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Resolving Problem of One-Madhesh in Nepal

Issue 27, July 06, 2008

By Siddhi B. Ranjitkar

About 70 Constituent Assembly (CA) members belonging to Madheshi People’s Rights Forum (MPRF), Terai Madhesh Democratic Party (TMDP) and Nepal Sadhabhavana Party have been obstructing the session of the CA since June 26, 2008 demanding the inclusion of the Article two and Article four of the eight-point agreement reached between the United Democratic Madheshi Front (UDMF) and the Government of Nepal on February 28, 2008 in the proposal for the Fifth Amendment to the Interim Constitution of Nepal of 2007. The Fifth Amendment to the interim constitution was for specifying the process of electing the president, vice-president, prime minister and CA chairman.

The Article two of the eight-point agreement states, “Nepal shall be the Federal Democratic Republican State accepting the people’s aspiration for the federal republican structure, and meeting the aspirations of the Madheshi people for the autonomous Madhesh province, and the people of other regions for their autonomous provinces. The federal structure shall be based on the clear delineation of power between the center and the provinces. Provinces shall be fully autonomous and with power. Keeping intact the sovereignty, unity and integrity of Nepal, the Constituent Assembly shall allocate the power, and set the structure of provinces, and keep the record of the center and the provinces.”

The Article fourth of eight-point agreement states, “The government shall inevitably ensure proportional representation of Madheshis, indigenous people, ethnic people, women, dalits, people of the backward communities and minority in appointment, promotion and nomination of staffs to all agencies of the state including the security agency.”

The three major political parties such as Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-Maoist), Nepali Congress (NC) and Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist and Leninist (CPN-UML) have not been able to convince the Madheshi CA members of no need for including these provisions in the Interim Constitution as those provision would be made in the new constitution to be crafted by the CA.

For an ordinary rational thinking person, there should not be any problem of including these articles of the eight-point agreement in the Interim Constitution, as the Government of Nepal had signed off this eight-point agreement with the UDMF with the consent of three major parties such as CPN-Maoist, NC and CPN-UML on these matters. In addition, the Article two has not stated that there should be a “One Madhesh One Province”. However, most of the political parties opposing Madhesh province has been talking about “One Madhesh One Province”, which the Madheshi CA members have not demanded. They have simply demanded to include the Articles two and four of the eight-point agreement the Government of Nepal had reached with the UDMF in the proposal for the Fifth Amendment to the Interim Constitution.

If the leaders of those three major political parties have read the Articles two and four of the eight-point agreement, the country would not need to face the current political deadlock. However, all political parties opposing the rational demand of the Madheshi CA members have been focusing on the “One Madhesh One Province”, which was not the case of the agitating Madheshi CA members.

The Chairman of the CPN-Maoist Prachanda has clearly stated that his party and he have no problem of recognizing autonomous Madheshi province; in fact, the CPN-Maoist had run such administration in the past. General Secretary of the CPN-UML Jhalanath Khanal has repeatedly stated in public that his party and he were deadly against the “One Madhesh One Province”. The NC has been talking as less as possible concerning the Madheshi issue.

Clearly, the CPN-UML has been making the issue of the non-issue. The Madheshi CA members have been demanding the inclusion of the Articles two and four of the eight-point agreement in the proposal for the Fifth Amendment to the interim Constitution of Nepal of 2007. In fact, these two articles should directly go to the new to-be-crated constitution, as these articles concerned with the people of ethnic groups including Madheshi people.

Why the three political parties such as CPN-Maoist, NC and CPN-UML have to spend so much time on discussing the issue that the Madheshi people have not raised at all. Why the president of NC and current acting Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala did not ask the leaders of other two parties such as CPN-Maoist and CPN-UML for including the two articles of the eight-point agreement he had signed with the UDMF with the consent of those leaders in the proposal for the Fifth Amendment to the Interim Constitution and pave the way for smoothly holding the session of the CA. Prime Minister Koirala used to say all political parties needed to work together to build a New Nepal but obviously he became the hurdle to such thing to happen without taking all political parties in confidence for smooth running the CA session. As such Prime Minister Koirala letting to make the allegation of the CPN-Maoist leaders that the NC leaders have been deliberating trying to use every possible trick to delay the turning over the power to the Maoists come true.

With only 110 seats in the 601-memebr CA, NC wanted its leader Girija Prasad Koirala to become the first president of Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal. However, the Maoists having twice the number of seats of the NC in the CA opposed his candidacy, as they did not want to share the power with Koirala in view of his past stand on various issues and his dubious credibility of past performances as the acting Head of State and Prime Minister during the last two years.

