The government and the Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (NEFIN) on Tuesday signed a nine-point agreement. NEFIN had staged a three-day shutdown demanding identity-based provinces before signing the agreement. Gani Ansari of Republica caught up with NEFIN Chairman Rajkumar Lekhi on Wednesday to learn about what NEFIN would do next. Excerpts:
Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (NEFIN) signed a nine-point agreement with the government on Tuesday. Has the agreement addressed all your demands?
We can´t say that the nine-point agreement addressed all our demands. We had signed such agreements even in the past. This is just the starting point. The government cannot fool all the people all the time by signing agreements just to abort agitations.
The agreement says that the government will raise the issues, including the demand for ethnicity-based federalism, in parliament. What does that imply?
The government cannot address all our demands as some of our demands can only be addressed through the CA and the Constitutional Committee. So, the government will raise those issues in parliament.
How confident are you of the implementation of the nine-point agreement?
If we continue to exert pressure on the government, the agreement will be implemented. We know very well that the government does not intend to implement it. But, the government cannot implement the issues outside its jurisdiction. Some of the issues should be implemented by the Constituent Assembly (CA). We have not concluded our movement as we know that the government and ruling parties may not remain honest to the agreement.
All indigenous, marginalized and Madhesi communities, among other groups, have been demanding single identity-based provinces. Can you elaborate what a single identity-based province is?
Conspiracy is being hatched to defame us. We have not demanded ethnic provinces. What we have demanded is provinces based on historic identity. But, senior political leaders misinterpreted us.
Are single-identity-based provinces possible at the time when Nepali Congress and CPN-UML have been opposing the idea?
NC and UML have already accepted identity-based provinces in the CA committee on state restructuring, though they have now been objecting to formation of such provinces. I hope NC and UML will not turn a deaf ear to the peoples´ demand.
United Tharu Struggle Committee has said that it will announce protests on Thursday saying that the nine-point agreement is silent on undivided Tharuhat. Why did you not take them into confidence before signing the agreement?
Even members of United Tharu Struggle Committee were present in the talks with the government.
At last, how will NEFIN move ahead in the days to come?
We have been focusing on constitution and federalism right now. In the meantime, we have been holding discussions regarding our programs across the country.