POLITICS-NEPAL: Now Ethnic Separatism

August 21, 2006 at 2:55 pm 2 comments

Suman Pradhan

KATHMANDU, Aug 21 (IPS) – A splinter Maoist faction in Nepal’s southern Terai plains is calling for full sovereignty and independence in what is turning to be the first separatist movement in the country’s history.

The Terai Jantantrik Liberation Front (TJLF), led by former Maoist Jayakrishna Goit, has been battling Maoists since 2004 for control of the Terai agenda. But, to the dismay of many, his group has recently been hounding settlers from the hills, locally known as ‘Pahadiyas’, in a bid to drive them out of the Terai.

An impoverished, landlocked country facing a violent Maoist insurgency since 1996, Nepal can ill afford a separatist movement just when it is seeking to resolve the Maoist conflict. But ignorance of Terai grievances, where 48 percent the country’s 26 million people live, is fanning the flames of radicalism and separatism. Goit’s slogan that the Terai, known as Madhes, is only for the Madhesis is igniting fears of a separatist war and deepening the hills-plains divide in this country. Madhesis are people of Indian origin who have settled in the Terai for decades. Most are Nepali citizens but a huge number lack citizenship.

The separatism is being fuelled by two distinct factors: Goit’s fight with the Maoists, and the age-old discrimination felt by the Madhesi community at large. Last week, Goit gave voice to those feelings when he told a group of journalists, “We are fighting for independence because we have been discriminated against for too long.”

Goit’s separatist activities so far have been confined to only a handful of Terai districts, mostly in areas from Saptari to Rautahat in the east-central Terai.

Spanning Nepal’s entire south from east to west, the Terai is Nepal’s industrial and agricultural bread basket. For long dormant, as exclusion and inequalities within the hill community gained top priority in the national agenda, Terai grievances suddenly flared up in June when TJLF fighters kidnapped for ransom several Pahadiya government officers and forcibly closed down a few industries owned by Pahadiya settlers in Saptari district.

A July 2006 U.N. report by the Office of the Coordinator of Humanitarian Affairs, states: “The situation was rather volatile in Terai districts, especially in early June. The Janatantrik Terai Liberation Front (sic), a Maoist break away, issued threats against the hill ethnic groups settled in the Terai, asking them to go back to their villages.”

While Nepal remains focused on the difficulties surrounding delicate negotiations between the government and Maoist rebels, the Terai districts are on the brink of an upheaval. The issues encompass not only Maoist in-fighting but identity politics and a sense of discrimination felt by the Madhesis.

The trend is worrying Terai intellectuals and activists who oppose the dismemberment of Nepal. They argue that Nepal should remain united, and its leaders must address discrimination lest separatist tendencies grow.

“There is no support in the Madhesi community for an independent Madhes. We all want to be part of Nepal,” asserts Vijay Kant Karna, a Madhesi lecturer of political science and chairman of Jaghrit Nepal, a Madheshi-upliftment group. “But I cannot say what will happen in the future if Madhesis do not get due recognition in the state restructuring that is being talked about.”

“We Madhesis are looked down upon. Our language and culture are not respected. We are not represented adequately in the civil administration and other state institutions. These must stop or the fire will only grow,” says Jayaprakash Gupta, a Madhesi former government minister who is now general secretary of the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (MJF).

A lifelong communist, Goit was lured into the Maoist fold by top Madhesi Maoist leader Matrika Prasad Yadav. Appointed the first chairman of the Maoists’ Terai Liberation Front, Goit split the Front in late 2004 and formed the TJLF after Yadav replaced him as chairman. The TJLF has an estimated 150-200 fighters.

People who have known Goit for years say the TJLF leader took up his radical agenda after falling out with the Maoists over three major issues – his replacement by Yadav in the Maoists’ Terai Liberation Front, anti-Madhesi discrimination even within the Maoist hierarchy, and the Maoists’ division of Madhes into two separate regions – the Madhes autonomous region which spans east to west-central Nepal, and Tharuwan autonomous region which encompasses western Terai.

“Goit was dissatisfied by the discrimination practiced by the Maoists within their own ranks. Very few Madhesis got leadership roles in the party’s organizational structure in Madhes. Almost all were sent from the hills,” says Karna.

“There was plenty of discrimination which resulted in dissatisfaction,” agrees Maoist leader Yadav. But now, Yadav asserts, these issues have largely been addressed.

But whatever rectification measures the Maoists implanted, Goit remained unsatisfied. Having lost his leadership position, and disagreeing vehemently with the Maoists’ division of Madhes, he split and formed the TJLF.