Not only the CPN-UML has been deadly against the notion of “One Madhesh One Province” but also the Awadhi, Maithili, Bhojpuri, and Tharus people in Terai and Chure-Bhavar Ekata Party people, as they have the experiences in living under the absolute rule of the 240-year of the Shah dynastic rule and the hard lives they had during that period. Naturally, they did not want any other rule imposed on them anymore. They wanted autonomous provinces so that they could develop their natural resources as fit to their people. They did not want the repetition of the history of somebody with power at the center reaping the harvest of the resources they had created.

The Madheshi CA members seeking autonomous Madhesh province and proportional representation of all of the people belonging to various ethnic groups including the Terai people in the Nepali Army, police, civil service and other state agencies would surely continue to disrupt the session of the CA and delay the formation of a new government until their demands were met.

“We are demanding a Madheshi province within the territorial state of Nepal with autonomous powers,'' Upendra Yadav, president of the party, said in a telephone interview from the capital, Kathmandu, yesterday. Madheshi representation in the bureaucracy is “just 3 percent'' while in “civil administration it is only 8 percent. We want to correct this,'' Yadav said. “Of the more than 100,000 soldiers there are hardly 200 Madheshis.'' [1]

The three major parties such as CPN-Maoist, NC and CPN-UML have held numerous meeting to discus issues concerning the Madhesh but they could not reach an agreement on this issue. Similarly, another three parties such as MPRF, TMDP and NSP had separately held meetings to have their common stand on the issue. Then, all of the six parties together held a meeting but could not reach an agreement.

The three major political parties such as CPN-Maoist, NC and CPN-UML in the meeting held at the Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction on Monday, June 30, 2008, agreed to make a political commitment that they would incorporate the issues of Madheshi communities in the new constitution through the Constituent Assembly (CA); however, they decided not to agree on the demand for ‘One Madhesh One Province’. CPN-UML General Secretary Jhalanath Khanal said, "We had an elaborate discussion on how to clear the present political stalemate and we concluded that the deadlock should ultimately be lifted through a political commitment." CPN-Maoist leader Mohan Baidhya (Kiran) said that the meeting decided to find a political conclusion respecting the demands of Madheshi lawmakers. "They should give up the demand for ‘One Madhesh One Province’ for a consensus," he said adding that the demand for one province was not included in the earlier agreement with the Madhesh-based parties. [2]

Two major parties such as CPN-Maoist and CPN-UML have reached a consensus on not to incorporate the demands of Madhesh-based parties for ‘One Madhesh One Province’ and ‘collective entry’ of Madheshis in the security forces in the Interim Constitution of Nepal with an amendment to it. The parties held a meeting at Naya Bazar in the residence of Maoist Chairman Prachanda and agreed to stand united against Madheshi demand for ‘One Madhesh One Province’, as the entire Madhesh could not be a single province. "Whole Madhesh cannot be a single province as it cannot be acceptable for whole Madheshis. With this decision, so many oppressed minorities of Madhesh will be deprived of their rights," Bhim Rawal, a CPN-UML leader present in the meeting said. Rawal said that however, both the patties agreed to address Madheshi’s demands except for ensuring the whole Madhesh as one province and allowing collective entry of Madheshis into the security forces. [3]

At a meeting with the leaders of the Madhesh-based parties held in his official residence at Baluwatar on Friday, June 27, 2008, Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala assured them of incorporating their demands in the Fifth Amendment to the Interim Constitution. "I am committed to the agreements that the government reached with different groups and I will incorporate your demands in the amendment completing due process," Sadhabhavana Party Chairman Rajendra Mahato quoted Prime Minister Koirala as saying. "With assurances of Prime Minister Koirala and positive signals from the CPN-Maoist Chairman Prachanda, we are hopeful that the government will incorporate our demands in the amendment bill before Saturday’s meeting of the legislature parliament," Mahato said. "If the government does not bring the amendment with our demands incorporated, we won’t let tomorrow’s meeting proceed," he added. Leaders of the three Madhesh-based parties such as Madheshi Janadhikar Forum, Terai Madhesh Loktantrik Party and Sadhabhavana Party had also met with CPN-Maoist leaders at Singhadurbar in the afternoon. Emerging from the talks with Madheshi leaders, Maoists Chairman Prachanda said, "We cannot agree with the demand for ‘One Madhesh One Province’ but we are positive about implementing earlier agreements with Madhesh-based parties." "Prachanda expressed his consent to our demands and said that the Maoists would try to address their demands through consultations with other parties," Sadhabhavana chairman Mahato said. [4]

