Posts filed under ‘Reports’

Tarai-Madhes Searching for Identity Based Security

Situation Update:                                                                    88 October 14, 2009

Tarai-Madhes :Searching for Identity Based Security

  • Bishnu Pathak, PhD*
  • Devendra Uprety**

Peace, justice and freedom must be major components of any future security in Nepal. However, Nepal’s transition is deepening in crisis due to the growing ranks of rebel forces, particularly in the Tarai-Madhes. While the State fails to deliver security to the ordinary people, particularly in countryside, the peace process of Nepal is endangered, justice is delayed, and freedom is restricted. The migration of hill-and-mountain dwellers out of the Tarai-Madhes has not stopped. The people who remain in such places have had much to fear. The cases of extra-judicial killings, forceful disappearances, torture, extortions, rapes and so forth continue. To understand this unfortunate state of affairs, it is necessary to delve into a brief history of the region.

Understanding the Tarai-Madhes

Nepal is divided into three areas topographically; Mountains1, Hills2, and Tarai-Madhes3. The Tarai-Madhes, though the flattest and most accessible part of the country, remained isolated until the mid 20th century due to malaria-infestation4. This area stretches from the Indo-Gangetic plains to the Himalayan foothills and connects the plains culture to the hill culture. Constrained between the Mechi River in the east and Mahakali River in the west, it makes up about 23 percent of the total land area of the country. With an average elevation of less than 100 meters (in sharp contrast to the highest Mountains in the world), the average length and breadth of the Tarai-Madhes are about 900 km and 70 km respectively5. The Tarai-Madhes incorporates 20 out of 75 districts, including close to half the 26 million population of the country. The region was annexed into Nepal during the unification period, beginning in the mid 1770s, by Prithivi Naarayan Shah. However, much of the ancient Tarai-Madhes areas, ruled by various kings and principalities for centuries, are now in the Bihar and Uttar Pradesh states of India6. The Anglo-Nepalese war between 1814 and 1816, and the resulting Treaty of Sugauli and subsequent treatieswith British India further reduced the Madhes region. The outer Madhes areas south of Dang and Chitwan valleys were previously under Indian Territory7. Banke, Bardia, Kailali and Kanchanpur districts within this region were once called the ‘New Nepal’ as they were ceded to Nepal by the East India Company in appreciation of the service of Nepali Gurkhas in suppressing India’s independence movement. The label “Tarai-Madhes” is of relatively recent public socio-political discourse in Nepal. The word “Madhes” is derived from the Sanskrit word Madhyadesh8 (middle country), collectively called Madhises or Madhesiyas. Even Manusmriti and Vinayakpitak, have indicated that it is attached to ancient historical traditions9. The Madhyadesh distinguishes the plains from the hill region or Parbat, from which is derived the meaning of Pahade (hill and mountain dwellers) in modern Nepal. A Madhesi, therefore, originally meant an inhabitant of this region10. Similarly, the Tarai (Nawalparasi to Kanchanpur districts) refers to the fertile strip of low-lying land sandwiched between the hills of southern Nepal.

In recent days there has been an issue of severe contention. Tharu, being of native origin, prefer to call the region the Tarai, whereas some others in the region prefer to call it the Madhes. In Tharu language ‘Tar’ means low, leading some to claim that the word “Tarai” is derived from the Tharu language.11 Others obviously disagree, as Wikipedia states:

“The Terai (“moist land”) , or (“foothill”) in Persian language, is a belt of marshy grasslands, savannas, and forests at the base of the Himalaya range in India, Nepal, and Bhutan, from the Yamuna River in the west to the Brahmaputra River in the east12.”

The resolution of this issue is beyond the scope of this update. However, the issue itself serves to highlight one of the overarching socio-cultural conflicts; the struggle for national identity between the indigenous ethnicities of the Tarai-Madhes, and the relatively recent immigrants from India (since the eradication of malaria). Tarai- Madhesi groups interact with each other, immigrants from the hills, and the rest of the country, in different ways.


The Tarai-Madhes is a less recognized area of study than many others in Nepal13; however, there are several works on the Tarai-Madhes that have been studied time and again by non-native and native scholars. Among the non-native scholars, Gaige14 (1975), Byrne15 (1999), Krauskopff16 (2000), Guneratne (2002)17, Anderson (2004)18, Bernando (1999)19, and among the native Bista20 (1991), Dahal21 (1996), Hachhethu22 (2007), Gupta23 (2004), Jha24 (1997), Lawoti25 (2001), Chaudhary (2065 BS) 26, Chaudhary (2064 BS)27, Panjiar28 (2000), Yadav29 (2003), Pathak (2007)30 Yadav (2060BS)31, can help in understanding the multiple dimensions of the region.

