Implementing accord with the madhesis
Implementing accord with the madhesis
-Bal Krishna Jha
The Minister for Peace and Reconstruction, Ram Chandra Poudel has claimed to have addressed most of the demands put forth by various agitating Madheshi groups and parties. The Kathmandu Post on Jan 17, 2008 covered a front page story on the status of implementation of past pacts between the Government and the Tarai Groups. The demands addressed so far and the ones to be fulfilled (including the new demands) are fifty-fifty. Does this mean that the Government has already resolved half the grievances of madhesis?
The Government distributed 2,250,869 new citizenship certificates last year and claims to have largely solved the issue of madhesis. It projects as if the certificate distribution process has benefited only the madhesis living in Nepal. However, the fact is that out of the total number of people who were granted new citizenships, only 1,055,869 (46 percent) has been distributed in tarai, whereas the remaining 54 percent has been distributed in hilly and mountain regions. By granting the citizenships to the people of hill origin, including the nepali speaking Indian Sikkimese or the Tibetans from the North, the Government has taken care not to disturb the status quo in the proportion of the madhesis to the total population.
Different parties, organization and scholars have claimed the current census as having largely under represented the madheshi population. Since the Government as well as the majority of the surveyors recruited to collect the census data were from non-madheshi communities, the census report cannot be claimed to be biasless. Therefore, unless a new census is carried out by independent third party like the United Nations, the Government cannot claim of having guaranteed the seats based on population proportion. As far as the constituency delineation is concerned, it is the area of common interest to all the political parties and not just the madhesi parties.
The 22 percent reservation of madhesis out of 45 percent total reserved seats in civil service implies that madhesis get a reservation of hardly 10 percent. At a time when scholars are claiming almost 50 percent of the population to be madhesis, how is it that the Government boasts of having given a fair proportional reservation to the madhesis? If the Government lacks an efficient mechanism to govern, this arrangement of reservation also means providing 90 percent reservation to the non-madheshis, ie., the people from hills and also a 55 percent reservation to only the male bahuns, chhetris and newars.
When the armed groups in Nepal is growing exponentially, and it is become hard for the police to check them, it is but a fact that the Nepal police has recruited some madhesis in its force. However, the new madhesi recruits are mostly in the lowest positions. The ones at the top positions are still from the non-madheshi community. The madhesi people in police force are the taking orders from those foreign to the madhesis and made to risk their lives. The anti-madhesi Government has taken this step to recruit some madhesis in the police force for safeguarding the lives of the police personals of hill community, who are often hunted by the armed outfits of tarai.
The rampant firing by the police in a gathering of protesters in Lahan that claimed forty-eight lives clearly show the feudal and colonist mentality of the people in Government. The financial compensation is just a means to save the Government from international criticism. Had the Government recognized the value of the lives of those killed in the incident, it would have also fulfilled another twin demand of declaring them as martyrs.
The madhesis are demanding one single state of madhes. It is the regional cause and not petty ethnic ones for which they are fighting. But the state wants to dilute their demands by terming their struggle as limited to ethnic. To undermine the strength of the tarai and its people, the rulers since the Panchayat era has divided madhes into five regions with parts of hills attached to it. The ‘democrats’ in the present Government claim the end of the feudal rule of the Panchayat, but fails to put a hold to the aspiration of the people from the hills to be a colonial ruler of madhes. Some leaders in the SPA have already given their views on the new structure of Nepal. According to them, the tarai will not be a single state, but at least broken down to five pieces and each piece containing the burden of some part of hill with it.
The Maoists are making efforts to grant general amnesty to the prisoners and its cadres in particular. Although many of their cadres had seriously violated human rights laws and the rules of the land, they were given general amnesty. The Government is at serious fault to have given general amnesty without studying every single case. It further wants to free its cadres on the pretext of fulfilling demands of the madhesis to revoke cases against political activists.
Despite the international trend of decrease in national holidays, Nepal on the contrary increased its holidays. The SPA Government has clearly admitted that it wants its people to remain in the state of poverty. By declaring so many holidays, no sane person can justify the act as doing good to nation or madhes. By declaring holidays in the occasions of madhesis, janajatis and dalits, the Government has just shown its immaturity.
The Government is deliberately supporting the debate on petty issues like ethnicity and language. This would set aside the more vital regional issue of madhes. The SPA Government is in its quest to divide and rule the land south of the hills. To ones surprise, in this attempt, it has already recognized a non-existent ‘Tharu’ language. Tharus do not have language of their own. They speak the language spoken by the community of the place where they live. For example, the Tharus living with the Avadhi speaking community speak Avadhi and those living with the Bhojpuri community speak Bhojpuri. The SPA Government by providing space to ethnic languages in the state run media, is not addressing the concerns of madhesis, but deliberately trying to increase tensions among the various ethnic groups of the tarai, and aims to promote ethnic war there, which will automatically contain the issue of rights of the people of there.
All the demands that the Government claims to have addressed are in one way or the other measures to suppress the genuine concerns of tarai people. Some actions which the state projects as fulfilling the aspirations of the madhesis have completely different underlying purpose. By and large, the state has been trying to divide madhes on the lines of ethnicity, religion, culture, history and language, thereby trying to give continuity to the hegemony of the non-madhesis in the county. Also, some of its actions on the pretext of fulfilling the demands of the agitating people, is nothing, but a face saving option. There has never been even a smallest amount of genuine attempt to resolve the problems of madhesis which could show the seriousness of the state in this endeavor. If the state continues to be deaf to the demands of madhesis, they are bound to shout in the ears of others, who may be willing to lend their ears. If left helpless by everyone, there is no option, but a Gandhian movement of non-cooperation with the state who still have a colonial mindset and who believe that the people from hills even without desirable virtue are the de-factos to govern the state. The march of true madheshi leader believing in the principle of non-violence is expected and welcomed.
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