New Government Seeing Bad Reflections In Nepal Violence

February 7, 2007 at 2:03 pm Leave a comment

New Government Seeing Bad Reflections In Nepal Violence

— By Rabi Khadka 

For the Himalayan nation of Nepal, problems just keep on piling up.

As one protracted conflict that gripped the country for a decade came to a close, a new one – possibly more explosive fuelled by complex ethnic mix – is now looming on the horizon.

The government made up of opposition political parties that had been demonstrating on the streets against successive government for years, is now finding out how tough ruling can be.

Nepal’s latest trouble in southern plains known as Terai has already claimed the lives of at least 20 people. What initially seemed to have been a protest against the interim constitution has turned violent with shades of communal hatred. The violence has spread and may be getting out of control as the government has been ineffectual.

There is a common agreement among the eight main parties which includes the Maoists ex-rebel, that the demand of the Madhesi People’s Rights Forum (MPRF) for a federalist structure is valid. But that is as far as the agreement goes.

Viewed closely, the MPRF want only ethnic Madhesi people to represent Terai in parliament, but not any of the large numbers of hill people living in the region. The demand has significance because senior leaders including Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala along with senior leader Madhav Kumar Nepal represent the Terai region, but under MPRF classification they are not ethnic Madhesi.

“Solving complex problems needs political will. But this could mean unpleasant outcome for the political parties in power. What we are seeing now is that the parties are trying to distance themselves from the government’s action that may be deemed unpopular to preserve their voter base” said journalist Dhruba Kumar Deuja.

Nepal’s political parties have a history of infighting to the extent of bringing down their own government. And the Terai issue could certainly lead to further fracturing of the Seven Party Alliance (SPA) and the Maoists.

“Giving in to MPRF demands as it now stands will mean great political losses for both the Nepali Congress and the Maoists. Nepali Congress will lose significant amount of its voter base and the Maoists will lose the initiative of championing the causes of marginalised people, especially in southern Terai.” Dueja says.

The government also faces another dilemma. Creating a federal state along ethnic lines could provoke other communities to demand the same throughout the country. Nepal has dozens of ethnic communities with their own languages and cultures.

“If we are to give in to violent tactics of each small group then what will happen to the country?” Maoist leader Prachanda said in a recent news conference.

But in fact, the demand for federal states was first raised by the Maoists themselves, who even encouraged ethnic leaders to announce “autonomous areas” along ethnic lines to maximize their support base to fight the government. As a result, there are a dozen ethnic autonomous areas spread across the nation.

And Prachanda for one may feel that short-term actions are now becoming a long-term headache for his party as well as the government.

But political analyst Lok Raj Baral views it in the context of Nepal’s tumultuous political history.

“This is a passing phenomenon. It is natural for decades of suppressed feelings to explode in a changed political context. The state must act and address those issues soon.”

Unlike the previous government, the current alliance came to power by championing the rights of the people. But the new rulers find themselves using police force against demonstrators, and already more people have died from police action in Terai than during the People’s Movement in April 2006 which toppled the King Gyanendra’s government.

If the violence continues and protestors continue to attack government and private properties, then it may not have any option but to deploy the army, something neither the government nor the Maoists want.

But with violence already in its third week and many towns and cities still under curfew, the government is fast running out of options. The political parties may find themselves sidelined by the growing anger in the Terai and ultimately lose their goodwill among the people. Giving in to Madhesi demands completely may be the only way to avoid further bloodshed.



Entry filed under: Articles.

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