People want to live in peace and harmony: Charan Prasai

Charan Prasai 1Charan Prasai is a renowned name in the human rights field in the country. Prasai has played an active role for the protection and promotion of human rights during very challenging times like the Maoist insurgency and direct rule of former King Gyanendra Shah. Prasai has deep understanding about the human rights issues and is among the very active human rights defenders of the country. He has been writing articles in different newspapers to sensitize people and stakeholders on various such issues. Amid criticism that human rights defenders have not been playing active role during the recent blockade imposed by India, Nepalekhabar talked with Prasai about the human rights situation of the country and ongoing protest in the Tarai region. Here are the excerpts:

How do you analyze current human rights situation of the country?
It is not good. In fact, the situation is serious in terms of people being forced to face a manmade ‘humanitarian crisis’ due to the blockade of essential items by the agitating Madeshi morcha and so called ‘unofficial blockade’ of India. Above all, the earthquake victims have been severely affected by the crisis.

People are facing acute difficulties in their routine lives, especially due to the shortage of cooking gas, kerosene and petroleum products. Since more than four months of the blockade, Nepal has witnessed an unprecedented medical supply shortage, seriously affecting the rights to health. Millions of students are deprived of their rights to education. The earthquake victims are the worst affected. Moreover, the increased load shedding, being more than 70 hours a week has made the daily lives of the people miserable. This has resulted in an uncontrolled price rise making a paradise to the illicit businesses.

Currently, the Tarai agitation has more or less put to halt the vehicle movements, especially in the highway and adjoining roads falling in ‘Province no.2’. People who travel with security escorts are still at risk of being attacked by stones and petrol bombs. Those who defy Bandhs are physically attacked and some have also been burnt alive. The ambulances and National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) vehicles have also not been spared. They are vandalized, torched and people in it attacked, including the patients. Some government offices, including security posts have either been vandalized or turned into ashes. Though it’s called a peaceful movement, it has turned into a violent one, in many cases.

On the other side, in the name of ‘maintaining peace and security’ the state is using excessive force on the agitators. They have, in many instances, failed to adopt rule of engagement to control the agitating masses. More than 50 people, so far, have died and thousands are being injured by the indiscriminate shootings of security forces. Most of the people who are being shot, sustained bullet injuries above the waist.

It is alleged that Human Rights Defenders failed to play effective role during current period of crisis. Do you agree on it or not and why?
I cannot totally agree with this allegation. Currently, the role of the human rights defenders may not as visible as expected, but we are doing our bit. The modality of working pattern may have been low profile, but be ensured we are in regular touch with the stakeholders, pursuing them to resolve the current crisis.

You should also take note that the agitating party is in regular dialogues with the major political forces. This is not a situation of conflicting parties having no table talks at all. Moreover, the current problem is of political content, especially on the delineation of the Madesh province, which, we believe, is not wise for us to enter. In this juncture, our role is to suggest them on principles and modalities, which we are doing. They should sort out the political issues themselves, which is, of course, in progress.

People have been forced to face miserable life due to earthquake and recent blockade. Why has the human rights community not taken initiatives to expose the incident and provide relief to the people?
This allegation is also not true. We have been doing our level best, according to our limited resources, contacts and influences. Firstly on the blockade, lobbying was done at the civil society level in the SAARC region. Secondly it was put in notice to the international community through various international human rights organizations and the United Nations. These activities, I believe, also played a crucial role to contribute to pressurize the Indian government, regionally and internationally, to end the so called ‘unofficial blockade.’

We are very much concerned about the relief work and the prevailing miserable life of the earthquake victims. We have been constantly monitoring the relief work and reconstruction plans by visiting the affected districts. Though it may not have been in a massive scale, we also contributed to the relief work, in coordination with NGO Federation of Nepal.

How do you view the current movement of the Tarai and what could be the way out for it?
The major thrust of the Tarai movement, in my opinion, is the issue of dignity, recognition and easy access to the resources of the Madeshi people. I believe it is more psychological than legal. They have the feeling of being deprived of opportunities in the vital state structures of decision making and development. Hence, they are seeking to ensure, constitutionally, proportionate inclusion in all layers of the state structures and functions. These are their genuine issues and should not be delayed in addressing it.

Prasai involved in protest rally against unofficial blockade of India.

Prasai involved in protest rally against unofficial blockade of India.

However, the current bottleneck is in the delineation of the federal structure of the state, especially in the Tarai region. Their demand is of the continuity of Madesh province, one or two in number, in Tarai without touching the hills or mountains. They claim that this was agreed upon by the then Girija Prasad Koirala government in the 8-point agreement. On the other hand, this agreement contradicts with other successive agreements and demands of various groups and communities e.g. Akhanda paschimanchal (intact western region), Tharu and Limbuwan.

Hence, to resolve this complicated issue, all the stakeholders should be brought together, to seek a way out among them these contradictions or constitute a trust worthy mechanism, to resolve it. In my opinion, the state should act as a facilitator in this process, so that it is owned by all and made as durable as possible.

