There’s a brush fire igniting in the tarai, but Kathmandu is too distracted to pay attention
Nepali Times, 11 August 06 – 17 August 06
While the seven-party government focuses on delicate negotiations with the Maoists, sections of the tarai, where 48.4 percent of the nation’s population lives, are descending into turmoil.
Vigilantism and anti-Maoist activity are turning into sometimes violent ethnically-laced evictions and abductions. Separatist sentiments are getting populist play, while among the intellectual moderate majority there are debates on how the tarai could be best represented in restructuring.
Maoists, ex-Maoists, separatists and moderates all see a Nepal polarised between hill and plain. For many Madhesis, anger from long-felt discrimination fuelled by radicalised identity politics is boiling over.
Over the past year, Jaya Krishna Goit’s Tarai Janatantrik Mukti Morcha (TJMM), which has been battling Maoists since late 2004, has also been hounding the Pahadiya community, mainly in the central-eastern tarai but also in adjoining areas. Families are rushing to sell off houses and land, and migrate to the hills.
“This trend has picked up recently, many of my friends from Rajbiraj have settled in Kathmandu,” confirms former NC minister Jay Prakash Gupta ‘Anand’ who is now general secretary of the Madhesee Janaadhikar Forum (MJM).
A recent UN situation report also states that the situation in some tarai districts was ‘rather volatile…especially in early June’. It said the TJMM issued threats against hill ethnic groups settled in the tarai asking them to go back to their villages.
Much of the unrest stems from a rift in the Madhesi movement, between ex-Maoists Goit and his arch-rival, Maoist leader Matrika Prasad Yadav.
The issues themselves go deeper, including identity politics and a sense of discrimination felt by the Madhesis. All of this is fanning radicalism in Nepal’s resource-rich breadbasket.
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