Democracy is incompatible with the concentration of power
Democracy is incompatible with the concentration of power
Wall Street , US
The Nepali state lies defeated amidst its fallen political and economic pillars, and is experiencing the greatest political and social upheaval in its recent history against the backdrop of the Maoist Insurgency, which has gripped the nation since 1996 . The recent history of Nepal has been marked by constant political instability with the government changing 11 times in the last 10 years; the massacre of the whole royal family; and increasing intensity and violence of the Maoist uprising. In a wider context, the Maoist extremism and the general degradation of the country is a consequence of the failure of the Nepali state to recognize and address the needs of its diverse population politically, socially and economically.
There are many ethnic and cultural groups as well as indigenous peoples that live within the boundaries of Nepal. According to the 2001 census, there are about 62 ‘nationalities’ that speak over 65 different languages and dialects living within the political boundaries of Nepal. Geographically, Nepal is split into three regions: the plains Tarai in the south, the hills in the middle and the mountains in the North. The state of Nepal lies in the contact zone of Caucasoid and Mongoloid peoples. The majority of the Mongoloid people live in the north of Nepal while the Caucasoid people generally live in the hills and Tarai. The population can be broadly divided between the Paharis (hill or pahade dwellers) and the Madhesis (plain or tarai dwellers).
Throughout the history of the modern state of Nepal, but especially since 1990, when the panchayat system was overthrown in favor of multi-party democracy, there has been an increase in assertion of demands, employment of the language of rights, and plights for autonomy and self-determination made by various ethnic people and other marginalized groups in Nepal. Madhesis, constitute over 50 percent of the 26.5 million people of Nepal making them the largest marginalized ethnic group in Nepal. They live in the southern belt or strip of Nepal bordering the Indian state of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh and contribute 76 percent to the national budget through agriculture, trade and business .
Since the ‘unification’ of Nepal in 1769, Nepal has been dominated by one ethnic minority that actively marginalizes and discriminates against the other ethnic populations, especially the Madhesis, by exercising control over the political and social institutions and apparatus. Bahunbad (Brahmanism) as an ideology is the policy and practice of domination of one caste (Bahun-Chhetri-Newars), one religion (Hindu), one language (Khasa-Nepali), one culture (Hindu), one region (Kathmandu Valley), and one sex (male) over all the others . Especially after 1950, when King Mahendra came into power, the Nepali state has actively and effectively marginalized the Madhesis by often denying them citizenship, excluding them from the army and governmental positions, enforcing discriminatory language and education practices, and by pursuing deliberate resettlement of the Paharis into the Tarai.
Today, Madhesis are educationally, economically and socially backward compared to those residing in the hilly regions and are discriminated against based on their costumes, languages, art, social structure and are jeered at with derogatory words such as ‘madhise, bhaiya (brother in Hindi), and dhoti . Some of the demands made by Madhesis are the right to autonomy; political representation in the central government; equal rights for their languages in courts, in education, and in local and central administration; and an end to Bahunbad.
Given the current deterioration of the Nepali state, and its increasing resemblance to a ‘failed state,’ it is crucial for the government to address the grievances of the Madhesis as well as other groups in order to remain legitimate and sovereign institutionally as well as in the eyes of its people. The growing frustration of minority nationalities, ethnicities, castes and tribes is an important factor behind the growing popularity of the Maoists ‘people’s war’ as the movement is capitalizing on the frustrations of the ethnically discriminated youth to fuel their insurgency. Therefore, it is crucial now more than ever for the state to look beyond Bahunbad and the Kathmandu valley in order to ensure that Nepal does not become a breeding ground for insurgencies and insurgents.
This paper traces the discriminatory policies and practices of the Nepali state towards the Madhesis and presents a case for the devolution and decentralization of state power in order to institute a real inclusive democracy instead of a disguised monarchy.
Brief Historical Background
In order to critically engage in a historical analysis of how the Nepali’s state political and social apparatus has evolved to discriminate against the Madhesis, it is important to have a general understanding of the history of Nepal and the formation of the state.
The modern history of Nepal can be traced to King Prithvi Narayan Shah of the Gorkhali principality who ‘unified’ the neighboring principalities around Kathmandu (the present day capital of Nepal) in 1769 and paved the way for subsequent Kings to continue the conquer and annex conquest. By the early 19th century, the final boundaries were demarcated after a defeat at the hands of the Chinese in the north in 1792 and a similar defeat at the hands of the British in 1816 during Nepal’s ambitious expansion conquest in the south . By 1959, when the last principality of Bajhang lost its sovereignty to Nepal, over 60 principalities had been conquered and annexed to constitute the modern state of Nepal. All of these principalities resembled nation-states as they fulfilled all the criteria of nationhood: language, religion, culture, territory and a history of nationhood .
