Identity-based provinces no cure-all: NC study panel
KATHMANDU, July 28: A panel formed by Nepali Congress (NC) to study the demands put forth by indigenous communities has proposed 17 different ways to address the demand for identity-based federalism.
The 11-member study committee headed by the party´s CWC member Bhim Bahadur Tamang has suggested to the party leadership to stand ready to hold discussions on the issue of identity as naming provinces after ethnic groups alone cannot guarantee empowerment of ethnic communities.
“A federal province named after ethnic group does not necessarily empower the group if such a province fails to guarantee religious, linguistic and cultural freedom,” said Gagan Thapa, a member of the committee.
Thapa, who is also the coordinator of the party´s Federal Affairs Department, said they have proposed formation of such a province that ensures equal rights of all people living in the territory. “We have concluded that the debate on federalism is misplaced only on nomenclature,” he said. “NC is open to holding discussions on the issue of naming provinces.”
The party formed the committee after leaders from ethnic and indigenous communities submitted an 11-point memorandum to the party president demanding that the party take a clear stand on the issue raised by them.
In an 11-page report submitted to the party recently, the study committee has said that the issue of identity can be ensured by means of increased political participation, increased access to all state organs, equitable and inclusive economic development and protection and promotion of all languages spoken in the country.
The committee has maintained that the identity of marginalized ethnic and linguistic groups can also ensured by guaranteeing their religious freedom, protecting and promoting their costumes, cultural festivals and traditions, and by ensuring ownership as well as participation of such groups in the utilization of natural resources.
“As such, we have proposed forming a language academy in each province to promote languages spoken there,” Thapa further said.
Besides the creation of special autonomous region within a province for minority groups, the report argues that naming of federal provinces on the basis of history, language and culture could also be one of the several ways to ensure identity-based federalism. “This can present a balanced and acceptable basis of identity,” states the report.
The study committee has also proposed special programs on education, health, employment and food for minority groups.