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Madheshi Movement And Politics of Deceit

Issue 09, March 02, 2008

By Siddhi B. Ranjitkar

The current ongoing indefinite Madheshi movement starting on February 13, 2008 is the result of the politics of deceit adopted by the Nepali Congress (NC) leaders including Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala. They believe that they can trick everybody to follow them. However, the saying goes “you can trick somebody once and twice not thrice.” United Democratic Madheshi Front (UDMF) a joint front of recently formed three Madheshi political parties such as Terai Madhesh Loktantrik Party led by Mahanta Thakur, Nepal Sadbhawana Party led by Rajendra Mahato and Madheshi Janadhikar Forum led by Upendra Yadav has launched Madheshi movement with six-point demand. The seven-party alliance (SPA) leaders and their government are ready to meet all demands; however, the UDMF leaders have put forward another demand for postponing the election for the Constituent Assembly scheduled for April 10, 2008 said Home Minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula.

Minister for Peace and Reconstruction and NC leader Ram Chandra Poudel had reached a 22-point agreement with the leader of Madheshi Janadhikar Forum, Upendra Yadav. However, the minister failed to implement the agreement. The Madheshi leaders felt that the Peace Minister betrayed them; the minister was not really for peace but just tricked them to the negotiation and ultimately to an agreement that he did not bother to implement. So, all like-minded Madheshi leaders came together and launched a decisive movement with a new six-point demand on February 13, 2008.

Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala did not take the indefinite strike launched by the UDMF causing shutdowns in Terai area seriously. On the one hand he said that he would resolve the Terai issues through a dialogue with the Madheshi leaders on the other hand he said that he was not going to agree with them on the self-determination and autonomy to the Madhesh. On Sunday, February 17, 2008 talking to the security chiefs and administrative officials of the eastern region in his hometown Biratnagar, Prime Minister Koirala instructed them to work effectively to contain strikes, blockade and shutdowns. The Prime Minister’s public statement irked the Madheshi leaders and added fuel to the fire of the Madheshi movement.

The Prime Minister did not hold a direct dialogue with the Madheshi leaders. He sent them to the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist and Leninist (CPN-UML), Madhav Kumar Nepal despite the insistence of the Madheshi leaders to have a dialogue with none other than the Prime Minister; they did not trust the Peace Minister Ram Chandra Poudel anymore. The talk with General Secretary Madhav Kumar Nepal did not bring any positive result.

On February 20, 2008, some NC leaders went to talk to the Madheshi leaders at the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu. The NC leaders could not convince them of the need for stopping the Madheshi movement. The Terai movement has continued. The local administration has been imposing curfews in the major Terai towns such as Biratnagar, Birgunj and Nepalgunj almost day and night causing breakdown of regular lives of the people. Some political analysts vehemently opposed the NC leaders and the Madheshi leaders going to the Indian embassy for talks.

The last date for submitting a sealed-list of the candidates for constituent assembly (CA) seats to be elected based on the proportional representation electoral system was February 20. Out of 74 political parties registered at the Election Commission, only 37 parties submitted their sealed-list of candidates. The protesting Madheshi political parties did not submit their sealed-list of candidates.

The Government of Nepal in a cabinet meeting decided to request the Election Commission for extending the deadline for submitting the sealed-list of candidates to February 24 for making time available for the dissident Madheshi political parties to submit their sealed-list of candidates. The Election Commission honored the request of the Government and extended the deadline.

The SPA leaders in a meeting decided that they would accept all other demands put forward by the Madheshi leaders except for the one: “One Madhesh One Province.” The Government of Nepal followed the suit. The Madheshi leaders said that they would not stop their indefinite movement without getting all their demands met by the Government of Nepal.

Chairman of the Maoists, Prachanda said that if the SPA could not reach an agreement with the Madheshi leaders, then they would find an alternative way of holding the election for a CA scheduled to be held on April 10, 2008. Other leaders blamed the cadres of the NC and CPN-UML for supporting the monarchy and for infiltrating into the rallies in Madhesh and adding fuel to the fire of the Madheshi movement to derail the election for a CA.

Probably, Chairman Prachanda’s alternative way might be to declare that the king has been conspiring to disrupt the election for a CA, and then end the monarchy by the two-third majority of the interim legislature-parliament; thereafter declare the Madheshi leaders as royalists and suppress the Madheshi movement using the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and the Nepal Army (NA). On February 24, 2008, speaking to the reporters, Chairman Prachanda said if the situation in the Teria worsened then the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and the Nepal Army (NA) might be used; however, such a situation has not arisen yet.

Probably, Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala also has another alternative way. That might be to call off the election for a CA under the pretext of the turmoil in Madhesh, and continue his direct rule that has been almost like the rule of the legendary Jung Bahadur that had broken every record of the autocratic rule in Nepal. Prime Minister Koirala also would use this opportunity to revive the exclusive administration of the Shahs.

The UDMF leaders did not submit the sealed-list of the candidates of their parties for the proportional election for a CA on February 24 deliberately missing the deadline. So, they are not going to participate in the election. Some of the UDMF leaders have declared that they are going to intensify the protest in Madhesh. One of the leaders of the Madheshi Janadhikar Forum, Upendra Yadav threatened to frame a constitution for the Madhesh. Thus, they have been working for creating an environment conducive to the alternative way of both Chairman Prachanda and Prime Minister Koirala. These three elements might take Nepal to a disastrous end.

The Madheshi leaders blamed the Girija-Madhav-Prachanda clique for doing nothing to meet their demands and for putting blame on them for disrupting the election for a CA. They said that the clique has been deliberately neglecting the demands of the Madheshi people for finding an excuse for calling off the election for a CA and perpetuate the rule of the SPA.