History of Discrimination and Injustice

In 600 BC, Shakya kings ruled the mid western Madhes. Gutam Buddha, who was born in 563 BC belonged to the Shakya (Tharu) dynasty. Similarly, Tarai-Madhes kingdoms were established in Simraungarh in the present day Bara district32. Indeed, several kingdoms were established and ruled by many dynasties. These states perished with time and the land was reclaimed by forests33. Gaige writes: “The ancient and medieval history of this region is a cyclic one in which men and forests havedominated in turns34.” King of Mithila, Hari Singh Dev, defeated by Mugals in 1324, arrived in Bhadgaon (present Bhaktapur) and formed an army of Mithila. Approximately 240 years ago, during the unification of the small warring states, Prithvi Narayan Shah defeated the Sen dynasty Kings of Madhes and then captured Kathmandu valley. When Prithvi Narayan Shah attacked Kathmandu in 1774, Jaya Prakash Malla countered with a 12,000 strong Mithila army, that had been known as Tirhoot army. Shah demolished the Tirhoot army upon conquering it. Following this, the dispute with the East India Company and greater Nepal intensified while the post-Prithvi regimes continued to attack weak principalities. Soon, the dispute of Butwal triggered the Anglo-Gorkha War 1814- 1816 AD. It seems somewhat unclear whom the local people supported, but the literature indicates that Madhes dwellers were closer with the British East India Company35. W. Brook Northey writes that a large number of undisciplined volunteers fought against Gorkha during the Anglo-Gorkha war36. The Treaty of Segowlee (Sugauli Treaty) presented on December 8, 1816 states “the Rajah of Nipal agrees to refrain from prosecuting any inhabitants of the Tarai, after its severance to his rule, on account of having favored the cause of the British Government during the war”. So, it seems there was a lot of dissatisfaction among native Tarai dwellers against the ruler of Gorkha37. Though Article 7 of the memorandum on the Sugauli Treaty mandated that the Nepali government would not take any action against the people living in the Madhes, many Madhesi dwellers were, nonetheless, ill-treated, tortured, and punished on the charges of treason. In this way, the consequences of the actions of the elite landlords overflowed to the common Madhesi. The Madhesi were alleged to be ‘followers of British and adversary of Nepali’ and their recruitment into the army was stopped38. It had not been resumed in the later regimes until now. The Madhesi have felt this an insult, as they were excluded from the national security force (and more likely to suffer brutality as a result). Subodh Kumar Sing writes that after the unification, Shah Rulers saw the virgin Tarai as a source of revenue and distributed land to the king’s family members, courtiers, and to army generals and colonels to garner their support39. Just after the Tarai integration into the Gorkha Kingdom (present Nepal), a number of conflicts erupted with the native Taraian people. Native Saptari people seemed to be uncooperative with Gorkhali at the beginning of 1774. A letter of Abhiman Simha from the period states that for salaries to troops and to meet other expenses, the revenues had been collected in the Tarai areas from Ambarpur and Vijayapur40. During the Rana Regime, prior to 1950, because of their strong relationship with the British, the latter was silent about the ill-treatment of the Madhesis. One form of discrimination toward the Tarain-Madhesi at the time was that they had to obtain visas to visit Kathmandu issued by the elite Kathmandu-based government from the Badahakim (Regional Administrator)41. Mahesh Chandra Regmi writes that both the pre-Rana and Rana rulers viewed the Tarai as a colony, and regularly granted large tracts of land to others. Sometimes even whole areas were captured for themselves, their families and their Bhardar as Birta (granted land) to loyal senior officials.42 However, the ruling elites, both Shah and Rana, did not have an interest in developing the Tarai in their long-term perspective. They feared that such development would not only attract a flood of British colonialism, but were also afraid that it would open the door to revolutionary ideas from south India.

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PO Box 11374, 214 Rohini Marg, Purano Baneswar, Kathmandu, Nepal. Tel: +977-1-6218777


November 2, 2009 at 6:01 pm 1 comment

Trouble in Terai

An Excerpt from

Nepal: A Failing State or a State in Transition?

