Amidst the preparations of the Constituent Assembly elections two months away, the Maoists celebrate their Thirteenth Anniversary in the valley today. The streets have been decorated with graffiti through which YCL (Young Communist League) offer their “Red Salute” to “Prachanda, the Future President” of the Nepal. The “Future” is yet to be seen as the elections are still two months away. And given the political climate of Nepal, anything can happen even in the eleventh hour. Keeping those possibilities aside, the Elections Commission has asked all the political parties to erase all graffiti by Feb 20. The Election Code which such comes into effect from the very date bans graffiti writing, painting on walls and putting up of posters and banners by parties and candidates at public and private sites in the course of electioneering. Feb 20, doesn’t seem to be a date in near future for our political parties as they are still continuing with their graffiti. The Constituent Assembly Elections has been for April 20,2008 after postponing it twice in April 2007 and then Nov22,2007. Thirteen may not after all be an unlucky number for the Maoists ( and the country) if the polls take place as planned.
Just because eight districts are having problems doesn’t mean rest of the 67 districts is deprived of the much needed democratic process. …if outfits that are terrorizing some parts of Terai don’t respond positively to the repeated calls for talks by the government the option of crushing them militarily should not be ruled out.
By Dinesh Wagle
Wagle Street Journal
[Update on Birgunj Blast: CDO among 30 injured in blasts near SPA assembly, MMT claims responsibility. details]
While passing through Minbhawan today, I saw a few wall paintings apparently sponsored by the Maoist party as part of their campaign for the elections of the Constituent Assembly. The publicity slogans asked the viewer to caste their votes for the Maoist party’s election symbol (hammer and sickle inside a circle). The graffiti also urged the people to push the party into victory so that Prachanda, the Chairman of the party, could be made the first president of Nepal. That made me happy. The Maoists, who threatened to disrupt the elections and were until recently fighting for the communist dictatorship, are now throwing themselves into the electoral democracy! This is a great change (probably the kind of change that Barrack Obama is advocating for in the US!) Here is another surprise: the Maoists are on the forefront of the electoral activities (last time it was the CPN UML) as they already finalized some of the candidates for the elections that also includes top leaders like Prachanda. (Prachanda will contest from Kathmandu and Rolpa and Dr. Baburam Bhattarai from Gorkha). If he contests from Kathmandu-1, then I will be one of his possible voters. Continue reading Maoist Campaigns and Elections Security Situation
An extensive investigation by a judicial commission has found that weakness and ineffectiveness of the police administration in some cases during the Madhes (southern Nepal) agitations in January-February were largely responsible for the deaths of 21 persons (including a security personnel), injury of 1,951 persons (including 230 security personnel), and destruction of properties worth Rs 136.3 million (including personal, governmental and non-governmental). The commission led by Supreme Court justice Khil Raj Regmi submitted its report to Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala today. Continue reading The Madhes Report: Police Weakness Responsible For Deaths
Update (8 March)
Defiance of MPRF strike continues countrywide: Strike orders issued by the Madhesi People’s Rights Forum (MPRF) have been defied in various districts across the county. However, some districts in eastern Terai remain affected by the strike. In Morang, local administration, with the help of eight parties, civil society and the parties affected by the banda, has opened up shops, markets, factories, transportation services and educational institutions that had been shut down by MPRF, in Biratnagar. (more)
Update More people defy MPRF strike:
Industrialists, businessmen, transport entrepreneurs and workers, rickshaw pullers, ambulance drivers, teachers, students and members of the general public in Biratnagar took to the streets in retaliation against MPRF activists after the latter vandalized even ambulances and cycle rickshaws ferrying patients Wednesday (8 March). The locals fought back against the second day of the MPRF-called indefinite shutdown, which has taken a severe toll on normal life. Locals carrying sticks and swords chased away the MPRF cadres from Bargachhichowk when the latter were forcing locals to down their shutters. Several places in Biratnagar remained tense for hours after frequent clashes between the locals and protestors at Barghachhi and Pipalchowk areas. (more)
People from around Terai (plain parts of Nepal) have started defying unjustified and ill-intended general strike (Banda)
Hundreds of sugarcane growers in Parsa district demonstrate against the indefinite shutdown by the Madhesi People’s Rights Forum yesterday. They said the MPRF workers defied their high-command’s order to allow farmers to transport their produce to factories during the strike. Farmers say their produce could go to waste due to the strike. Pic by Updendra Lamichhane via Kathmandu Post
Once again, the indefinite general strike (banda) called by a dubious organization called Madhesi Peoples’ Rights Forum (MPRF) has brought pain in the life of many in Terai. The only intention of MPRF (which is also known as Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (MJF)) is to disrupt the upcoming Constituent Assembly elections. It would be ignorance on our part to believe that the organization is fighting for the rights of Madhesi people. No. Even after major demands of the Madhesi people have been addressed (and are in the process of being so), the organization of Upendra Yadav, has gone into creating havoc in Terai. Look at the demands: resignation of Home Minister and formation of a probe commission to look into the alleged suppression of the recent Madhesi movement. Do these two demands really qualify for a large scale protest like the one that’s being launched in Terai? No. You fulfill these two demands, and Yadav, a pawn of a foreign intelligence agency, will come up with other demands. This is not a political movement for sure and this must be ignored with defiance. People have started doing so. In Nepalgunj, people under the leadership of local business owners and in Jhapa people have gone with their usual routine defying the banda. People have taken out rallies against banda in several parts of Terai. Continue reading People Defy Unjustified Banda in Madhes
UWB Photo blog: Southern Nepal demonstrations For the record, images from Feb 6.