However, since the Shahs were Hindu Indo-Aryans, Hinduism was instituted as the state ideology based on the Muluki Ain of 1854 which was a written social code based on the classic Vedic code and was biased in favor of the dominant Bahun, Thakuri and Chhetri hill castes. Similarly, Khasa-khura (now called Nepali) was made the state language . It is important to note that the Muluki Ain was silent about the status of the Madhesi castes and did not even bother to include them in their detailed stratification of ethnic groups and castes. Since its inception, national identity and later Nepali nationalism has been rooted in the image of hill Hindu elites and their Nepali mother tongue. Kathmandu valley has remained the kernel and the nucleus of the nation, and even today, elders (such as my grandfather and older family members) refer to Kathmandu as “Nepal” and do not think of themselves as being a part of ‘Nepal.’ It is very clear even today that the state remains to be unified socially and economically and is a long way from resembling an integrated ‘nation’ in the eyes of its people.
The Shah dynasty ruled Nepal from the time of Prithvi Narayan Shah to 1856 when the Ranas forcefully took over. From then on, the Ranas became the de facto rulers of the country until 1949 when the Rana regime was overthrown by the Nepali Congress with the help of remnants of the Shah family. In April 1949, the Nepali Congress established a democratic government with a place for the Shah King as a figurehead with some power. India, which had recently gained its impendence from the British, also supported the movement to overthrow the 104-year-old Rana dynasty and was the first country to recognize Nepal as a sovereign country . However, to the grave disappointment and defeat of the democratic vision of the Nepali Congress, King Tribhuvan vested all the executive, legislative and judicial powers in himself by a special act in 1954 and the Shah dynasty was restored once again under the pretense of a “partyless panchayat” system.
Thus began the 30-year dominance of the partyless Panchayat instituted by King Mahendra (King Tribhuvan’s son) with all powers vested in the monarchy. In the Panchayat era, the definition of national culture was constructed on the premise of ‘anti-Indian sentiment’ partly manufactured by King Mahendra at the outset. With civic rights such as freedom to organize and freedom of expression seriously restricted, the members of the Nepalese ethnic groups were prevented from displaying any dissent in public . As noted by Gaige, the Nepali state has been losing its legitimacy since the advent of the panchayat system as it failed to expand its political, social and economic domain outside the nucleus of Kathmandu valley and remains dominated by high-caste officials and politicians .
In 1990, the monarchy was overthrown by a popular revolt and a new constitution was instituted confirming Nepal as a multinational (bahujati) and even a multilingual (although, the constitution retained Nepali as the national language) country. A multiparty democratic system was instituted with a constitutional monarchy at the top. As the last decade has shown, the reforms introduced in 1990 were never implemented. Furthermore, as of 1996, the Maoist Insurgency has caused great social and political unrest and instability in the government and is threatening to bring down the regime.
Moreover, in 2001, the Crown Prince massacred ten members of the royal family, including the king and the queen, and then took his own life. This massacre caught the whole country by surprise, and took out the very foundation that had held together the Nepali state and government since 1769. In October 2002, the new king, Gyanendra, dismissed the prime minister and his cabinet for “incompetence” and dissolved the parliament . Subsequently, scheduled elections could not take place. The country is now governed by the king and his appointed cabinet, who are trying to negotiate a cease-fire with the Maoist insurgents.
Discrimination of the Madhesis
There are factors that have contributed to the marginalization of the Madhesis by the Nepali state. Before discussing how discriminatory practices have been instituted into the social and political apparatus of the Nepali state in order to actively marginalize the Madhesis in the Tarai, it is important to understand how prejudiced views against them developed in the first place. Why is it that the Nepali state views the Madhesis of the south as inferior beings and treats them as second class citizens?
The general discriminatory attitude of the successive governments towards Madhesis is evident by the deliberate exclusion of the Madhesis in the Muluki Ain 1854, which painstakingly stratified all of the ethnic and tribal groups into the Hindu hierarchal social order. Furthermore, another integral component leading to the discriminatory attitude of the government and the subsequent marginalization of the Madhesis can largely be explained by Nepal’s relationship and attitude towards its neighbor on three sides: India. The answer to this lies exclusively in the Indo-Nepal relationship and the general distrust and anti-Indian sentiment that prevails in Nepal. Since Madhesis culturally, ethnically and physically resemble Indians, they are perceived as Indians by the Paharis (hill people) and there exists a direct correlation between the intensity of hatred and discrimination towards Madhesis and state of the Indo-Nepal Relationship at any given time.