The SPA leaders believe that the country might breakup into the geographical divisions if they accept the demand of the Madheshi leaders for “One Madheshi One Province.” So, they are not at any cost going to give in to this demand of the Madheshi leaders. However, Madheshi leaders say that this is only the provision for the CA and for making the structure of the Madhesh administration by the representatives of the Madheshi people; they do not want other representatives making decision on the structure of the Madhesh administration.

The SPA leaders put forward another argument for not accepting the demand of the Madheshi leaders for “One Madhesh One Province” that the Madhesh is not homogenous culturally, linguistically, and geographically. The Madheshi people speak different languages at different areas; the Madhesh area is cut by the hill at several places. So, it could not be a single province.

The Tharu community does not feel that their area is a Madhesh; so, they do not agree to the demand: One Madhesh One Province.” They have already submitted a memorandum to the Prime Minister disagreeing it, and have rallied in Kathmandu. They do not want their area called as Madhesh.

The SPA leaders believe that the protesting Madheshi leaders do not represent all Madheshi people. Probably, the SPA leaders think that their political parties represent most of the Madheshi people. Chairman of Nepal Workers’ and Peasants’ Party, Narayan Man Bijukchhe said that the Madheshi leaders do not represent the Madheshi peasants but the landlords; so, they could not be the true leaders of Madheshi people.

On February 24, 2008, speaking to the reporters, Minister for Home, Krishna Prasad Sitaula said that the Government of Nepal has been ready to meet all demands of the UDMF; however, the UDMF leaders came up with another demand for postponing the election for a CA scheduled for April 10, 2008 for a month; so, the talks between the UDMF’s team and the government’s team ended inconclusively. Postponing the CA election requires an amendment to the Interim Constitution.

One of the leaders of the UDMF, Hridayesh Tripathi said that the Home Minister’s statement of the UDMF coming up with a demand for the poll rescheduling and of the government meeting all demands are totally false. He said that the UDMF would not call off the indefinite strike that started on February 13, 2008 until the six-point demand was met.

Minister for Forest and Soil conservation and Maoists’ Leader Matrika Prasad Yadav said that the UDMF leaders demanding the postponement of the election for a CA were clearly for saving the monarchy. Minister for Local Development and Maoists’ Leader Dev Gurung said that the talks between the government and the UDMF’s leader failed, as the later put forward an impossible demand. However, the minister did not bother to explain what is the impossible demand.

On February 25, 2008, UDMF cadres have attempted to disrupt the filling of nominations for the candidates for the direct election to the CA at various election offices in the Terai areas clearly indicating they are against the election. They need to understand that knowingly or unknowingly they have been supporting the monarchy, as the life of the monarchy would extend if the CA election were not held.

The monarchists’ parties such as Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal and Nepal Janashakti Party are for not participating in the election for a CA. Obviously, they would not participate in the election that is for ending the monarchy that has ran the exclusive administration denying majority of Nepalis the fundamental human rights for about two and a half centuries. Another reason for the boycotting of the CA election might be that they are not for exposing to the mercy of the Nepalese people, as they have done nothing good for the people.

The Government of Nepal going on head on collision with the Madheshi leaders has been already adversely affecting the regular lives of the Madheshi people and others all over Nepal. In this situation the Election Commission would not be able to hold an election smoothly in Madhesh; even if it holds an election it would not be meaningful without the participation of the protesting Madheshi political parties. The worst result might be a civil war in Terai. However, some constitutional experts believe that non-participation of some political leaders and parties would not make any difference to the election for a CA, as it is not for a parliament but for the people’s representation in a CA.

Current Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, Peace and Reconstruction Minister Ram Chandra Poudel and Finance Minister Dr. Ram Sharan Mahat are the proven botched ministers in the past cabinets. They have been far from successful in the current cabinet, too. The Prime Minister has not been able to lead the SPA to the right direction, and has been causing persistent conflicts rather than bringing peace, and have been causing violence against the consumers making the shortage of petroleum products already for more than a year. Peace Minister has been causing more conflicts than before. He has been adding fuel to the fire of dissent and movement in Terai. The Finance Minister has not been able to punish the tax and bank-loan defaulters. He has supported the allegedly corrupt suspended governor of Nepal Rastra Bank, Mr. Bijaya Nath Bhattarai when the Commission on Investigation into Abuse of Authority (CIAA) filed a lawsuit at the Special Court charging him for abusing his authority and causing losses to the central bank of Nepal called Nepal Rastra Bank. Home Minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula has been successful to bridge the gap between the Maoists and the NC; however, now, he has almost failed to bring the UDMF’s leader on board for the CA election. One thing they might succeed is to calling off the election for a CA under the pretext of the ongoing Madheshi movement. So, they are not worried much about the movement and the disruption of regular lives in Madhesh and in other parts of Nepal.

At this juncture of the Nepalese history, all Nepalis except the monarchists have been waiting for the CA election to write a new constitution of Nepal; so, all political leaders in view of the aspirations of the Nepalese people should make an environment conducive to the CA election. Not only the Madheshi people but also the entire Nepalese people would not benefit from the current protest movement continued by the UDMF, as it would obstruct the election for a CA. Like it or not, Nepalese people would label anybody or any party attempting to derail the forthcoming CA election as anti-Nepalese people and the supporter of the monarchy that has fouled up the Nepalese society, economy and politics for the last two and a half centuries. Nepalis would never forgive them for such things. So, both the government’s team and the UDMF’s team are equally responsible for reaching a common understanding for making the CA election a success.

February 27, 2008.

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