Nepal Foreign Affairs – Some of the top myths Indian government and media have been spreading to justify the ongoing Madhes agitation against Nepal’s new democratic constitution. These myths are also utilized to convince the Indian people so that the ongoing economic blockade against Nepal is not opposed inside India.
“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it”, taught Joseph Goebbels, the German Minister of Propaganda for 12 years during which Second World War had taken place.
The War ended, perpetrators punished and the idea debunked; but states have picked his education by choice. The recent and glaring instance has been India, whose diplomats and experts seem to have outdone Goebbles in dishing out Goebblean “Big Lies” with regards to Nepal’s Madhes agitation and secular, new constitution.
It is no secret by now that India’s ruling Hindu Right detastes Nepal’s democratic constitution for its secular character, and therefore, wants to shoot it down spreading all kinds of myths.
But more problematic is a recent joint statement between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his British counterpart David Cameron, suggesting how far this propaganda has reached and how India might have duped the “Great” Britain as well. We are sure India will continue it lying spree while imposing an economic blockade against Nepal, creating an unforeseen humanitarian crisis in the absence of fuel and medical supplies.
We have gathered some of the top myths Indian government and media has been spreading to justify the ongoing Madhes agitation against Nepal’s new democratic constitution, a reason forwarded also to justify the ongoing economic blockade.
Lie Number 1: Nepal’s Madhesi population is 51% of the total population of the country.
Fact: Nepal’s Madhes has half of the country’s population. Ethnic Madhesi population is 13%. Muslims are 4.4% and Tharus are 6.6%
This is a statement one finds in almost every Indian commentary and report on Madhes agitation. Read an example where Indian Home Minister claims to protect the interest of ten million Indian-origin Hindus in Nepal.
However, the truth about it is something different. Nepal’s Madhes region comprises of its southern plains. It has 22 districts of Nepal’s total 75. The people living in Madhes are not all ethnic Madhesis as opposed to many in India and abroad tend to think. The region is as diverse as the rest of Nepal. Ethnic Madhesis make up a large share of population but majority of the people there don’t want to be identified as Madhesis.
According to the 2011 Census, the population share in Madhes is 48.4% of the total.
Yadav community, the biggest Madhesi group, has the population of 1,054,458 (4%); other Terai groups (OTG), which also includes dominant caste groups of Bramhin, Rajput and Kayastha is 4% (the populationof each caste groups is mentioned in the census data), Muslims are 1,164,255 (4.4%)and Tharus are 1,737,470 (6.6%) and Terai Dalits make up 5% of the total population. (See here the population monograph of Nepal 2014)
Rest is the population of Terai Aadivaasi and people of hill origin. The census data has been processed, refined and used by the UN also.
By this account, even if one clusters the Dalits, OTG including dominant community, and Yadavs, the actual population of ethnic Madhesis stands at 13%. This is the share of Indian-Origin Madhesis Rajnath Singh, India’s Home Minister, is referring about. Tharus and Muslims don’t want to be called Madhesis as their fight for separate identity runs parallel with Madhes movement. If one puts all of them together in the same basket, the population share is 23%, almost half of the total population of Madhes. This argument is not to say that the voice of smaller section of population has to be ignored, but to prove that the population claim on Madhes is wrong and is a propaganda created to give a false notion that Nepal’s new constitution is challenged by majority.
Lie Number 2: Tharus and hill Janajatis are with Madhesi parties against Nepal’s new constitution.
Fact: Tharus have a separate identity. They have their own demands incompatible with the Madhesis. Hill janjatis are in support of the new constitution.
Another non-stop myth spewing out of Indian media as well as its government bureaucracy about the current agitation claims that the Tharu indigenous people and the hill Janajati groups stand with Madhesi parties in this agitation. This is an out and out lie.
It is true that the Tharu people have demanded greater autonomy. Like the Madhesis, their demand is for a province without adjoining hill district in the west of Madhes region. While saying so, clustering them together with the Madhesis is a huge injustice since their claim of a separate identity from that of the ethnic Madhesis has a long history.
For an example, Arjuna Gunaratne has done an extensive research on Nepal’s Tharu community. His work“Many Tongues, One People: The Making of Tharu Identity in Nepal” is an outstanding academic work that appeared in the Journal of Asian Studies 2003. See a UN assessment how Tharu movement differs from that of the Madhesis.
Most importantly, the largest representative of the Tharus at present is Madhesi People’s Rights Forum-Democratic led by Bijaya Gachchhadar, who has remained the part of the constitution making process and is a Deputy Prime Minister in the current coalition led by Prime Minister KP Oli.
Many of Gachchhadar’s detractors would love to say he has been discredited recently, but they close their eyes to the fact that he is the only Tharu leader who has NOT lost an election since 1991. There is no single Madhesi leader of his stature at present.
The claim that hill Janajati groups have rejected the constitution does not sustain at all as there are no signs as such. On the contrary, Janajati leaders have stood as the most vehement defenders of this constitution. They reject the Madhesi demand of clustering eastern Jhapa, Morang and Sunsari districts in Madhes state.
Lie Number 3: Entire Madhes is agitating against the constitution.
Fact: Madhes has 22 districts. In seven of them, there is a reverse agitation building against Madhesi parties. In another seven of them, there is a somewhat agitation. Eight districts, which have got a province they wanted, are agitating.
Nepal’s Terai region has 22 districts: Kanchanpur, Kailali, Banke, Bardiya, Dang, Kapilabastu, Rupandehi, Nawalparasi, Chitawan, Bara, Parsa, Rautahat, Dhanusha, Sindhuli, Siraha, Saptari, Sarlahi, Mahottari, Udayapur, Jhapa, Morang, Sunsari.
Among them, Kanchanpur, Chitawan, Sindhuli, Jhapa, Udayapaur, Morang and Sunasari have a very small share of Madhesi population, 6.3%. They have Tharu population at 13%. There is a reverse agitation brewing up in these districts against the Madhesi demands.
Kailali, Banke, Bardiya, Dang, Kapilbastu, Nawalparasi Rupandehi, have Tharus, Muslims, Madhesis and hill people. These areas were initially somewhat agitated but have returned to complete peace now. With Muslims and Tharus getting Constitutional Commissions, one of their major demands has been addressed by the constitution. India is provoking the Tharus by extending an alliance with the Madhesi parties, so far unsuccessfully, to demand a plains-only province. A fulfilment of this would be used to whip up the expansion of province-2.
This limits the current agitation strictly within the eight districts: Bara, Parsa, Rautahat, Dhanusha, Siraha, Saptari, Sarlahi, Mahottari. This is also the precise Province 2 according to Nepal’s new constitution. So the demand of the agitating parties here is an expansion of the province as it became small for them. What they are saying is like this: My house is small, but my neighbor’s is big; so I want that one too. This is the reason why many in Nepal say Madhes agitation has no genuine political demands but they are used only to serve India’s strategic goal: keep bargaining with Kathmandu.