Aftermaths of Madhesi Uprising
Aftermaths of Madhesi Uprising
— Salik Shah
Nepal can become the richest country in the South Asia, as speculated by India recently, within next ten years. If national unity and political stability can be guaranteed in the country, Nepal can benefit from the economic and technological advancement of its neighbors- India and China, both rising super-powers of the world.Since January 16 when Madhesi People’ Rights Forum (MPRF) launched protests, the socio-economic stability in Nepal has undergone a significant transformation. Just a month ago, people were indifferent to the plights of Madhesis, Dalits, women or any indigenous communities. However, the wave of Madhesi Uprising, suspended for ten days starting Thursday, has awakened the long suppressed and marginalized people in the country. The political and social impact of the Madhesi movement is significant. However, the ‘awakening’ can be also dangerous to the communal tolerance of the country long known as “a garden of 4 races and 36 creeds” since all of these communities are demanding ‘autonomy’ plus self-rule now. Sadly, they have failed to see if there is any viability for independent existence within this small country of 147,181 sq kms.
“Before Madhesi Uprising, there were two types of people in the country: Nepali and Madhesi. All Pahades (people of hills) used to call themselves Nepali. But now, the country has suddenly realized that there are Pahades, Madhesis, Newars, Gurungs, Tharus, Limbus, Magars among other various indigenous communities in the country. Today, every ‘Nepali’ is the rightful citizen of the country and not only the member of a particular community.”
Human Casualties incurred due to Madhesi Uprising:
According to the official report prepared by National Human Rights Commission, altogether 21 Madhesi people, 3 Janatantrik Terai Liberation Front (JTLF) cadres, two Indian protesters and one Maoists cadre have died from Jan 19 -Feb 6. Two more protesters died in Biratnagar the following day. One Tharu activist was killed yesterday. Over 500 injuries have been reported while it is evident that many of the seriously injured ones will have the lifetime impact of the injuries.
Economic Loss in Eighteen Days of Terai Unrest:The eighteen days of Terai unrest incurred a loss of over Rs 18 billion to the country as transport, industries, bazaars, customs and revenue collection, academic institutions and other sectors of mid-Terai and eastern Terai are shut for the last three weeks. Life and business in Terai- the economic hub of the country- was badly affected by the bandh and traffic strike as well as state-imposed curfews over the last three weeks.The import and export of goods have been affected while it has been widely feared that the ongoing Terai bandh will have an irreversible affect on the government’s target of revenue collection in the fiscal year 2006/07. The revenue collections at the customs offices in Birgunj, Biratnagar and Kakarvitta have been disrupted. The thre
e custom offices collect Rs 3 billion, Rs 600 million and Rs 220 million revenue per month respectively.
Hence, the national budget allocated for development construction might be spent on other sectors hindering the progress of the country. Due to the strike and agitations called by Transport workers, the JTLF, and the MPRF, the transport sector of the country has suffered a loss of estimated to be over Rs 500 million in the region alone. Besides, the damages incurred to the private and government properties is yet to be calculated.Significant Political Impact of the Madhesi Uprising:
Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala along with the major political parties in eight-party alliance, including Maoists, has agreed to meet the key demands of the Madhesi people and declare the nation a federal state. The government will demarcate existing constituencies on the basis of population and geographical speciality and increase the seats for the Terai during the Constituent Assembly elections.
Meanwhile, the political consequences of the Madhesi Uprising have been immense. Until few months back, Maoists, which used to act like as if it had actually won the twelve-year long so-called “people’s war” with the government, had been forced to revise its much-spoken strategies and political agendas. Perhaps, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that the Madhesi Uprising has apparently eroded the power-base of the Maoists from the region. The three weeks of Madhesi Uprising has provided one-time opportunity for all the democratic forces of the country, including the seven-party alliance, to establish a powerful democratic front.
“However, at this point in time, if Madhesis are somehow able to unite and establish a democratic front, they can seriously challenge Maoists’ fiefdom in Terai, annulling Maoists’ aspiration of establishing a proletarian communist state; this will be a great achievement in itself,” Dr Hari Bansha Dulal wrote in “Blessings in disguise?” published in The Kathmandu Post today.
