Nepal has adopted a new constitution amid violent protests against some of its terms. The much-delayed constitution aims at strengthening the transformation of the country from a Hindu monarchy to a secular democracy.
On Sunday, President Ram Baran Yadav signed the first Nepalese constitution drafted by elected representatives of the country.
"I announce the presented constitution of Nepal, passed by the Constituent Assembly and authenticated by the chairman of the Constituent Assembly, effective from today, September 20, 2015, before the people of Nepal," Yadav announced, setting off a roar of applause from the assembly members in the capital Kathmandu.
"We believe that the adoption of the new constitution has now opened the path for development of the country," Yadav said.
The new Nepalese constitution replaces an interim charter, which was originally meant to last for only two years, but has governed the nation since 2007 due to the failure of the country's lawmakers to agree on a permanent draft.
After years of political deadlock, Nepalese lawmakers approved the charter on Wednesday despite weeks of violent protests against plans to divide the Himalayan nation of 28 million people into seven federal states.
The new constitution is secular in nature and guarantees Nepalese citizens the right to practice any religion.
Hundreds of people celebrated the adoption of the new constitution on the streets of Kathmandu.
"This really long chapter is not finally closed," Syham Sharma, a student, said. "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," he added.
Nepali police killed a four-year-old boy and three others after opening fire on protesters on Wednesday
But not everyone in Nepal supports the new constitution, pushed through mainly by the country's three major political parties.
Security was beefed up across the country on Sunday, as a number of political and ethnic groups appose the new document, especially in Nepal's southern regions amid concerns over how the state borders should be defined. Some 100 ethnic groups in Nepal claim the new constitution limits their representation.
At least one protester was shot dead by the police on Sunday in the southern district of Parsa. More than 40 people have been killed in clashes between the security forces and demonstrators opposing the constitution.
Lasman Lal Karna, a leader of the Madhesi ethnic group in southern Nepal, said the new document failed to address a number of concerns. He warned the protest would continue.
But Prime Minister Sushil Koirala said Saturday the size and make up of the states was not a big issue.
Other major parties say the contentious issues could 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 (Marxist-Leninist).
In 2008, Nepal began the process of drafting a new constitution following a decade-long Maoist insurgency. The civil war cost the lives of an estimated 16,000 people, and brought down the country's centuries-old Hindu monarchy.
shs/sgb (AFP, AP)