Tarai Burning, But Politics Gets More Organised
Tarai Burning, But Politics Gets More Organised
Kathmandu, December 10
Former Minister Rajendra Mahato-led Nepal Sadbhawana Party (Anandi Devi) and Madhesi Janaadhikar Forum (MJF) have announced a joint Madhes agitation from December 30. The agitation will be launched by a joint front, Samyukta Madhesi Morcha (SMM).
At a press conference in Kathmandu last week, both leaders reiterated that the upcoming agitation would be non-violent. Saying that the legitimacy of the present government ended after it failed for a second time to hold the Constituent Assembly (CA) elections by the stipulated time, MJF chairman Upendra Yadav, who had signed a 22-point accord with the government on August 30 to put on hold the Madhes agitation, claimed that the upcoming agitation would be decisive.
On the other hand, the Mahato-led NSP (A) recently formed the Madhes Rakshya Bahini to “guard” the Madhes. According to reports, some 150 Rakshya Bahini activists had received ‘necessary training’ and also staged march pasts in Nepalgunj and Birgunj. Mahato, badly disgruntled after being removed from the government, has not only formed the MRB but also hinted that other agitating political forces and armed underground groups would join SMM shortly to reinforce the upcoming agitation.
The major question is how the announced agitation of the SMR will affect national politics and what will a likely impact be. Mahato has claimed that the peaceful agitation will pressurise the government to hold the CA polls as early as possible. Talking to THT, Mahato said that SMM would announce the schedule of the agitation shortly. He described the newly formed Madhes Rakshya Bahini as just a youth front of the SMM.
Earlier, a roundtable conference convened by the Bhagyanath Gupta-led dissident faction of the Madhesi Janaadhikar Forum also drew up new plans and programmes for the Madhes movement. The movement is scheduled to address the Madhesi people on the occasion of the English New Year 2008.
Like other factors, the previous Madhes agitation had shared some cause for the deferral of the November 22 CA elections. As per the schedule, the new agitation will take place across the Madhes and is intended to put under pressure the seven-party alliance and the government to amend the interim constitution and fix a new date for the CA polls. As in the past, the agitation might not be a supportive tool for the elections.
The claims of agitating leaders aside, the “peaceful” agitation can also destabilize the Terai from the economic and political point of views. Dozens of industries have closed down in the terai corridors as a result of the agitation in the past. Consumers face shortage of food commodities almost daily as the East-West highway, which passes through the terai districts, remain blocked by one party or the other, on this pretext or that. On Saturday, SMM called an indefinite Rautahat bandh to protest the Maoist complaints to police blaming “innocent” locals over the Gaur massacre.
In the last one year, the whole region was shut down and terror reigned while bandhs, murders and killings, vandalism, arson, street battles, counter-attacks, arrests, curfew abounded for months. Offices were shut down and businesses went slow causing losses of crores of rupees and the law and order situation went out of control. More than 70 people (including 29 in the Gaur massacre) were killed in the period of the last agitation. The chaotic situation in the Madhes also included a bloody picture of Kapilvastu where over 20 people lost their lives after the murder of Madhesi leader Abdul Moid Khan by an unknown group.
At present, the Madhes region is still in a chaotic state where killing, abduction, and looting are very common. More than twenty armed underground groups are active in the region and complete lawlessness prevails across the Madhesh.
Even after mobilizing the special task forces in 11 Terai districts, the series of abductions have not scaled down. News reports from Saptari, Siraha, Mahottari and Dhanusha districts recounted that at least twelve persons were kidnapped by unknown armed groups over the last week while police also arrested over twenty persons with arms and ammunitions during the same period.
Dhanusha District Committee President of the Nepali Congress Ram Saroj Yadav said that the situation in the region was not good. “Extortions and kidnappings are not stopped,” Yadav told THT over telephone. He asked the agitating groups and the government to hold talks and settle the issues immediately. “Agitation is not a need of the hour in Madhes,” Yadav said, adding that the government should be sincere to tackle the issues in Madhes.
Madhesi leaders claim that the deployment of special task forces of the police alone would not solve the problem. Effective talks with all the forces in the Madhes would be in place before the next phase of agitations, they said adding that the government, and the Madhesi political and armed forces should equally be responsible for the well-being of the Madhesi people and the country.
People of each and every district of the Madhes mostly expressed identical opinions on most issues. The major political parties, government and leaders have also personally and publicly expressed positive attitude on the demands of the Madhesi people. However, in practice, the state and political parties have not been able to address them properly.
Rights to self-determination, proportional representation in the constituent assembly, federal system with regional autonomy, legitimate positive discrimination in state mechanism and elimination of all forms of discrimination practiced by the State mechanism, among others, are the demands of Madhes residents. However, architectures of the Madhes agitations should think about the effects and causes and the government should act to prevent the planned agitation.
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