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Constituent Assembly Election: NEPAL-Historical Polls
A Memorable Report of International Observers Team 

It was a matter of pride to be in a Constituency i.e. Dhangarhi (Dhangadhi) known as a very sensitive and remote area. I, myself opted for any such Constituency before the high profile team for Nepal International Observation Programme consisting of Mr. Bishnu Bhusal, LL.M, Ore, USA, Human Rights and Peace-conflict Specialist, General Secretary-Institute for Conflict Management Peace & Development (ICPD); Mr. Basudev Sigdel, Secretary-Campaign for Human Rights and Social Transformation, Nepal (CAHURAST); Mr. Bishnu R. Upreti, PhD, Regional Coordinator-South Asia Coordination Office Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) and others. Mr. Kushal Debnath of West Bengal, Card No: IOG-30-EC-042 and myself Card No: IOG-30-EC-009 both International Observers travelled along with Mr. Arjan ji, (Nickname) holding ID as Interpreter (Maoist), helper and Driver in a vehicle Toyota Hush  No: B-2K-2301. Other Observers were dropped on the way in different Constituencies for duty.

In Ward-7 of Village: Manhera, District: Kailali, the Villagers were seen overjoyed and were aware that this time the Constitution to be drafted by their elected leadership and not like earlier polls. People, especially youth were openly and fearlessly participating in conversation expressing their views. A youth, Sidhar, Ninth Standard pass replying on behalf and also all others collectively said that this day was like Dewali festival for all. On enquiry, all said that they all meant Indian Dewali which they always celebrated there along with their socially and closely related relatives from India. 

After crossing Kanari River, we reached Village (Gaon) Phuwari polling station, in extreme West Nepal and very close to India border. The Villagers admitted that normally border remained open and could be easily crossed by all including anti-social elements and hard criminals like dacoits from both sides unlawfully. When on April 10, 2008, that is, the elections day, it was being claimed and announced internationally that the border was sealed; the Villagers said it was only on papers and if they so desire, then knew how to cross and feel free to do so even under such circumstances. The alert voters themselves noted an incident of one of the corrupt practices of attempt of casting double votes by a responsible Regional Member of NC at Rajpur Gaon, Area-5, Kalika Madhamik Vidhyala but that matter was amicably sorted out by the officials and representatives of the parties in a meeting suspending the polling for a short period without any kind of violence as inquired by us. 

They further clarified that we (People of India and Nepal being so close) fulfill our daily requirements/necessities of life from across the border. They did not admire barbed fence sealing of border or deployment of international forces or any fortification for the purpose of stopping free movement of people through the border. At the same time, they confessed that whosoever tress-pass the border, he must be considered as a criminal and there should be a remedy for correcting that illegality within the new Constitution of Nepal, being framed/drafted and to be finalized shortly. In reply to a question as to what effective remedy and solution they suggested, the only harmonious relations between both India and Nepal was the answer.

Mr. Kushal Debnath was straightway approaching the polling officials on duty to collect data regarding the total votes to be polled, votes polled, pattern of polling and rate of polling by male and females. The 18 polling stations said to be very sensitive and in remote area of District: Kailali were visited by us. Every time, Mr. Kushal Debnath found encouraging data, he expressed very much satisfaction the way the polling was going on and females were seen there more in numbers for casting their votes. Almost, the same mood and pattern of polling took place in the entire State of Nepal as news were pouring in and received by Mr. Arjan ji during the time of polling according to him.

One Local Leader (LL) joined us in Dhangadhi for our welfare. In fact, he tried unsuccessfully to influence us in order to manipulate the circumstances. Mr. Arjan ji as a disciplined soldier of his party sided with him there and, in a warning tone, told me, “Look energetic but don’t be energetic.” We, both as observers, finally had to tell them, “Please don’t interfere in our duty to be performed independently and within the guidelines endorsed on our ID Card.” Mr. Arjan ji again checked the guidelines from ID card and thereafter remained submissive and apologetic though the LL was looking sad. However, after the polling was over he also felt sorry but I tried to make him realize that it was intentional on his part. However, as a whole, they would never keep a biased attitude against us as noticed from the regard paid by them to us throughout. Mr. Kushal Debnath also played very independent role as my partner international observer and people present on the spot appreciated our conduct for resisting the interference in our duty.  