Meanwhile, some political analysts also fear that the Madhesi Uprising has provided opportunities to ‘counter-revolutionary’ and pro-royalist forces to destabilize the country and pave way for another royal coup. A few days ago, one Nepal Army brigadier went on to deliver a highly controversial statement with clear political overtones saying that if the current unrest in Terai goes out of control from the hands of other security agencies (Nepal Police and Armed Police Force), then the Nepali Army soldiers will be deployed to bring the situation under control. This remark has generated doubts that the Nepali Army, which is still loyal to the king, might be considering to stage coup making advantages of the increasing unrest and violence in the country. In some places, pro-royal slogans were written on walls in public places.Besides, the seven-party alliance has been forced to listen to the people’s demands. The SPA has now the responsibility to set up a strong foundation for the establishment of a democratic system in the country. The prime minister cannot become a dictator now, as the interim constitution will be amended so that there are clear provisions for the existence of opposition and “vote of no confidence” against the prime minister in the soon-to-be-formed interim government parliament.
The Long-term Social and Cultural Impact of the Uprising:Perhaps, it’d be too early to talk about the long-term social and cultural aftermath of the Madhesi Uprising. However, it’s noteworthy that the Madhesi uprising has inspired people belonging to the marginalized and long-suppressed communities of the country to raise their voices for their rights. Unfortunately, the indigenous communities of the country are failing to see beyond their self-interest.
Before Madhesi Uprising, there were two types of people in the country: Nepali and Madhesi. All Pahades (people of hills) used to call themselves Nepali. But now, the country has suddenly realized that there are Pahades, Madhesis, Newars, Gurungs, Tharus, Limbus, Magars among other various indigenous communities in the coutnry. Today, every ‘Nepali’ is the rightful citizen of the country and not only the member of a particular community.
Meanwhile, other communities are also reorganizing themselves for the betterment of their respective communities. One Tharu Welfare Group has launched protests and called for bandh in the areas of Terai densely populated by Tharus themselves. The leader of the TWG was heard saying that the government listens to the people’s demands only when the people resort to violent protests, vandalism, strikes and bandh. One Tharu activist was killed yesterday during a clash with people trying to defy the bandh called by the group. The Tharus are demanding that the government should ensure the rights of indigenous communities by adopting the International Labor Organization’s Act 169, along with the right of self rule and decision, amendment of the interim constitution to revoke the provisions discriminatory to the indigenous communities, gender, class et al and establishment to autonomous Tharuwat Area, federal governing system and proportionate electoral system by annulling of the existing electoral constituencies so that new electoral constituencies could be set up on the basis of geographic background and area as well as the population of the region.
Similarly, the Madhesi people, who took to streets against rank discrimination and exclusion, have won their rightful place in the government and bureaucracy. The former Royal Nepal Army has set up a separate battalion for Madhesi people for the first time in 238-years since its formation. “Sabuj Gana” battalion has been set up in respect to the contribution of Terai-origin people in the task of nation building, Nepal Army said in a press release today. Similarly, separate battalions for Kiratis and other indigenous communities living in the mountains have been also set up in this fiscal year, the statement said. Earlier, the NA had set up “Gorakh Gana” and “Kali Bahadur Gana” for Magar and Gurung communities respectively.
The social inclusion of the various communities in the bureaucracy is not a distant dream. However, a lot need to be done towards the establishment of equal societal status through principles of “inclusive democracy” in Nepal. The Madhesi Uprising should be taken cautiously as a sign of what could be happen if the political leaders turn deaf ears to the demands of common people. However, it should not create walls among the diverse communities of the country. The Madhesi Uprising has built bridges among the various communities of the country and has forced the government to address the demands of the Dalits, women, and other indigenous communities of the country. It has started discussions and debates on the communal tolerance and co-existence in the country once again, when few powerful political parties are trying to divide the country in pieces again just to garner votes to meet their self-interests.
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