Sunday was a historic day for Nepal! The new constitution – over 7 years in the making – was finally signed after having been passed by a majority vote in the constitutional assembly. For us here in Tansen, the day was interesting in several ways.
To start off – the local Magar party had called a strike to call attention to the fact that they believe that the government hasn’t done enough to fulfill all their demands. The Magar people (one of the hundreds of ethnic/tribal groups in Nepal) think that this area should be their own “kingdom” and that other groups should go to other places! Several of the people groups in Nepal would like to see the country separated and organized in this way.
Anyway – the government had already called for a holiday to celebrate the constitution, so the hospital was closed to out-patients and only the ER and the in patients were open. Since vehicles weren’t running here, it meant that many people couldn’t get to the hospital anyway.
However – later in the day, we were walking from the hospital to our home, and stopped at our local “dairy” where we buy milk. We were chatting with the store owner, and he said that their milk had been delivered by jeep that day as usual – apparently the milk jeeps and the ambulances were allowed to travel on the roads even on this strike day! We made a comment about everyone needing their chiya (Nepali sweet, milk tea) and the owner’s wife said, “That’s right – if they don’t get their chiya, they don’t have the strength to continue with the strikes and the fighting!” We all laughed together – many times the choices here are to laugh or to despair – so we were happy to find others choosing to find the humor in sometimes difficult situations!
Many shop keepers on the road were decorating in front of their stores – making designs of the Nepali flag, and the outline of the country – and all these were lit by candles in the evening so the darkness was lit by hundreds of lights to celebrate this new beginning for Nepal.
Apparently, the constitution will be published in book form so that people will be able to read it for themselves, but for now, we know a few things. First – Nepal is declaring itself to be a secular nation – and is not returning to being a Hindu Kingdom. The churches and believers with whom we have chatted are very pleased and no one has mentioned a problematic clause prohibiting conversion. We pray that this is so!
Nepal is now divided into 7 regions (instead of the 5 previous ones). The 75 districts remain the same, but the districts are now in different states or regions. Those will be named by the individual regions. Apparently, if people now need to do official govt business, they won’t have to always go to KTM – they will be able to do it at the center or main city in their region.
On Monday, the strike continued in Tansen – and in an ironic twist, there was a gathering to celebrate the International Day of Peace….. Once again we shared a quiet laugh and continued to pray for peace in this country and around the world.
Today, Tuesday, shops are open again, and vehicles running. Some people are celebrating this new constitution, while others remain unhappy and continue to threaten with strikes and demonstrations. We wait to see what will happen as this new constitution becomes more known and changes begin to occur.