Tag Archives: Madhesi Morcha

Did India deceive or did Madhesi Morcha misunderstand?

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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.”

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Debunking Dr. Karan Singh’s Misinformed Comments on #Nepal at Indian Rajya Sabha

– by Nepalforeignaffairs Team

Dr Karan Singh, speaking about Nepal in Indian parliament
Picture: @subhash580‘s twitter feed

Dr. Karan Singh’s statement (click here to watch his full statement) in Indian parliament yesterday is full of factual errors and lies. Perceived as a person who’s knowledgeable about Nepal, Singh’s understanding of Nepal’s complexities and nuances appear to be very insufficient and based on a distorted view on Nepal’s situation, probably fed by a few sources who do not understand Nepal very well. Here is a point-by-point evaluation of his claims versus the facts.

[Related: Pictures show how Nepal is coping with the inhumane blockade by India]

1. The constitution alienates a large section of the population

Fact: The constitution was voted for by almost 90% of all members of Nepal’s Constituent Assembly, the elected body that was drafting the constitution. It has been approved by a large section of the population, including many Madhesis. A large majority of Madhesi elected representatives voted for the constitution.

2. Madhesis are 51% of Nepal’s population

Fact: Madhesis constitute less than 20% of Nepal’s population (see this factcheck article on the widely misreported Madhesi population statistics). Nepal is a diverse country and Nepal’s plain area, called the Terai/Madhes is home to various groups. The total number of people living in the Terai is about 50% of the country’s population, but it includes a large number of non-Madhesi people.

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

3. If the present constitution is continued, identity of Madhes is going to be destroyed

Fact: The constitution ensures a separate province for Madhesis, thus protecting their identity (although majority of Nepalese expressed in last elections that there are better ways to protect identity than through such ethnicity-based provinces). The constitution has provisions for multiple languages to be used in local bodies. No province has been created for other ethnic groups including Gurung, Magar, Tamang, etc. Madhesis are treated specially by the constitution, which many argue, is against the spirit of equality in democracy.

[Related: Did India deceive or did Madhesi Morcha misunderstand?]

4. The eight-point agreement in 2007 with the government headed by GP Koirala has been jettisoned

Fact: Previous governments have made such agreements with many ethnic groups including Tharus, Limbus, Chure-Bhawar society and so on. Like explained in point 5 below, multiple groups live together and have competing claims. It has been a subject of long political debate in Nepal and so far there has been no consensus. The arrangement proposed in the current constitution is the only one that has received least opposition and was accepted by about 90% members of the Constituent Assembly. The constitution ensures a separate province for Madhesis, while other groups’ demands for similar provinces have not been respected. There are voices within Nepal who think this special treatment to a small section of Madhesi politicians is unfair for the rest of the groups who share these regions.

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

5. Madhesh has been sliced up in such a way that they are marginalised in all but one province

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Geographical distribution of some major ethnic groups in Nepal, from among more than 100 different groups (based on 2001 census data)

Fact: Nepal is a diverse country with more than 100 ethnic groups and languages (see this post for a statistics on some of these groups). The settlements in Nepal are mixed (many ethnic groups live close together) and it is extremely difficult to carve out provinces that is exclusive to each group, while still being fair to others. There are competing claims by different ethnic groups for provinces in the same areas. For example, in the Eastern Terai, Madhesis constitute less than 20% of the population but some Madhesi politicians (most of who have lost elections there) want it to be named as an exclusive Madhesi province. Other ethnic groups like Tharus, Limbus, Rajbamshis, Chure-Bhawar society also demand similar provisions in the same region. For over 8 years, this discussion has been going on in Nepal, including during two elections for the Constituent Assembly, that were dominated by this very debate. Finally, various parties agreed on the current federal solution that has the least amount of opposition. During the election of the Constituent Assembly, the agenda of ethnic-based provinces was defeated by huge margin. Similarly, the previous constituent assembly failed to draft a constitution because the ruling parties of that time wanted ethnicity based provinces while the opposition disagreed.

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

6. Proportional representation theory has not been accepted

Fact: This is wrong. Please see Article 50 of the current constitution. More details on this can be read in this article about the many factual errors in Indian External Affairs Minister’s speech.

7. In marriage, discrimination regarding citizens as far as citizens marrying Indians

Fact: This is also wrong. Please see Part 2, Article 10-15 of the current constitution. More details on this can be read in this article about the many factual errors in Indian External Affairs Minister’s speech.

8. Madhesis have been looked down in that country for many centuries

Fact: Madhesis have been treated specially in Nepal’s history. They used to be part of the Royal court in Kathmandu. Today, several Madhesi groups (like Dalits) are among the most backward and disadvantaged in Nepal. At the same time, several other Madhesi groups (like Madhesi Brahmins, Kayasthas, Rajputs) are ahead of all other ethnic groups in Nepal in terms of Human Development Index (HDI), education, wealth, access to government services and opportunities. Madhesi is not a single homogeneous population group.

9. The current constitution goes back on the provisions made in the interim constitution

Fact: The current constitution is drafted by an elected Constituent Assembly that was sovereign. The Assembly was elected to replace the interim constitution based on the popular will expressed through elections. Current constitution ensures more progressive provisions including for language, women and minorities. It includes affirmative action provisions for additional groups like disabled and poor, which the interim constitution lacked. The current constitution ensures federalism, and a separate province for Madhesis. which the interim constitution did not have