A Maoist cadre is taken to hospital in Bharatpur. She was injured in a clash with Madhesi Jajaadhikar Forum (MJF) Tuesday (6 Feb). 8 Maoist cadres were injured in the clash that took place in Parasi in the morning. Pics by Chetan Adhikari Continue reading Terai Photo News: Madhesi Janadhikar Forum- Maoist Clash, Lathi Rallies
The Madhesi Janadhakar Forum’s behavior starkly differs from the list of demands they have put forward. The behavior is inflammatory and aims at disrupting communal harmony.
By Chhatra Bahadur
The Prime Ministerial Address of expressing acceptance of federal governance structure intent and earlier arrest of main actors of ‘regressive elements’ will subdue the Madhesi movement has belied the expectations. However, strict enforcement of curfew in some of the affected areas since few days have given a hope that anger will pacify in time. At the same time, widespread arson, destruction of public property and vandalism has continued abetted in some of the affected areas.
The media has hinted that the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (MJF) [also known as Madhesi Peoples’ Rights Forum (MPRF)], which had initiated the movement, had completely lost control over the movement. It may be true since the movement is becoming increasing violent whereas the Forum has repeatedly pledged peaceful one in interviews and press releases.
In press releases for media consumption, the leaders of MJF has put forward attractive list of carefully worded demands such as: (1) federal democratic republic; (2) proportionate electorate system; (3) autonomy to Madhes region; (4) end of internal colonization; (5) regional autonomous governance system that includes right to self-determination; (6) rights on the land, natural resources and biological diversity of madhes; (7) racial and regional discrimination; (8) provide citizenship certificates to all madhesis without discrimination.
However, their behavior starkly differs from the list of demands they have put forward. The concluding speeches at the end of the demonstrations (aam shabhas) are invariably in Hindi whereas they could have had spoken in native Maithili or Bhojpuri. Maithili are spoken about 13% of the population, Bhojpuri by about 8% as mother language whereas Hindi is spoken merely by 0.47% (as mother tongue) according to the Population Census, 2001. Maithili and Bhojpuri are similar and there is no difficulty in comprehension. The concluding speeches as inflammatory in content aimed at disrupting communal harmony. The speakers often demand compulsory expulsion of people of hill-origin, and return of land to madhesis. Another example would be a slogan: ‘pahadiya chor, desh chod’ meaning (people of hill-origin are thief, leave the land).
The general understanding of madhesi is anyone residing in Terai region of Nepal. And there is impression that this movement involves whole of Terai region encompassing people from all communities. In fact, the MJF have tried to create an impression of including broader participation of communities-based in Terai (by mentioning Dalits, Janjatis, ethnicities, etc in their demands), the reality is completely different. None of Hill-origin Terai communities have participated in this movement because the MJF already excluded these communities by their slogans and labeling them ‘pahadiya’. Maithili communities such as Jha, Mishra (who are considered aboriginal) or other aboriginal communities such as Tharus, Rajbhansis, Dhimals, Jhagars have not shown any inclination to participate in this movement. In fact, Tharu community (6.8% of the total population) has already informed through press-release that it does not consider itself madhesi community. None of the Terai-based Dalit communities such as Mushar, Dom, Chamar, Harijan etc have found reasonable existence within the MJF. In reality, the MJF have considered only the people of Indian-origin from certain communities to be madhesis and have taken pains to exclude others. The central committee membership and its activists belong to Yadav, Mahato, Mehta, Gupta, Kamath, Sah, Das communities. Unfortunately, it has now become community-based politics instead for Terai region. In comparison, the Maoists had more diversified ethical participation than the MJF.
Some of the demands put forward by MJF are justifiable. The PM, in his address, has already accepted in principle that it needs to be addressed. However, it will be addressed by the Constituent Assembly. And his stand is democratically correct because then people would choose their actual representatives who will have legal and moral authority to decide the fate of the nation and the form of governance.
At the same time, some of the demands appear unreasonable and illogical: especially right to self-determination. Autonomy is justifiable but right to self-determination is potentially fatal because it essentially provides an autonomous geographical region a legal and political right to segregate and declare itself as an independent nation if it desires to do so. Geographically, Terai is at advantageous position because of plain and fertile land with maximum of economic activity concentrated in that area. The entire transport network linking whole nation is based in Terai. In other words, the resources of the entire nation are in Terai. And, if it decides to segregate, then rest of Nepal will be landlocked doubly – first by India and then by independent Terai country. Aspirations for autonomous regions with right to self-determination such as Limbuwan, Magarat, etc will have nothing to gain and can merely exist on its own in economically integrated world if Terai segregates. The situation can be most unfortunate with huge disadvantages.
