An Analysis by Conflict Study Center Contributors: Dr. Bishnu Pathak and Chitra Niraula (Assisted by Shankar Poudyal, Prem Prasad Pathk, Yahsoda Upreti and Krishna Sundar Thapa)
Introduction Eight people have died and dozens have been injured in the sporadic violence in the eastern Madhes from January 19, 2007 initiated from Lahan Municipality in Siraha district, 400 km to the east of Kathmandu. Madhesi Janaadhikar Forum (Madhesi People’s Rights Forum) or MJF or MPRF, led by former Maoist leader Upendra Yadav, had called the movement. The key demands of the MJF were federal structure of government with autonomy and proportional election system based on density of caste and ethnicity (more see box). Later, after the Lahan incident three demands have been added: the PM and Maoist Supremo Prachanda should apologize before the Madhesi community; the Home Minister should resign for the conducive environment to hold talks; and provide compensation to the victim’s family. Prachanda has apologized while the PM has not and compensation has been announced one billion Nepalese Currency to each while the Home Minister has not resigned.
The violence has now extended and intensified to the entire eastern and central Madhes in Morang, Sunsari, Saptari, Dhanusha, Mahottari, Sarlahi, Bara and Parsa along with Kapilvastu in the western region. The government has clamped curfew in the sensitive urban centers of these districts. These districts lie on the major East-West Highway where trees have been fallen along the road and traffic have been completely stopped. Even ambulances with patients inside are stopped. Dozens of public and private vehicles including those belonging to UNOHCHR and National Human Rights Commission have been vandalized and many of those torched. Hundreds of passengers have been abandoned along the roads; without food, clothe and shelter. Markets and shops have been vandalized and closed. Because of this, there has been lack of supply of consumer goods and daily necessities and prices have soared. District Administration Offices, District Development Offices, District Courts, District Election Commissions, District Forest Offices, District Agriculture Offices, District Irrigation Offices, Police Posts, etc. have been torched. Pahade-originated government employees have been beaten and have almost gone underground. The Chief District Officers, who are responsible to security of entire concerned districts, are themselves insecure.
The CPN (Maoist) has begged for pardon for killing Ramesh Kumar Mahato, a student of Grade 10 and the government along with the Seven Party Alliance (SPA) has invited the MJF to hold talks. But none of the political party leaders and Parliamentarians of the Madhes have dared to visit violence areas. MJF has called for dignified and peaceful movement for Madhesi rights, which has turned violent. The incidences show that the movement has strayed beyond their call or the movement is without leadership. Due to which loss of private and public property is intensifying day by day. Demonstrators attack some FM stations including media person of Bara, Parsa and Rautahat district (central Madhes). Some of the journalists as they received life threat, left trouble districts. As a result, 12 local papers are closed and general people are being deprived to have right to information.
Background of violence
MJF cadres were campaigning against the detention of 28 MJF leaders in Kathmandu, who were arrested by police after burning the Interim Constitution (IC) the day after it was proclaimed. The MJF cadres had called for strike in the Madhes for their immediate release. From them, 14 were issued warrant to detain for 10 days on the charges of public crime. On the fourth day of the proclamation, MJF called for Madhes strike. CPN (Maoist) had organized a central training (first-ever publicly known) to its cadres at Chitawan in the Central Region. Around 80 MJF cadres were burning tyres on the highway and the mini-buses, with Maoist flag fluttering in the wind, carrying participants to training from Mechi-Koshi Zone escorted by police were stopped at Lahan. The escorting police backed and the Maoist and MJF cadres started tussle. During that time, a gun was fired to the mass by Siyaram Thakur (as reported in Media), which hit Ramesh lethally and died at spot. Police took him into custody. The tension heightened and vandalism took over; 17 vehicles were torched . Curfew was clamped the very day.
Several MJF cadres had cordoned the dead body of Ramesh in the evening; all of a sudden Maoist cadres arrived there in two trucks, one jeep and two dozen bikes and seized the body. They brought his family members and cremated his body. On January 22, 2007, MJF cadres organized a campaign, during which a police post was vandalized. Two policemen were wounded by bullets and then opened fire on the crowd; two bystanders were shot and died instantly and 3 out of 12 severely injured airlifted to Kathmandu for treatment died. After this, the movement spread like a prairie fire within Siraha and to the neighboring districts and turned violent. Violence reigned in all the highway and roadways including urban areas of the seven districts of the eastern and central Madhes. Kudrat Ali, central member of Ekata Parishad led by Nir Sumsher Rana, who was a minister during King’s reign, led the violent movement in Siraha and Saptari districts. Continue reading Madhes Violence: Identity Clash in Nepal