On July 01, 2008, CPN-UML leaders such as CPN-UML General Secretary Jhalanath Khanal, leaders Bharat Mohan Adhikari and Ishwar Pokharel held dialogue with the leaders of the Madheshi Janadhikar (People’s Rights) Forum (MJF) to end the stalling of the CA proceedings failed. The CPN-UML leaders advised the MJF leaders not to seek incorporation of key points of the agreement signed between the government and Madheshi parties in the Interim Constitution but the latter did not budge. "We could not agree with them as they were not ready to incorporate our demands in the Interim Constitution through the Fifth Amendment to the Statute," MJF Chairman Upendra Yadav said. The CPN-UML leaders told the MJF that they were ready to issue a political statement on the points of agreement but MJF leaders countered them saying a political statement would not help implement the agreement. "Their understanding of Madhesh is not clear. They do not know who the Madheshis are," Yadav said, adding that the CPN-UML sought MJF's support to end the current political deadlock without substantially addressing the concern of Madheshi parties. [5]

On June 30, 2008, Senior Maoist leader Dr Baburam Bhattarai said that only the sovereign CA could decide the number of federal states and that the issues raised by three Madhesh-based parties should be settled through a political understanding. “It is within the purview of the CA to decide how many federal states there should be in the Madhesh or the hills,” Dr Bhattarai said after a meeting of the CPN-Maoist, NC and CPN-UML at the Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction. The Madhesh-based parties such as Madheshi Janadhikar Forum, Terai Madhesh Democratic Party and Sadhabhavana Party have been obstructing the CA session demanding the incorporation of the February 28 agreement reached with the Madheshi parties in the Fifth Amendment to the Interim Constitution. [6]

Leaders of the CPN-Maoist, CPN-UML and Tharu Kalyankarini Sabha and experts have termed the demand for "One Madhesh One Pradesh " was wrong. Chief whip of CPN-UML in the Constituent Assembly (CA) Ram Chandra Jha said it was meaningless to insist on "autonomy" when almost all the political parties have agreed to restructure the country in a federal model. "As the federal system itself includes the right to self-determination, representation, cultural determination and self-legislation, it is meaningless to just insist on autonomy," Jha said at an interaction program organized by the Patriotic Republican Unity Campaign in Kathmandu on Tuesday, July 01, 2008. Jha said while the people have only recently toppled a centralized system in the country, no one would support the idea of creating a similar type of centralized single state of the entire Terai region. "Such an idea is to undermine several other indigenous, religious and ethnic minorities within the Terai districts stretching from the eastern to the far-western districts," he added. He criticized the notion of two peoples: people of the hills and those of the plains. "A theory of two nations within Nepal will take the nation towards disintegration," he said, adding, "This is the same kind of theory that divided Hindustan into India and Pakistan." However, BP Yadav of the Madheshi People's Rights Forum (MPRF) accused the NC, the CPN-UML and the Maoists of backtracking from the agreement reached with the United Democratic Madhesh Front in the past. Raj Kumar Lekhi of Tharu Kalyankarini Sabha (Tharu Welfare Society) warned of strong protests if the government and the CA approved the demand for ‘one Madhesh one pradesh’. "All the indigenous, ethnic and dalit communities will jointly revolt against it," he said. Prof Mahendra Singh said the Terai people are in favor of federalism but not of a single state of the whole Terai. "One such state cannot have sub-states within itself," he said. [7]

“Nepali Leaders’ ploy to convert the Tharus into Madheshis will not be tolerated,” said Raj Kumar Lekhi (Tharu), General Secretary, Tharu Welfare Society, Nepal. He said, “Let me tell you very frankly that if the Government of Nepal heeds to that very particular notion as raised by Madheshi leaders, ‘One Madhesh-One Province’, the Tharus will create a havoc sort of situation in the country immediately and the situation thus could not be controlled by the State. This move is already challenging the identity of the Tharu Community and we will not comprise at any cost. If the clever invaders of the Nepali Terai: the Madheshis are demanding a separate State the so-called Madhesh that is not even within Nepal’s geographical surface, the Government of Nepal is not obliged to act upon such self created territories. There is no place for Madhesh in Nepal. Nepal is made of Mountain region, Hilly Region and the Terai region; there is no Madhesh here at all. Thus the motive is simply to form the replica of the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh: Madhya Desh in ancient times. The Madheshi leaders who have been illegally demanding the entire Terai plains to be declared as the One-Madhesh must understand that the lands, which the Madheshi leaders claim to be theirs is in effect, a land inhabited by the Tharus primarily since time immemorial-much ahead of the Madheshis. The ploy to convert the Tharus into Madheshis is not acceptable and that the Constituent Assembly must ensure the sovereign rights of the Tharus and the dalits, indigenous peoples and others living in the Terai. [8]

