Category Archives: South Asia

Did India deceive or did Madhesi Morcha misunderstand?

0202201608030102022016083545lalu-1000x0
Five Madhesi Morcha Leaders with Bihar (India) politician Lalu Yadav at his residence (Picture: Kantipur)

While talking for about an hour in Anamnagar, the leader’s two mobile phones rang continuously. He mostly ignored the calls, but when he did pick any one up, he would answer with exasperation, “Please wait a few days. We will sit and take a joint decision.”

The end of Srawan (mid-August) is the deadline for renewing government licenses, factory registrations and the like. By that time, the Morcha had already started its protests against the constitution-writing and federal demarcation. The Government offices in the Madhes plains were closed, making it impossible to renew any document. The cadre and supporters have been pestering the harried leaders to get the Government to cancel the fines slapped in the intervening six months.

Then there are the ordinary citizens, who have nothing more than their lives, their families and children, and perhaps a little plot of land. Among them, there are many who have been maimed or disabled. The Morcha does not have a count of how many died or were wounded during the movement.

The leader said, “If the talks (with the Government) had reached a certain point, we would have been in a position to make strong demands on all these matters. But right now, our self-esteem does not allow us to approach the Government. After all, we are in a movement.”

A general strike had been called in the plains by the Federal Inclusive Mahdesi Alliance on 15 August and by the Madhesi Morcha on 16 August. When the Constitution was promulgated on 20 September disregarding the Morcha’s displeasure and hectic Indian lobbying, India decided on its own to stop the transport of petroleum from the border points into Nepal.

[Related: A controlled Indian blockade on Nepal (BBC Report) ]

After India started the blockade on 22 September, the Front felt pressured to act. In informal meetings, India asked the Madhesi Morcha leaders to formally declare the blockade.

“The fact is, in earlier meetings we had ourselves suggested obstructing the border after violence escalated (against) Madhes. We had even gone to Raxaul to ask Indian officials to prevent passage of goods,” said one Morcha leader. “At first, the Indians did not come forward, fearing financial loss. Later, it was they who forced us to take the formal decision to blockade.”

A debate ensued among the Morcha members at the Rajbiraj meeting, which got extended. The meeting ultimately declared the blockade on 24 September, but by then transport of petroleum products had already been halted (by India) at all border points.

Leaders of Madhesi Morcha (Picture: Kantipur)
Leaders of Madhesi Morcha (Picture: Kantipur)

By the time of the Chhat festival, all the transit points had been closed, barring some consignments of fruits and grain that were allowed across. Thereafter, however, only the Birganj-Raxaul transit point was completely blocked while the others were all open.

Today, the Morcha’s senior leaders are pained to ask, “Why did India, after urging us to declare the blockade, proceed so enthusiastically on its own to lift it.”

[Related: Debunking Dr. Karan Singh’s misinformed comments on Nepal at Indian Rajya Sabha]

The second-rung leadership of the Morcha is even more confused: “At the Bijuli Bazaar meeting in the middle of January, our senior leaders had already announced that they would change the nature of the movement after 1 February. So why did India deceive our leaders? Or did our leaders fail to understand India’s suggestion.”

The ongoing turbulence within the Morcha today is the result of India’s diplomatic carelessness, maintains a leader of Sadbhavana Party. He is also perplexed as to why India opened all the other border points and kept only Birganj blocked for such a long time.

The Morcha has come out with its new schedule of protests, but they seem merely symbolic. Meanwhile, differences within the Morcha are escalating. On 3 February, TMLP Chair Mahanta Thakur went to stage a sit-in at the Miteri Bridge on the Birganj-Raxaul border, together with Vice-Chair Brishesh Chandra Lal and General Secretary Jitendra Sonal. There, Thakur said the blockade would continue.

[Related: India puts Nepal on Ventilator Support by blockading the country’s imports (BBC Report)]

The Sadbhavana Party Chair Rajendra Mahato arrived in Biratnagar the next day, on 4 February, and proclaimed there was no logic in keeping Birganj closed. This created a furor within the Morcha. When in a 8 February meeting the Federal Socialist Forum-Nepal Chair Upendra Yadav and TMLP leaders demanded that Mahato retract his statement, the latter staged a walk out. He has since threatened to start his own grand coalition or front.

TMLP’s Sonal said he did not believe Mahato would be able to start an independent front. He said, “We have asked him to correct himself and join the common platform. He has yet to announce his plans. Meanwhile, we will analyse the situation gravely and go before the people.”

