Madhesis: A Political Force in the Making?

July 16, 2006 at 11:40 am 8 comments

By- K Yhome
ORF, New Delhi, 5 July 2006

Redrawing a new Nepal would be tougher than perceived. As Nepal struggles to find a solution to the decade-old Maoist problem, voices, hitherto unheard, are emerging in the wake of the democratic space created by the ‘April Revolution’ or the ‘Jan Andolan’. At a time when Nepal prepares itself for major social and political restructuring, on 2 June 2006, the Loktrantrik Madhesi Alliance or Democratic Madhesi Alliance (DMA) began a week-long ‘Gherao programme’ to highlight their plight. The DMA is a united platform of various Madhesi groups. The aim of the DMA is to ensure that Madhesis are not left out in the process of building a new Nepal. Until now the Madhesis had been fighting against ‘injustice’ under the aegis of various organizations and political parties that included the Terai Congress, the Nepal Sadbhavana Party (Anandi Devi) and Nepal Sadbhavana Party (Mandal) among others. Of the many ‘minority’ ethnic groups of Nepal, the Madhesis have put forward their demands before the government more strongly after the Revolution. An understanding of Madhesis and their demands is integral to understanding what is at stake in Nepal today.

The Madhesis of Nepal are the lowland people, occupying the strategic Terai belt bordering the Indian states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Uttaranchal. They include different cultural and linguistic groups – Maithilis, Bhojpuris, Awadhis, Tharus, as also some smaller tribal groups. The Madhesis claim that they form 40-50 per cent of the total population of Nepal. Since the Madhesis occupy the most important lifeline of Nepal, it is obvious that activities in the Terai would have immense implications for Nepal. The domestic economy of Nepal depends overwhelmingly on this region that forms its industrial hub with more than 70-80 per cent of all industries located in the Terai, as also its agricultural bowl, producing more than 65 per cent of the nation’s foodgrains.

The Madhesi issue is as old as the emergence of Nepal’s democratic movement in 1950s; major grievance of that time was the imposition of Nepali as medium of education. In the mid-1970s and 80s, issues of citizenship and ‘work permit’ were the major problems for the Madhesis. For the last fifty years, they have been raising their voice against alleged ‘discrimination’ by the state, yet their problems remained unresolved. Their major demands continue to revolve around questions of citizenship and political participation. The DMA claims that even today five million Madhesis have been denied citizenship.

During the ongoing agitation, the demands the DMA has put forward include issuance of ‘citizenship to all stateless Madhesis before elections to the Constituent Assembly’ (CA), ‘Establishment of Federal, Democratic Republican political system’, ‘Proportional Representation for Madhesis in all state structures’, ‘Proportional Representation for Madhesis in the CA election’, and ‘Fresh Census on a scientific basis before elections to the CA.’ To concede to the Madhesi-specific demands, Nepal’s government may have to break its traditional apprehensions and narrowly defined ideologies and policies.

The Madhesis seem to have understood that this is the best moment to herald a better future for their people. Hence, the Madhesi leadership will make every effort to pressurize the government and ensure that their demands are realized in the new dispensation. They have, for the first time, garnered the courage to stage a gherao in the capital of Kathmandu. Such an occurance would have been unimaginable some years ago and an important reason for this change is the April Revolution. It is unclear whether all the Madhesis will stand united under the DMA banner until their demands are achieved. The schisms between various Madhesi groups have been a major handicap of the Madhesi movement in the past. Differences in terms of religion, caste, tribal groups and language were the major divisive elements. These divisions still remain the movement’s vulnerabilities. However, this does not make the movement a non-starter. Despite the many differences and divisions among them, one of the most important uniting factors that binds all the groups together is the sense of being ‘discriminated against’. The Madhesis’ strength also lies in the fact that this is the first time that they have come together under one Madhesi umbrella to stage a protest in Kathmandu. This suggests a realization by the Madhesi leadership of the weakness afflicting their movement so far. Another source of strength lies in the support they have received from other minority communities facing similar problems.