Advocate Mr. Satya Mohan Joshi (Tharu), Asia Law Chamber said, “First, we are not Madheshis but we are proud to be the sons of the soil: the Tharus. A colonial mindset is undermining the rights of the Tharus and we in this community suspect that some invisible forces are provoking others to ignore the ground reality which will time permitting boomerang on them who have designed such a ploy to keep the Tharu community out of the Terai under one pretext or another. Sorry to say that the Madheshi politics is more centralized and to the utter dismay of the Tharu Community does not accept the existence of other communities. This is unfortunate. We are clear in that the invisible forces have encouraged some Madheshis in the name of so-called Madhesh in order to displace the Tharus and that we would not tolerate any design that is at par with what King Mahendra said once that All Nepalese were Panchas and vice versa. The Tharus are not Madheshis as defined by the United Nations Declaration on indigenous people and their rights, which categorizes the Tharus as a distinct indigenous community that is strikingly different than the Madheshis in many more ways than one.” [9]

President of the Sadhabhavana Party-Mahato, Rajendra Mahato said, “We have been demanding autonomous Madhesh not that our demand is “one Madhesh one Province” as is being understood by some. As per the agreement made between the State and the Madheshi alliance the agreed point is just the autonomous Madhesh. The forthcoming constitution amendment must incorporate the word “autonomous Madhesh” not the “One Madhesh One Province”. And be it known to all that there is only one Madhesh in this country and we are demanding autonomy for that.  Basically, the country can be divided into three parts, Mountain Region, Hilly Region and the Madhesh, that’s all. All three regions have their own specialties. We know that in Madhesh, there is the Tharuhat, Mithila, Bhojpuri, Kochila and Awadhi similar to Khumbuwan, Limbuwan, and others in the hills. We want the government to follow the agreement verbatim. If not, they have to tell us including Prachandaji and Madavji that the agreement was to fool the Madheshi community so that the Madheshis halt the ongoing protest programs prior to the agreement was signed. [10]

General Secretary of CPN-UML Jhalanath Khanal said, “The demand for One Madhesh One Province is dangerous both in nature and content. it is indeed a big threat to the country’s nationalism. We are also against declaring Mountain and Hill respectively as a single province. We will not let that happen. We will nevertheless, guarantee that in all three regions, Mountain, Hills and Terai are made of small provinces. Our Party believes that any decision on the formation of provinces such as Limbuwan, Khumbuwan, Tamsaling, Tharuhat, Bhojpura, Mithilanchal, Lumbini and others are to be made by the Constituent assembly, not by the party alliance, as it has no right or whatsoever to decide such critical issues that have far reaching impact on the nation-state. We can make political commitments only, we do not have the right to make any such decision. When the three party including the CPN-UML made the agreement regarding declaring the Madhesh as an autonomous region, I was not in Kathmandu. I was astonished as to how could such an agreement take place? The demand that the Madheshi leaders are raising now is more political than constitutional. We must seek political solution to those issues. The issues that can lead the country to disintegration in the long term should be discussed in the Constituent Assembly. [11]

President of Unified Nepal National Front (UNNF) Phanindra Nepal said, “The demand is completely unconstitutional, anti-national and finally aimed at disintegrating the country. A true nationalist cannot raise such a demand let alone accepting it. Even the government does not have the right to accept the demand for ‘one Madhesh one Province’. Basically, the Indian immigrants sponsored by the Indians to fulfill their ill motives in Nepal raise the demand. Knowing the motives behind the demand, first to acquire the Nepali citizenship and later demand a separate state, the government should instead take appropriate actions against those raising such demands and should forcefully quell them. The government should with immediate effect deploy Army or a paramilitary force at the Nepal India border. If not, the armed illegal immigrants from India will numerically swell in the Terai, which will be a big threat, the National security. The UNNF deplores and urges the Madheshi brothers to retreat from the secessionist demand and stop being manipulated by the expansionist India any more. If the government accepts such a demand, voices of discontent will soon be raised from the streets. In any condition, the illegal immigrants cannot be given the right to lead the country. [12]