“Nepal’s ruling elites have forever been suspicious of Madhes because they think these people are of Indian origin, and therefore pro-Indian,” says MJF leader Gupta “That is not true. We Madhesis are as much Nepali and pro-Nepal as anyone else. But I am not surprised that Goit is seeing this division of Madhes by the Maoists as an attempt by the Pahadiyas to diffuse Madhes’ power. I too think that is the case.”

Even Maoist leader Yadav struggles to accept this division. “I am in favour of a unified Madhes,” he says. “But I also believe there can be separate regions within a unified Madhes. (END/2006)
Source::http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=34406

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Bindeshwar Prasad Yadav  |  August 28, 2006 at 8:38 pm

    SEPARATISM OR FREEDOM
    Bindeshwar Prasad Yadav
    Summary

    After approximately two hundred years, Time is writing the history of Madhesh, which is ancient land with human population. It is a well-accepted truth that Madheshis are treated as second class and bondage citizens as they are hidden colonized in Nepal under cover of false unification after the quest of the Madhesh that was a sovereign state before 1813. They are significantly marginalized at policy making, implementations and administrations, as well as in judiciary system. In their own country millions of Madheshi are without citizenship and their culture, language and linguistics have been eroded. The lands are occupied by non-indigenous Madheshi and several are forcibly displaced against the United Nations convention. In the past, they have also faced the problem of ‘work permit’. Since the time of quest non Madheshis military forces are on the land of Madshesh. They have completely lost identity. Are these all not the evidences of fake unification and hidden colonization? Examination of the Government’s attitude and act, in light of “Convention (No. 169) concerning Indigenous and Tribal peoples in Independent Countries” reveals that the Government has been violating Article 2.1, 2.2©, 3.1, 4.3, 6(b), 6(C), 7.1, 14.2, 16.1, 17.3, 18, 20.2, 26, 28.1, 28.3, 31, 32.

    Several governments have changed and none has addressed their problems. Further present, they proposed the division of Madhesh in different parts is like division of brothers. Madheshis want true unification in the spirit of equity and justices, with dignity and identity, and with no attitude and act of superiority, and discrimination. Do you feel to call it “FREEDOM” that is scientifically true, socially by enlarged globally acceptable, and legally justified? United Nations also supports the quick end of colonization. United Nations supports freedom for colonized countries. In fact the Madhesh has become free. The time has liberated it.

    Description
    After approximately two hundred years, Time is writing the history of Madhesh, the holy land of lord Buddha (the light of Asia), King Janak and divine mother Sita; and the Madheshis, who are great offspring of great ancient ancestors. It is well-accepted truth that Madheshis are treated as second class and bondage citizens as they are colonized in Nepal under cover of false unification after the quest of the Madhesh that was a sovereign state with its free citizens before 1813. In own country millions Madheshi are stateless (without citizenship), which is not found anywhere else in the world. Madheshi culture, language and linguistic have been eroded; and the name of the land “Madhesh” has been changed to “Tarai.” The land of indigenous Madheshi is forcibly occupied by other group of people with prime support of the government. In this process, many people have looted the land of indigenous helpless people. Few decades ago, they also faced the problem of ‘work permit’. Since the time of quest non Madheshis military forces are on the land of Madshesh. They have completely lost identity. Are these all not the evidences of fake unification and hidden colonization?

    Examination of the Government’s attitude and act, in light of “Convention (No. 169) concerning Indigenous and Tribal peoples in Independent Countries” reveals that the Government has been violating Article 2.1, 2.2©, 3.1, 4.3, 6(b), 6(C), 7.1, 14.2, 16.1, 17.3, 18, 20.2, 26, 28.1, 28.3, 31, 32.

    Let’s see United Nation’s definition for Indigenous People

    Article 1 (b)
    People in independent countries who are regarded as indigenous on account of their descent from the populations which inhabited the country, or a geographical region to which the country belongs, at the time of conquest or colonisation or the establishment of present state boundaries and who, irrespective of their legal status, retain some or all of their own social, economic, cultural and political institutions.

    Violated articles are:

    Article 2.1.
    Governments shall have the responsibility for developing, with the participation of the peoples concerned, co-ordinated and systematic action to protect the rights of these peoples and to guarantee respect for their integrity.

    Article 2.2 ©
    Assisting the members of the peoples concerned to eliminate socio-economic gaps that may exist between indigenous and other members of the national community, in a manner compatible with their aspirations and ways of life.

    Article 3.1.
    Indigenous and tribal peoples shall enjoy the full measure of human rights and fundamental freedoms without hindrance or discrimination. The provisions of the Convention shall be applied without discrimination to male and female members of these peoples.

    Article 4.3.
    Enjoyment of the general rights of citizenship, without discrimination, shall not be prejudiced in any way by such special measures.