Oliver Housden

F E B R U A R Y 2 0 0 9

IPCS Research Papers


III. Trouble in Terai

Militant Identity Politics

The Terai is the most unstable and deeply troubled region of Nepal. Despite being Nepal’s industrial and agricultural heartland, it is wracked by lawlessness and sporadic violence which has escalated out of the control of local and state security forces. Militant groups representing the interests of not only the Madhesis, but also other numerous ethnic and caste groups, are increasing. To make the situation more complicated, the Terai is also plagued by a host of criminal activities, ranging from petty smuggling to regional counterfeit currency rings, which are linked to armed political activity.


Historic Madhesi Grievances

The Madhesi cause has been catapulted to the fore of Nepali politics ever since the Jan Andolan II in spring 2006. While it would be beyond the scope of this paper to provide a deep analysis of the Madhesi movement, it is important to reiterate that Madhesis have historically felt marginalised by the paharis (hill people) who they feel, have dominated political, social and cultural life in Nepal, on the basis of their culture, religion and ethnicity.74 Indeed, “modern Nepali nationalism, largely conceived and institutionalised in the latter half of the twentieth century, [that] was shaped around the monarchy, Hinduism and the Nepali language,” is a concept that Madhesis feel is deeply restrictive and discriminatory against their culture.75


Madhesi Armed Groups

While there are numerous pro-Madhesi armed groups, the main actors are the Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha – Jaya Krishna Goit (JTMM-G), JTMM-Jawala Singh (JTMM-JS), Akhil Terai Mukti Morcha (ATMM), the Nepal Defence Army, Madhesi tigers, Terai Madhesi Mukti Tigers, Terai Cobra, Terai Liberation Force and the Madhesi Virus Killers.76 It is important to note that many of these are former Maoists77  – such as Jawala Singh and Goit – and the organisational structure and recruitment strategies of these groups mirror the CPNM during the civil war.78 Crucially, the speed with which new groups have been formed means that they have little time to consolidate their structures. Bickering between group cadres, that has increasingly become defined by inter-caste squabbles, often leads to factional divides which threatens the loose association of most armed groups in the Terai.79 Thus, they are prone to constant splintering and reforming as new groups. As a result of their weak organisational structure, it is also difficult to determine the goals of these groups. Although most armed Madhesi rebels espouse ‘regional or Madhesi autonomy’,80 their ultimate goals are unclear. So too is their relationship with mainstream Madhesi political parties, as they have not agreed upon a “common party or individual to represent them.”81


More is known about their military capability and source of weapons. The flat physical geography of the Terai means that these groups do not have the natural advantages of the hills for successful guerrilla training and warfare which the Maoists enjoyed. Moreover, most analysts believe armed Madhesi groups are poorly armed and trained. In an interview with an ATMM military commander, I was told that their military arsenal consisted of small arms which are smuggled over the India-Nepal border, often through Bihar.82 Nevertheless, the rapid proliferation of armed groups means there is a severe information deficit about their long-term strategies and political ambitions.


Other Ethnic and Religious Minorities

The Limbuwans

By rapidly opening the political arena to ethnic minorities, “ethno-politics has become a major paradigm for reclaiming social space” in Nepali politics.83 The Terai, no different than any other region of Nepal, is host to numerous ethnic minorities which have begun expressing their grievances through violence and do not associate themselves with the Madhesi movement. An important illustration of this phenomenon are the Limbuwans. The Sanghiya Limbuwan Rajyaparisad [Federal Limbuwan State Council (FLSC)] has demanded that nine Districts lying east of the Arun River – Panchthar, Taplejung, Terhathum, Sankhusabha, Ilam, Jhapa, Dhankuta, Sunsari and Morang – should be declared the Limbuwan State.84 They have resorted to sporadic violence and organized strikes which have caused considerable disruption to hundreds of workers and brought everyday life to a standstill.85


The Tharus

In early November 2008, the Autonomous Tharuhat National Council created the Tharuhat Liberation Army in the farwestern district of Kailali with the intention “to make the revolt of the indigenous people successful”.86 Indeed, Mr. Laxman Tharu, one of the primary instigators of the movement said, “The government of Nepal has so far ignored the demands of the Tharu community and that we want the entire Tarai plains of Nepal be declared the Tharu Autonomous Region [and]…if our demands are not met with within three months, we are ready to wage yet another peoples’ revolt.”87 Indeed, the Tharu intelligentsia in particular, fundamentally object to being referred to as Madhesis and wish to distance themselves from “all Madhes, one state.”88 What is more, reports of Tharus requesting donations from villagers, especially in Dang where there is a large Tharu population, in support of their insurgency have now become increasingly common.89 However, the Tharu intelligentsia is too disaggregated from grassroots support to pose a huge threat to local security forces. The Tharu community is scattered over a wide area and only in several districts do they have a majority.90 Laxman Tharu has also admitted their arsenal is not particularly sophisticated.91 As a result, raising an effective insurgency is highly unlikely. However, this will not preclude further low intensity violence in Tharu regions that is bound to lead to displacement and violence against many innocent civilians.



