Nepal: Eight Die as Protests Continue

January 31, 2007 at 9:38 pm 2 comments

Nepal: Eight Die as Protests Continue

Nepal sinks back into chaos and bloodshed 

The death toll in the Madhesi movement has reached eight after Raj Kumar Kamat, 41, was killed during a clash between Madhesis and “so-called Pahade” group in Biratnagar today. For the last two weeks, similar news of death or serious injury has been coming from one end of Terai to the other. Local administrations enforced a curfew at Biratnagar on one day, at Birgunj on another day. It seems that the reports of chaos and bloodshed from Nepal will continue even though the Maoist guerrillas have joined the political mainstream. The Madhesi are Nepalese of Indian origin living in Terai, and make up nearly 50 percent of the total Nepalese population.

Today, a curfew was imposed in Biratnagar from 1:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. While other major towns in Bara, Parsa, Sarlahi and Dhanusha, among others, are in constant threat — nobody knows what will happen next. Activists from the Madhesi People’s Rights Forum (MPRF) are staging demonstrations and seem to have major public support in Terai. But the eight political parties, and the Maoists, seem indifferent. Their leaders have been repeatedly heard dismissing the MPRF as “impotent.” If so, one wonders who the thousands of protestors staging demonstrations under the leadership of the forum are.

Talking to the BBC last night, Maoist second-in-command Baburam Bhattarai called the MPRF the “waste” or “byproduct” of the Maoists’ movement. When Rabindra Mishra from the BBC’s Nepali Service asked him if they would talk with the MPRF, Bhattarai said that they don’t have to talk with the MPRF since there was no power or people behind it. Meanwhile, the other eight parties are also using the ongoing movement in Terai to garner votes and win the people’s confidence by claiming that the protestors’ demands would be fulfilled. But the parties have yet to open a dialogue with the MPRF or any of the other agitating parties.

When I talked with MPRF president Upendra Yadav this morning, he said the Madhesi movement was not directed against any particular community but meant to ensure the rights of the numerous communities in the country. The Terai crisis took a violent turn only after Maoists killed a forum activist in Lahan in eastern Nepal.

“If some portray it as the communal problem, then they are at fault,” Yadav said. “If we are not representing people then why is there hundreds and thousands of people out in the street in our protest campaigns?”

Yadav continued:

We have always denounced violence but Maoists and other elements have been acting as vigilantes to disrupt our peaceful protests. Just a few days ago, they attacked media persons, but we are being blamed for the attack.

They (the Maoists) had raised the issues of Madhesi community and various other communities at the beginning of the people’s war but they betrayed us when they were invited to join the government. We are raising the same demands of regional autonomy and federal democracy now.

It is clear that Maoists don’t want to look inferior to the MPRF as that would only damage their reputation as the people’s leaders. However, the Nepali people are watching the activities of the political parties closely. The Terai crisis started only after communal violence engulfed Nepalgunj, during which — as per a report prepared by a committee formed to investigate the incident — one person was killed and 26 injured, and property worth 78 million Nepali rupees was destroyed. Altogether, 211 houses and shops were ravaged during the riot following the Terai strike organized by the Nepal Sadbhawana Party (Anandadevi).

The party had called for a strike in protest of the interim constitution but the protest took the form of communal violence as Nepali-speaking people tried to oppose the strike, and “infiltrators” and vigilante manipulated the opportunity to fuel the Terai crisis. However, I watched one video in which security officials were mere onlookers to the vandalism — and sometimes participants in it. The report maintains that the violence took place because local officials and security agencies failed to perform their duties effectively.

“Each and every individual irrespective of their communities — whether Pahade or Madhesi — should have the feeling of being a Nepali first before talking about their language, culture and tradition,” the report said.

The report also suggested that the eight political parties address the demands of the Madhesi people without further delay. But progress has been slow, while the toll continues to rise. After the Nepalgunj violence, the MPRF took the initiative to raise the demands of the Madhesi people. It has been only two weeks since the promulgation of the interim constitution, after which the MPRF activists started staging protests to demand revision of the electoral constituencies set out in the constitution.

The main demand of the Madhesi people, including the Janatantrik Terai Liberation Front, which is leading an armed struggle, the Nepal Sadhbhava Party (Anandadevi) and the MPRF, is proportional representation of the community. The provision in the temporary statute on electoral constituencies makes the larger representation (as per its population) of the Madhesis impossible. The Nepali-speaking community dominates the ruling class, administration and bureaucracy with only a few Madhesis or people of other indigenous communities, and the existing electoral constituencies will only cater to the need of Nepali-speaking community. The Nepalese media and intellectuals have expressed support for the movement but have pledged all the agitating parties to using only peaceful means of protest.