In the changed political context, the movement surely has the potential to carve out a space for the Madhesis in the new polity and in redefining Nepal’s political structure. At the same time, it is also one of several potential fissures that have arisen as a consequence of the Jan Andolan of April 2006.



Entry filed under: Reports.

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8 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Sunil Adhikari(Yadav)  |  July 24, 2007 at 5:02 am

    ok we have to fight for ur rights n we have to make our madesh our.

  • 2. Tashi Pemba  |  April 26, 2008 at 2:26 am

    Comment about Madhesies and their plight in the entire sub-Himalayan belt.



    Unfortunately the worthies of both south and north block have historically and are even today missing not only the proverbial woods but much much more in their analysis of the entire gamut of consequences that are going to result from the new neo-Nepalese movement..

    The Indian trader is the van guard of our culture and ethos in any country. .He is the bravest of us risking his all in distant foreign cultures and always succeeding against the odds in guarding Indian values and thoughts in very difficult surroundings often critical and inimical to his success..

    When will we learn that when we turn a blind eye to—- nay even encourage and allow—- basic anti Indian feelings, thoughts and behaviour to be articulated in every day life against our Indian traders, be they ever so lowly and vile in the eyes of the “educated” Babus of the embassies, we thereby establish the failure of Indian diplomacy right there and then and lay the foundation stone of all future Hate India campaigns that are bound to be engineered —because all people realize all to soon that a government which does not value and protect its best citizenry is up for sale and open to insults without repercussions..

    The constant giving in by India to outrageous demands often targetted against India’s basic security interests has encouraged a new sense of Nepalese chauvinism as evident not only in the Gorkha community of Nepal but more alarmingly in the Nepalese of Darjeeling and Sikkim hills .

    Thus blatantly Nepal under Maoist control is demanding a revision of the Indo- Nepal treaty with Nepal insisting that all the benefits of the open border for Nepal continue while whittling down the protection given to Non-Nepalese ( read Indians) given by the treaty and south bloc ( to cover a potentially explosive situation resulting from the miss- reading of the Nepalese scene ) is now preparing to placate Prachanda by again conceding basic Indian interests as protected by the treaty of 1950.

    India basely compromised on basic principals when it gave in to Bhutan by allowing eviction of Nepalese from Bhutan and as a hidden consequence it also gave up equal treatment protections for Indian required from Bhutan by treaty.. Today the government of India turns a blind eye to blatant discrimination of Indians in Bhutan and lauds itself for successful diplomacy!!

    As a result the Nepalese have learned that Government of India will sacrifice basic values and policies without any thought just to buy peace for any petty problem they can engineer as they are aware that Delhi has no time for peripheral India.

    As a direct consequence Nepalese chauvinism is taking directly Anti-Indian tones in its intellectual thrust and on the ground in Nepal and more importantly at home in Darjeeling ,Jalpaiguri and Sikkim the consequences are all to evident..

    1. In Nepal as soon as Prachanda gets rid of the King his first political target will be to crush and destroy the very recent Madhese power base which has developed.(Madhesies are of-course hated and reviled as Indians)
    However without absolute control of this populous and productive region no Government in Nepal can survive and Prachanda rightly calculates that India ever willing to buy peace when threatened will succumb when threatened by Nepalese backing the growing Moaist threat in India.. India will quickly agree to sacrifice the Madhesi cause for political and economic freedom in return for a temporary peace but India will once again gain nothing as Prachanda’s threat will remain as blackmail chip against India for ever..
    (Note China who would never countenance any such threats will be encouraging these activities from the sidelines.)