Sadbhavana Party General Secretary Manish Kumar Suman said that while there were some misunderstandings within the Morcha, his party would not be diverted from the movement. Even though there is propaganda that the blockade was conducted by India, he claimed that in reality it was the Morcha’s doing.

[Related: Nepal- Madhesi groups have the highest representation in government jobs]

Said Suman, “If the border sit-in and general strike has benefited the Madhesi people, we will get the credit. If it has done harm, we will have to accept the blame. Why talk of others? There is no need to feel disheartened for having lifted the blockade. We should not forget that the other leaders had already announced their intention to change the nature of the movement before Sadbhavana’s Rajendra Mahato spoke up.”

#SecularPakistan: A long walk to unachieved freedom

Amara Shah
UWB/ Guest Blog

unnamed#SecularPakistan was a popular trend on Twitter yesterday. Just like other Twitter users, I tweeted my opinion under this hashtagand immediately got the response in shape of suggestions that either I should leave the citizenship of the country and go to India or shouldn’t raise my voice for secularism.

Unfortunately, if you talk about a secular state in Pakistan, you will be labeled as anti-Pakistan, anti-Islam, against the ideology of Paksitan and pro-India. Ideology of Paksitan is often misunderstood phenomenon in Pakistan.

The seeds of hatred and extremism were sown through textbooks at school, college and even at university levels. I also went through the same education system and have been considering ‘others’ as my enemy.

As Raza Rumi says, “Our textbooks are replete with references to kafirs or infidels. A distorted picture of other religions is presented. Continue reading #SecularPakistan: A long walk to unachieved freedom

An Analysis of Corruption in Nepal: Is It Becoming Socially Acceptable?

Siromani Dhungana/UWB

It is no surprise that Nepal is a very corrupt country, but a cause of worry today is that politicians are robbing the state coffer openly and sometimes ‘proudly’ in Nepal.

This is an analysis of very recent allegations of corruption against our politicians, which have mostly gone un-answered.

Here are a few examples:

News 1: Nagarik Daily published a series of in-depth investigative reports (by Subodh Gautam) about erosion of Chure Hills in its February 22 and 23 editions. The news has hinted the apathy of the police to control rampant illegal activities in the Chure area. According to the articles, around 0.75 billion Nepali rupees have been misused under President´s Chure Conservation Program (PCCP). Can the commission for the investigation of abuse of authority (CIAA), an anti-graft body in Nepal, and the government agencies concerned, bring the guilty under scanner? Many believe they canno

News 2: On the February 22 edition, Annapurna Post published an article (by Govinda Pariyar) about import of sub-standard medicines worth Rs 500 million from India. According to the article, the government has been importing medicines that the Indian government has banned. The issue should have received a great deal of government attention, especially because this directly relates to the health of a large population, but no legal action has been initiated so far. Continue reading An Analysis of Corruption in Nepal: Is It Becoming Socially Acceptable?

The Pain of Losing a Nation. Story of Lhendup Dorji and Sikkim

In his Op-Ed article published in today’s Kantipur (See below or here, former minister and RPP leader Dr Prakash Chandra Lohani compares Prime Minister Dr Baburam Bhattarai with Kazi Lhendup Dorji. For those who don’t know who Lhendup Dorji is, here is his obit written (title: The Pain of Losing a Nation) in 2007. [सिक्किम विलयबारे नेपालीमा यहाँ पढ्न पाइन्छ। अनि यो कान्तिपुर  लेख- माओवादी-भारत सम्बन्ध: पहिले विस्तारवाद, अहिले अवसरवाद]

By Sudheer Sharma

(September 2007) The last Prime Minister of the Himalayan Kingdom of Sikkim, Kazi Lhendup Dorji, met an ignominious Death.

On the northern corner of West Bengal state of India, there is a hill station – Kalimpong, which once hosted celebrities from all over the world. The hill town, where most of the settlers are of Nepali origin, no longer retains its old charm. But until a few weeks ago the last prime minister of a country – that has lost its independence – used to live here. Kazi Lhendup Dorji, who died on 28 July this year [2007] at the ripe old age of 103, had played a pivotal role in the merger of Sikkim into India.

Dorji is seen as a ‘traitor’ in the contemporary history. He lived, and died, with the same ignominy. “Everybody accuses me of selling the country. Even if it is true, should I alone be blamed?” he asked me, when I met him in Kalimpong in November 1996. But the allegation of ‘betrayal’ towards one’s own motherland was so powerful that Dorji could no more lead an active political life. He spent his solitary life at the ‘Chakung House’ in Kalimpong for several decades. Few people chose to remember Kazi when he passed away nor took pain to recall his life and times.