The difference of political opinions within the Muslim population, which stretches across the Terai, is striking. While most Muslims in the East and especially around Biratnagar tend to support the MJF, in mid and far western regions, support for other political parties, such as the CPN-M, UML, as well as the MJF, is mixed.92 It is important to stress that Muslims as of yet, have not become militant. On the contrary, Muslim participation in civil society is beginning to flourish in some corners of the Terai.93 However, there has been speculation for some time that an increasing number of madarasas in the Terai have been funded by organisations in the Gulf with radical agendas.94 Such accusations, predominantly emanating from the Indian Intelligence authorities, have also maintained that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) operates along in the Terai in order to exploit the open border for anti-Indian activities.95 Indeed, the hijacking of an Indian Airlines plane which was bound for Delhi from Kathmandu on Chrsitmas Eve, 1999 was by a Pakistani who had allegedly been living in Nepal – an incident which soured Indian-Nepali relations.96 While there is no smoke without fire and the ISI is most likely to have some presence in the Terai – such as ISI’s links to counterfeit currency which shall be discussed below – it is difficult to provide a clear picture. Indeed many claims about ISI’s influence in Nepal are either unsubstantiated or exaggerated by the Indian government to deflect from their own intelligence failings.97 In order to reduce low-intensity violence in the Terai, Madhesis have to be included into the political process.98 On the face of it, initial developments under the new coalition government were encouraging, with the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (MJF) forming part of the current ruling government coalition.99 Indeed, the new Constituent Assembly is the most inclusive and representative political institution ever created in the history of Nepal.100 Madhesi political parties and their grievances therefore, now occupy considerable political space in Kathmandu. However, for Madhesis this is simply rhetoric and many do not feel they are adequately represented in the government. For instance, although they are in government they are not involved in major political committees, neither do they have enough top jobs in relation to their representation of the population. At the grassroots level, many Madhesis have not seen any visible change either. As one local told me, “whenever and wherever I go [to the bank, police station, hospital] all I see is pahari.”101 Therefore if change is going to be deep and long lasting, the psyche in Kathmandu must transform dramatically to include ethnic and caste minorities into central and local politics. However, there is also an onus on the Madhesi leadership to shift the direction of the movement. Popular feeling in the Terai towards Madhesi cadres is beginning to change, as disillusion grows towards both the political process and fear of armed groups. As Prashant Jha notes, one of the big questions for the future is which “political force will capitalise on this growing disillusionment with the Madhesi outfits and the resultant political vacuum.”102 Secondly, the Madhesi movement has already begun to exhibit the same caste and hierarchal ambivalence towards smaller, more marginalised ethnic minorities as say those paharis who had historically oppressed them. The Tharus and Muslims in the far west in particular, are frequently dismissed by Madhesi intellectuals as “backward,” “simple” or “who don’t understand or know what they want.” The Madhesi movement accuses major political parties, and particularly the CPN-M of provoking their cause in order to drive a wedge into India,” Seminar Report for IPCS, CLAWS, Delhi, 23 September 200 Madhesi solidarity.103 While this is partially accurate, it is also grossly patronising to assume that Muslims or Tharus cannot think for themselves. Many Muslims in the mid-west, for example, continue to support the CPN-M because they were the first and only party in their manifesto to advocate positive discrimination and political representation in favour of Muslims.104 Furthermore, the Limbuwans who demand autonomy for nine states, several of which are in the Terai, present another challenge to the Madhesi movement. As the major ethnic-based party in Nepali politics, Madhesi parties and especially the MJF must recognise these demands in their political discourse and the new political landscape of Nepal. As with the difficulties over the shape of federalism, accommodating such a disparate range of demands will be far from easy; but to ignore such voices would increase the possibility of more groups resorting to violence to achieve their goals.