Expressing serious concern over attempts to invent "Madhesh" which never existed in Terai of Nepal by resorting to "political blackmailing", ethnic Tharus have issued a strong warning against conspiracies to downplay their identity and existence. They also said that the CA has been turned into a "rubber stamp" to endorse such attempts. Thirteen different organizations working for the welfare of the Tharu community including the Tharu Welfare Assembly (TWA) issued a joint statement on Wednesday, July 02, 2008 in protest of efforts being made to turn the entire "Tharuhat Terai region" into Madhesh province through 'political blackmailing'. They said they would wage a movement against the deliberate attempt of what they called ‘Madheshisation’ of Terai and also announced a number of protest programs. "It is not very hard to understand that the main aim of this political blackmailing is to downplay the identity and existence of the indigenous communities living in Terai and turn them into Madheshis," the statement said, adding that the closed door meetings (between seven parties and Terai based parties) including political bargaining are all exercises to end the identity of the Tharus in their own land. Stating that the big parties are being compelled to meet the "One Madhesh" demand for declaring the whole of Terai (from Mechi to Mahakali) as an autonomous Madhesh state through threats and warnings, the Tharu organizations have said they would enforce a one-hour long transportation strike in Terai on July 4 and picket the CA venue on July 5. In the statement signed by General Secretary of TWA Raj Kumar Lekhi, an appeal has also been made to the civil society and general people to help stop "Madheshisation of Terai." Similarly, Chure-Bhawar Ekta Party (CBEP) representing the people of hilly origin in Terai has also raised objections against the demand for one Madhesh province, saying that it would sow the seed of disintegration. [13]

Indigenous people residing in the Terai region have objected the demand for ‘One Madhesh, One Province’ put forth by the Madhesh-based political parties. They have threatened to launch a strong struggle if the demand is met. Federal Republican National Front (FRNF), Chure-Bhawar Ekata Party and Nepal Loktantrik Samajwadi Dal have jointly announced a general strike in the Terai region on Thursday, July 03, 2008. Addressing a program in Kathmandu on July 02, 2008, representatives of the indigenous people said that the country would fall apart if the demand for ‘One Madhesh, One Province’ were met. The identity of more than five million people including those of the Tharu community will disappear if the demand is met. They also urged the CPN-Maoist, CPN-UML and NC not to kneel down to the Madhesh-based parties just because they disrupted the Constituent Assembly session. Madheshi People’s Rights Forum (MPRF) leader Kishor Kumar Biswas has also resigned from the party to express opposition against the demand. Similarly, Limbuwan National Council (LNC) affiliated to the FRNF has expressed its concern over the demand for “One Madhesh, One Province” forwarded by the Madhesh-based parties. Addressing a press conference Kathmandu on July 02, 2008, LNC Secretary Mikesh Hang said the demand for “One Madhesh, One Province” was not justifiable, as the Limbuwan community resided in the areas lying in the eastern region of the Arun River. [14]

Clearly, the so-called Madhesh is not a homogenous area. It has many different ethnic groups and indigenous people. So, the CA or the Government needed to define the word ‘Madhesh’ and ‘Madheshis’ before agreeing on a Madhesh province and the proportional representation of Madheshis in the services of the state agencies as demanded by some ethnic groups. Otherwise the leaders while trying to resolve one problem would create numerous problems possibly pushing the country into chaos. Let us stand all Nepalis united to resolve any problem of the integrity of the country.


[1], July 01, 2008

[2] The Rising Nepal of July 01, 2008, “Key parties agree to include Madhesh issues in statute”

[3] The Rising Nepal, June 30, 2008, “Madhesh cannot be single province, say Maoists, UML”

[4] The Rising Nepal, June 28, 2008, “Statute amendment will address issues of Madhesh: PM”

[5] The Himalayan Times, July 02, 2008, “UML Fails to Convince MJF to End House Disruption”

[6] The Himalayan Times, July 01, 2008, “Carving states CA task: Bhattarai”

[7], July 02, 2008, “One Madhesh, One Pradesh wrongheaded’

[8], “Debate One Madhesh One Pradesh”

[9] “Madheshi politics undermines the existence of Tharu community”

[10] Janabhawana Weekly, We want the government to follow the agreement

[11] UML press meet June 30, 2008, Political parties can make commitments…

[12], Demand aimed at disintegrating the country

[13] ag July 02 08 Tharus enraged over 'Madheshisation' of Terai, announce protest programs“

[14], July 02, 2008, “Indigenous Terai groups protest ‘One Madhesh, One Province’ demand”

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