Doing Justice Right
Doing Justice Right
By Bindu Chaudhary
There is an important task ahead of all of us to build Nepal as a true democracy- a democracy not only for those born with silver spoons in their mouth just by the virtue of being hill- dwellers or the Pahadis, but also for the Madhesis for whom honor, human worth and dignity has been a far-fetched dream. Madhesis have been the victims of racial discrimination by the state mechanism for the last 238 years. Two hundred and thirty years of oppression is no joke, and as if that was not enough, the most awaited interim constitution that everybody hoped would be fair and inclusive, appeared a sham – the final straw that broke the camel’s back.
The demands of the Madhesis are simple and humble- right to self-determination, proportional representation in the constituent assembly, restructuring the constituencies based on population, federal system with regional autonomy, and elimination of all forms of discrimination practiced by the state mechanism. Yet, the response have been high-and-mighty: the news about casualties and violence against the Madhesis have been suppressed to keep the world unaware of such incidents; Madhesis have been killed, looted, attacked, vandalised and their houses have been burnt with the support of and backed by Nepal police; curfews have been imposed in Madhesi towns and their basic rights suspended to choke-off their voices; peaceful protesters are hurled into custody and tortured without any legal basis… and the torment continues. According to different sources, at least 10 Madhesis have already been shot dead, about 350-400 injured and dozens of them in serious condition, and the numbers are mounting each passing day.
For Madhesis, time is of essence. They believe that if action is not taken before the constituent assembly, there is no doubt that the government would even bother to lend their ears to the Madhesis after election of the constituent assembly to be held by mid-June this year. At a time when the nation is looking forward for favorable and concrete outcome, the Prime Minister’s address to the nation on January 31 st turned out a poem full of ambiguities. That “the federal structure of the nation will be created during the formation of new constitution after the election to the constituent assembly” is hard to pin one’s faith on. Moreover, to say that constituencies will be added based on population increase seems to be merely an attempt to mislead Madhesi people.
The demands put forth by the Madhesis remain all in one piece, except for some scuffle here and there. In all this topsy-turvy and the circumstances where cards seem stacked against the Madhesis, one thing that seems intact and bound is the unity of Madhesis all over the globe. Since Madhesis have had faced enough tricks, they cannot let the clock tick away waiting for any solution after the election. Observing the Madhesi unity and the solidarity shown by some empathetic Pahadis, Madhesis can hope for light at the end of the tunnel.
Authority increases when we empower others instead of getting into power struggles. It is time to act in a rational manner and respond to conflict not by guns and bullets but by allowing Madhesis to take control over their lives. Second, time might be running out for the Election Commission for poll preparation, but keeping in mind that silence is doing no good than igniting protest, it is imperative to carry out the important tasks. Third, the nation needs to revisit the address by the PM and realise that it was not as benevolent as perhaps perceived. Importantly, it must be realised that Madhesis belong to the nation as much as the hill-dwellers do, and by all common sense, deserve the full rights of a citizen.
The government should help defend freedom of expression and cultural diversity and act genuinely on the honest grievances of the terai people. The time is to bloom where we are planted. Every Nepali regardless of geographic or ethnic boundaries can contribute in their own capacities to advocate brotherhood and kinship among Madhesis and Pahadis starting from their family, their area, their town, their region and their country. Peace spirals outward, hence even after Madhesis get their rights on papers and are included in the national mainstream, internalising the respect for life and dignity of each human being is of essence.
(The author is a Social Worker and a Freelance Journalist advocating for the rights of the voiceless and the unheard. Before going to the U.S., she was associated with a couple of NGOs and INGOs in Nepal and India and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Entry filed under: Articles.