Criminal Gangs and Activities

Other than groups with a political agenda, the Terai is host to numerous criminal groups as well. Yet, as with armed Madhesi groups, there is a gaping information deficit about the source and actors involved in criminal activity. However, there are several observations which can be noted. Firstly, the source of this problem in many respects is similar to that of armed political insurrection. Historic exclusion from politics and economic under development have left many ethnic, religious and lower caste minorities adrift and with minimal choices and opportunities. Depending on where one is in the Terai, it is common to find that the most marginalised groups tend to be involved in criminal activities. For example, Muslims in the mid-west and especially in Nepalgunj, who are more illiterate and unemployed than other groups, have been involved in smuggling sugar, detergent or oil. 105 The open border has facilitated the growth of criminal activity in the Terai. This is certainly not a new phenomenon as the porous nature of the border has been exploited by the illegal importation of timer, the drugs economy, and stone and pebble smuggling for cheap construction materials in India.106 However, more worrying was the recent discovery of counterfeit currency in Birgunj in November 2008. The scale of the operation – Nepal is the primary conduit of fake Indian currency in the subcontinent – is particularly worrying.107 As Bhaban Singh, an elected member as the CA member notes, the amount of Rupees currently being smuggled suggests that “politicians and policemen are involved in the fake currency racket. Otherwise how can so much cash come in through Kathmandu?”108 What is more, the Indian government maintains the racket was organised by Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) Agency in order to “fund terror and subvert the Indian economy,”109 once again fuelling speculation about the presence of ISI and radical Islam in Nepal. This evidence illustrates the conceptual problem of defining the source of unrest in the Terai. It is almost impossible to disaggregate political and criminal activities because they are often linked to one another. This is not only illustrated by the alleged links between ISI and the counterfeit currency ring but also by the supply of weapons by criminal gangs to armed political groups. Thus, the problem in the Terai is both a socio-political and law and order issue. Yet this is not solely because of an ineffective government in Nepal. The open border facilitates illegal activities as India, especially Bihar, has become a safe haven for criminal and armed political actors.110 Thus, the Indian government must engage with Nepal to improve collaborative governance to bolster security in the Terai.111 What is more, the lack of information about these groups severely limits the mandate of what peace talks can realistically achieve. Research centres, such as the Asian Study Centre for Political and Conflict Transformation, want to work on this issue, but since it is seen as bottomless pit, the study remains drastically under funded.112 However, the collection of reliable data about key actors in the Terai would be a huge step forward in aiding the peace process.



74 Data on the presence of ethnic or caste minorities indicates that Madhesi claims that they have been excluded from politics in favour of the Pahari, upper castes, are legitimate. The representation of Madhesis in Cabinet or constitutional bodies has traditionally been a fraction of the paharis. In Koirala’s cabinet in 2001, Madhesis held four out of possible 25 Ministerial posts; only two Madhesis were members of Constitutional bodies (versus 17 Paharis) and four Chief of Government Corporations and Committees, whilst paharis constituted the 52 other available posts. Table 9, Madhesi Representation in Cabinet, Constitutional Bodies and other Important Posts, in Amresh Kumar Singh, “Restructuring of the Nepali State: A Madhesi Perspective,” in Nepal : New Frontiers of Restructuring of State, ed. Lok Raj Baral (New Delhi: Adroit, 2008), 111.

Furthermore, as of 2007, the Proportional ShareIndex (PSI) rating of Terai Madhesis vis-à-vis their representation in the National legislature was 0.66, despite constituting 33 per cent of the national population. Conversely, the PSI of Bahuns and Chetris stood at 2.58 and 1.04 respectively, Table 8: Representation of Different castes and Ethnic Groups in National Legislature, [according to the 2007 Interim Constitution] in Ibid.: 110

75 International Crisis Group (ICG), “Nepal’s Troubled Tarai region”, Asia Report N°136, 9 July 2007, 2-5, south_asia/136_nepal_s_troubled_tarai_region.pdf


76 The ATMM, Pawan Giri-led SJTMM and JTMM-J, formally unified into the Terai Janatantrik Party in January 2009. See “Three Terai rebel organisations unite,”, 14 January 2009.

77 The Maoists sought to incorporate the Madhesis into the insurgency during the Nepali civil war. Throughout the conflict, the Maoists mobilised ethnic minority participation in the insurgency. Indeed, their success depended on these ties. Whilst Madhesi involvement in the conflict came much later in the conflict, their support nevertheless became extremely important in building the strength of the rebellion. The CPN-M’s calls for greater regional autonomy and self-determination certainly resonated with the Madhesi movement. However, the Madhesis quickly became disillusioned with the Maoists for failing to implement and act upon their pro-Madhesi rhetoric. In 2004, some Madhesis in the Maoists Jawala Singh and Jai Krishna Goit, separated, to form the JTMM. Subsequently, the number of armed groups in the Terai towards the end of the civil war grew and violence increased after the ceasefire in late 2006 and early 2007 (See International Crisis Group (ICG), “Nepal’s Troubled Tarai region,” Asia Report N°136, 9 July 2007. 78 U.N. Security Council, “Secretary-General Report on children and armed conflict in Nepal,” December 2006, 6

79 Prashant Jha, “Madeshi movement splintered by caste and militancy,” Nepali Times, 21-27 November 2008 lainSpeaking/15293

80 The major exception was the ATMM which demanded total Terai/Madhesi secession from Nepal, but after their unification with JTMM-JS and Pawan Giri, it is unclear whether their ultimate goal will be independence or regional autonomy.

