Janajati leaders demanding single identity-based federalism are preparing to ally with other excluded and marginalized communities to secure their rights in the new constitution. Adivasi Janajati Rastriya Andolan (Ajra), led by Padma Ratna Tuladhar, has said that discussions are underway with Khas, Muslim and Dalit leaders, among other communities, to launch a protest under one banner. Ajra leaders said that the Khas Chettri Samaj and few other regional forces have agreed in principle on a need for a unified protest. They said that they will launch an integrated campaign to press their demands after the ongoing negotiations are complete. “We felt the need for a joint campaign, realizing that we are historically and culturally close and that we share a similar perspective on numerous issues including identity,” said Tuladhar. The ongoing campaign for single identity-based federalism has failed to garner enough public support due to differences within the Janajati communities. Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (Nefin), an umbrella organization of indigenous nationalities, is running a separate campaign.
Unlike Ajra, Nefin has officially abandoned the agenda of a single identity from its demand list and pledged flexibility in the number of states. Sources say that withdrawal of support by Nefin to the Tuladhar-led movement was the main reason behind the low participation of supporters in Kathmandu -centric protests organized by Ajra. Nefin, with its local chapters in almost all districts across the country, has a huge influence and support. Despite support from the Janajati leaders of UCPN (Maoist), CPN-Maoist, Nepali Congress, Federal Socialist Party Nepal, Social Democratic Party Nepal, and Rastriya Limbuwan, there has been little support for Ajra on the ground. Leaders advocating a single identity in the statute argue that little public knowledge of identity and federalism is the main reason behind the low participation of people in the ongoing struggle for identity-based federalism. “Ruling parties and anti-federalist forces are deliberately spreading the rumor that we are splitting the country on the ethnic line when all we want is equal rights for all communities,” said Ajra leader Om Gurung. Meanwhile, Tuladhar has said that he is not disappointed with low public support for Ajra’s campaign. “It will take time for true inclusion of excluded and marginalized in the new constitution since identity is a relatively new agenda in Nepali politics,” Tuladhar said.