Finally, nothing was to twist except to accept the reality that the polls were peaceful, free and fair and the same feed back was also sent by Mr. Arjan ji and Local Leader (LL)-Maoists to their party Headquarter immediately after the polls. Mr. Arjan ji remarked, “Nobody look like communist here” while seeing the peaceful and joyous mood of voters on each polling station/booths visited by us jointly. 

An immediate operative part of reaction after polling was over and was reported by Mr. Kushal Debnath and me respectively as under: 

“We in India have a long experience of Universal suffrage intermingled with rigging, intimidation booth capturing and clashes. We almost saw generally no time of unhealthy practices in this area of Nepal. But one point should be noted we found some youths loitering near some booths, perhaps it was not necessary and it should have better been avoided.” “My congratulation was to the people and the Election Commission of Nepal for peaceful, free and fair polls that always to remain as an eye opener example for old immature democracies in the world.”  

Poll met international standards: EU- the European Union Election Observation has concluded that the Thursday, April 10, 2008 election met many international standards and was largely successful while another international observation organization, the Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL), termed the election “successful” and “credible” and said the largely successful and credible Constituent Assembly elections mark a historic step toward consolidating peace and democracy in Nepal.. Former US President Jimmy Carter said at a press conference on Saturday, April 12, 2008, “We have been extremely gratified to see what had happened here. Saying that it was the most profoundly important election he had ever participated in, Carter said that election would be important for ending the conflict, changing the structure of the country and providing new to what he called “formerly marginalized groups like Madhesi, Dalits, and women among others.” Ref.-THE KATHMANDU POST-Sunday, April 13, 2008 (Baishakha 1, 2065) 

On April 12, 2008, I, personally got a chance to congratulate Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal alias Prachanda for the mandate the people gave to his party and shake hands with him who reiterated his party commitment to 12-point understanding reached between the Seven Political Parties and Nepal Communist Party (Maoists) (dated 22 November 2005) in the presence of Senior Maoist Leader Dr. Baburam Bhattarai while addressing the International Observers (Observer group CAEOF) and his supporters in a Hotel.  

The Chairman Prachanda assured that the Maoist would work together with all and ask the international community to help achieve the goals of rapid economic growth, sustainable peace and institutionalization of a federal democratic setup for building a new Nepal. He repeatedly said that we shall actively participate in the era of globalization, liberalization and privatization. To my mind, in his speech, he has shown very liberal attitude to accommodate all and seek help to build up better Nepal.  

It seems rightly asked by Maoist Chairman Prachanda on Saturday, April 12, 2008 that international community not to doubt his party’s commitment to democratic values. Ref.-THE KATHMANDU POST-Sunday, April 13, 2008 (Baishakha 1, 2065).Some of Maoist workers heard saying that it all was only a political strategy at the moment but I, personally did not doubt the Chairman Prachanda in the context and in face of his sincere assurance and approach to the international community for sustainable peace and development not only in Nepal but in whole of South Asia, as the condition of democratic values in Indian sub-continent are no way better than Nepal. 

The high profile team for Nepal International Observation Programme did ask us to provide suggestions for drafting the new constitution of Nepal already in process after the elections were over and stay for more days. I did convey my personal experience in brief, but not as an expert, that the law and supporting mechanism must be such to protect the needy by automatically coming into action of its own as poor are unable to get the justice under present set up and the Constitution of India. Secondly, there should not be room for discretionary powers to do injustice and avoid Rule of Law in the name of sovereignty. Then, the team gladly paid due attention to my suggestions. I feel pleasure to add to that, through this report, the following text supported with examples as under: 

