Members of Armed Police Force (APF) heading towards eastern Terai where demonstrations are happening in the past 11 days. Five buses full of policemen passed from Chitwan. Pic by Dipendra Baduwal
So Hridayesh Tripathi resigned from the Cabinet, huh? Why? This is his version: “The Seven Party Alliance (of which his party Nepal Sadbhabana Party (A) is a member) is not serious enough over the present turmoil in the Terai region. The eight parties (Maoist included) have failed to show the level of seriousness that merits the present situation. Madhesh is moving ahead with its genuine demands regarding the proportional electoral procedure and federal setup, among others. We had issued a note of dissent on the very day the interim constitution was promulgated on 15 January, however, there has been no hearing.”
It might appear that Tripathi is genuinely concerned about the movement that is going on in Terai region but make no mistake he is more worried about losing vote banks than the “genuine demands.” We have rarely seen a minister in Nepal resigning on real issues. Who can forget that Tripathi was until recently fighting within his party to be nominated in the cabinet? Anyway he was suffering from jaundice and was blaming the poor quality of drinking water in his ministry (Commerce, Industry and Supplies). He wasn’t working so his departure shouldn’t come as a blow to the day to day affairs of the government. Nevertheless his outing must be taken seriously by the government in terms of dealing with the politics that is intensifying in Terai. Members of SPA-M are divided over one demand (proportional electoral procedure). Nepali Congress, the party of Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, has different view on this issue. Nepali Congress might be correct on its stand and the issue must be seriously discussed before taking any decision. But that must happen soon. First, the SPA and Maoists must come up with one voice. Yes they did so in Interim Constitution but it has by now proved that that wasn’t sufficient to address the grievances of people in Terai.
Participants in a peace rally organized by locals in Rani area in Biratnagar. The eastern industrial town remained relatively peaceful today. Pic by Bhim Ghimire
There is no way we can move forward by ignoring the demands of people in Terai. Almost all parties in the region have now expressed their support to the ongoing movement in one way or the other (and in one level or the other). Even Nepali Congress can’t afford to make Teraians angry. Election of Constituent Assembly is near. Popular support is needed. That is why Nepali Congress might have to give up its stand on proportional electoral procedure. While doing so that all parties must safeguard the rights of people living in other parts of the country as well. It is not about wresting ones right and providing that to other. It is about feeling all empowered.
Day 11: Curfews Continue in Four Places
Local administrations across the Terai region today issued fresh curfew orders in four towns as the unrest in southern Nepal continued severely affecting normal life for the 11th consecutive day. The District Administration Offices issued curfew orders in Janakpur, Birgunj, Kalaiya and Gaur today to control the increasing unrest in the southeastern region of the country. Meanwhile, shops and transportation services remained closed for the 11th day running as protests resumed in some parts of the eastern Terai today. In Lahaan where the Madhesi People’s Right Forum (MPRF) first carried out the protests, life seemed to return to normality but markets and shops remained closed. Although Lahan has been comparatively calmer in the past two days, transportation services have not started operating and marketplaces remained closed. Krishna Bahadur Yadav, central member of the MPRF, said that the indefinite banda programme would continue until their demands for a proportional electoral system, federal state and declaration of constituencies based upon the population, among others, are addressed by the government.
In Birgunj, the local administration imposed a nine-hour curfew (10am to 7pm) today again. Likewise, DAO Rautahat also imposed a curfew in Gaur from 9 am to 7 pm. Janakpur remained peaceful today. However, a 10-hour curfew has been imposed by the local administration from 8am to 6pm. Similarly, in Kalaiya of Bara a curfew has been imposed from 8am to 9pm today. Likewise, life was badly affected in Jaleshwor, Mahottari, as the residents were deprived of essential daily goods as the shops remained closed.
Journalists in Hetauda, Makwanpur district, took out a rally protesting vandalism in media houses, threats to journalists in Birjung and other parts of eastern Terai by the activists of organizations that are responsible for the ongoing protests in the region. The district branch of the Federation of Nepali Journalists organized the rally in which participants demanded that the government must fulfill the legitimate demands of people in Terai. They also demanded safety to media persons. Pic by Pratap Bista