Geopolitically, Nepal is wedged tightly between the two superpowers of Asia — India and China. It has always found its landlocked nature, with no access to sea, to be stifling and constraining when conducting economic and political relations internationally. As a result, it has felt the need to assert itself as a sovereign and independent nation in order to avoid being overpowered by either India or China. Nepal has played China against India strategically to advance its motives and agendas and therefore, its relationship with India have always been rocky .
The great Himalayan Mountain ranges and the cushion of the state of Tibet help to assuage its fear of Chinese annexation and domination. However, the open and permeable border in the south with India, arouses great fear in the Nepali state of Indian domination or its forceful annexation given that the Madhesis in the south are more culturally similar to Indians in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. Furthermore, many Nepalis were and increasingly becoming more fearful of the growing economic ties between India and Nepal, and see India as a ‘neocolonialist’ power. They fear that Nepal will be assimilated into the Indian economy, cultural, and political sphere and lose its national identity .
A brief historical analysis of the Nepal-India relationship sheds light into possible explanations of the distrust and root of the fear of the Nepalese towards the Indians. King Mahendra played on all these fears and developed an exaggerated and magnified Nepali identity fundamentally based on anti-Indian sentiment so that Indian influence in all aspects of Nepalese life could be reduced .
It is important to note that both the Shah and the Rana dynasties maintained good diplomatic relationships with the British in India. In fact, in the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 in India, when some divisions of the Indian Army revolted against the British rule, the Rana king at the time sent Nepali military troops to help the British suppress the rebellion . Previously, the same Rana King (or prime minister) had gone on a friendly tour to England and France to establish relationships in 1850. In 1950 when the National Congress overthrew the Rana dynasty, the Treaty of Peace and Friendship was signed with India. Under the Treaty, each government agreed to acknowledge and respect the other’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence; to continue diplomatic relations and facilitate economic relations as well as grant equal rights to each other’s citizens in each other’s territory . However, it was during restoration of the Shah regime and ascendance of King Mahendra to the throne in late 1950s, that Nepali state took a different turn in regards to its relationship with the new ‘India.’
King Mahendra resented India for supporting the National Congress movement to implement democracy in Nepal. He can be accredited as the single most influential individual in arousing anti-Indian sentiment in Nepal. After coming into power, he dissolved the National Congress Party and promulgated a new Panchayat constitution in 1962 making himself the prime source of authority . He was equally resentful of India when it offered political asylum to the former members of the National Congress that he exiled. He wanted to be an absolute king with utmost authority, and was therefore deeply suspicious of India. He was afraid that India would try to undermine him by supporting another uprising to punish him. As Gaige states, “Although the fear of Indian domination, cultural as well as political, existed before 1951, it has since become an often-repeated theme in the public debate” . King Mahendra incited this same anti-Indian sentiment among the traditional elite and educated Nepalis of the hill origin in order to elicit support to survive the nationalist movement . As a result, the 1950s and 60s saw stricter reformulation of the citizenship and language laws, and the advent of the government sponsored resettlement programs to deliberately disadvantage the Madhesis.
The Nepali government has strategically pursued government sponsored resettlement policies in order to promote the ‘Nepalization’ of the Tarai. These resettlement projects do successfully change the cultural equation in the Tarai since most of the people chosen to migrate to the Plains are the upper castes Paharis. These upper caste Paharis are able to quickly assert themselves in the plains filled with lower caste inhabitants. The hill Brahmins and Chetris are comparatively well educated and have more capital and leverage with which to acquire land.
Furthermore, they tend to be more aggressive in economic, social and political matters because of their blatant disregard and disrespect for the people of the Tarai Madhesi communities. The government-sponsored settlers also have support of the local government officials in addition to being well connected to more important officials in Kathmandu . Interestingly and ironically, Israel (with its own baggage of resettlement programs in Palestine) funded the resettlement project of Nepal in addition to sending their trained personnel to ensure its success . The organized migration by the Nepali government sponsored resettlement projects have proved to an effective and efficient instrument for (a) dilution of (the) Madhesi population of Tarai. It also effectively changes the power structure so that Paharis are in control of the political and economic apparatus in the Tarai.
