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Who said what About One-Madhesh?

Issue 28, July 13, 2008

By Siddhi B. Ranjitkar

The Constituent Assembly (CA) members belonging to the Madhesh-based three parties such as Madheshi People’s Rights Forum (MPRF), Terai-Madheshi Democratic Party (TMDP) and Nepal Sadhabhavana Party-Mahato (NSP-Mahato) have been disrupting the regular business of the CA since June 26, 2008 demanding the inclusion of the Articles two and five of the Eight-point agreement reached between the United Democratic Madheshi Forum (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 Article two of the eight-point agreement is: 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 five of the eight-point agreement is: To make the Nepali Army inclusive and national, the government shall ensure the group entry of Madheshis and other communities into the Nepali Army in proportion to their population.

In fact, these Articles of the agreement reached between the government and the Madhesh-based political parties are subject to review at the CA floor. So, the government and political parties should not have any problem of including them in the Interim Constitution, as the CA is going to craft a new constitution. Then, the CA needs to pass every article of a new constitution by at least two-third majority. So, it is not obliged to include all of or any provisions made in the Interim Constitution that will remain in force for a period until a new constitution comes into effect.

On July 08, 2008, talking to the Radio Nepal in the morning program, one of the former activists of MPRF, Biswas revealed that half of the CA members obstructing the CA session were the supporters of the former king, and many more were the immigrants; they did not represent the local indigenous people; and they had no intention of representing them. The foreign interest groups had been motivating them to disrupt the CA session to meet their vested interest. The demand for One-Madhesh was not in the interest of anybody in Nepal. They had been shamelessly disrupting the CA session and it went against the democratic norms and values. Biswas told the Nepal Radio listeners that the resignation of Mahantha Thakur from the NC, and the formation of TMLP were done by the instigation of foreigners. In the name of exploitation of the Terai people by the then rulers of the 240-year Shah Dynasty, the immigrants have been exploiting the indigenous people and displacing them. [1]

On July 07, 2008, talking to journalists after the 10-party meeting, CPN-ML General Secretary CP Mainali said, "They want One Madhesh province from Jhapa to Kanchanpur. They have been rejecting the multi-provinces in Terai. So, the agreement could not be reached. Their demand is against the national sovereignty and integrity." [2]

On July 07, 2008, as a protest against the demand for ‘One Madhesh, One Province’, the Terai-indigenous groups have announced to set fire to the Article 63 of the Interim Constitution in Kathmandu and in some districts. The Article included the provision for changing indigenous groups of Terai into Madhesh. Tharu Kalyankari Sabha (TKS) leader Rajkumar Lekh said, “One Madhesh, One Province’ demand of Madhesh-based parties is a conspiracy to disintegrate the nation.” The Terai-indigenous groups have been staging demonstrations and organizing corner meetings in various parts of the country to protest the supplementary amendment bill brought about to address the demand of the Madhesh-based parties, as it is a betrayal to the indigenous and marginalized communities living in the Terai region. [3]

On July 07, 2008, while speaking at an interaction program held by Reporters’ Club Nepal in Kathmandu Vice-president of NC, Gopal Man Shrestha said, "Nepali Congress won't accept the demand for “one Madhesh one single state” as it will disintegrate and infringe upon the rights of other people living in the region for years." Parliamentary leader of CPN-UML Bishnu Poudel said that Madheshi parties had been trying to impose the concept of two national states. "It is not possible for the demand to materialize as it does not accept the existence of other indigenous groups living in the region," he said. Parliamentary leader Poudel said that the agreement reached between Madheshi parties and the Prime Minister was largely misinterpreted. He said that the agreement was made to provide autonomy to Terai region and make Nepali Army more inclusive, and not to establish the entire Terai as a single Madheshi state. However, leader of Sadhabhavana Party-Mahato, Rajendra Mahato claimed that they (Madheshi CA members) were only demanding implementation of the earlier agreement reached with the government. "I do not understand how the country will disintegrate after providing rights to Madheshi people," Mahato wondered. CP Mainali of CPN-ML alleged that the recent demand was instigated and promoted with the support of a powerful nation in order to disintegrate the country. "Agreeing to the demand is tantamount to dividing the country," he said, adding that the earlier agreement was not valid as it was reached bypassing the constituents of the seven-party alliance (SPA). [4]

