MJF and Interim Government enter into a 22 -point Agreement
MJF and Interim Government enter into a 22 -point Agreement
By Dr. S. Chandrasekharan
The MJF of Terai led by Upendra Yadav and the Interim Government Talks Team leader Ramchandra Paudel reached a historic 22 point Agreement on 30 August, 2007. For the first time in the history of Madesh (Terai) that had been neglected by the Kathmandu centric government for the last two centuries and more and ignored consistently by India, reached an agreement that gives some political space to the Madhesis who now can go to the people for a mandate in the coming Constituent Assembly Elections.
The agreement has many flaws- it is not all inclusive with many splinter armed groups still on a rampage and the main demand of the MJF- proportional representation has been given up. But we would still call it as a major beginning with many miles to go and yet it is a good beginning.
The full text of the agreement is not yet available, but the salient points as ascertained are
1. The Interim government has agreed to provide compensation to the families of all those killed during the recent Madhesi movement.
2. Cases filed against the MJF leaders and the cadres will be withdrawn.
3. Both sides agreed to set up an industrial security force.
4. Madhesi language, culture and customs will get national recognition.
5. Dalits to get due recognition by law and job opportunities
6. State would ensure ‘balanced’ and ‘proportional’ representation of marginalised communities that would include Madhesi, indigenous/nationalities, disabled, minorities and Muslims in all State structures.
7. The Government agrees to autonomy in a federal system of governance while restructuring the State keeping the country’s sovereignty, unity and regional integrity in tact.
8. There will be a three-language formula- with Nepali, English and mother tongue in all official transactions.
9. State agrees to despatch teams immediately to Terai to distribute citizenship certificates to those deprived.
10. Legal provisions for education up to the primary level, reservation in education and employment and land to the landless and to address the plight of the Dalits.
11. An inclusive commission to be set up for proper representation of all marginalised communities.
12. Announce public holidays in important festivals of the Muslim community.
13. Proportional distribution of the revenue income to Madhesh and the remote areas of the country.
14. Return of properties and personal arms seized by the Maoists to the respective owners.
15. Constitutional Assembly will decide the nature of boundaries and rights of autonomous states under a federal structure on the basis of suggestions received from the State Restructuring Commission.
• Many of the points are mere wish lists of the MJF and promises from the Government and much would depend on the configuration of the constituent assembly that is formed after the CA elections.
• It is an agreement between MJF and the Interim Government and many of the outfits that have been active recently in Terai have been left out. Some of them are breakaway groups of the Maoists. Some of the active groups in Terai include- Janatantric Terai Mukti Morcha ( Goit), Janatantric Terai Mukti Morcha ( Jwala Singh), Janatantric Mukti Morcha ( Bisfot Singh), Madhesi Mukti Morcha, Madhesi Tiger, Terai Cobra Group, Madhesi Mukti Force, Terai Tiger, AASK Group, Tharu Mukti Morcha, Chure Bhawan Pradesh Ekta Samaj and Janajati Mahasangh. Many more groups that are unknown are emerging. All these groups are creating an adverse law and order situation in Terai that is affecting the general economic activities of Terai. The question is, how to tackle these groups and how to bring them into mainstream to take part in the CA elections?
• Much would depend upon the State which is dominated by the khas people who had not so far understood the emerging Madhesi nationality and their eagerness, not for a separate State but for power sharing at the centre and at all levels of administration including the security forces. The Nepali politicians will have to change their mind set and come to terms of the reality of Nepal being a multi cultural and a multi lingual community and that Nepal belongs to all. It will take time but they will have to understand the “raw anger” of the Madhesis. The current slogan of the Madhesis- “Say with pride that we are Madhesis- the sons of the soil and not foreign immigrants” is very popular and succinctly symbolises the current mood of the Madhesis.
Maoists oppose the Agreement:
It was expected that the Maoists would oppose the agreement. The present agreement takes the bottom of the three major demands of the Maoists for participating in the elections. They are now isolated in their demand for proportional representation and a round table conference of all the deprived communities to solve their problems before the CA elections. What is left now is their demand for declaring Nepal a republic even before the CA elections.
But what was surprising was the vehemence of their opposition. Very soon after the agreement, Prachanda issued a statement that the agreement is “ extremely objectionable, flawed, deceptive and conspiratorial in both content and procedure.” He said that the agreement went against the Maoist demand for “forging of a ‘common concept’ among all parties in the interim constitution by orgainising an ‘expanded round table conference’. He described the agreement as a deplorable effort to fool the Madhesi people and establish one group of persons politically when most of the issues mentioned in the 22 point accord have been incorporated in the comprehensive peace agreement as well as in the interim constitution.
In the current situation it is the best that could be obtained.
It looks that Upendra Yadav made the best of what he could get out of the government on the eve of the elections. His popularity in the Terai was waning and he could not have carried out his ultimatum of a protest programme with vigour in the whole of Terai from 31st as he declared. He will now be able to consolidate his position and look for maximum representation in the coming CA elections. He is already having problems from his hardliners led by Kishor Biswas who want to continue with their protest programme.
Climate favourable for CA elections now.