    Article 6 (b)
    Establish means by which these peoples can freely participate, to at least the same extent as other sectors of the population, at all levels of decision-making in elective institutions and administrative and other bodies responsible for policies and programmes which concern them;

    Article 6 ©
    Establish means for full development of these peoples’ own institutions and initiatives, and in appropriate cases provide the resources necessary for this purpose.

    Article 7. 1.
    The peoples concerned shall have the right to decide their own priorities for the process of development as it affects their lives, beliefs, institutions and spiritual well-being and the lands they occupy or otherwise use, and to exercise control, to the extent possible, over their own economic, social and cultural development. In addition, they shall participate in the formulation, implementation and evaluation of plans and programmes for national and regional development which may affect them directly.

    Article 14.2.
    Governments shall take steps as necessary to identify the lands which the peoples concerned traditionally occupy, and to guarantee effective protection of their rights of ownership and possession.

    Article 16.1.
    Subject to the following paragraphs of this Article, the peoples concerned shall not be removed from the lands which they occupy.

    Article 17.3.
    Persons not belonging to these peoples shall be prevented from taking advantage of their customs or lack of understanding of the laws on the part of their members to secure the ownership, possession or use of land belonging to them.

    Article18. Adequate penalties shall be established by law for unauthorized intrusion upon, or use of, the lands of the peoples concerned, and governments shall take measures to prevent such offences.

    Article 20.2.
    Governments shall do everything possible to prevent any discrimination between workers belonging to the peoples concerned and other workers, in particular as regards:

    (a) Admission to employment, including skilled employment, as well as measures for promotion and advancement;

    Article 26.
    Measures shall be taken to ensure that members of the peoples concerned have the opportunity to acquire education at all levels on at least an equal footing with the rest of the national community.

    Article 28. 1.
    Children belonging to the peoples concerned shall, wherever practicable, be taught to read and write in their own indigenous languages or in the language most commonly used by the people to which they belong. When this is not practicable, the competent authorities shall undertake consultations with these peoples with a view to adoption of measures to achieve this objective.

    Article 28.3.
    Measures shall be taken to preserve and promote the development and practice of the indigenous languages of the peoples concerned.

    Article 31.
    Educational measures shall be taken among all sections of the national community, and particularly among those that are in most direct contact with the peoples concerned, with the object of eliminating prejudices that they may harbour in respect of these peoples. To this end, efforts shall be made to ensure that history textbooks and other educational materials provide a fair, accurate and informative portrayal of these societies and cultures of these peoples.

    Article 32.
    Governments shall take appropriate measures, including by means of international agreements, to facilitate contacts and co-operation between indigenous and tribal peoples across borders, including activities in the economic, social, cultural, spiritual and environmental fields.

    Madheshis don’t want separation. They want true unification in the spirit of equity and justices, with dignity and identity, and with no attitude and act of superiority, and discrimination. How do you feel? How long do they live a life of living cadavers?

    Several governments changed, none addressed their problems. After April Peoples, war a solution looks emerging, but the solution itself has a problem. The division of Madhesh in different parts is like division of brothers. This political problem reminds me a social happening. In case of division of two brothers, the helpless mother/wife remains with one brother, and the powerless father/husband goes with other. Similarly those Madheshi brothers, from East to West, have been living together generation after generation and are going to be divided as they are helpless and powerless against the bullet of the government.

    Do you feel to call it “FREEDOM” that is scientifically true, socially by enlarged globally acceptable, and legally justified? United Nations also supports the quick end of colonization. They are fortunate. They have infinite fortune; the history will embrace them with love and respect. In fact the Madhesh has become free. The time has liberated it. Freedom fighters and liberationist are just means. If the government wants true unification then the government must grant an autonomous Madhesh within Nepal.
    i. Through undivided Madhesh state,
    ii. Madheshi youths /jawans in Madhesh barracks, Chief District Officers, Superintendent of Police, and Chiefs of the other Madhesh offices; and
    iii. Population proportion based representation in other places.

    How should Madhesh become free ?
    Circumstances have changed. A positive attitude has emerged among various categories of peoples: politicians, academicians, and reformers of the country. We feel Madhesh freedom fighters do not need a weaponised war. A war with wisdom, which has support of millions, is enough. In the time of globalization, emigration has become a more prominent phenomenon. In Madhesh, several hill dwellers who are good and poor, have settled since decades, they should be acceptable but those who are agents of discrimination, exploitation certainly are not acceptable. A king with such attitude and action is unacceptable, how can others be acceptable?

    May God bless Nepal. May God bless Madhesh.

  • 2. Ashutosh Jha  |  August 30, 2006 at 10:33 am

    i m fully aware of the situation and condition of madhesis in nepal. watever position Mr. Goit has taken is right and we must fight for our rights now otherwise it will be too late.

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