After the meeting held at Peace and Reconstruction Ministry, among the leaders of CPN-Maoist, NC and CPN-UML and Madheshi parties such as MPRF, TMDP and NSP-Mahato, Chairman of the MPRF Upendra Yadav said, "It is the responsibility of the government to prepare the bill. We just want the bill to embody the spirit of the agreement reached between the government and us. Otherwise, we will continue disrupting CA meetings." Nepali Congress General Secretary Bimalendra Nidhi said the parties have concluded that the supplementary bill registered at the CA did not go far enough to address the Madheshi parties' demands. "So, the seven party alliance will meet again on Monday and decide which terminologies and provisions should be used to address the demands." Nidhi said the parties are considering whether to use terminologies such as "autonomous Madhesh province" or "Madheshi people's desire for autonomous province" or "the desire for autonomous provinces" in the bill. He said the Madheshi parties have shown some flexibility on the terminologies to be used in the bill. [5]

On July 06, 2008, at an interaction program held by Federation of Nepalese Journalists in Kathmandu civil society leaders urge to make CA functional. The civic society leaders said that the responsibility of resolving the problems should be given to the CA as it has now acquired the full shape after the remaining 26 of its members were inducted. Stating that the political parties have missed the bus in guiding the country toward a lasting peace, they stressed the need for concentrating on the long-term solution of problems rather than doing short-term damage control measures. Civil society leader Shyam Shrestha said, “the present condition is the result of the irresponsibility of the political parties.” He alleged that the political parties were neglecting the people’s mandate. Legal expert Shambhu Thapa said that the CA would not be totally guided by the Interim Constitution and the demand for one-Madhesh state was against the spirit of the Interim Constitution. Political analyst Nilambar Acharya said that the CA was the supreme body it would decide its agenda on its own. He said that the responsibility of finding an outlet from all problems should be entrusted to the CA. [6]

At the time when Terai-based parties have been obstructing the CA session demanding 'autonomous Madhesh province', indigenous Rajbanshis have called for a Kochila Pradesh in the eastern Terai of Nepal where they are in majority. They have announced to launch a series of protest programs demanding a Kochila Pradesh with full autonomy. Rajbanshi activists said that the demand for 'One-Madhesh province' and 'Limbuwan Province' was entirely unacceptable to them, as both of them did not recognize the autonomous Kochila Pradesh. Rajbanshi intellectuals say their demand for a separate autonomous province is based on the historical evidences that show the southeastern districts such as Jhapa, Morang, Sunsari were a part of the separate Koch Pradesh. [7]

On July 06, 2008, speaking at the Face-to-Face forum held by Reporters’ Club Nepal in Kathmandu, leaders of different political parties said that the voice currently raised in the name of one-Madhesh state was inspired by the ploy to divide the country and it has put the national sovereignty at stake. They said the slogan of Madhesh as a single province would not be in the interest of the Madhesh region itself and called upon the Madhesh-based parties for raising this slogan for creating a new Nepal based on the concept of multiple states in the Madhesh.

General Secretary of the CPN-ML, CP Mainali said that the eight-point agreement signed between the Madhesh-based parties and Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala was unconstitutional, as it was done against the provision made in the Interim Constitution of Nepal of 2007 that required all the political agreements should be done through the seven-party consensus. He said this agreement should not come into effect under any circumstances. Stating the demand for one-Madhesh state was bound to lead the country to disintegration, he said the efforts made on the entry of people from a particular community en block into the national army was an attempt to weaken and split the national army. He also alleged that people elected to the members of the CA by spending huge sums of money are now partners in the conspiracies to disintegrate the country by supporting the demand for one-Madhesh state.

Vice President of the Nepali Congress, Gopal Man Shrestha said the supplementary Bill for Fifth Amendment to the Constitution brought by the government addresses the demands for the Madhesh-based parties. He made it clear that the entire country was not in favor of one-Madhesh state.