With the Terai protest out of the way, it is expected that law and order situation would improve in the next few weeks to create the right atmosphere for the CA elections. A five-member team of electoral experts sent by the UN Secretary General in their visit from July 27 to August 6 had reported tht the security situation has not improved since its visit in June but with the present agreement, the situation should improve. The UNMIN in Kathmandu had offered to mediate with JTMM if the government approves. Surely this is outside the mandate of the UN team and it is not clear why the UN offered to mediate at all in a matter that is purely internal.
Late Gajendra Narayan Singh:
Our thoughts go back to the late Gajendra Narayan Singh who singlehandedly tried his best to sensitise the mid hill Pahadi elites and the Panchayat regime of the problems of the Madhesis.
He failed then but his efforts have not been in vain. We give as an annexure what we wrote about him in this website when he died. One all knowing ex JNU academic has in one of the seminars said that the Madhesi parties were generously funded by India. This is far from truth and if only India had taken an interest, the NSP, the political party that was started by him will not be in shambles as it is today.
Annexure: Note No. 146 -18. 02. 2002
Nepal Update No. 17: Terain leader Gajendra Narayan Singh passes away
by Dr. S. Chandrasekharan
Gajendra Narayan Singh, President of the Nepal Sadhbahavana Party passed away on January 23, 2002.
His body was taken to Saptari Sewa Ashram at Koiladi in Saptari District in Nepal and cremated with full state honours on 25th January.
Unlike other politicians in the region, G.N.Singh led a very simple and austere life and spent most of his time in the Ashram he created in 1991. In July 2001, he created the “Gajendra Narayan Public Welfare trust” and donated all his property and belongings to the trust. The trust was to look after the poor, helpless and the backward communities in the southern districts of Nepal.
G.N.Singh entered politics in 1947 and joined the Nepali National Congress, (presently the ruling Nepali Congress) but left the party in 1980s to form a cultural forum known as Nepal Sadbhavana Parishad, which was turned later into a political party, the Nepal Sadhbhavana Party (NSP).
G.N.Singh went into exile to Dharbanga when in 1960 King Mahendra seized control of the country after putting into prison the leaders of the ruling Nepali Congress in the brief period when Nepal experienced multi-party democracy between 1959 to 1960. Unable to visit his home, he literally lived a life in penury until he returned to Nepal in 1977.
Unlike many other Terain leaders who came into prominence by espousing the cause of Terains, only to ditch them later in pursuit of personal interests, G. N. Singh continued to champion the cause of Terains throughout his political career. He left the Nepali Congress only when he felt that B.P.Koirala and his party continued to discriminate against the Terains. He contiuned to wear the traditional Dhoti and Kurta in the parliament while the official dress was the “Daura Suruwal”. Despite opposition from the Pahadi parliamentarians, G.N.Singh was not ashamed to speak in Hindi in the Parliamentary debates.
This is not the place to discuss the various forms of discrimination being meted out to the Terains who are otherwise called Madhesis. Till the end G.N.Singh’ pet objective was to get full citizenship rights to a majority of Terains who were born and brought up in Terai. From the configuration of electoral districts, regions to recruitment in the army and Police, the Terains were and continue to be discriminated against in every field. G.N. Singh despite being abused by the media, other political leaders and the bureaucracy continued to fight for the Terain cause.
Unfortunate though, G.N.Singh was widely “perceived” to be Indian both in outlook, character and leanings. But this could be said of all the Terains who speak Hindi and who have relatives across the border. Yet he was never liked by the Indian embassy for reasons best known to them but it could be for his very “Indianness”.
G.N.Singh on his return from exile believed that the interests of the Terains would best be served by working within the Panchayat system and accordingly stood for elections in 1980 in Saptari district. But the royalty and its stooges decided otherwise. When the counting was going in favour of G.N.Singh, the workers in the counting hall chased away G.N.Singh’s supporters and the results were declared in favour of another least known candidate. Undaunted he continued to stand for elections and won in all but one.
One cannot but recall the sufferings undergone by G.N.Singh in his political career. He was not a man of violence and he joined politics only being inspired by the Gandhian movement. Yet soon after the bomb blasts by the Janawadi Morcha of Ram Rajya Prasad Singh near the Palace in the eighties, poor G.N.Singh who had nothing to do with the morcha was arrested and kept in chains for many months. Nepal has produced only two genuine leaders of Terai G.N.Singh and Ram Rajya Prasad Singh. Though both come from the same village they were at the opposite ends of the pole in their ideology and in their quest to change the political system. G.N.Singh is dead and Ram Rajya Prasad Singh is said to be extremely sick in Patna. The Terain cause will certainly suffer.
In spite of unendurable incarceration G.N. Singh held no grudge against Late King Birendra or the monarchy itself. It was his view that the monarchy was the unifying factor and it was only the King who could help the Terain cause. Here he was mistaken.
There is no doubt that there is none who has the charisma, courage and the capacity to continue the Terain cause like G.N.Singh. In the initial stages G.N.Singh had many youngsters who flocked round him and worked genuinely for the cause. They were never given due encouragement and G.N.Singh like a banyan tree held everyone together but never allowed any leader to come up to take his place. There are now two main contenders, the current Vice President of Sadhbhavana party Badri Prasad Mandal and the other parliamentarian Hridyesh Tripathi. It is hoped that the party will break from the past and have an internal election for the post of Presidentship.
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