The government has utilized ‘citizenship’ rights strategically in its active discrimination of the Madhesis by making it as difficult as possible for Madhesis to acquire citizenship. Citizenship legitimizes one’s relationship with a nation and grants access to power within the nation. As Gellner articulates, “Citizenship is a bond between the individuals and the government of a nation and, therefore, important in the process of national integration ”. Changing the rules and requirement around the acquirement of citizenship throughout history reflects the changing attitudes of subsequent leader’s attitudes towards the Madhesis.
Citizenship legislation was reformulated in the 1960s by King Mahendra in order (to) make it harder for people in the Tarai to obtain citizenship. The distinct basis in the reformulation is biased against the people of the Tarai because it requires the person to be of “Nepalese origin.” “Nepali origin” is not defined in the 1962 constitution or in the Citizenship Act of 1964; and the interpretation is left up to the officials granting the citizenship certificates. There is also a linguistic component that further disadvantages the Madhesis because it requires that the person of the Nepalese origin to speak Nepali either as a mother tongue or as a second language. Furthermore, another reformulated clause made it even harder for Madhesis to obtain citizenship because it stated that hill people were required to have two years of residency while the Tarai people were required to have twelve years. Thus, the citizenship laws of the 1960s, which still exist today, were reformulated deliberately to exclude the Madhesis from citizenship stripping them of their voting rights, and thereby effectively making them foreigners in their own land. The right to citizenship is used as a double-edged sword, as it also keeps Madhesis from being able (to) own land, as citizenship is required to own land . Furthermore, the citizenship application process itself is difficult and unclear, and is written in Nepali. Since most Madhesis do not know Nepali, they have to seek help of Pahari officials in the Tarai who charge them a heavy fee. Thus, a poor illiterate Madhesi is effectively excluded from ever trying to obtain citizenship and is therefore, never able to own land.
As a recent story that appeared in the Hindustan Times in December 2003 illustrates, this citizenship law continues to discriminate against Madhesis even today. The article notes that a large number of the 50 percent of Nepal’s 26.5 million people still do not have citizenship. For many Madhesis, it is hard to obtain citizenship because they do not have birth certificates or any other form of formal residency paper. The grievance of a 62-year-old man was noted in the article, as he was unable to provide documentation for his residency in Nepal and therefore denied citizenship, although generation after generation of his family had lived in the same Tarai village near Birgunj .
The one-language policy is also another tool that the Mahendra government instituted which has subsequently been reformulated to further oppress the Madhesis. King Mahendra’s government took an unequivocal stand on the language issue, confirming the January 1958 Directive which made Nepali the official and national language . The King wanted Nepali to be spoken all over the country in order to sustain the kind of nationalism he was trying to implement in Nepal. Businesses in the Tarai were required to maintain their business records in either Nepali or English, which is almost an impossible feat for the Madhesis in Nepal. Furthermore, the increased number of schools where Nepali is mandated in the classroom and in nonclassroom related activities, has led to exclusion of Madhesis students from these schools. Consequently, they are forced to cross the border and go to school in India, or are forced to learn Nepali because there are few public schools in the Tarai to begin with and the poorer Madhesi students cannot afford to study in India. As it is clearly evident, the Nepali government effectively uses language and the education system as an effective instrument to marginalize the Madhesis.
The construction of Nepali identity and nationalism is progressively becoming even more tightly embedded in the distrust and suspicion of India. In 1989, in response to India’ s nuclear proliferation program, Nepal signed an agreement with Beijing to in violation of the Indo-Nepal Friendship Treaty . As a result, in March 1989, India administered a trade embargo of oil and other essential goods on Nepal, and the whole of Nepal came to a halt before too long .
Similarly, Nepal suspects that it is the Indian government that is trying to undermine its multi-party democracy by directly and indirectly supporting and harboring the Maoists. Similarly, for a long time, the Paharis were convinced that it was the Indian government that had conspired and led to the Royal Family Massacre of 2001. Even today, some believe that the Indian government interfered with the investigations, and that in fact, the Royal Family massacre was India’s doing .
However, no event has better illustrated the depth of anti-Indian sentiment in the Pahari population recently than the riots seen in Kathmandu in the December of 2000 caused by allegedly remarks made by a Indian movie star, Hrithik Roshan. What started as street demonstrations against the alleged remarks quickly progressed into violent demonstrations in the streets of the capital and other cities. The incidents resulted in at least seven Madhesis killed – five in Kathmandu and two in the Tarai – and dozens of others injured. Furthermore, many Madhesi stores were vandalized, the Nepal Sadhbhava Party’s offices (Tarai based party) was torched and many Madhesis were physically and verbally harassed.