So much so that the Kazi was ignored even by Delhi. “I went out of my way to ensure the merger of Sikkim into India but after the work was done, the Indians just ignored me”, Kazi told me during an interview for Jana Astha weekly, nearly 11 years ago. “Earlier, I used to be given a ‘Red Carpet’ welcome. Now I have to wait for weeks even to meet second grade leaders.” Continue reading The Pain of Losing a Nation. Story of Lhendup Dorji and Sikkim

India, Universities and World Ambitions

south asian university logo
By creating quality institutions like the SAU and reviving old ones like Nalanda (below) India is trying to establish itself as regional hub of excellence.

By Dinesh Wagle
Wagle Street Journal

All the chaos surrounding sloppy preparations for the Commonwealth Games to be held in New Delhi in October may give an impression that India has a long way to go to become a global power. One may cite the overflowing Yamuna running into residential areas of Delhi as a proof that India is still an improvised third-world country that has million of hungry stomachs to feed. True. But make no mistake. India is not watching this all quietly with its hands folded. There are so many progressive activities happening in India today that it is sometime difficult to keep track of all of them. Highways are being expanded all over the country, for example, and competition among foreign companies to open shops in India has only intensified. Take, for example, the two incidents on Thursday which offer an insight into India’s preparations to become an advanced nation with global influence.

Nalanda University India ruins
Nalanda University India. Ruins

The Indian parliament passed a bill that authorises the government to revive an ancient university in Nalanda, Bihar. Nalanda University will be an Indian answer to Oxfords and Cambridges of the West, said parliamentarians across the political spectrum before ditching their ideological differences to vote unanimously for the bill. Lawmakers were full of praise for the Indian heritage that once produced universities like Nalanda, Vikramsila and Pushpagiri centuries ago that, as centers of excellence, attracted students from foreign countries.

On the same day, in a quiet corner of the mammoth campus of Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, the South Asian University began its first ever academic session without much fanfare. Continue reading India, Universities and World Ambitions

India Stops Nepal’s Newsprint

KATHMANDU- Indian authorities are holding 1,000 metric tonnes of newsprint imported by Kantipur Publications at Kolkata port for the last 26 days. Kantipur is Nepal’s largest publishing house that publishes Nepal’s largest selling newspapers and magazines.

India’s Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) has taken control of the newsprint imported from Canada and South Korea and stopped its shipment to Nepal, saying that the 39 containers carrying the newsprint need to be “investigated.”

No investigation, however, has been carried out despite repeated requests. Nor has Kantipur Publications been given a clear explanation for the continued delay, which has meant heavy demurrage and possibility of the newsprint getting damaged.

If the shipment is not released soon, it will put the publication of The Kathmandu Post and Kantipur dailies, and Saptahik weekly in jeopardy.

Asked to explain the reason behind the delay, DRI officials in Kolkata say, “We too don’t know why. Ask Delhi.” This is the first time any newsprint meant for Nepal’s publications has been held in the Indian port for “investigation.” Continue reading India Stops Nepal’s Newsprint

Khasi Nepali Ethnic Conflict in Meghalaya, India

Existing mistrust between the Nepali-speaking population and the Khasis has widened after the recent ethnic clashes

By Dinesh Wagle
Wagle Street Journal

Shaym Prasad Pokharel, a coal mine labourer from Nepal during an interview near a mine in Ladrampai, Meghalaya
Shaym Prasad Pokharel, a coal mine labourer from Nepal during an interview near a mine in Ladrampai, Meghalaya

MEGHALAYA, INDIA- “Ethnicity-based enmity,” said a Nepali-speaking Assamese coal mine labourer in Meghalaya, “is the most frightening and unpredictable thing I have ever experienced.” “The man you were friend with in the morning”, Bhumi Raj Limbu continued, “becomes your killer in the evening.”

This is what is happening in Meghalaya today. Existing mistrusts and contempt between Nepalis and Khasis have widened as the latter recently killed and assaulted several Nepali migrant workers and Gorkhas (Nepali-speaking Indians).

