Balkanization Threatens Nepal, Discrimination driving separatism in Terai
Balkanization Threatens Nepal
Discrimination driving separatism in Terai
The people of Nepal have been deluding themselves all along about a “new Nepal.” Who can blame them? Our politicians have been reiterating, “Nepal has already changed, it’s no longer the same old country. We are building a new Nepal.” I, too, fell for the old shibboleth of a new Nepal, but the fatal shooting of a teenager by the Maoists was therapeutic as well as traumatic. The circumstances are clear enough — one group is powerful, because armed, while the majority of Nepalese have nothing but their earnest voices and a zeal for self-rule, to break free from the old ways of oppression and injustice.On Monday afternoon, the phone rang repeatedly as more and more news of violence in the Terai region was coming in. “One more died here after the Armed Police Force opened fire at the protesters. The situation is tense, as the protesters have zeroed in on the police station and have started pelting it with stones,” our local correspondent said over the telephone. Another 12-hour-long curfew has been imposed on the area. Like the supposedly dormant volcano that remains quiescent until the pressure from below becomes uncontainable, it seems that the time has finally come for the Madhesi people to demand the fundamental rights they have so far been denied.At least two people lost their lives on the spot in the incident yesterday, and about two dozen of the seriously injured were taken to Kathmandu‘s Bir Hospital via Nepali Army night-vision helicopter late last night for treatment. Unfortunately, two died of their injuries today. “They emphasized the involvement of Maoists, who are now all-powerful after the decade-long insurgency and bloodshed. If they (the ruling class) repeat the same mistakes, then the revolution in the Terai could cost more lives and signal the start of another people’s war,” argued Chhatra Shankar, vice president of the Human Rights Journalists’ Association-Nepal.“If the Seven-Party Alliance (SPA), including the Maoists, labels this violence in the Terai as ‘communal,’ then it would be their mistake. It is a political problem,” Shankar said, adding, “and the problem should be addressed politically.”
The Madhesi Fundamental Rights Forum-Nepal and Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morchas have been demanding autonomy for the Terai and an end to the “internal occupation of the Terai” by Nepali-speaking rulers. Nepal is divided into the Mountain, Hill and Terai ecological belts. The Terai, called the granary of Nepal because of its fertile, arable land, covers about 23 percent of the total land area, and, according to the census of 2001, 48.4 percent of the over 23 million Nepalese reside there.During my 20-year lifespan, I have experienced how being a dark-complected Madhesi (a Nepalese of Indian extraction living in the Terai) can be a curse. In addition to illiteracy and poverty, even literate Madhesis are burdened with rank discrimination just for being Terai-dwellers. “In Kathmandu, we are loathed as ‘dhotis’ (Indians), and in India, we are humiliated as ‘Nepalese’,” one of my cousins, now resident in the U.S., said, adding, “I don’t know if it’s a curse to be born as a Madhesi.”When visiting my village, located in one of the remote villages of
Nepal, in Sarlahi, I remember children of my own age taunting me, “Pahadi, Pahadi! Look, Pahadi has come with his hat,” and they would laugh at me. Then I used to wonder, what is “Pahadi”? Later, I came to know it as slang for those who live in the hills, and from then on I detested the very idea of going back to my village when I was at school in Kathmandu. I call Kathmandu home and don’t feel any sense of alienation there for this very reason.I became increasingly aware of bigotry even in the capital of my beloved country. When someone would label me “bhaiya” (big brother) or “marsiya” (a corruption of Madhesi) I used to feel bad. They have even degraded the original meaning of bhaiya and dhoti as dignified by Gandhi, the Father of India, who wore white cotton dhotis all his life. People living in the Terai also wear dhotis because of the scorching heat of the sun.I’ve been fortunate in that my complexion, accent and day-to-day behavior are no different from those of anyone else who feels proud of their ethnic identity, but as a child, “exiled” from my own people, I was influenced otherwise. But when some around me in Kathmandu pronounces Madhesi, they mangle it. When they have to point out any one hailing from the Terai, they simply stereotype all Terai people as “Marsiya” or “dhoti.” Their mispronunciation is palpably disgusting and humiliating to the Terai people. Perhaps this very inequality and discrimination gave birth to the love of my own land, which I’d long forgotten.You might not credit that as a schoolboy I imagined ways to help those put down by class oppression, even to the extent of devising a new nation of “Terai” to accommodate them. When these same people, members of the Madhesi Peoples’ Rights Forum or Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha, however, now demand an autonomous federal republic, I am incongruously unable to support them. Neither do I take to the idea of the movements behind Newa Mukti Morcha or the Limbuwan Federal Republic or other groups demanding self-rule.But most of these people also know that in these efforts they, and especially the Maoists, are threatening to re-balkanize
Nepal. The rebels, implementing the odious doctrine of divide and conquer, are entrapping the Nepalese into being alienated along the lines of caste and creed, into Newar, Tharu, Gurung or Limbu. Perhaps they do represent a “new” Nepal, a remake of the same old Nepal, in which different groups fought every other day, living in constant fear of each other. Have they ever considered that there are those belonging to other castes and races within their “own” area as well — how would they deal with them? I wonder if they even begin to know the meaning of tolerance. At such a critical time, the violence in the Terai can only arouse the Madhesi people because the chair or the members of Central Committee of the CPN-Maoist and other major political parties in the country are also Khas-speaking (Nepali-speaking) people. It is also clear that the country is not going to have a Madhesi prime minister in the foreseeable future. The leaders then have the difficult task of uniting the whole country in the face of their own dictum of divide and rule. I wonder if the bloodshed really came to an end with the comprehensive peace accord or is now just the beginning of a new wave?source::http://eng.ohmynews.com/articleview/article_view.asp?menu=c10400&no=341574&rel_no=1
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