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Nepal constitution

On 20 September, after seven years of deadlock, Nepal’s main political parties finally agreed a new constitution to cement its status as a secular republic, as the country tries to overcome its history of absolute royal rule, Hindu supremacy, and civil war.

Over 40 people died in protests leading up to 20 September, including a four-year-old boy and three adults killed when the police fired rubber bullets on a crowd in Rupandehi, west of Kathmandu.

The new constitution was rejected most angrily by ethnic minority groups in the low-lying plains areas, especially the eastern Madhes.

Leaders of Madhesi parties boycotted the vote and the promulgation. Over a dozen leading Madhesi figures in the main Maoist party rejected the party’s decision to celebrate the introduction of the new constitution.

The initial plan had been for Nepal to be a federation of six states, each with its own legislature and chief minister. After protests in Karnali, a mountain area in western Nepal, this was increased to seven states.

Kanak Mani Dixit, editor of Himal magazine, says the plains people ‘felt absolutely cheated and bereft because the Kathmandu-based politicians did not show sensitivity to them while showing sensitivity to the hill people.’