Madhes Is In Search Of A Strong Political Leadership – Hridayesh Tripathi
“Madhes Is In Search Of A Strong Political Leadership”
As the disturbance in terai is yet to die, how do you see the possibility of holding the elections for Constituent Assembly on schedule?
We don’t have any option other than to hold the elections for the Constituent Assembly on November 22. That is the only way to find out political solution and clarity for the country. Since 1950, the demand of all the agitation has been to hold the elections for CA. It is unfortunate that the elections for CA could not be held because of political conspiracies. The present political complexity is directed to either postpone the elections or to indefinitely discontinue it. The election for CA is required to restructure the state and as a Madhesi, we want it. Some forces, which have been monopolizing the state power and who are now in the center of power, are not honest to hold the elections for CA and they want to postpone the elections in the name of terai disturbance.
How do you hold the elections when armed groups are terrorizing the people in Madhes?
Of course, Madhes is still in the agitation mood. From armed rebels to other parties who believe in peaceful agitation, all of them have been launching one or other kinds of program.
Some political leaders are saying that the elections of CA will not be held because of agitation in terai. How do you look at it?
Top leaders do not want to hold the elections for Constituent Assembly but they want to make Madhes as a scapegoat. Political parties are now trying to strengthen their earlier position and influence in terai. As long as their influence remains negligible in terai, they will not hold the elections.
What were the experiences you learned from Madhes agitation?
After February agitation, Madhes is now in a different stage. Madhesi’s agitation gave some important messages. First Madhesis have shown that they will not tolerate discrimination and oppression of the rulers and they want their right back. Second, Madhes wants justice, pride and self respect. Madhesis also gave message to the international community that there is a Madhes within Nepal. Madhesi people also gave the message for the leaders like us that Madhesi can launch any agitation without us. Madhesis also showed that they can go to any extent to establish their rights.
You are reportedly working to form a regional based party. Tell us more.
Madhes is in search of a strong political leadership. To fulfill the desire of Madhesi people, we are in consultations and discussion process among Madhesi political leaders of various political parties. In new federal structure, there requires a strong regional party. Our experiences have shown that as long we cannot have common ground and common party, we cannot solve the problems of Madhes. Our aim is to set up strong regional political party for Madhes. This will help to strengthen loktantrick system as well as help to raise the issue of Madhesis. Madhes wants sacrifice and martyrdom from the Madhesi leaders. Madhes has not seen such sacrifice. Although there are many divisions among Madhesis, Madhes now wants to see the unity among all these factions to strongly raise their cause. Madhesis have drawn the conclusion that they have not secured gains commensurate with the sacrifices they have made.
Do you mean Madhesi leaders are incapable for this?
Like the ruling class, the leaders of Madhes are also responsible for the present sorry state in Madhes as most of them have shown opportunistic behavior whenever they were offered the official positions.
What is the difference between your proposed regional party and the political fronts including Nepal Sadbhavana Party, Madhesi Janadhikar Forum and armed rebel parties?
At a time when Madhesis’ aspiration is to see unity among all the parties working in Madhes, our aim is to bring all of them in a single front to contest in the forthcoming elections of Constituent Assembly. This is the aspiration of Madhesis. So far as Nepal Sadbhavana Party and Madhesi Janadhikar Forum are concerned, they have their own limitations. Similarly, the armed rebellion groups like Jawala Singh and Goit have their own limitation as they can not sustain these kinds of rebellion for a long time.
Don’t you think the possibility of expansion of Nepal Sadbhavana Party to include all the voices ?
There are many handicaps for a party like Madhesi Janadhikar Forum and Nepal Sadbhavana Party. We were unable to encourage participation of Dalits, Tharu and Muslims in Madhes agitation. Our aim is to bring all of them in a broader front.
Some of the members of eight political parties including CPN-Maoist and others charged that Madhes agitation was not indigenous but instigated by the Hindu fundamentalists and other forces from India. How do you look at it?
This is a general tendency among hill based politicians to blame India whenever people launch their agitation to demand their rights. It was true all the time. I don’t see any hand from across the border in India. It was the people of terai who launched their agitation sacrificing more than 40 lives demanding their right and self respect. By making these kinds of irresponsible remarks, leaders of main stream parties have minimized the sacrifice of people of terai.
You mean there is no role of regressive elements and fundamentalist Hindus from across the border as accused by other parties?
Of course, few people might have penetrated but the last agitation of Madhes was launched by Madhesi people and it was purely based on the aspiration of the people.
How did agitation in Madhes flare up?
The background of Madhes agitation begun following the signing of the document of Interim Constitution by leaders of eight political parties on 16 December 2006. On behalf of our party, we signed three-points note of dissent on it. Our party had called Madhes Bandha on 25 December which was a grand success. After proclamation of Interim Constitution on January 15, 2007, Madhesis felt betrayed by eight political parties resulting in the massive agitation against the constitution.
Since interim constitution was amended twice to accommodate the demands raised by Madhes, why the agitation continues?
Although the interim constitution was amended twice within the few months of its promulgation, it is yet to address the genuine issues of Madhes. The interim constitution accepted to have federal state of inclusive nature but it is yet to show that in practice. The situation has not changed much even after second amendment. The state is yet to address genuine demands of Madhes. I give you a recent example of discrimination. When 204 police inspectors were recruited in Armed Police Force, no single person from Madhes got appointed. Is that not discrimination? The situation is similar in civil service, army and policy where participation of Madhesis is very nominal.
How do you see the secessionist demands coming from Terai?
I don’t think the demand of separate state is coming from their heart. It is just a result of frustration. The eight parties which are in power do not want to solve the problems of Madhes. If political leadership were genuinely concerned about the problems, they would have invited two factions of Jantantrik Terai Mukti Morcha. Madhesis want to live in Nepal as equal citizens with self respect and pride. What Madhesis want is self respect and equal rights and self rule.
Do you see the possibility to have peaceful negotiations?
If the government shows sincerity, these groups will come to negotiation table. When seven party alliance and Maoists agreed to bring the peace in the country through negotiations, we also can find solution by bringing the armed groups in the table. If eight parties fulfill genuine demands of Madhesi people, the issues like separate and independent Madhes will get diluted.
How can you hold the negotiations with Terai Jantantrik Mukti Morcha (Jwala Singh) and Goit who have already demanded independent terai?
It is a result of sheer frustration since the government of eight parties did not respond to their demands for federalism. I don’t think people of Madhes support such secessionist demands as they want to live in unified Nepal as Nepali citizens. In every negotiation, rebel groups raise high demands even up to the extent of secession. If government shows sincerity, they will give that up.
As Nepal‘s large areas in terai were submerged in water last week, how did you respond?
The situation in terai is terribly bad and large numbers of people have lost their lives and properties. The government’s response was very poor as people are yet to get minimum relief.
As it is accused by many members of parliament that embankment and dam built on the Indian side of border is responsible for the present state of flood in Nepal? How do you look at it?
You cannot solve water inundation problems just by blaming India. Haphazard construction of roads and other infrastructures in Nepal are also responsible for that. As India and Nepal have natural borders, it can be solved through the meaningful dialogue between the two countries. We need India’s support to solve the problems in Terai.
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