Geopolitics of Madhes: Ballot or Bullet in Nepal!

February 7, 2008 at 10:53 pm Leave a comment

Situation Update 62 February 5, 2008

Geopolitics of Madhes: Ballot or Bullet in Nepal!

The prime concern of common Nepali people is whether CA elections will be held or not. Who are the actors for ballot and who for the bullet? What will be the role of the dissatisfied, violent, non-violent and criminal groups in Madhes, who are repeatedly conducting meetings in Indian soil? What will be the role of the Seven Party Alliance (SPA), which completed the joint mass meetings (six in Madhes and one in Kathmandu)? Earlier, eight districts of Tarai and three districts of Kathmandu valley were regarded as most sensitive districts, but additional four districts in eastern hills/mountains have been enlisted too. Even the Ministry for Home Affairs has put one-dozen organizations in terrorist list in Katmandu alone, namely, Rajdhani (Capital) Army, Nepal Mukti Morcha (Liberation Front), Gorkhaland Mukti Sena (Liberation Army) also called Tista Kangada, Nepal Ajinger X Samuha (Python X Group), Nepal Republican Army, National Terrorist Encounter, Trishul Sena Nepal, Deshbhakta Army Nepal. Others are Rastriya (National) Army Nepal, Save the National Army Nepal, Shahi Mukti Morcha (Liberation Front), and Kshya Ba NE Samuha[1], etc. Will the polls be held in such an insecure situation? What are the views of India and China to the polls? How has the international communities been observing the polls?

Due to the lack of common leadership, Madhes exits about 25 groups[2]: violent; non-violent; criminal groups; and dissatisfied group. Most of the violent groups are the splinter of the CPN (Maoist) and they are struggling for a free Madhes that are recognized as “secessionist”. Non-violent are launching Madhes movement for the sake of single Madhes state with autonomy and rights to self-determination, but called as anti-secessionist groups. Criminal groups are fishing in the troubled water intensifying the insecurity kidnapping the hill-and-mountain dwellers along with Maoists in general and businesspersons in the particular. Many of such criminal professionals are imported either from Bihar or from Utter Pradesh to propagate not having the CA polls on time with the backing of Hindu fundamentalist, monarchial, and pro-monarchial forces. The dissatisfied are the dissident groups of the legitimated parties and the leaders who are mostly leading unrest in Madhes for their power, prestige and property causalities.

The recent meeting on January 17, 2008 amongst Jwala Singh of Janatantrik Tarai Mukti Morcha (JTMM), Goit of JTMM, Mahanta Thakur of TMLP, Upendra Yadav of Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (MJF), Rajendra Mahato of Sadbhabhana Party (splinter) held in Bihar (India) has formed an alliance and morally supported the 11-point demands forwarded by Tarai Madhes Loktantrik Party (TMLP) to the government on January 3, 2008. The abstract of prime demands are:

  • · the 42 Madhesi campaigners killed during last year’s Madhesi movement should be recognized as martyrs and compensation paid to their families;
  • · the State should provide relief and compensation to the injured/wounded;
  • · defunct the earlier Commission and form an independent high level judicial Tarai Madhes Investigation Commission;
  • · declare the entire Madhes as one state with full autonomy guaranteeing the right to self determination;
  • · the government should immediately organize meaningful negotiations with the armed and peaceful groups in Tarai;
  • · an inclusive Commission should be formed including Madhesi, Dalit, Janajati (nationalities), Women and others;
  • · the Special Task Force (STF) should be dismantled for peace and security in Madhes;
  • · recruitment of Madhesis in proportion to the population in the Army and Police;
  • · the budget allocation should be based on Human Development Index (HDI), etc.

The main purpose of the meeting was to advance the Madhes Movement in a unified way. They have vowed to foil the polls unless their demands are fulfilled. They organized strikes and protests 3-day ahead of the CA election meeting of the SPA at Janakpur (central Madhes) scheduled for January 26, 2008. Jwala Sing and Goit called for Tarai strike and protest from January 23, 2008; Sanyukta Madhes Morcha (alliance of Rajendra Mahato and Upendra Yadav) hosted Sarlahi-Malangwa from January 25, 2008; and TMLP called for Mahottari on January 25-26, 2008. The day before the mass meeting, bombs were blasted in Janakpur amongst tight security and five bombs were blasted outside the meeting venue while SPA meeting was conducting at Janakpur. Jaya Prakash Gupta, Co-Convener of MJF, tried to calm the situation stating that their party is not in favor of violence. Even though, violence, road blockade and protest shall continuously be resorted until February 4, 2008. However, a huge crowd gathered for the mass meeting had both fear of insecurity and hope of CA election that could bring peace, security, prosperity and stable government. Nevertheless, more than 5-dozen commoners were wounded, including the Chief District Officer (CDO), because of bomb blasts during the last SPA mass meeting held in a tight security at Birgunj (western Madhes) on January 30, 2008. The recent UN Security Council meeting, which has endorsed to expand UNMIN’s term for six months, has also stated that Madhes situation is worsening. The UNMIN’s analysis is becoming true now.

