NEPAL’S Madhesi Movement: Against Khas Chauvinism?
Situation Update 45 (unedited version) August 6, 2007
NEPAL’S Madhesi Movement: Against Khas Chauvinism?
“We Madhesis joined CPN (Maoist) believing that CPN (Maoist) was a scientific Marxist party. Many of us worked honestly as per the party’s policy and direction. However, we found discrimination inside the party. We used to send People’s Liberation Army of our areas, but they would be bothered unnecessarily. There was discrimination from Pahade to Madhesi. We were unsatisfied with such domination. We said that since we are Madhesi fighters, Madhesi shall be an in-charge and a Madhesi regiment shall be established following party’s vision for Madhes. As some responsible Maoists termed it was dangerous to establish a Madhesi regiment separately in Tarai area, we left the party and are fighting for the liberation of Madhesis against the discrimination and exploitation of Pahade led executive, judiciary, legislature and bureaucracy.”
Anonymous ex-Maoist leader
Madhes (Tarai) is derived from Sanskrit Madhya Desh (Middle Land) ranging from southern foothills of Himalaya to Northern foothills of Bindhaychal Mountains that covers Nepal and north-central India. The present Madhes, the southern plains of Nepal, covers 34,109 sq. km. that accounts 23% of topography and comprises 48.4% population in 20 districts, including all castes, ethnicities and Dalits migrated from hills and mountains along with Madhesis. The porous border with India runs two-thirds of the total 1,753 km, to the east, west and south. When Prithvi Narayan Shah started his concurs the southern plains were annexed, after the Sugauli Treaty with the British on 1816, the present borders were sketched and the land in western part including Banke and Bardiya were gifted by the British on 1857 after Nepal sent army to quench Sepoy mutiny in India.
Nepal is a multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multi-cultural and multi-religious country. People of Nepal are socio-cultural portioned along the lines of caste (jat descent) and Janajati (ethnicities and indigenous) in both hill/mountains and Madhes or Tarai regions. The deep cultural pluralism of Nepal consists of at least 61 castes, sub-castes, ethnic and sub-ethnic groups1. There are about 103 socio-cultural groups – caste, ethnic and religion population, 90 languages and 10 religious communities2. Professor Tej Ratna Kanskar advocates for 141 linguistic groups, but, Armit Yonjan, language expert, differs with 112 groups3. The National Committee of Nationalities enlisted 59 distinct groups within Janajatis, and the Dalit Commission listed 28 cultural groups within Dalits, of which Madhesi Dalits consist of 18, Pahade 5 and Newar Dalits 54. According to census 2001, 41 ethnicities/Janajati live in hills/mountains, whereas 18 in Madhes.
The 2001 census identified for group population 57.5%, Janajatis for 37.2%, religious minorities for 4.3%, and other groups for the remaining 1% of total population. Madhesi consist of different caste hierarchy: Brahun, Rajput, Janajati and Dalits; including Muslims. Tharu, Dhimal Satar, Rajbanshi and quite a few other minorities are the indigenous groups living in Tarai (See Annex 1).
Madhes is burning and bleeding. Abductions, killings, retaliations, extortions, torture are headlines in each day. Quite a few violent and non-violent/armed groups are existing and some are being born in Madhes. Right to life, liberty, security and dignity are being more and more endangered. Till now there are 22 armed and non-armed groups are working in eastern and central Madhes. They are: Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (MJF), Janatantrik Tarai Mukti Morcha (JTMM-Goit, Jwala Singh and Bisfot Singh factions), Janabadi Ganatantrik Mukti Morcha, Tarai Cobra (Naagraja), Defense Army, Tarai Army, National Army Nepal, Ulpha Group, Change Nepal, Nepal Gorkha Army and Madhesi Special Force. Similarly, others are: Madhesi Tigers, Taraibadi, Madhesi Mukti Force, Nepal Janatantrik Party, Madhesi Virus Cleaners, Madhes Mukti Tigers, Gorkha-Line Mukti Sena Samaj, CPN [Maoist (United Rebellion Front)], Far-Western Revolutionary Party and Chure-Bhawar Ekata Samaj (CBES).
The JTMM Goit and Jwala Singh factions are the most militant. Many see the Madhesi Movement as against Pahade, some see it as against Khas race, whereas some see it as a struggle for existence (because of their fight to finish amongst themselves). These groups active in nine – Morang, Sunsari, Saptari, Siraha, Dhanusa, Mahottari, Bara, Parsa and Rautahat – out of 20 districts, and are advancing as regionalist and secessionist forces in favor of Madhesis only. As a result, many Pahade officials/inhabitants of those districts have either left or gone underground. According to Kathmandu Post of August 5, 2007, more than 900 Pahade civil servants, including above 700 VDC secretaries and 200 staffs from Land Tax and Revenue Office and Inland Revenue Office, have vacated their offices. The Asian Development Bank has twice extended its huge projects for rural roads and livelihood, and consequently closed, due to lack of government employees in the districts.
After the peace accord, the Seven Party Alliance and the Maoists (SPAM) focused on political agendas, paying little attention to a federalism, autonomy, inclusion, proportionate representation and republican Nepal5. Many of these are advancing with demands for regional secession and their numbers are mushrooming. The CBES, as a counter-Madhesi movement operated by Khas particularly Bahun and Chhetri is also active as a regional force along the northern side of East-West highway bordering Madhes. As a result, the mobility of Madhesi in hills and mountains and Pahade in Madhes has virtually less or stopped. On the main problem of the Madhes, Jwala Sing of the JTMM said, “There are three main issues in the Nepal-occupied Tarai. The first is the suppression by authoritarian Pahadi sectarian state and colonial exploitation of Madhes and Madhesi. Second is class difference in the Tarai and third is difference among different caste groups.”
Major Demands of organizations involved in Madhesi Movement: independent state – federal democratic republic; proportionate electorate system; end of internal colonization; regional autonomous governance system that includes right to self-determination; rights on the land, natural resources and biological diversity of Madhes; end racial and regional discrimination; Pahade civil servants and security forces leave Madhes; and provide citizenship certificates to all Madhesis without discrimination, etc (Annex II and III). The trend of movement is inflammatory which is aiming to promote communal harmony.
Major demands of CBES: District headquarters to be established in Chure-Bhabar (inner-tarai between Shivalik and Mahabharat ranges); independent state; special security to Pahade-origin dwellers in Madhes; withdrawal of cases of its nine cadres under trial; compensation to families of their cadres killed; an inquiry into loss of property and lives by Madhesis in Chure-Bhavar, etc.
Entry filed under: Articles.