Playing with matches

June 8, 2007 at 11:39 am 5 comments

Playing with matches

The Maoists want to fight fire with fire in the tarai

— CK Lal

Travelling by day through the tarai these days is fraught with uncertainty. Things weren’t this bad even during the conflict.

On the night bus from Birganj to Kathmandu the mood used to be irreverent. Strangers would easily strike up conversations about police inefficiency, military arrogance, administrative callousness, Maoist excesses, and the avarice of politicians. But the Madhes Uprising brought an end to this spontaneity. These days people glance furtively at co-passengers as they get on. Few talk to strangers, and there is almost no conversation across the aisles. Silence hangs thick inside the bus until the first hills appear.

Last week, the tense ambience relaxed somewhat only when the bus crossed the Chure and neared Hetauda. A passenger sitting in the driver’s cabin whispered to an acquaintance, “We are only four Nepalis in the bus. All the rest are Forum.”

The person making the comment may have been a victim of either one of the JTMM factions, or any other violent groups professing to be working for madhesi rights. He may even have been an activist of the Chure Bhabar Ekta Samaj, a ‘society’ formed to counter madhesi militancy. But his use of “Forum” to describe Nepal’s plains-dwellers revealed the ingrained antipathy towards a group about to make peace with the government.

Upendra Yadav has lost his political brand even before its strength could be tested at the polls. No wonder Jayaprakash Prasad Gupta, the pragmatic radical, has swiftly abandoned the MJF ship he helped build and launch. “Forum” is not quite a generic term yet, but it has acquired anti-establishment connotations. Ufortunately, it doesn’t sit well with the kind of leaders MJF has in the districts. Its foot-soldiers are mostly the rejects of mainstream parties, retirees from government service, and other ambitious individuals who had failed to find a niche in national politics.

Even though MJF cadres were at the forefront, it would be naïve for them to believe that they were the leaders of the Madhes Uprising. Like a bushfire, the conflagration in the tarai that began unnoticed this winter consumed everything in its path and then spent itself. What we see today in the plains are cinders of a fire that raged for almost three months. With their month-long agitation announced this week, the Maoists are playing with matches and will restart that fire. This strategy of fighting fire with fire can create unwarranted complications for the constituent assembly elections.

Contrary to conventional wisdom in Kathmandu, the tarai uprising hasn’t affected the Maoists as much as we’d imagined. To begin with, the Maoists didn’t have much of a base in the madhes. Second, their core supporters among the marginalised communities have been left ‘untouched’. When Ram Bahadur Thapa began to camp out in Janakapur for extended periods, he may have found
that half his job had already been done by the MJF.

Despite their antics in parliament, the NC’s madhesi lawmakers have lost their legitimacy in the eastern tarai. The UML has been exposed as a party of pahadi priests. No mainstream party can truly claim to represent the people of the tarai today. The field has been left wide open for various armed groups, and that is the arena that the Maoists are all set to enter.

If things weren’t complicated enough in the tarai cauldron, the coming month could see the growing one-upmanship between Pushpa Kamal Dahal and his military strategist Ram Bahadur Thapa come to a head.

Unlike the JTMM or the Chure Bhabar, the Maoists have an alternate vision, a political program, and a national network to support their adventures in the tarai. While this will embolden their YCL to militancy, the retaliation from fringe groups is likely to be equally violent. All this will exacerbate the terror in the tarai. The end result will mean that elections will be impossible in November. Possibly, this is what the Maoists secretly want. 



Entry filed under: Articles.

The rise of a party The price of radicalism

5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. maun_ vidrohi  |  June 8, 2007 at 1:18 pm

    there is nothing new lal sir. this has always been the government ways of tackling the genuine issues raised by the madhesis. you must have noticed sir, before the talk with ram chandra paudel, upendra yadav feared for his life. and the threat must have been real. threat of life , threat of being framed for the offence of murder. thats why he was persistent in demanding security. in terai, these days its easy to kill a person and blame jtmm and other group.

    but government has not realised one thing. mjf was not a big group before the terai uprising. its the people who made them hero. if they as well as the government forget to deal with the real problkem of terai, another hero will be born. and anyone who compromise with the real problem of terai, will no longer remain the hero. they will go into political oblivion. there has been several example already.

  • 2. Son of Tirhut  |  June 8, 2007 at 2:46 pm

    Maun Birodhi Ji,
    The article shows the current situation of terai and of of course i agree with you Lal ji. The line mwntioning “anyone who compromise with the real problem of terai, will no longer remain the hero”. I don’t think any power can remove the position gained MJF, no matter whether it’s Maost any other parties. These people have written great books that was hidden before this- “The reality of Terai”. If one is replaced 100 and 1000 more heroes will be born. And as far as CA is concerned, none needs the change except Madhesi and Janjati. So we have to paricipate once the demands are fulfilled from the government raised by MJF.

    Jai Madhes!!!!!

  • 3. Salik Shah  |  June 9, 2007 at 4:59 pm

    I don’t trust maoists, I never had trust in other seven parties either. Now with leaders like Yadav- I’ve lost faith in him too. We need a brave man to lead us- to lead our country. We need a man who can unite us- nor like Prachanda who thinks MJF is a royal-foreign-impotent product.
    We need a Madhesi president in this country- one who will not shy away from his roots- and one who will be equally accept and admire all people from all communities of this country.
    Madhesi uprsing isn’t going to end- it will keep on burning for decades to come. I relate our cause with the Black people’s fight to regain diginity and civil rights and to put and end to discrimination in America.

  • 4. bhupen  |  June 27, 2007 at 11:14 pm

    keep peace alive what ever you do. If you fail this time, people won’t forgive you!

  • 5. Nepali Pandit  |  June 28, 2007 at 4:34 pm

    Peace is gone from Madhes. Maoists created Goit, Goit created Jwala Singh, Jwala Singh created Chure Bhanwar. What next? Anarchy.

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