81 “Nepal: Talks crucial to prevent upsurge in Terai violence – rights groups,” IRIN News, 21 October 2008 024

82 One can assume they are low-grade weapons, given the low-intensity nature of violence and small-scale attacks in the Terai. Author’s interview with ATMM District Commander for Sunsari District, Sunsari, 13 November 2008

83 D. Kumar, ”Nepal’s Future: Order in Paradox,” AAKROSH, Vol.11, No.40, (July 2008): 35

84 The FLSC’s vision of federal Nepal is an arrangement of autonomous regions demarcated along the traditional boundaries of ethnic groups. SATP, “Nepal: Assessment 2008,” x.html

85 “Nine eastern districts reel under Limbuwan bandh”, 30 November 2008; “FLSC strike cripples eastern Nepal for 2nd day”, 1 December 2008,

86 “Tharuhat Liberation Army is formed”,, 4 November 2008, 4/news06.php

87 “Nepal: Tharu Revolt imminent if identity ignored,” Telegraph Weekly Magazine, 25 October 2008, s_id=4497

88 Ibid.

89 Author’s interview with (Anon) civil society leader, Nepalgunj, Banke, 15 November 2008

90 See “Nepal National Population Census, 2001,” Central Bureau of Statistics, 2001, Kathmandu,

91 “Nepal: Tharu Revolt imminent if identity ignored,” Telegraph Weekly Magazine, 25 October 2008, s_id=4497

92 Author’s interview with Abdul Satar Ansari, Muslim civil society figure, Madhesi Intellectuals Society, Biratnagar, 10 November 2008.

93 Muslim civil society figures such Hasan Ansari, Head of the Eastern Nepal Civil Society (Biratnagar), Imam Haida, senior figure of Jamiyantul Olma Nepal, have sought to register madrasas with the Nepali government and the Fatima Foundation, a women’s rights organisation in Nepalgunj

94 Author’s interview with Ambassador K.V.Rajan, Institute for Higher Education (IILM), Delhi, 30 October 2009

95 For more, see International Crisis Group (ICG), “Nepal’s Troubled Tarai region”, Asia Report N°136, 9 July 2007, 2-5, south_asia/136_nepal_s_troubled_tarai_region.pdf

96 “Nepal suffers Hijack Fallout,” BBC News, 25 February 2000,

97 In an Indian intelligence report about ISI and madarasas in the Terai, the Shisul Uloom madrassa was accused of training and supplying Islamic militants. Not only is this madrasa tiny – 2000 square feet – it is surrounded by a big Hindu population who would have quickly reported any suspicious behaviour. Author’s interview with Imam Haida, Shahbazia Madrasa, Biratnagar, 11 November 2008

98 International Crisis Group (ICG), “Nepal’s Troubled Tarai region,” Asia Report N°136, 9 July 2007, 32, south_asia/136_nepal_s_troubled_tarai_region.pdf

99 ICG, “Nepal’s New Political Landscape,” Asia Report N°156, 3 July 2008, 10

100 Oliver Housden, (Ambassador KV Rajan), “Emerging Situation in Nepal and Implications for

101 Author’s interview with local villagers in Biratnagar, 11 November 2008

102 Prashant Jha, “Madeshi movement splintered by caste and militancy,” Nepali Times, 21-27 November 2008

103 Author’s interview with Abdul Satar Ansari, Muslim civil society figure, Madhesi Intellectuals Society, Biratnagar, 10 November 2008; Author’s interview with MJF Biratnagar Youth leader, Rangali, Morang, 11 November 2008; Author’s interview with Rajendra Prashad Sah, senior MJF and civil society leader, Sava’s Inn Hotel, Biratnagar, 12 November 2008

104 Author’s interview with Vice-President of Fatima Foundation, Nepalgunj, 15 November 2008

105 Ibid.

106 Author’s interview with Prashant Jha, Lalitpur, Kathmandu, 4 November 2008

107 VK Shashikumar, “Real or fake?”, Nepali Times, 31 October – 6 November 2008

108 VK Shashikumar, “Politicians and police are involved. Otherwise how can so much fake currency be smuggled?”, Nepali Times, 31 October – 6 November 2008

109 Ibid.

110 For example, both Jai Krishna Goit and Jawala Singh live in Bihar

111 Given the porous nature of the border and the fact that many Indians and Nepalis use the border everyday, politically and logistically, closing the border is a non-starter.

