Nepal: In the throes of more wars
Nepal: In the throes of more wars
The insurgent Maoists who joined the interim government and interim parliament on 15 January 2007 were greeted by more bandhs in Terai, the rice bowl of Nepal. The bandhs called by the Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha (JTMM) and the Madheshi People’s Right Forum (MPRF) indicate the imminent conflicts being faced by Nepal while doubts continue to prevail as to whether the peace process between the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoists) and the Seven Party Alliance can bring peace in Nepal.
In 2004, the Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha was formed after splitting from the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoists) with the aim to establish an autonomous Terai region. The JTMM has further split into two factions – one led by Jai Krishna Goit and another led by Jwala Singh. Ever since the split, the JTMM and the Maoist cadres have been engaged in violent activities against each other.
I. The Terai bandh: Symptom of more wars
On 3 January 2007, while announcing a three-day Terai bandh from 12-14 January 2007 to press the demand of “autonomous Terai province”, JTMM (Goit faction) asked Nepali rulers to leave Terai and demanded that indigenous peoples of Terai be allowed to run army, police and administration in Terai region.
Life came to standstill in Terai from 12 to 14 January 2007 reminiscent of the bandhs called by the Maoists to overthrow the monarchy. The JTMM resorted to violence prior to and during the bandh. On the night of 11 January 2007, the JTMM cadres reportedly exploded a bomb in front of a shop belonging to businessman, Dinbandhu Shah in Siraha. On the evening of 11 January 2006, cadres of the JTMM reportedly vandalised one empty tanker heading towards Dhalkebar of Dhanusa district. On 12 January 2007, JTMM activists reportedly set afire the Jagadamba Paperboard Industries in Lahan in Siraha district, causing damage worth Rs 2 million.
The bandh of the JTMM was followed by another bandh called by the Madheshi People’s Rights Forum on 16 January 2006 in protest against the interim constitution which was promulgated on 15 January 2007. On 15 January 2007, Upendra Yadav, President of the MPRF stated that the interim constitution excluded the issues of marginalised groups, and is also silent on the issue of federal democratic republic. He demanded the right to self-governance, equal representation and all the basic rights that other Nepalese enjoy. The MPRF also demanded that the Constituent Assembly elections be held through a proportionate electoral system to represent the marginalized groups including Madheshis, Janajatis, women, Dalits and other minority groups. Mr Jwala Singh, leader of Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha (JTMM – Singh faction) also alleged that “the interim constitution lacks even a single word in favour of Madhesi people” and demanded creation of a separate and independent Terai state. The bandhs by the JTMM are not new. It has been imposing frequent bandhs violently to press its demands. On 28 December 2006, alleged JTMM cadres shot dead Arjun Phuyal accusing him of plying vehicles along the Mahendra Highway in Bhardaha area of Saptari district in defiance of a bandh. Earlier on 22 September 2006, JTMM cadres killed Rastriya Prajatantra Party parliamentarian Krishna Charan Shrestha.
II. Maoism, ethno-nationalism and New Nepal
Historically, since the establishment of Nepal as a modern state in mid 18th century, it suffered from repressive caste system. But sub-nationalism was virtually absent in Nepal.
The Communist Party of Nepal (Maoists) in its attempts to expand its support base created many ethnic based organisations such a Limbu Mukti Morcha, Rai Mukti Morcha, Tamang Munkti Morcha etc. These Mukti Morchas or Liberation Fronts were auxillary armed groups of the Peoples Liberation Army of the Maoists. The seeds of sub-nationalism were planted.
In the new parliament established on 15 Janaury 2007, the Maoists have accomodated a large number seats to indigenous peoples, women, Dalits, Madheshis etc. Yet, the experiences of other communist parties in the South Asia sub-region show that the communist party-nominated members of parliament often represent the interest of the communist party rather than the community to whom they belong. It remains to be seen whether the Maoists’ nominated Members of Parliament in Nepal can represent and address the aspirations of their communities.
III. Nepal: In the throes of more wars
On 10 January 2007, Deputy Prime Minister of Nepal, Amik Sherchan stated that the Maoists have been given the responsibility to persuade the Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha for peace talks. The Maoists have so far failed to make any progress with the JTMM.
In early January 2007, Jwala Singh led faction of the Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha stated that it was ready for talks with the government under the United Nations mediation. The JTMM-Singh faction set 9-point demands, including recognition of Terai as an autonomous province, appointment of Terai people in all government offices in Terai region, delimitation of election constituencies based on population ratio, return of land and properties captured by the Maoists and a census in Terai led by Terai people and Rs 1.5 million compensation to the families of those “killed by the state” in Terai.
Issues like autonomy and federalism, proportional representation, distribution of funds, affirmative actions etc are quite new to Nepal. Yet, unless Nepal addresses these issues, it will find engaged in new sub-nationalist wars sooner than later as indicated by the bandhs in the Terai. In many parts of Nepal, extreme poverty prevails because of the harsh natural conditions coupled with lack of development for which there are no easy solutions.
It is important to remember that it is disillusionment with the political parties that among others increased the support for the Maoists. Capturing power at Kathmandu and overthrowing the King have been easier for the Maoists. Governing the country and fulfilling the promises and aspirations would be more difficult. If political parties especially the Maoists fail, Nepal will face more wars.
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