi said such constitution cannot be amended aribtrarily just to please the Madhes-based parties, which hardly represent 10 percent of parliament. "The government has been claiming that the amendment bill was brought to please the Madhesi parties but they are not accepting it. Also, the main opposition CPN-UML is also opposing the proposal. So there is no point in bringing such amendment bill," said Rayamajhi. "The bill has been brought at the behest of others only to ferment instability in the country."

Rayamajhi said keeping Province-5 intact has become necessary to safeguarding the national integrity. 

NC leader Bhandari said the government committed a blunder by tabling the constitution amendment bill at a time when it should be working to implement the constitution in a full-fledged manner. "The seven-province federal model was finalized after years of discussions so we cannot make changes to the federal demarcations at the behest of others," said Bhanari adding. "If anyone is not happy with federalism let's go for a referendum." Stating that Sunauli border of Province-5 was vital for supplying essentials including petroleum products when the country choked under the Indian blockade, splitting such province is a ploy, said Bhandari.

By: Sher Bahadur KC
Published: MyRepublica


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