Disturbances in Terai
Nepal: Disturbances in Terai
By- PG Rajamohan
Research Fellow, IPCS e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
As Nepal struggles to resolve its decade old security and political problems, disturbances erupting in the Terai region are not being noticed by the government. A threat to Pahadiyas (hill people) of ethnic evictions, along with insurgent group killings, abductions and extortions, has made this region volatile. Political exclusion and discrimination against this region has fanned the secessionist ideology, which threatens to plunge the country into violent and bloody conflict.
The Terai region occupies 17 per cent of Nepal’s land area and contains 48 per cent of its 26 million people. The inhabitants called Madhesis, are multi-lingual, multi-religious and multi-ethnic. This natural resources-rich region with its abundant manpower contributes a major part to the nation’s economy through trade and agricultural production. Although Madhesis contributions to the country are high, their demands for equality and political representation have been ignored by the central administration. After three decades of peaceful political movements and frustration, the Madhesis were lured into the Maoist fold, who assured them their political rights alongside other marginalized communities allied to them. Thereafter, the Maoists have operated actively across the Terai region, using it for their insurgent activities and arms smuggling.
In recent months, a Maoist splinter group, Terai Janatantrik Mukti Morcha (TJMM), led by Jayakrishna Goit, has been harassing settlers from the hill areas to drive them out of the Terai region and confiscate their properties. Goit, a former Maoist and first Chairman of the Maoists’ Terai Liberation Front (MTLF), floated the TJMM after serious differences with the Maoist leadership in late 2004. His falling out with the Maoists and formation of the TJMM arose over three major issues – Goit’s replacement by Madrika Prasad Yadav in the MTLF, anti-Madhesi discrimination within the Maoist hierarchy, and the Maoists’ division of Terai into two separate regions – the Madhes autonomous region spanning east to west-central Nepal, and the Tharuwan autonomous region encompassing western Terai. TJMM has been fighting the Maoists for the Terai and promoting secessionism to establish a sovereign and independent state in the region.
Terror in the Terai flared up when the TJMM rejected the Maoists’ call for a dialogue, and the subsequent declaration of war by the Maoist Madhesi leader Madrika Prasad Yadav in July 2006. Yadav claimed that the palace and India were helping the TJMM against the Maoist cadres in their strongholds, mainly from the Saptari to Rautahat districts in east-central Nepal. Their cadre strength is estimated to be around 150-200 only, but their growing popularity impedes Maoist activities. The TJMM is also distributing pamphlets protesting against the actions of the Maoists. Earlier, in a similar situation, Maoists killed two of their former cadres, Ajay Yadav and Raju Mishra, the then top guns of the Madhesi Tigers in April 2005, which is a small armed outfit targeting Maoists cadres and their camps. The Maoists are expected to resort to more violence as they have already lost at least a dozen cadres in TJMM attacks. While moving freely with their arms across the country, Maoists could perpetrate more attacks against anti-Maoist elements to ensure that their writ runs over the entire income-generating Terai region.
Political parties representing the Madhesi community have not ensured them any substantial political rights in the past 14 years of democratic rule in Nepal. Even now, over 50 lakhs of Madhesi people have been denied citizenship. Absence of their representation in the central decision making process and continued negation of their rights has aggravated the issue. The decade long Maoist armed struggle forced the state to concede their demands. It is important to prevent the Madhesis from adopting these same tactics to claim the attention of the government and not repeat the mistake of treating their upsurge as only a ‘tempest in the tea cup’.
Appreciating the fragile political situation in the country, it is vital to preserve peace and security in the Terai. The Indian stakes are very high in this region because of the existing open border and concentration of major Indian industries and investments in the Terai. A disturbance in this region would have its adverse impact on at least four Indian states which border the Terai. The growing Maoist extortion from Indian industries and fear of their possible closure would destabilize the economy of Nepal. Further, resettlement of displaced people, unemployment, education and healthcare are some of the issues that need to be addressed. An impoverished, landlocked country facing a violent insurgency since 1996, Nepal can ill afford another separatist movement just when it is seeking to resolve the Maoist conflict.
Entry filed under: Reports.