It turned that Hrithik Roshan never made such comments and that somebody who just wanted to ignite a conflagration started the rumor . The rumor was the much needed spark that the Pahari community used to lash out and unleash all of the frustrations caused by the impotence of the current government onto to the Madhesis who are the local look-alikes of the Indians across the borders. This incident illustrated, in word of one journalist, that the “hub of this hateful sentiment is within the Kathmandu valley itself .”
Even more ironic, in the year, 2000, exactly 10 years after the institution of multiparty democracy in Nepal, all the Former Prime Minister and Nepali Congress leader Krishna Prasad Bhattarai had to say in response to the riots was, “The Madhesis also are bonafide Nepali citizens and they also need appropriate positions and respect as any other Nepali wearing Bakkhu, Daura-Suruwal or Dhoti-Kurta does .” It is hard to imagine that even now, the Paharis needed to be reminded that the Madhesis are also legitimate residents of Nepal.
Ironically, even today, Paharis have failed to see that other ethnic groups within the country are their fellow countrymen and instead, continue to view them as immigrants, and second-class citizens. This clearly demonstrates the unspoken prevalent conception that only those who are Brahmin or Chhetri and live in and around the vicinity of the Kathmandu valley are ‘truly’ Nepali. This proves that ‘Bahunbad’ is a real phenomenon and 10 years of multi-party democracy has done very little to include other ethnic groups in the national political and social apparatus. However, the comment made by Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) Chairman and former prime minister Surya Bahadur Thapa was right on target as he said that the Kathmandu riots “are also a result of the successive governments’ failure to incorporate the Tarai people in the national mainstream .” As evidenced and proven by these riots and unleashing of violence, the country is even more divided, and discrimination and marginalization are more stark and intense than ever before.
More Inclusive Form of Government for Nepal
There has been an increasing quantity of literature pointing to the rise of ethnic nationalism in Nepal, and different academic experts have prescribed different concepts of democracy in order to institute a ‘real democracy’ that has equal representation for all the ethnic peoples of Nepal. In theory, the perfect Democracy is a political system in which people are sovereign and diverse groups of people cooperate among themselves in a participatory way for the common good. Democracy inherently implies an elimination of hegemony or domination of caste, language, religion, culture, sex, region and class . All academics agree that Nepal has never had a democratic form of government in practice, although, in theory, the Panchayat system and the multi-party system of 1990-2002 were both democratic. In practice, the Panchayat political system and the multi-party democracy were both ‘exclusionary democracy’ dominated solely by a combination of the Bahunbad and the monarchy.
Moreover, since October 4, 2002, there is no democracy whatsoever in Nepal and the nation is being governed by ‘direct rule’ of the King. In light of the growing Maoist Insurgency and the increasing resemblance of the Nepali state to a ‘failed state’, democracy is absolutely at ‘ground zero .’ It has been made very clear by the rising political, social and economic upheaval that a newer, more representative form of government needs to be instituted before it is too late.
Different ethnic groups have made different demands. Some of the demands that ethnic groups have made include autonomy, political representation in the central government, and the end of the domination of the Bahunbad. However, some like the ‘All Nepal Nationalities’ Organization, a Maoist sister organization to the Communist Party of Nepal, had demanded the right of secession of all nationalities or ethnic groups in Nepal . The Madhesis have demanded easy availability of citizenship certificates, constitutional recognition of the Hindi language, 50 percent reservation for Madhesis in government and semi-government jobs, en masse recruitment in the army, land to the landless and demarcation of an electoral constituency based on the population and geographical and cultural uniformity . The Sadhavana Party, which is considered a Madhesi Party, only sees the interests of Madhesis being served by federalism with autonomy of the Tarai region. They do not see an inclusive democracy as feasible, and believe that any government with its root in Kathmandu valley will retain its Bahunbad nature. They have definite reasons to believe this.
When the multi-party democracy was instituted in 1990 in order to address and give voice to the peoples of Nepal, 40 percent of political players who joined the multiparty democracy were from the Panchayat system. Similarly, the Nepali Public Service Commission report revealed that only one madhesi in the list of 77 persons was recruited for the post of Section Officer. The administration and civil service sector of Nepal is composed of 85 percent Bahun, 9 percent Chhetris, and 2.6 percent Newars. One person each from the hill janjati and one Madhesi are a part of the government administration as tokens of the multi-party democracy .