Deputy leader of the CPN-UML parliamentary party, Bishnu Poudel said since nobody was above the Constitution, no one has the right to disrupt the meeting of the Constituent Assembly. He said the CPN-UML would never support the one-Madhesh state concept.

Central member of the CPN-Maoist, Top Bahadur Rayamajhi said his party would take to street protests if it were not allowed to form a government within few days. He said the present deadlock was created to stop the Maoists from forming a government.

Nepal Sadhabhavana Party leader Rajendra Mahato said the movement of the Madhesh-based parties was not directed against any one party and that it was for implementing the agreement signed by the government with the Madheshi parties. He warned the Madheshi parties would continue obstructing the CA session until their demands were met.

General Secretary of Tharu Kalyankari Sabha, Raj Kumar Lekhi said that the demand for one Madhesh state was against the desire of the majority of the people of Terai and warned of indigenous people and backward communities in the Terai launching an armed struggle if the government and the political parties met the demand for Madhesh as a single state in the name of the Terai people. [8]

On Sunday, July 06, 2008, CPN-UML General Secretary Jhalanath Khanal warned the Terai-based parties that they would "suffer a major set back" if they would continue to oppose the supplementary bill the Seven Party Alliance (SPA) decided to present at the CA for amending the constitution. He added that the supplementary bill would fully address the issues raised by the Terai-based parties. General Secretary Khanal also said that he sincerely hoped the SPA would reach a consensus with Terai-based political parties on the supplementary bill during their meeting later in the day, but added that if the Terai based parties still opposed the bill then the SPA would be compelled to think of "other alternatives". "The stance they (Terai-based parties) have taken now (for inclusion of 'Madhesh as autonomous region' in the interim constitution) is not in the best interest of the people of Terai including theirs too," he said talking to a local radio station on the Sunday morning program. Stating that disrupting the Constituent Assembly session was an irrational behavior, General Secretary Khanal requested the Terai-based parties to put their agenda for discussion at the CA and move ahead toward finding an agreement on them. [9]

Political analysts say that the likelihood of confrontational politics has increased after the Madheshi parties flatly rejected the decision of the government to introduce a supplementary bill to address their demands. Although the confrontation was averted calling off the CA session on Saturday, July 05, 2008, the same could happen on Monday, July 07, as both sides appeared to stick to their positions. The government’s move was further strengthened after a key alliance partner CPN-UML confirmed its position on the issue despite Madheshi protests. The CPN-UML leaders have said that all differences should now be settled on the CA floor. On the other hand, the Madheshi parties have started talking about launching another struggle. “We are ready to counter any move by the government. We will not be bound to abide by any decision taken without taking Madheshis on board,” said Mahantha Thakur, Chief of TMLP. As such, if the two sides did not reach to some understanding, the CA could become a playground for confrontational politics according to political analysts. [10]

The indigenous groups have claimed that the ‘One Madhesh, One Pradesh’ would infringe upon the rights of other backward classes and indigenous people living in the region since long time. On July 05, indigenous groups and various Tharu organizations staged a protest rally in Kathmandu against the demand for ‘One Madhesh, One Pradesh’. They have been staging demonstrations and organizing corner meetings in various parts of the country stating the supplementary amendment bill brought to address the demand of the Madhesh-based parties is a betrayal to the indigenous and marginalized communities living in Terai region. [11]
Kantipur Report

On July 06, 2008, speaking at a program held by Prabhat English Higher Secondary School at Thimi, Chairman of Nepal Workers and Peasants Party Narayan Man Bijukchhe said that the Madhesh-based parties’ demand for a single Madhesh was never acceptable. He also said that the February-28 agreement reached between the Madheshi parties and the government had compromised the integrity and sovereignty of the country. [12]

