Nepal: Death Toll Climbs to 10
Nepal: Death Toll Climbs to 10
Leaders repeating old mistakes in failing to address the protesters’ concerns
At least two people died in a fresh clash in Biratnagar on Wednesday following an eight-party meeting that was held on Tuesday evening at which Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala failed to provide definite solutions to the political problems facing Nepal.
Koirala was expected to address the demands of the Madhesi people and several indigenous communities in a speech. However, Koirala failed to show serious concern about the demands of the Madhesi People’s Rights Forum (MPRF) and other agitating parties and his speech has lent fuel to the Terai crisis.
“We’re rebuilding the nation — for everyone,” Koirala said. “After the constituent assembly elections, Nepal will be declared a federal republic. We invite all the agitating parties for talks to sort out the differences.”
These remarks come at the time when the people were expecting Koirala to formally invite the MPRF and other parties for talks. A few minutes after the prime minister’s address, MPRF activists attacked two police posts in Biratnagar. Unfortunately, due to Koirala’s lack of farsightedness, two more people died during the clash, pushing the death toll for the Madhesi movement to 10. Killed were sub-inspector Naresh Jung Karki and forum activist Sahananda Yadav. Angry Madhesis took to the streets to stage demonstrations against the government’s indifference in defiance of an indefinite curfew that has been in effect in Biratnagar since Tuesday afternoon. Similar protests and violence took place in other areas of Terai as well.
Madhesi leaders have expressed discontentment with the prime minister’s speech. The issues raised by the Madhesi community and others have been overlooked. They have accused the prime minister of misleading the people. He should have addressed their demands for regional autonomy and federal democracy. The strike isn’t going to end this way, they said. So far, the Madhesi movement has only received the support of the people.
Several leaders from indigenous communities have extended support to and expressed solidarity with the Madhesi in their struggle to achieve self-rule through a proportionate electoral system and federal republicanism. The Indigenous Ethnic Peace Commission Nepal asked the government to address the demands of the Madhesi through talks. Accusing those still loyal to King Gyanendra as the force behind the violence in Terai, the commission called on people to remain careful. It also urged the government to address the issues of neglected regions as well as those of the Madhesi.
Similarly, The Autonomous Tamang Republican Forum and the Maithil Federation have launched a joint movement demanding a proportionate electoral system and federal republicanism, with ethnic, linguistic and regional autonomy under the leadership of the MPRF. The Limbuwan Autonomous Concern Forum has called for a three-day strike in the Limbuwan area of eastern Nepal starting on Wednesday, including the districts of Taplejung, Panchthar, Illam, Jhapa, Morang, Sunsari, Terhathum, Dhankuta, Shanhuwasabha and Bhojpur, among others. The protest was welcomed by various indigenous organizations, including the Yakha Autonomous Council and the Lepcha Autonomous Area.
The protests in Terai have begun to affect the lives of Nepalese in major cities and metropolitan areas across the country. The shortage of petroleum fuels has worsened in Kathmandu while the supply of all other necessary goods like food grains, fruits and vegetables, as well as medicines, have declined. There has been a significant increase in airfares as movement by road has been completely disrupted and people have been forced to travel by air. Shops, educational institutions and industries have remained closed for over two weeks.
Koirala and the eight political parties are making the same mistake that led to the Maoist insurgency more than a decade ago. It was a personal fight for power between Koirala, who is also the head of the Nepali Congress, and then-prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba that paved way for King Gyanendra’s takeover. (Deuba has since broken away from the Nepali Congress to form the Nepali Congress-Democratic.)
Koirala, 85, has been fortunate enough to become the prime minister six times even though he is considered by many to be the most-hated man in Nepalese politics. Koirala is credited with bringing the Maoists into the political mainstream as well as for creating the crisis that led to the Maoist insurgency in the first place. The Nepali people had no faith in any other leader after the April uprising. They put their fate in Koirala’s hands because they believed he would not chase after power at his age, but it seems Koirala has once again put his political ambitions before the welfare of Nepal and its citizens.
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