KATHMANDU, July 5: Around 1,000 ethnic leaders, former lawmakers and activists have gathered in Kathmandu for the two-day national conference that kicked off Wednesday to discuss their future strategy on single identity-based federalism and setting up a new party.
Disgruntled ethnic leaders from the Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML have also been taking part in the conference being organized at a time when the country remains largely divided over the issue of single identity-based federalism.
Addressing the inaugural session of the gathering at Dhumbarahi, NEFIN Chairman Rajkumar Lekhi said, "The gathering will provide a clear guideline for the formation of a new political force."
Addressing the gathering, CPN-UML dissident leader Prithivi Subba Gurung said they would form a new party if the mainstream political parties do not mend their ways and address the issues of indigenous people. "But, before forming a new party, we have to think a lot," he said.
Gurung said they have been demanding protection of their identity for their pride, not for absolute ethnic states. "Such absolute states are not possible," he said.
In the two-day national conference, participants will also discuss concept papers presented by ethnic activist Chaitanya Subba and Professor Krishna Bhattachan.
Subba, in his concept paper, has dwelled on the future strategy of indigenous communities and has concluded that the present situation is ripe for the formation of a new political party.
Stressing the need for the formation of a new party, Subba, in his paper, has further claimed that the Nepali Congress (NC) and CPN-UML would not address the demand for single identity-based federalism. Similarly, he has also urged indigenous communities not to trust the UCPN (Maoist), saying the party has been frequently changing its stance on the issues raised by ethnic communities.
Subba has warned that the issues of indigenous, Madhesi, among other marginalized communities will not be addressed, if a new party is not formed.
"It is essential to form a new party in order to counter the reactionaries and unilateralist forces and to safeguard federalism, inclusiveness and social justice," reads the concept paper.
Likewise, Bhattachan, in his concept paper, has also dwelled on the present political situation. In his paper, Bhattachan has termed the state character and characters of political parties as unchanged.
Most of the participants who took part in the discussion on the papers stressed the need for forming a new party to fight for the cause of ethnic communities.
"Most of the participants stressed the need for forming a new political force," Lekhi told Republica. However, he said that the gathering would not announce a new party. "We are learning the views of the leaders, the gathering will issue a declaration regarding common views held by all indigenous peoples," Lekhi added.
However, some indigenous leaders said that they are likely to form a new party under the leadership of CPN-UML dissident leader Pasang Sherpa on August 9. When asked about formation of a new party, Lekhi said, "There is such a possibility."