Are there any discriminatory issues in the new constitution and how can these issues be addressed?
Except on the citizenship issue, as far as I know, there are no constitutional discriminations. Nevertheless, Madeshi leaders are mainly upset by the deletion of the word ‘proportionate’ with inclusion, which was in the Interim constitution under the social justice section of fundamental rights. The other issue that they are raising is the political representations in accordance with the population density. These issues are in the process of amendments to the new constitution, seeking broader consent of the Madesh centric leaders.

Discriminatory clauses do prevail in the new constitution under the citizenship articles. For example, a child born having a foreign father is not eligible to descent citizenship in the name of mother, though fundamental rights ensures equal descent rights to women and men. On the other hand, a child born having a foreign mother is eligible to get descent citizenship in the name of the father.

Similarly, a foreign woman married to a Nepali citizen is eligible to receive naturalized citizenship immediately, if needed, but this clause does not apply to a foreign man married to a Nepali women. These kinds of discriminatory clauses are not human rights friendly and against Nepal’s commitment to international human rights instruments.

What could be the priority of human rights movement in the days to come as currently it is more focused on civil and political rights?
You are right. Our focus has mainly been around civil and political rights for a long period of time. We should also bear in mind that we had to go through several struggles and hardships to overthrow the authoritarian rules in the past in order to restore civil and political rights. These include struggles against the Rana regime, the Panchayat era and lastly the direct rule by then King Gyanendra Shah. In fact, we are still in the stage of struggle to establish durable and everlasting democracy, through the newly promulgated constitution. And, acknowledging the current trend of unrest, it may take quite some time for its stability and smooth implementation.

However, this doesn’t mean that economic, social and cultural rights shouldn’t be in priority. Unlike previous ones, the new constitution has recognized several economic, social and cultural rights as its fundamental rights. It includes environment, rights against exploitation, education, language and culture, employment, labor rights, health, food, housing, social justice, senior citizen and social security. This is, indeed, a progressive move. Lots of hurdles or challenges may occur on its implementation. Nevertheless, to my belief, there should be no excuses to ignore the delivery of these rights. Unequivocally, it should be a national priority, in the prevailing context, where majority of the people are deprived of basic needs and less access to the opportunities to ensure better livelihood.

It is alleged that human rights defenders are divided based on their political ideology and it is affecting the human rights movement of the country? What is your take on it?
I cannot totally deny this allegation. There are people who run the organization under political influences. It is also, but, natural of a conscious human being to carry certain political ideology. Hence, it is needless to defend this allegation. In some cases, it may have affected the trust of the human rights community among the general people but this should not be generalized.

So far as I understand, the main stream of the human rights movement is still intact. The individuals involved may have different political ideologies, but when it comes to addressing the issues of human rights violations or abuses, they are united. It is guided by rule of law and the principles of international human rights, irrespective of the past 10 years of Maoists armed conflict era or the current phase of addressing the transitional justice issues. Believe me, there have been no compromises on the issues of imparting justice to victims and adhering to the rule of law, whatsoever.

It seems that Nepal is currently moving towards becoming a failed state and also towards ethnic conflict, what could be the role of all stakeholders (political parties, civil society and general public) to avoid such misfortune?
I think this is a very serious question in the present political context and scenario. Without doubt, it is crucial to all the stakeholders to realize this bitter truth you have stated. Hence, this is, indeed, high time for them to rise above their respective personal or political interests.

In many instances, in the past, people were provoked to indulge in ethnic or communal conflicts. But, so far and by large, they have rejected it. That’s why I do not see this problem among the common people, but it definitely exists within the ethnic and regional leaders, which is, of course, regrettable. People, in general as far as I believe, want to live in peace and harmony. Thus, it is vital for the stakeholders to act according to the will of the people and keep intact the social harmony which has continued since long.

Human rights organizations are blamed for only teaching rights to the people not the duties. Do you agree on it and what should be done to correct this mistake in the future?
No doubt awareness campaign on human rights is our major priority and focus. We believe this will strengthen the capacity of the individual to defend their rights themselves. But it doesn’t mean that duties should be forgotten while defending the rights. Rights and duties go together. The new constitution of Nepal has incorporated ‘citizen’s duty’ under article 48 of fundamental rights as well. This is a welcome move. However, it needs an improvement in getting rid of the unfriendly words such as ‘compulsory service’.

Moreover, our goal is to establish a dignified society embedded with a democratic culture on the strong foundation of human rights. This can only be achieved through this process.

Do you have any message to convey through Nepalekhabar?
First of all I would like to thank Nepalekhabar for providing me this opportunity to clarify some of the rumors and allegations that are floating around and explain, through you, the reality.

I think Nepal is in a crucial period of transition. Political stability is yet to be achieved. The culture of impunity has been a hard nut to crack. Our democracy is still at a fragile stage. We have a long history of tolerance, irrespective of different cultures and ethnicities. We have been living in unity with diversity. This should continue in the days to come. We should take the current conflict as an opportunity to unite for working together and build a dignified democratic society, living with self-respect and in harmony.

The biggest challenge is the implementation of the promulgated new constitution. There is room for making it better and owned by all. We should also bear in mind that constitution is a living document. It gives ample opportunities to amend it in accordance with the will and aspirations of the people. Finally, in the process and journey of building a better future, let’s not forget to respect others rights while protecting self.

