‘I WILL TALK, BUT NOT TO COMPROMISE’ – Upendra Yadav
|‘I WILL TALK, BUT NOT TO COMPROMISE’A former Maoist, Upendra Yadav heads what is arguably the biggest overground platform for Madheshi autonomy. He is in negotiations with Kathmandu but remains clear that if fundamental demands are not fast-tracked to acceptance, he will pull out and impose more radical demands. “Had the Pandavas been given their villages, the Mahabharat would never have happened. That is where we are today,” he told Sankarshan Thakur in an interview in Kathmandu. Excerpts:
Tehelka: Why the sudden eruption of this movement?
Upendra Yadav:The exploitation of Madheshis is not a new thing, it has been going on for centuries and we have been silent. They treat Nepal like a country that belongs solely to Pahadis. We are victims of internal colonialism; we are not even treated as humans. Now is the time to grab our due. The nation is on the brink of major changes and a new constitution is on the anvil. If Madheshis do not get their rights now, they never will. We are close to half the country’s population, we don’t want charity, we want what’s rightfully ours.
What is your basic demand?
Complete autonomy, freedom to determine our destiny, because the Pahadis can never give us justice. We want Madhesh and we want self-rule.
But not secession?
We think genuine autonomy is enough to meet the aspirations of the Madheshi people. We do not want to push Madhesh out of Nepal, but I cannot guarantee what turn things might take if Kathmandu continues to bully us.
Are you hopeful talks will succeed?
Difficult to say. Government leaders agree in principal to our demands, but we see no reflection of that in their decision-making. They are making key appointments and no Madheshis have been included. They are confused about the kind of federal structure they might have. They seem unprepared to give up Pahadi hegemony.
Why are you even talking then? Some Madheshi outfits say you have sold out. That you are agents of the King.
The allegation is preposterous. We represent genuine Madheshi sentiment, nothing else. That is our only agenda and we are in talks for two reasons: one, we do not want to plunge Madhesh in anarchy, there has been enough violence lately; and two, the government said it wanted to learn about our problems and discuss what can be done.
But what’s your claim to being the sole representatives of Madheshi aspirations?
The Sadbhavana Party is having a good time in power. They lack credibility in Madhesh. The armed groups are splinters, not important. They lack ideology, programme and public support. During the recent agitation, the Janadhikar Forum clearly emerged as the voice of the Madheshis.
But the Maoists were the first to speak of Madheshi aspiration and autonomy.
They did and I was a Maoist too. But it became clear to us that they were not genuine, and that is why I and many others left. The Maoists are a Pahadi outfit, the same as the Nepali Congress and other Kathmandu parties. By not putting the Madheshi agenda on the table when they negotiated participation in the government, they exposed themselves. That is why they have no place in Madhesh today. They are in poor shape and are struggling to maintain a presence.
What role do you see for India? Do you think overt Indian support might hurt you?
We are people of Indian origin, but remember we are Madheshis and Nepalis. This is our struggle. India can give us moral support, which is not forthcoming at the moment. The people of Bihar and UP are with us, but the Government of India is not taking any notice. If the situation in Madhesh worsens, India will be badly affected. The implications could be terrible. We do not want to invite Indian intervention but we do want a positive approach from India.
July 14 , 2007
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