As a result, Madhesis feel that the only way that they can achieve equal status for themselves is by demanding autonomy within the framework of a weak federalism. Thus, they advocate for autonomous regions similar to the principalities that existed before annexation, with equal representation in the central government that only controls economic and foreign relations with other nations.
However, critics feel that autonomy with a weak federal system is not quite the answer because of the tendency of today’s oppressed becoming tomorrow’s oppressors. Based on the distrust of the language of rights and self-determination, leading Nepali intellectual Krishna Bhattachan suggests that only inclusive democracy will work in Nepal, and explains that “any other model of democracy, except inclusive, in Nepal would continue to breed insurgency based on caste/ethnicity, language, religion and region and the best way to avoid them is inclusive democracy .” In other words, if ethno-nationalistic demands, and the language of rights are always heeded by a state, it can potentially lead to a perpetual self-division of ethnic peoples, otherwise known as the Russian doll phenomenon.
Furthermore, Sankaran Krishna, a leading intellectual on South Asian politics, suggests that the political discourse surrounding the ideas of nation-building and ethno-nationalism are opposing and incompatible forces that cannot be reconciled. He brilliantly articulates, “a close look at the practice of nation building reveal (s) that both nation and ethnicity share a logic that seeks to align territory with identity (the belief that every territory is ideally inhabitable by a singular identity); moreover, both nation and ethnicity opportunistically feed off of each other as they seek to define themselves in contradiction .”
Thus, within this context, it seems that any notion of a nationhood or nation building process that envisions the political territory of the state to coincide perfectly with national identity will automatically lead to endless fragmentation of people in the state due to the ‘fiction of homogeneity.’ As a result, it seems that the only way out fighting the incompatibility of ethnic identity with nation building is to stop trying, and instead, “re-envision the nation not as a space for the realization of a unified sense of identity but one with a pluralist ethos where alterity is respected rather than disciplined, suppressed or assimilated .” Based on this, it can be argued that pluralist conception of nationhood is the most feasible way to build a government that accommodates ethno-nationalistic appeals.
The paper illustrated the institutionalization of discriminatory mechanisms in the political and social state apparatus to deliberately marginalize the Madhesis. The monarchy of King Mahendra injected a tremendous amount of anti-Indian sentiment in the elite and educated upper caste members of the Kathmandu valley in order to construct a sense of patriotism and nationalism. Throughout the 1970s, 80s, 90s and now, in the new millennium, discrimination against the Madhesis has been tied to the intricacies and fluctuations of the Indo-Nepal relationship. It has become apparent that the ‘democracies’ instituted in Nepal were, in reality, monarchies with Bahunbad controlling all social, political apparatus of the state.
As a result, all the ethnic groups besides the dominant Brahmins and Chettri are discriminated against to some extent. However, since the Madhesis make up 50 percent of Nepal’s population, their marginalization needs to be given adequate attention. The government only gives back 16 percent of the funds reserved for development to the Tarai when the Tarai contributes 70 percent to its economy . In this sense, it is quite unjustifiable for the Nepali government to disciminate and stifle the very people that uphold the economic livelihood of the nation. As a result of the indifferent attitude of the Nepali government towards the Tarai, the infrastructure development is very poor. Furthermore, because of the lower literacy rate, the quality of the schools is generally poor.
Some wealthier Madhesis send their children to Kathmadu for education, where they are verbally and physically harassed. In the recent years, given the economic degradation of the country, an increasing number of Madhesis have migrated to the (no the) Kathmandu valley and have taken up all the menial and low-income jobs such as peddling, factory work among other things . Furthermore, there is an increasing number of Madhesis who have lived in and around the Kathmandu valley for a while who have started to ‘self-nepalize.’ Some Madhesis who get tired of the harassment and discrimination start to act like Paharis by copying the dress, the mannerisms and most importantly, start to speak Nepali at home. In short, many Madhesis have started to internalize this discrimination and begun to feel ashamed of their ancestry and history. This clearly demonstrates the extent of discrimination that the Madhesis face in the world’s only Hindu Kingdom.
It is a crucial time in Nepal’s history. As the Maoist Insurgency is demonstrating, even more than frustration, it is hopelessness that breeds extremism. In a society where nearly half the population is nursing grievances against the establishment, it is vital for the government to expand their perspective and open their eyes to what lies outside the Kathmandu valley. Otherwise, what is simmering and waiting to explode could be more explosive and detrimental than the Maoist war.
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