112 Author’s interview with Manish Thapa, Asian Study Centre for Political & Conflict Transformation, Kathmandu, 7 November 2008

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May 13, 2009 at 7:11 pm 1 comment

King George V’s Hunting in Terai Nepal in December 1911 Part I

King George V’s Hunting in Nepal in December 1911 Part I

About the photographs
These 50 photographs depict scenes of the shikar, or hunt, the hunted animals and the hunting camps of King George V in the Tarai in December 1911. The photographs feature the wild animals of the Tarai including tigers, bears and rhinoceroses, the use of the elephant “hunting ring” technique, the activities of the mahouts (or elephant trainers/handlers) and shikaris (or hunters) as well as the various dignitaries involved in the visit. Each individual photograph has a pencilled number, but no caption. The captions have been supplied by the ANU Library.

Hunting party on elephants fording a river. River is probably the Rapti. The hunting parties camped on the banks of this river during the hunt.


Slain tiger. There were a total of 39 tigers killed during this hunt.


Camp, with George V’s bungalow
Hunting party on elephants fording a river. River is probably the Rapti. The hunting parties camped on the banks of this river during the hunt.


George V and the Maharaja consult on foot. Other members of George V’s party, Nepali soldiers and shikaris are in the background.
Hunting party inspects the head of a slain rhinoceros. There were a total of 18 rhinoceroses killed during this hunt.


George V stands in his howdah.
George V’s party used two camps during the trip. The first was at Sukhibar on the Rapti river where the party encamped for five days, then the party moved to a second camp at Kasra, some eight miles farther up the river for the remainder of the trip. The second camp duplicated the first. The Maharaja of Nepal was in a separate camp lower down on the Rapti river. His 14,000 followers camped hidden in the jungle behind.
George V takes note of the number killed – 3-4 tigers and a bear. There were a total of 39 tigers and four bears killed during this hunt.
The tiger is camouflaged in the grassland. There are ominous shadows in the foreground.


A tiger lies in a stream, with the ring of elephants in view in the background. The “ring” is a method of hunting peculiar to Nepal. The hunters mounted on elephants form a “ring” and move in on their quarry, which has previously been stalked and enclosed in the area surrounded by the ring. [On the first day of the hunt, 18th December] “… the first tiger [was] shot by His Majesty in mid-air as it was leaping a small stream.” Historical record of the Imperial visit to India, 1911, p. 230.

The album

The album consists of 16 pages and 50 photographs. It appears incomplete with the back cover missing. The front cover bears the company name Herzog & Higgins, Mhow (Central India) and the words “Bound at the Caxton Works, Bombay” inside the front cover. The album was discovered in a rural Indian home in Madhya Pradesh by the donor, Dr U.N. Bhati, Visiting Fellow, Economics and Marketing, School of Resources, Environment and Society at The Australian National University. The album was given to Dr Bhati by a distant relative who had worked for the former Maharaja and Maharani of Ratlam (in Madhya Pradesh), Mr and Mrs Parbinder Singh – who had given him the album.


King George V

King George V’s reign began on 6 May, 1910. He was determined to visit India as soon as possible afer his coronation in London (22 June, 1911), in order to be crowned King/Emperor of India in Delhi. His advisors considered that an actual coronation ceremony was inappropriate, and suggested that he be presented as the crowned King/Emperor of India and receive the homage of the Indian Princes and rulers while he was seated upon his throne. This took place at a Durbar in Delhi on 12 December, 1911.

The King was passionate about shooting. After the Coronation Durbar in Delhi, he was looking forward to spending as much time as possible big-game shooting in Nepal. During his previous visit to India as Prince of Wales in 1905-1906, his planned shooting trip at the invitation of the Maharaja of Nepal had been cancelled due to an outbreak of cholera in the region. Before his 1911 visit, Maharaja Chandra Shamsher Jang Bahadur Rana, Prime Minister and ruler of Nepal from 1901-1929, had again invited him for a shoot in the Tarai region. Nepal’s political power was held by the Rana family, which had instituted a system of hereditary Prime Ministers in the mid-19th century. The King of Nepal, who only held an honorary position, died a few days before King George V’s planned trip, but had insisted before his death that the visit should not be cancelled.