In Butwal at the interaction program on ‘Federalism and Constitution Making Process’ held by Nepal Bar Association’s Butwal Appellate Court Unit, speakers termed the One-Madhesh demand unscientific and condemned the concept of federalism raised by some Madhesh-based parties. They suggested the political parties to protect the nationality and sovereignty and move ahead with the constitution-making process. They said that foreign interest groups guided the One-Madhesh demand and it was the result of distribution of citizenship to foreigners in the past and that all should patiently work toward strengthening and institutionalizing the federal republic. [13]

On Saturday, July 05, 2008, CPN-UML Chief Whip Ram Chandra Jha said that those not even having love for their mother tongue were raising the demand for "One Madhesh Province". Jha himself belongs to the Madheshi community said that he was utterly surprised after he saw 64 CA members of Terai-based parties taking their oath in Hindi. "That (Hindi) is not their language," he retorted while speaking at a program organized to felicitate CA members elected from Sindhuli-1. Most of the CA members from the Madheshi community belonging to Bhojpuri or Maithali communities although well proficient in Hindi have their own language quite different from Hindi. He also accused the CA members of Terai-based parties of "trying to appease others" by taking their oath in Hindi. Although he didn't elaborate whom he meant by "others", he was clearly referring to India. "Madheshi people have always been deprived of all sorts of opportunities. But instead of working to ensure that they do get the opportunities, the Terai-based parties are trying to push the country into disintegration," he said. [14]

On Saturday, July 05, after the training session held for its CA members on ‘the existing political situation and the role they should play in the CA’, talking to the reporters, Senior Maoist leader Dr Baburam Bhattarai asked the Terai parties to stop obstructing the CA proceedings. "If the Madheshi parties have reservation over the proposed constitution amendment bill, they can register another bill in the CA," he said. He also reminded them that their move would prevent new constitution from being drafted. [15]

Tug of war has been going on between the pro and against one-Madhesh-one Province. Their demand for one Madhesh without recognizing the need for autonomy to the Tharus and so on indicate that they want to emerge as the rulers of the Madhesh. So, their demand for One Madhesh disregarding other indigenous communities has emanated from the love of taking the place of the Shah rulers otherwise they would honor the wishes of other communities for their autonomous provinces. Madheshi people would not be able to rule over the people of other communities in Terai, as nobody could run the administration without respecting the people’s desire for self-administration in other words autonomous provinces for the people of different communities. Nobody could even dream of ruling over anybody by force as did the Shahs in the past. Only with the understanding and cooperation, anybody could run the administration but not by force. So, there is a least chance of the pro one Madhesh people winning the game even if they are successful in forcing the government to include their demand in the proposal for amending the Interim Constitution, ultimately, they would be the losers. If the CA members continued to obstruct the regular business of the CA gathering at the rostrum and shouting slogans it would certainly lead to confrontation between the pro and against the demand for one-Madhesh and to political chaos. Nobody will win the confrontational politics. Nobody has the rights to hold the CA as a hostage


[1] Radio Nepal, Morning Program, July 08, 2008

[2] The Rising Nepal, July 08, 2008 “Meet inconclusive”

[3], July 07, 2008 “Terai indigenous groups continue protests”

[4], July 07, 2008, “Leaders dismiss ‘one Madhesh’ demand”

[5], July 7, 2008, “New bill to address Madheshi demands”

[6] The Rising Nepal, July 7, 2008, “Civil society urges”

[7] ag July 07 08, “Rajbanshis, too, rise for separate autonomous state”

[8] The Rising Nepal, July 7, 2008, “Sovereignty at stake from 'one Madhesh' demand”

[9] ag July 06 08, “Terai parties will suffer major set back if they oppose bill: UML gen secy”

[10] sd Jul 06 08, “Parties head towards confrontation over Madheshi issue”

[11], July 06, 2008, “Terai indigenous groups to continue protests against ‘One Madhesh’”

[12] The Rising Nepal, July 06, 2008, “February 28 pact against national integrity: Bijukchhe”

[13] The Rising Nepal, July 07, 2008, “February 28 pact against national integrity: Bijukchhe”

[14] July 06 08, “Terai based parties pushing country into disintegration: Jha”

[15] ps July 05 08, “Maoist CA members complain of party's 'weakened role'”

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