Nepal: 27 Killed and Counting
Nepal: 27 Killed and Counting
Our leaders are failing to address the people’s demands
— Santosh Salik Shah
With nearly two dozen deaths and several hundreds injured, the Terai crisis is on the verge of spilling over into other parts Nepal.
I don’t know why, but the eight-party government is unable to quench the burning flames of the wayward Madhesi uprising. Twenty-two Madhesi and two Indians protesters, as well as three JTMM (Janatantrik Terai Liberation Front, a Maoist splinter group) cadres have been killed. Who is responsible for the killing of these 27 people? Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, who heads the eight-party government? Or Home Minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula, who has failed to “suppress the people’s voices” or stop defiance of state-imposed curfews?
The Madhesi People’s Rights Forum (MPRF), which claims to be leader of the Madhesi movement, has laid out three pre-conditions for talks: (1) the resignation of Sitaula, (2) an end to the use of excessive force by the government to suppress the Madhesi movement, and (3) punishment of those guilty of creating the first “martyr” of the Madhesi movement, Ramesh Kumar Mahato, who was reportedly killed by Maoists cadres.
If Koirala is to be blamed for the killings, then he should resign. But we all know he won’t. Because he would never want to see the Maoists’ chairman, Prachanda, become the “de facto” ruler of the country. According to the special power attributed to the prime minister through the recently promulgated, controversial interim constitution, Koirala can’t be forced to quit, as there is no provision for “vote of no confidence” in the legislative parliament. Hence, Koirala himself has said that the prime minister can become a dictator if there are no checks-and-balances in the power structure. This “extraordinary provision” of the temporary constitution was already a subject of debate. The Madhesi people and several other indigenous communities feel that the constitution fails to address their demands.
The interim constitution is mere patchwork meant to address only a few problems of the country. It caters to the needs of the eight-party government. It has made the king impotent, but sovereignty hasn’t been transferred to the Nepali people. The prime minister and the eight-party government enjoy sovereign authority of the state at present, while other political parties, both large and small, as well as the common Nepalese citizenry, are wondering if this is what they longed to achieve when ousting King Gyanendra through April movement.
One wonders what is keeping Koirala from asking Sitaula to quit if that will bring the agitating parties to the table for talks. The MPRF’s two other demands are also legitimate, and easy to fulfill. However, it seems the old tradition continues — our politicians won’t scratch their head or take pains to address problems until they reach disastrous levels. The Madhesi uprising and the failure of the eight-party government to address the problem on time or to find a concrete solution over the past three weeks shows how shortsighted and irresponsible our leaders are. When the whole nation is being covered by the dust of the Terai unrest, it seems the so-called people’s leaders are unable to see even beyond their own noses.
Koirala has seen many ups and downs in his political career, but one can easily see how his leadership has ruined the country. The third generation of Nepalese, to which I belong, grew up listening to stories of his corruption scandals and until last year, we used to crack silly jokes about him. Of course, if Koirala wanted, he could turn this country into Switzerland, which is what every new leader promises here to impress the people. However, the leaders are refraining from adopting a federal governing system like that of Switzerland.
For the JTMM, once an ally of the Maoists’ but now an adversary, it is now their turn to wreck havoc in the country. For the last few days, attacks on police posts have become rampant. Just today, three JTMM cadres were shot dead by an unidentified group in Saptari. The JTMM is following the path of the Maoists into government via insurrection. The Maoists were given 73 seats in the existing legislative-parliament (without having won a single vote) to bring them into the government and end the Maoist insurgency. If that is the way to be heard in this country — where the leaders often turn deaf ears to the people’s demands — perhaps JTMM’s pursuit of regional autonomy and a federal governing system through “terrorist activities” can be justified. After all, the eight-party government just keeps on overlooking the demands of people.
It is clear that if the eight-party government doesn’t persuade the agitating parties to come to the table for talks, then the Madhesi uprising has the dangerous potential to engulf the whole country. If the ruling parties’ leaders fail to realize this, or find a concrete solution to the problem very soon, the increasing unrest in the country will threaten the newly restored democracy.
A “concrete solution” would be to agree to the demands of the agitating parties to amend the interim constitution to include the provisions of regional autonomy and federal republicanism. It’s not such an impossible task. The old assumption that ordinary people normally don’t become “political leaders,” that only extraordinary people with “gifted” qualities have the fortune and qualification to rule the entire nation, just isn’t realistic. Why is it so difficult to agree to amend the interim constitution? What is keeping our “honest” and “selfless” political leaders from transferring sovereign authority to the people? If the Madhesi uprising isn’t relieved soon, we may get some answers.
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