Now that the long-suppressed Madhesi community has finally raised their voice to put an end to 238 years of suppression and injustice, how can one fail to agree with their demand?

The eight-party government has yet to find a concrete solution to heal the woes of the Madhesi and other communities. If those in power fail to address the people’s problems now, it will only force the agitating parties to resort to more-violent means of protest to put pressure on the government. So far, “only” eight lives have been lost, but it could turn into 80, 800 or even more. The sooner they realize this, the better.

source::http://english.ohmynews.com/articleview/article_view.asp?article_class=3&no=342847&rel_no=1

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Entry filed under: Articles.

Nepal: Confusion and Finding Scapegoats Special Edit: The Madhesi Revolt

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Freedom Lover  |  January 31, 2007 at 10:31 pm

    Development Deficits and Post Conflict Challenges
    In
    Multi-Ethnic Nepal

    By: Freedom Lover

    Let there be justice for all.
    Let there be peace for all.
    Let there be work, bread, water and salt for all.
    Nelson Mandela

    Democracy deficit to democracy defeat

    Nepalese are increasingly frustrated with democracy even as voters long for freer elections, broader civil liberties and more responsive political leader. While not denying some injustices done to minorities in the past by successive Nepalese governments, and also concurring that some fundamental restructuring of constitution to ensure that no ethnic group is advantaged or disadvantaged over other ethnic groups, simply on account of a numerical strength, or for any other reason, one has to take stock at some stage where Madhesis are heading with a strategy that is obviously hopeless for them and totally counter productive to them and to the rest of Nepalese.

    The sectarian violence, particularly in Terai is becoming very serious now.Time will say the legacy of this sectarian conflict. There is no doubt of certain amount of differences among communities always, but it never was the predominant feature of political life, and certainly not personal life. But the greatest threat today is the possibility of turning sectarian violence into civil war like in Iraq.

    When minority rights are violated and minority issues ignored, the entire society is really at risk. Therefore, if a durable solution is needed for this conflict, it has to be a political decision and not a military one. The Madheis could be a major player in country’s decision making process provided they embrace the democratic political process. They cannot succeed if they persist with their violence and arms. It is their choice to be relevant or irrelevant in the forthcoming political restructuring of Nepal. If all ethnic groups are to make Nepal their home, they have to accept that freedom has to be considered from the multi ethnic, multi religious nature of the country, and accept the relativity of freedom from that context. Those who cannot accept this will have to find sanctuary elsewhere.

    Sustaining Peace

    As long as traditions and institution, by which authority is exercised in post-conflict environments, are not inclusive, the possibility of sustainable peace is far from the reality. That is, they must include traditions and institutions of all the stakeholders; so as to ensure better governance at all levels.

    Transforming war-based institutions to those of participatory governance.

    Transform institutions of war-economy to structures and institutions of peacetime that promote economic and social interactions among all the actors of the economy remain challenged for long term.

    Combating poverty and the sense of marginalization and exclusion in all regions of Nepal

    Combating pervasive poverty and the sense of marginalisation, hopelessness and exclusion in the most remote parts of the country and among ethnic minorities.

    Highway code for the multi-ethnic society: a way out for peace

    As we see millions of cars in the world – of all kinds, shapes and colors. But they all have to share the same road space and governed by the same principles and rule of law. Laws that mean we must respect the ground realities of driving rules for all the drivers irrespective of nature of cars to reach destination safely. It is the need of this hour and among Nepalese today. All Nepalese today are in the crossroads violence and ethnic conflicts amid a Constitution Assembly election for a new constitution that aims to be inclusive all ethnic minorities and communities to live in peace and harmony with equal opportunity of rights and to progress. But the growing unrest in Terai indicates that some sections of the Madhesi community are not only enthusiastic to enjoy the rights envisaged by people’s revolution –2 and progressive rights of equality from the new constitution, but enthusiastic to support reactionaries with irrelevant activities and to draw a new line in national brotherhood.

  • 2. Son of Tirhut  |  February 1, 2007 at 5:35 am

    Now the the face off has come infront of Madhesi community people that has given to us gift as a dead body of our own people. It is also clear we are not a human as these khasiya rulers and hence so happened Biratnagar and several terain cities.

    In every peaceful rally these vigilante specially from the police and maost as well are trying to turn as communinal violence. So from these factors we madhesi have to careful. This is the right time to move ahead that that what we were treated as.

    Jai Madhes!!!!!

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