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Nepal to adopt new constitution after decades of conflict

By Amy R. Connolly
Nepal to adopt new constitution after decades of conflict
Nepal President Ram Baran Yadav will promulgate the nation's new constitution Sunday after decades of civil war and violent clashes. The new constitution defines the Himalayan nation as a secular country and federal republic with seven states. Photo by Indiver/CC

KATHMANDU, Nepal, Sept. 20 (UPI) -- Nepal will formally adopt its new federal constitution Sunday amid violent clashes between religious factions that oppose the democratic charter and fear it will promote discrimination.

The new constitution will go into effect 6 p.m. local time, defining the Himalayan nation as a secular country and federal republic with seven states. Religious protesters oppose the change and want the country to be a Hindu nation.

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The new constitution culminates 65 years of civil war and multiple revolutions that toppled the century-old monarchy in 2008. It is expected to officially end the civil war.

It took more than seven years to draft the constitution and has been overwhelmingly endorsed by the 601 elected lawmakers who helped draft the document. The three major parties in the nation -- the Nepali Congress, the Communist Party of Nepal and the Unified Communist Party of Nepal -- collaborated in the process, while other smaller opposing parties voted against it or boycotted the process.

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Opposition parties representing the Madhesi and Tharu ethnic groups have expressed concerns about the constitution, arguing it denies equal representation to their peoples.

"The protesting parties see the current design of federal demarcation plan in the new constitution as a way to minimize their demographic power, and lessen their political bargaining capacity," said Dipendra Jha, a lawyer at the Supreme Court and a Madhesi practicing in Kathmandu.

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Sunday before the constitution was formally adopted, at least one person was killed and several were wounded after security forces opened fire on a crowd that defied a curfew in the southern town of Birgunj. Demonstrators also vandalized the home of lawmaker Raj Kumar Gupta protesting against the constitution.

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