    2. In Darjeeling Bimal Gurung has the Bengal Government by the hip and will soon have his Mini-Nepal as the Bengali Communists are ready to through in the trowel and will now allow the new state minus Siliguri which they are ridiculously protecting from even peaceful Nepalese processions by posting armed cadre at the entry points of the city.
    Here to the interests of the minority Bengali, Bihari and other plains people known locally as Madhesies or “Indians” will be sacrificed to buy peace (and all important Siliguri town) from the proposed Gorkhaland State now a foregone conclusion.

    3. In Sikkim the proof of all the above is already evident in black and white as

    A. the government flouting all constitutional norms, requirement and safeguards has reserved 95% jobs in even the private sector for a specially created category under which the beneficiaries are the 75 % Nepalese Majority of the state . The deprived people are again the Madhesies.

    B. Similarly the Government has also built up a plethora of Municipal rules specifically to prevent the Madhesi community from getting even petty trade licenses in this state. Thus even surpassing Kashmir this state is barred for Indians (Madhesies) unless they are rich Indians and have million of dollars to invest in lotteries and hydel projects which fund the political parties who work against India’s interests.

    C. Recently under the continuous secret haranguing of the state government the central finance bill is set to make into law provisions that will deny
    a. Any Sikkimese women married to an “Indian” not only the political rights of her offspring but also her constitutional rights of inheritance and all this to prevent any “Indian” from gaining political rights in the projected racially pure Nepalese state.
    b. Stopping benefits under the Income tax act to Madhesies of a hundred years history while allowing the same benefits to similarly placed Tibetans of 50 years and less ancestry and Nepalese with only 20 years ancestry.

    D. I n the recent delimitation exercise in Sikkim Bureaucrats from Delhi worked at the behest of local political masters to break up three important constituencies Gangtok, Singtam and Jorethang all having substantial Madhesi (Indian) voting blocs. Each constituency was divided into two constituencies so that Madhesi political power could be whittled down to become ineffective. Ironically the Madhesies who are considered forward were in each case put into reserved scheduled caste / tribe constituencies.

    It is quite evident that the bureaucrats in Delhi and their political masters are either not doing their job or are incapable of doing their job and are selling the interests of India and creating states which will ultimately prove anti-national with tendencies to blackmail the centre into further concessions ad infinitum and this is the charitable viewpoint.

    The other viewpoint of the Indian Bureaucrat ready to pass any law or scheme in return for his cut is widely prevalent in the North Eastern states. Thus no N.E. state bothers with Accountant Generals or accounts which are in general woefully missing. Each State is aware that each secretary is for sale as he always wants his favourite businessman to be sanctioned each big scheme that he releases for the state and the planning commission will take its cut for the plan funds and the well paid officers of the central government are only to happy to cover up accounting deficiencies by blaming it on the backward tribal who cannot keep accounts or as necessary payment for preventing potential insurgency.

    In Sikkim China is known as “Mama” and the Nepalese traditionally turn for help to their mother’s brother when they find going becomes tough in their fathers house.

  • 3. Vivek  |  September 9, 2008 at 6:58 am

    You are the cancer in Hinduism. People like you weaken Hindu faith. Indian Hindus will drown you in spit.

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  • 6. tabi  |  March 9, 2015 at 6:49 pm

    Bijay jee I agree with all your view except political unification with india. It will be better if the political ties with china is enhanced,comparatively china is more advanced in all respect compare to india!

    I want to throw some light on the perception of so called real nepali.the incident is 20yrs old, my brother and dad went to sugarcane managers office in the factory for some payments.that manager was close friend of my dad.Seeing my brother,the manager exclaimed” ooohhhoo wasi jee tapai ko choro nepali jastai dekhencha” my brother replied” nepali jastai haina nepali nai haun” he was just 15yrs then.
    This is real fact and there are hundreds of example which shows the the degraded mentality of pahadi people showing themselves as true is time they have to acknowledge the wrong doing and correct their deeds else there will be clash of different ethnical groups in nepal which will be devastating for country’s betterment. I am a Muslim and I am a proud nepali,,these so called true Nepalese cannot steal my identity.

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