Second fatal demand is the stoppage of internal colonization. MJF has defined internal colonization as a condition wherein people of other communities settling down for residential and/or commercial purposes in Terai. According to MJF, madhes is being made a colony by people of hill-origin exactly as the Britishers had done with India. Thus, MJF is signaling at a condition wherein commercial transactions such as buying land and setting up of businesses will be legally closed to other communities (as in J&K, Arunachal in India) and these activities can be only undertaken by madhesis as defined by MJF.
The talks committee has been formed at the governmental level and it is wonder what it will negotiate. Because of two aforementioned conditions, the talks may not reach any reasonable conclusion.
The genesis of current agitation is outcome of politics-gone-bad. And the blame squarely lies in the shoulder of the Maoists who during their people’s war had sowed the seeds of communal hatred. Many cadres were lured to support the people’s war with a promise of ethical autonomy and political division on the basis of ethnicity.
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
A peace rally in Jhapa
With the heinous killing of Assistant Sub Inspector Naresh Jung Karki in Biratnagar this evening, it has become crystal clear that the ongoing movement in eastern Terai is more than just an expression of political dissatisfaction: it is overwhelmingly dominated by criminal intentions. To carry swords, iron rods and go on rampage in residential area can’t be a political demonstration. To demand federalism and proportional representation in election is a political work but to continue with murderous activities even after listening the genuine answer from the government established by the peoples’ movement is a deplorable act. Today’s killing of the policeman and other violent activities in the recent past in eastern Terai marks the spectacular comeback of royalist elements in political scenario that were sidelined by people in April. It was an open secret that they would seek ways for comeback to try their best to make democracy a failure. They will do anything to create the impression that monarchy is needed in Nepal. They used the Maoist movement in the past for the same and now they are trying to deliver this message: look what’s happening when king is sidelined. They will do everything to turn these demonstrations into full fledged communal conflict in Nepal which will ultimately weaken peoples’ united power to run the government.
How can anyone justify the brutal killing of a policeman? [ASI Naresh Jung Karki was leading a 13-member police team at Buddhanagar, Biratnagar at 5 pm this evening. Criminals associating themselves with the Madheshi Peoples’ Rights Forum (MPRF) surrounded the police team and barbarically killed Karki to death by using knives and swords. The protesters, according to eKantipur, also abducted three other policemen after attacking them with sharp weapons, sources said. The criminals also took away 2 rifles and a pistol from the policemen. In retaliation, the police had opened fire on them. The bloody protests in southeastern Nepal have already claimed the lives of ten people over the past two weeks.] How can you justify a movement that, it seems, doesn’t believe in talks? Even the Maoists, who were waging a violent war, came to the talks table and engaged themselves in peace process. But these elements that are spreading violence in Madhesh under the cover of political demands are exposing themselves as days are passing. They will put forward one nonsense demand after another as the government goes on addressing them. The government must use its machinery to expose infiltrating criminal elements. It has partially done so by arresting Kamal Thapa, Badri Mandal and Salim Ansari but this must be intensified. We are running out of time.
CPN-Maoist Chairman Prachanda today assured that the eight parties would address the demands of the Madhesi people since an agreement in principle for a federal democratic setup had already been reached. Prachanda made the comments today while talking to the media after a meeting with representatives of various human right organizations. He also added that homework was being done to implement a proportional electoral model in the country. Prachanda further claimed that the demands of the Terai community were also the demands raised by his own party, adding that this had make things “easier” for him. He also assured that the CPN-M was taking the issue of the Madhesi movement very seriously.
Several buses carrying passengers and escorted by Armed Police Force were attacked yesterday night in front of Chinimill area in Birgunj. Around 29 buses had left the town for Kathmandu at 11 PM. Around 11:20 PM scoundrels attacked the vehicles, smashed wind glasses, and looted the books, clothes, and other belongings of Buddhist monks (Lamas). Attackers, suspected activists of Madheshi Peoples’ Rights Forum (MPRF), looted belongings of Lamas who were returning from Bodh Gaya, India. 43 Lamas were traveling. In the photo above, a Lama shows a book. He said that books like this one were looted. All pics by Subodh Singh Continue reading Terai News: Lamas Looted, Meetings in Kathmandu, Threat to Journalist
Photos from yesterday’s protests
Himal, Pahad, Terai: Kohi Chhaina Parai CPN Maoist organized rally in Bhairahawa that stressed on communal harmony in Nepali society. Many activists associated with other political parties and general citizens took part in the rally to protest communal incidents in eastern Terai recently. Pics by Madhav Dhungana Continue reading Nepal Terai Tension: Protests Continue, Media Targeted