The popularity of Upendra Yadav was high during the beginning of Madhes movement last year. His image has been gradually downsized due to his myopic leadership: First, he including other violent factions, proposed Ram Raja Prasad Singh (senior communist leader inhabitant of Madhes) as the President of Free Madhes at Patna of India with tight security of Indian Security forces, but he declined their proposal of secession straightly. Second, he was compelled to shrink quite more after the last year’s Gaur massacre nationally and internationally. Third, he used Sujata Koirala to maintain his vested political ambition with Girija Koirala became public, his position further squeezed. Fourth, his tour to USA last year further scaled down. Last, his shaking hands with Rajendra Mohato further diminished his role in Madhes. If we analyze his past, he was defeated candidate of parliament and district leader of UML, and then he became independent and later joined at the Maoists. He then became a leader of Madhesis, but now is trying to hide under the umbrella of NC.

The feudal mindset Madhesi leaders from mainstream political parties, who did not give that much attention on Madhes problems and issues in the past while they were ministers and so forth, have turned to form political parties/groups. These ‘old fashioned’ leaders are trying to become masters of the Madhesi people rather than serving them and their self-respect, identity, dignity and position, which has resulted in creating obstacles to gain height of the Madhesi people’s liberation struggle or movement. The Madhesi people are looking for new and dynamics leaders with zest and zeal.

Goit has proposed to negotiate with the government through UN, but the government has declined stating that it is capable without the UN. The government claims that it has fulfilled all the demands of the Madhesis, but no Madhesi groups agree with it. The 45% of strikes and protests along with extrajudicial killings, rape, arson, plunder, loot and displacement against the government occurred in Tarai (regional, district and area) within a year. Due to alliance of non-violent group to violent ones, they are loosing their political character in both land and aboard.

India‘s role for peace and democratization of Nepal is prominent. The first draft of 12-point Understanding was in Hindi, which was later signed by SPA and Maoists in New Delhi translating into Nepali. It had sent its chief of RAW to Nepal to convince the PM for 23-point agenda. The geo-political landscape of Nepal is such that the PM himself feels proud to boast his relation with RAW in the past. On June 2006, during the PM’s visit, India committed to provide 16 billion Nepali Rupees for strengthening democracy. Similarly, it provided 1200 vehicles and 14,000-communication equipment 25 million rupees equivalent for strengthening peace process in Nepal. It also afforded containers for disposal of Maoist’s and Army’s arms. India is ready to resolve the current petroleum product crisis as well, if Nepal government requests for subsidy.

Madhes (Tarai) problem also heightened due to lack of petro-products, which has been to be supplied from India. According to Times of India (Jan 26, 2008), Indian Ambassador to Nepal, Shiv Shanker Mukharjee, said that the allegations that India is fuelling “crisis” in Nepal’s violence-hit southern Tarai region was baseless during a function to mark India’s 59th Republic Day. He further said that during his series of meetings with various political leaders here, he found them to be affirmative about resolving, among other issues, the crisis in Tarai – where the Madhesi community is demanding more rights amidst agitations by various armed and non-armed groups. He added that New Delhi would provide all necessary assistances to Nepal to conduct the Constituent Assembly elections, scheduled in April 10, successfully.