The King travelled by train to Bhikna Thori in India, a few hundred metres from the border with Nepal. He proceeded by motor car to the first day’s shooting ground. After about 20 kilometres, they reached the valley of the Rui river, from where they mounted elephants and proceeded into the forest. The king shot his first tiger while it leapt a small stream. That day the party killed four tigers and three rhinoceroses. The camp for the next five days was at Sukhibar, on a bend of the Rapti river, with the forest behind. “The river flowed past the camp in a broad and placid stream, forming a splendid foreground to the open jungle on the other bank, while occasionally in the distance a view could be caught of the snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas.” (Historical record of the Imperial visit to India, 1911, p.230)

On 23 December, the camp moved to Kasra, eight miles farther up the river Rapti. The Maharaja’s entourage, who were in a separate camp further along the river, numbered 14,000 including 2000 elephant attendants. After Divine Service on Sunday 24 December 1911, the Maharaja presented the King with a collection of over seventy varieties of animals indigenous to Nepal. During the hunting that followed Divine Service on 25 December, nearly 600 elephants formed the “ring”. The King shot the largest tiger of the expedition on that day. On the last day of the visit, 28 December, the King reviewed a Brigade of four Nepalese regiments on his way to the hunting ground. The total number of animals killed during the hunting trip was 39 tigers, 18 rhinoceroses, and 4 bears. (Historical record of the Imperial visit to India, 1911, p.231-233)

Background on The Terai and the Hunt

The Tarai region of Nepal is a narrow strip of flat land bordering India. Being part of the plain of the river Ganges, its southern area is very fertile agricultural land. Its northern part is marshy and abounds in wild animals. Today, part of this area forms the Royal Chitwan National Park, a Natural World Heritage Site. The Nepali Rana rulers had used this area as a royal hunting reserve from 1846 to 1951, and had maintained a good supply of game for themselves and their guests through the strict enforcement of game laws. “The forested areas of the Tarai are the home of tigers and leopards, gaurs (wild ox), occasional elephants and buffalo, and many deer … The Lesser Rapti Valley, in the Chitawan district, is one of the last homes of the great Indian rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis).” (Encyclopaedia Britannica, s.v. Nepal).

Adrian Sever describes the King’s shoot as follows: “An army of beaters was employed for weeks before the event to drive into a selected area all the big game that inhabited the warm damp jungles of the western Tarai . . . some forty points were selected within the area chosen for the shikar, and kills, usually goats, were tied up so as to establish the number and location of tigers and leopards. They were then hunted in uniquely Nepalese style. The tiger that was reported overnight from a kill was encircled by an enormous ring of elephants and held until dawn and the arrival of the guns. At times, as many as 250 elephants were employed for one circle. As the tiger approached, the ring was contracted until the great cat’s escape was cut off. Upon the arrival of the visitors, ten or twelve specially trained elephants were introduced into the circle, which, in some cases was as much as 200 metres in diameter. These proceeded to form a line and march into the patch of jungle in which the tiger was hidden.” Eventually, the tiger was flushed out. (Sever, pp.246-247)


Encyclopaedia Britannica. S.v. Nepal.
Fabb, John. India : the British Empire from photographs. London : Batsford, 1989.
Fulford, Roger. Hanover to Windsor. London : B.T. Bataford, 1960.
Halperin, John. Eminent Georgians : the lives of King George V, Elizabeth Bowen, St. John Philby, and Nancy Astor. New York : St. Martin’s Press, 1995.
His Imperial Majesty King George V and the princes of India and the Indian Empire : historical-biographical. Compiled by K. R. Khosla; edited by R. P. Chatterjee. Lahore : The Imperial Publishing Co., 1937.
The historical record of the Imperial visit to India, 1911 : compiled from the official records under the orders of the viceroy and Governor-General of India. London : Pub. for the Govt of India by John Murray, 1914. [Hyperlink to text of pp.228-233]
Nicolson, Harold George. King George the Fifth : his life and reign. London : Constable, 1952.
Rose, Kenneth. King George V. London : Weidenfeld And Nicolson, 1983.
Sever, Adrian. Nepal under the Ranas. Sittingbourne [England] : Asia Publishing House, 1993.
Smythies, Olive. Ten thousand miles on elephants. London : Seeley Service, 1961.

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April 19, 2009 at 7:38 am 4 comments

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