(Editor’s Note: How do you find this interview please send your comment at editor@nepalekhabar.com. If you want to express your opinion through us please feel free to contact us, we will provide suitable space to your thoughts/opinions)

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1 Comment for “People want to live in peace and harmony: Charan Prasai”

  1. Dirgha Raj Prasai

    द अर्तिच्ले बय चरण प्रसाई इस अनाल्य्तिकल, बुट इत इस चोन्त्रोवेर्चिअल अल्सो बेचौसे इत चन’त् गिवे द सोलुशन.

    कहिलेसम्म हामी नेपालीहरुले भारतको अबिरल हस्तक्षेपबाट सहिरहने ?

    राजीव गाँधीको मृत्यूपछि उनकी इटालीयन श्रीमतीको हालिमूहाली चल्यो । उनी र भारतीय गुप्तचर संस्था ‘रअ’ले अनेकौ षड्यन्त्र गरेर २०६२ साल मंसिर ७ गते नेपालका पार्टीका गद्दार नेताहरुलाई १२ बुँदे सहमति गराएर त्यसको आडमा भारतबाटै जनआन्दोलनको आर्थिक व्यवस्था गराएर नेपाललाई आफ्नो प्रभाव क्षेत्र बनाउन खोजेको बेलादेखि नेपाल बढो खतरनाक मोडमा पुगेको छ । राजासँग संझौता गरेर आन्दोलन बिसर्जन गरिएपछि क्रमशः राजालाई धोका दिएर धर्मनिरपेक्ष, गणतन्त्र र जातीय संघीयताको आडमा नेपाललाई विखण्डन गराउन साम्प्रदायिक तनाबमामा तराईका केही दलाल नेताहरुबाट त्यहाँका सोझासाझा जनतालाई उचालेर हौवा खडा गराएको छ । भारतमा पनि भारतीय कांग्रेस (आई)को अत्याचारको पराकाष्ठा नाघिसकेको थियो । २०७१ सालदेखि हिन्दु राष्ट्रवादी पार्टी भाजपा भारतमा उदायको हुँदा अब उसले सोनीयाँ गाँधीको समयमा विश्वको एक मात्र हिन्दु अधिराज्य माथि जसरी आक्रमक बनेको थियो अव भारतीय जनता पार्टीको नरेन्द्र मोदी सरकारले नेपालमाथि आक्रमक नहोला ।

    यसको लागि नेपालको तर्फबाट पनि भारतीय जनता पार्टीको नेपालसँग कस्तो नीति तयार गर्छ ? उसले नेपालमा हिन्दु अधिराज्य र शाहवंसीय राजसंस्थाको निरन्तरता नैं रहोस् भन्ने आधारमा संवन्ध कायम राख्न मनसाय देखाउँछ भने नेपालले आफ्नो सार्वभौमसत्ताको मेओको रुपमा र नेपालको हिन्दु अधिराज्य विश्वका हिन्दुहरुको सरोकारको विषय भएकाले नेपालको प्रतिष्ठाको लागि पनि त्यसलाई निरन्तरता दिने दृढ संकल्प हुनुपर्छ । नेपाल संसारका राष्ट्रहरुका अगाडि आफ्ना मौलिक विशेषता लिएर उभिएको देश हो । हिमतखण्ठ नेपालका तीन विशेषता छन् । १) ऋषिमुनीहरुको जन्म र कर्मथलो– वेद, उपनिषद, पुराण तथा नीति शास्त्रहरुको थलो, २) संसारमा पुरानो सार्वभौमसत्ता सम्पन्न मुलुक, ३) विश्वको एक मात्र हिन्दु अधिराज्य । नेपालका यी तीन विशेषता र गौरवमय पहिचानहरुलाई भारतले सम्मान गर्नुपर्छ । भारतमा असी करोड हिन्दुहरु छन् । तिनै हिन्दुहरुको अभिमत लिएर भाजपा सत्तामा आएको छ । यस अवस्थामा हिन्दुवादी पार्टी भारजपा र मोदी सरकारले भारतीय हिन्दुहरुको अस्तित्वको लागि विश्वको एक मात्र हिन्दु अधिराज्यलाई सम्मान गर्दै नेपालमा हिन्दु अधिराज्य यथावत कायम राख्न आफ्ना सम्पूर्ण शक्ति केन्द्रीत राखेर विश्वका हिन्दुहरुका अगाडि विश्वसनीयता प्राप्त गर्न सक्नुपर्छ । अतः मोदी सरकारले तराईमा आतंक मच्चाइरहेका भारतपरस्त मेधेसी र ‘रअ’ को पारामा नलागेर विश्वको एक मात्र हिन्दु अधिराज्यलाई सम्मान गर्दै नेपालको राष्ट्रिय अखण्डताको सम्मान गरेर नयाँ नेपाल नीति तर्जुमा गरेर नेपाली जनतालाई विश्वासमा लिएर युगयुगसम्म नेपालसँग सुमधुर संवन्ध कायम गर्ने हात बढाओस् ।
    -दिर्घ राज Prasai

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