  1. Interpretation of words should not be left for Judges and legislature while drafting the new Constitution of Nepal for passing their arbitrary decisions thereafter by enacting any law and rules under any of the Act or Article of the new Constitution of Nepal.
  2. Every official and ruler and their associates or acting on their behalf in any manner must be personally responsible along with their master for the misdeeds and misconduct.  From top to bottom, it must be obligatory on the part of all working in or on behalf of the State machinery to issue express orders only and the verbal orders of any form should never be enforceable or acted upon by anyone under the new Constitution of Nepal. There must be specific provision to that effect in the Constitution itself.
  3. Law should not be as Article 14 of the Indian Constitution that says, “Equality before Law-the State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.” Mr. Shyam Sunder, former Deputy Speaker of Hyderabad Assembly who was a legal expert rightly interpreted the language of Article 14 thus: “that the obvious implication is that if any person or group of persons has the courage, the resources and enough popular backing to claim equality before law, then alone the state shall not deny it. If there is no claim, the question of denial does not arise (emphasis added). The wording of Article 14 does not envisage a willing and graceful conferment of equal status on all Indian citizens without putting them into the necessity of incurring large expenditure on organisation and litigation. Any child born to Indian parents should automatically have equality of status conferred on him or her by the constitution. Article 14 as drafted denies him this status. The onus of claiming equality is placed on his shoulders. How many people in India can take the trouble of going through this ordeal?” The law must come into action of its own for the protection and justice to poor and downtrodden under the new constitution being now drafted in Nepal.
  4. Article 17 of the Indian Constitution is meant to abolish untouchability. Its practice too in any form is also forbidden. This Article directly counters all Hindu scriptures, beliefs, traditions and Smrities. If the Indian constitution was intended to over-ride and scrap Hindu religion, so far as untouchability is concerned, then this intention should have been clearly expressed in the Constitution itself. The fact that this has not been done proved that Article 17 was never meant to be implemented in India. Both Articles 14 and 17 of the Indian Constitution have no meaning but were intended only for external propaganda.
  5. The learned Mr. Shyam Sunder, had also preached that if we (Mool Bharatis) have any sense of self-respect and regard for our forefathers left in us, then how can we agree to be classified as Hindus when their scriptures proclaim from house-tops that we do not deserve to arrogate ourselves that “sacred“ status. Let us continue to be known the world over as Mool Bharatis (aboriginal Indians) and not Hindus. He further said that cowards amongst us may say: Hindus will withdraw the concessions given to us in the constitution, if we refused to be counted among them. We may suffer temporarily but we will triumph in the end but what we need most is unity amongst our teeming millions. Then alone can we regain our soul, which is now mortgaged with Hindus. He used to say that if joint electorates continue, original Indians and (Minorities) will always be represented in the legislatures and parliament by those who pledge or are willing to sign in advance a pledge of slavery to their caste Hindu over-lords. Is it democracy? The Congress is also hundred percent a party of Hindus and no justice can be expected from it, Shyam Sunder said. The constitution must have provision to create harmonious conditions of living and movement of people even beyond the boundaries of the country for open trade and business without compromising the regional development in all spheres in view of their self dignity and imparting them justice adequately and meaningfully by effective enforcement of the new Constitution of Nepal. The new model of Nepal must be personified for the complete South Asia, lagging behind in democratic values so far.

We can say that God bestowed on us an opportunity as International Election Observers, introduced each individually Gurbachan Singh, Editor, Des Punjab; Dalbir Singh, Journalist; Harmandeep Singh, Human Rights Activist ( Martyr Jaswant Singh Khalra’s sister’s son); Balbir Singh Sooch, Advocate, Ludhiana, Sikh Vichar Manch; under Observer group CAEOF, all activists as and on behalf of Punjab Human Rights Organisation headed by Hon’ble Justice Ajit Singh Bains respectively along with others came present  for the purpose to the briefing high profile team on 8 April 2008 before proceeding to different destinations for duty assigned by the Election Commission Nepal. Advocate Balwant Singh Dhillon, Bathinda a renowned activist and myself were together as room-mates and enjoyed the occasion.

 Report written by:  Balbir Singh Sooch, International Observer

(The report is already sent on April 18, 2008 to the authorities concerned)

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