Why Madhesis of Nepal Agitating?
Why Madhesis of Nepal Agitating?
2007-05-14 11:55:18 – Because of inadequate coverage about the activities of the “Madhesis” of Nepal at least in the Indian print medium, there are widespread confusion about not only the origins of the Madhesis but what precisely their demands are?
Because of inadequate coverage about the activities of the “Madhesis” of Nepal at least in the Indian print medium, there are widespread confusion about not only the origins of the Madhesis but what precisely their demands are from the central government of Nepal at Kathmandu. Some of the widespread misunderstandings about them is that the Madhesis are immigrants from India.
Secondly, they want separation from Nepal. Thirdly, the R.S.S. and the Hindutva forces in the States of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, bordering the Madheshi -dominated territories of Nepal are fuelling disaffection among the Madhesis against the Maoist dominated government based in Kathmandu.
Probably, the biggest confusion in the minds of Indians in general is about who these “Madhesis” are. At an intimate and frank interaction at a venue in New Delhi where only two media persons were present among others-one being this reporter-Shri Upendra Yadava, Chairman of the Madheshi Janadhikar Forum clarified that the Madhesis (meaning people living in Madhyadesh, between the mountains of Nepal and the plains of India) were fighting “against those who had occupied our territory 238 years ago”.
This was an allusion to the historic fact that when the Mughal Empire was crumbling during the latter half of the eighteenth century, powerful feudal lords would occupy some territory in the Bihar- Bengal- Avadh areas where the English too were making forays. Prithvi Narayan Shah, chief of a hill principality called Gorkha (name of a place, not of a community) occupied certain areas on the northern fringes of Bihar and Avadh, under the British and under the Nawabs of Oudh respectively. The Gorkha Durbar had engaged itself in two wars with the British in order to retain the territories on the northern fringes of today’s Bihar.
After the two Anglo-Gorkha wars, the Treaty of Sugauli was signed in 1815 after which the southern, eastern and western boundaries of Nepal were drawn, which today form Nepal with an area of 141,181 square kilometers. Within this boundary came people living in the northern fringes of today’s Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. They, therefore, became citizens of Nepal that is Nepalis. Mr. Yadava emphasized that his forefathers were already living in the area now called Madhesh since much before the forays by Prithvinarayan Shah and his descendants. (Prithvi Narayan Shah had first occupied Kathmandu Valley from the Newars in 1769, which was 238 years ago). The Madhesis are not immigrants from India, he emphasized.
Replying to questions, Mr. Yadava denied allegations that the Forum had sought secession from Nepal.” We want to remain in Nepal and we do not want separation .We, however, would like to have our separate State within the federal structure of Nepal ” he said. Mr. Yadava, however, added that “India being a democratic country should extend to us moral support and have a positive approach towards the problems the Madhesis are facing in their country. “Moral support is a big factor”, he said.
Referring to certain tricky conditions set for granting of citizenship certificates to Madheshis – you must own some land in order to qualify for citizenship and on the other hand you can own land if only you are a citizen – Mr.Yadava said the Madhesi state within the federal structure would be an autonomous entity which will determine the criteria for grant of citizenship.
On the wider level, he said that proportional representation in the Constituent Assembly first and then the national parliament after the two general elections must be ensured for Madheshis.
Recalling the discrimination the central authorities practiced against the Madhesis, Mr Yadava said that of the 205 seats in the recently-dissolved House of Representatives Madhesis accounted for just 38 seats from various parties although the strength of the Madheshi areas -geographically speaking – was 84 Members. This despite the fact that the Madheshi share in the population of the country about 2.70 crores, totaled 1.30 crores, almost half the country’s population. He agreed with the view that there had been systematic shift in the population from the hills to the Terai in order to reduce the majority status of the Madhesis in the Terai areas. For example, he said that in the Terai district of Jhapa (bordering north Bihar and West Bengal), the Pahadi (hill people) people accounted for as much as 85 per cent. In Chitwan in central Terai region, the percentage of Pahadis was 90. He recalled that in the first census in 1950-51, the Pahadi population in Madhesh was only three per cent. It was about 40 per cent now.
Lastly, on the question of monarchy if they would support monarchy in any future set up in Nepal. Mr. Yadava shot back: “Why should we support the monarchy?. What has the monarchy done for us? They had occupied our territory in the first place 238 years ago, he stressed again in order to emphasize that the Madheshi Janadhikar Forum was not in favour of any form of monarchy in the future set up for Nepal.
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