The Nepal Army is dissatisfied with Tuesday’s (20 Dec) Cabinet decision (see below) to recruit 3,000 youths from the Madhesi and other minority communities. It plans to register its reservations with the government after receiving a formal order from the Ministry of Defence. Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai invited Chief of Army Staff General Chhatra Man Singh Gurung at his residence on Wednesday (yesterday) morning. The PM, however, did not clearly instruct the CoAS on the Cabinet decision, an Army source said. Gurung is meeting President Dr Ram Baran Yadav on Thursday (today) to discuss the decision.
“If the government’s decision contradicts with the Interim Constitution and the Army Act, the Army will officially request the government to revise it,” the source said. The Army argues that recruitment is purely a ‘voluntary process’ and it cannot restrict ‘the right to equality’ guaranteed by the Interim Constitution by opening vacancies for any particular group. Under the existing recruitment process, 55 percent of the seats are filled through free competition, while 45 percent are recruited under the reservation quotas.
“If the government wants to make the Army more inclusive, it should amend the Army Act and offer more seats in the reservation quota,” the source said.
Army chief meets the Prez
Chief of Army Staff (CoAS) Chhatra Man Singh Gurung called on President Dr Ram Baran Yadav at the latter’s residence in Shital Niwas on Thursday (today). During the meeting, the CoAS expressed dissatisfaction towards government’s decision to recruit Madhesi youths in a separate battalion of the Nepal Army (NA) as part of its motive to make the national army an inclusive institution.
The Cabinet decision has drawn flak from opposition parties Nepali Congress and CPN-UML as well as other political forces and groups.
Govt to Nepali Army: Take in Madhesi youths
The government on Tuesday (20 Dec) directed the Nepal Army to begin recruitment of 3,000 Madhesi youths, including those from the Dalit, janjati and backward communities in the region.
The fresh directive issued to the Army after a four-hour-long Cabinet meeting is likely to take the total strength of the Army to over 100,000. The current strength is 92,753, while the total posts in the national army is 95,793. The Cabinet discussed Chhinamasta, Janaki, Birat, Salej and Simrangad as the likely names for the new battalions to be formed.
The decision was taken in line with the four-point agreement signed between the UCPN (Maoist) and the Samyukta Loktantrik Madhesi Morcha, which led to the formation of the current coalition.
Recently, the two sides held a series of meetings to have the agreement implemented, with the Morcha at one point of time threatening to withdraw from the coalition. The other important agendas of the four-point agreement includes addressing the issue of citizenship and introducing a new inclusive bill. The bill has been sent to the Bill Committee of the Cabinet.
The government was planning to revive 3,000 vacancies in the Army that were scrapped after the Janaandolan II to make way for the Madhesi youths. However, leaders from both the Maoist party and the Morcha had been saying that 2,000 posts would be given to Madhesi youths and 1,000 to the Dalits and backward groups. The Sabuj battalion now has members of the Madhesi community.
The Cabinet meeting is learnt to have discussed providing citizenship to children of those that have acquired citizenship through birth. While ministers from the Morcha are said to have argued that the line ministry concerned–Ministry of Home Affairs–should be given a directive by the Cabinet in that regard, some Maoist ministers are learnt to have argued that providing citizenship to the children of those that have certificates by birth would not be a problem as laws pertaining to it exist.
A Cabinet source said differences on the citizenship issue prolonged the meeting. The Cabinet, the source added, may meet again on Wednesday to resolve the issue. Earlier on Tuesday, a meeting of the major parties was called to address the issue. According to Sadhbhawana party Co-Chairman Laxman Lal Karna, parties were in agreement that providing citizenship to children of those that have acquired certificates through birth should not be a problem. Karna added that the meeting saw the presence of legal experts like Khim Lal Devokta and Sambhu Thapa.
NC objects to bulk recruitment of Madhesis
The main opposition Nepali Congress (NC) has taken a serious exception to the government decision to recruit Madhesi youths in a separate battalion of the Nepal Army (NA) as part of its motive to make the national army an inclusive institution.
Saying that the decision would hinder the professionalism of NA, the NC accused the government of trying to divide the national army in the name of caste and region.
“NC would not accept this decision as it impedes unity, discipline, and professionalism of the NA. The NC would not support any kind of factionalism within the NA,” said NC leader Arjun Narsingha KC.
Saying that the recent decision of the Cabinet was unacceptable to the party, NC leaders said they would instead support other alternatives to make NA inclusive. “The decision to make a different battalion of the Madhesis would trigger divisions within the army. Other alternatives should be sought,” said KC.
The cabinet meeting on Tuesday had decided to direct the Defense Ministry to integrate 3000 Madhesis in the NA as a different battalion.