At the heart of this conflict lies a beautiful village called Lampi (or Langpih), claimed by both Assam and Meghalaya. Both states are strongly backed by villagers sharply divided along ethnic lines. The Gorkhas want the present Assamese authority in the village unchallenged, while the Khasis feel the area belongs to Meghalaya. Continue reading Khasi Nepali Ethnic Conflict in Meghalaya, India

Struggling For Nepal’s True Sovereignty

India wanted to establish Nepal as a dependent state since it had ousted the British colonial regime. It did not want Nepal to have independent foreign relations. In 1975, the late King Birendra had proposed Nepal to be recognized internationally as a “zone of peace” which had received by 1990, support of 112 countries, including that of China and Pakistan. India remained silent on this count despite repeated proposals put forward by Nepal….The Maoists want to eliminate India from Nepal’s power and politics.

By Bishnu Pathak, PhD

Land-locked Nepal has always existed in giant India’s shadow. However, now that its people have tasted democracy, they want to shake off Indian influence and become masters of their own destiny. Nepal has long historic, strategic, geo-political, commercial and socio-cultural relations with India. There has been a protracted debate and discourse to continuously improve such relations. But history also shows that whenever Nepal is in its transition phases, its people encounter several problems at national and regional levels owing to the role of India. Nepalis living on the Nepal-India border have suffered in particular at the hands of Indian border security forces and criminal groups. In spite of such suffering, they have failed to attract the country’s attention as most governments and mainstream parties have turned a deaf ear to their problems, fearing reprisals from India. A principal reason behind such practices is that the Nepalese authorities seek personal/family/party/cadre benefits whenever they get an opportunity to meet the Indian establishment, pushing behind the crucial issues faced by the people.

In the course of agitation to restore civilian supremacy, the UCPN (Maoist) initiated an anti-Indian campaign torching the 1950 India-Nepal treaty, displaying black flags in front of senior government officials, protesting in front of the Indian Embassy, boycotting CA House on the issue of intrusion and holding mass assemblies at the alleged Indian-encroached border regions from January 5, 2010 for a month. On January 11, the UCPN (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, alias Prachanda, in a mass meeting at Mahendranagar, said, “I will fight for national independence and sovereignty till my last breath.” Continue reading Struggling For Nepal’s True Sovereignty

Message from Mumbai: plight of Nepali cancer patients

It is pathetic to see poor Nepalese cancer patients and their caretakers stationed at footpaths, dinning at hand cart and unable to attend natures call on time due to unavailable spots.

By Dr. Suryabahadur Singh

The Tata Cancer Hospital Mumbai (Tata Memorial Center) is one of the reputed medical centres for the treatment and research of Cancer in the world that serves people from all over the world. The hospital has produced a large chunk of trained oncologists, radiologists, and other Para-medical staffs. These medico specialists were trained from all major under developed and developing Asian countries including Nepal.

In the background of this, we will analyze the plight of Nepali Cancer patients in Mumbai. The plethora of problems starts with Nepalese patients those who cannot afford the costly treatment by categorizing them as foreign national patients at the hospital. The majority of sufferers are middle class and poor families, who hail from far flung areas with no support from the locally residing Nepalese in Mumbai or own resources. Continue reading Message from Mumbai: plight of Nepali cancer patients

India-Pakistan Talks: Nepali Viewpoint

Neighbours talk. Kathmandu Post.
Click to enlarge

By Dinesh Wagle

May be they should have installed a closed circuit TV camera inside the hall sending live feeds over the Web. That could have saved millions of people from confusion. No one knows for sure what exactly happened inside Hyderabad House, a New Delhi landmark, where foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan held talks on Thursday. After the talks held out of the media glare were over, the leaders of the delegations went to address the press separately to provide conflicting details of the talks. Indian foreign secretary Nirupama Rao said the discussions were mainly focused on the issue of terrorism and briefly touched Kashmir while her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir stated the exact opposite. The same contrast was splashed all over the front pages of newspapers of both countries on Friday with Indian media persons blaming the Pakistani side for trying to score points over the talks and their Pakistani counterparts stating that no progress was made at the meeting as India “engaged in a game of doubletalk, saying one thing while meaning the other”.

Nothing different was expected, in fact, from both sides as we know they have very different concerns and priorities. While terrorism is an issue of the topmost importance to India, Pakistan can’t put Kashmir aside. India wants Hafiz Saeed, a man it thinks plotted and executed the Mumbai attack, to be arrested and tried in Pakistan. India said that it submitted three dossiers to Pakistan detailing anti-India activities of terrorists based in Pakistan. Maintaining that the talks shouldn’t be limited to the issue of terror, Pakistan, on the other hand, wanted to discuss India’s violations of the Indus Water Treaty that concerns sharing the water of six rivers that flow into Pakistan through India’s Jammu and Kashmir. Continue reading India-Pakistan Talks: Nepali Viewpoint