Nepal’s Divisive New Constitution: An Existential Crisis

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On 20 September 2015, Nepal’s new constitution passed amid deadly protests by Madhesi and Tharu groups across the southern Tarai plains that continued for months, leaving 57 dead. Protesting groups said the statute backtracked on addressing structural discrimination. The protests had deep support in ethnic Madhesi Tarai communities, reflecting a profound, increasing sense of alienation from the state. A 135-day blockade of vital supplies by Madhesi civic and political groups, partially supported by India, has ended, but as no political solution is on the table, the protests are almost certain to resume. To stop violent polarisation and a breakdown of social relations, national parties and protesting groups must urgently agree on how to manage contentious issues, with timelines, guarantees, and a role for civic participation. A sustainable, equitable social contract is necessary for lasting peace and reconciliation.