[Security stepped up as smaller political parties and ethnic groups opposed to charter issue fresh threats of violence]
President Ram Baran Yadav’s motorcade drives past people standing on a street to celebrate the adoption of the country’s
new constitution in
Nepal has formally adopted a much anticipated and long-delayed constitution that took more than seven years to complete following a decade of political infighting.
Security was stepped up across the nation, with smaller political parties and ethnic groups opposed to the new charter issuing fresh threats of violence.
President Ram Baran Yadav signed the constitution and made the proclamation, setting off a roar of applause from members of the constituent assembly in
“We believe that the adoption of the new constitution has now opened the path for development of the country,” Yadav told the assembly.
The new constitution replaces an interim one that was supposed to be in effect for only a couple of years but has governed the nation since 2007.
Thousands of people who gathered outside the assembly hall on Sunday cheered after the announcement was made, waving the national flag as fireworks went off. In the streets of
Kathmandu, people lit oil lamps and
candles and buildings were decorated with coloured lights.
“Congratulations to all Nepalese” read a white and red banner strung across a street.
“This really long chapter is now finally closed,” said Shyam Sharma, a student who watched the president’s motorcade drive toward the assembly. “Now the country can focus on other important issues like developing the country, improving the economy. If these politicians had agreed a few years back, we would not have wasted so much time, energy and money.”
The key part of the constitution, passed on Wednesday after a decade of bickering and violent protests, sets the country up as a secular federation of seven states, each with a legislature and chief minister.
However, some ethnic and religious groups say lawmakers ignored their concerns over how state borders should be defined. They want more states, including ethnically based ones, bigger territory for larger groups and more seats for ethnic minorities in parliament and government.
Laxman Lal Karna, a senior leader of the Madhesi ethnic group in southern
, said the new constitution
failed to address many of the issues and that protests would continue. Nepal
The violence over the past several weeks has left at least 45 people dead. Police said clashes between officers and protesters on Sunday left one demonstrator dead near Birgunj town in southern
The three main political parties backing the constitution have made a fresh appeal for Madhesi to join talks.
“They may disagree with the size and makeup of these states, but that is not a really big issue,” the prime minister, Sushil Koirala, said on Saturday.
There are more than 100 ethnic groups in
, and some say the new
constitution still limits their representation. Though members of parliament
are to be chosen through a proportional representation vote to ensure that
minority groups are represented, the groups say the number needs to be
The main parties say those issues can be fixed later.
“The constitution is not something that cannot be absolutely changed. It can always be amended later when needed,” said Khadga Prasad Oli of the Communist party of Nepal Unified Marxist Leninist.
Some among the country’s majority Hindu population also believe the constitution should have restored
as a Hindu nation. The
constituent assembly voted down that proposal. Nepal
Police said thousands of officers were guarding streets across the nation and checking passengers on highways.
Opposition parties called a general strike to protest against the constitution, but it had little effect on the traffic and markets remained open.
’s external affairs ministry
said in a statement that it was concerned with the situation in several parts
of India , calling for dialogue “that
would enable broad-based ownership and acceptance”. Nepal
Gay right activists were among those who welcomed the new constitution, saying it respected gay people’s rights. “This constitution ensures our identity, rights, participation and inclusion; a better path ahead for Nepalese LGBTs,” said Sunil Pant, a gay rights activist.