However, people observe India is more in negative terms rather than positive. On Republic Day, ambassador Mukharjee told the media persons that 99% border disputes have been resolved, and mere 1% remains, between India and Nepal. Media reportedly quoted that Indian influence is prevalent after the Popular Movement I (1990); during that period above 1,000 hectares of Nepali land has been occupied by India. In some Madhes (places), people sleeping in Nepali land find themselves getting up in Indian Territory when wakes up. The bilateral meeting on security was held on January 21-23, 2008 at New Delhi, at which India proposed their troops to station at Sundarijal to build an arsenal for producing 7.62-caliber bullet for 18,000 SLR provided by India to Nepal was rejected by Nepal, and the meeting was ended inconclusively. Nancy J Powell, US Ambassador to Nepal, is currently at New Delhi for regular political consultation with senior Indian authorities. CK Lal said that the displacement of Tharus from the riverside of Bagmati, Rapti valley, plains of Chitawan, and Koshi-Kamalakhoch was the liability of the USA (Himal: Jan/Feb 2008). India has opened customs to Bangladesh whereas it has sanctioned Nepali border for the same, resulting in skyrocketing of food-grain prices. Matthew Kahane, the United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Nepal said, “On the humanitarian side what we are seeing is increasing vulnerabilities and increasing attempts to making people being vulnerable. In something like 40 out of 70 districts of Nepal, we reckon that people are chronically food insecure”. However, UN Headquarters changed the stand after the serious objection of India.

The border between Nepal and India is open and so not only good but also bad affects are easily penetrable. The criminal terrorism beyond the border has been affecting more to Nepal. Nepal’s police source stated that the most wanted individuals due to criminal offences in India have migrated to the bordering towns and after acquiring Nepali citizenship from the cooperation of local political authorities have been venturing in criminal activities in the country. A study conducted a couple of years ago stated that there were 800 thousand small arms in Uttar Pradesh, the province bordering western Nepal. Many small arms might have been smuggled to Nepal from there. The literatures stated that the Hindu fundamentalists in India might have been assisting the armed groups against the CA polls, so that monarchy could again be erected. The Maoist Supremo stated that the constant strikes and protests in the Madhes are a well-planned conspiracy aimed to foil the elections. Particularly indicating to India he said, “Protesting groups are guided by foreign forces and the royal place.”

Although there are more than 70,000 Indian Border Security Force stationed along the border in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, crime has been on the rise. On the one hand, the Indian government wishes for peaceful CA polls on time and end the tenure of UNMIN soon, whereas on the other hand they have fear that the communists might hold the reign after the polls. The west also is concerned because of the latter. Their common understanding is that the communists would come to power if the polls are held and if not the country will fall victim to extremism. They might be afraid of the recent Maoist Central Committee’s decision to unwavering strategy for completing the new democratic revolution whereas mere tactics to Federal Democratic Republic through the CA polls. They do not seem confident that the polls would lead to peace. CK Lal (Himal: Jan/Feb. 2008) analyzing the international communities quotes the saying of a European (funding) country’s diplomat: “Do we need to help the CA polls so that the Maoists could ascend to power legally in a sensitive country like Nepal?” The USA does not wish CA polls on time in Nepal in order to continue watchdog to both India and China.

The first date for the polls was postponed due to administrative issues influencing Nepali Congress whereas the second date was postponed because to issues of nationalities and republic raised by the Maoists; and the third could be postponed due to Madhes issues. If CA polls will not be held on time for the third time, there could be People’s Revolution led by new leadership replacing the hegemony of the morally bankrupt political leaders that could form an Interim Government for polls, which could attain more support from international communities. Another possibility is that democratic coup – civilian government backed by army, similar to Bangladesh, and if it happens, the political party leaders could be imprisoned on the charges of corruption which could strengthen the monarchial forces leading to revival of monarchy again. The BJP might come to power through election in India and the republican movement in Nepal could collapse. A few members of the BJP are soon visiting to Nepal with the agendas of constitutional Monarchy and declaring Nepal a Hindu Stat to influence the power and politics of Nepal. The Maoists invitation to nationalist forces for a broad alliance could have been due to formal and informal influence of China, which wants to reduce the influence of USA and India in Nepal and sees greater importance of monarchy in Nepal.

The western donors who had no ‘interest’ to fund for projects in Madhes are nowadays opening their wallets. A major factor to this trend is to sweep the communists from Madhes. India was worried that the influence of communists in Nepal would also influence their diplomatic, moral and political cooperation. Because of decreasing influence of Nepali Congress in Madhes, India is promoting UML as a strong force to counter Maoists. In earlier parliamentary elections, NC had copied ‘Bihari’ style hooliganism to win the elections in Madhes.

Madhesi majority people want CA elections to be held, but some violent and criminal actors are blasting bombs in order to have their demands and rights fulfilled. Their number is not very large. From past, the fear and violent politics has been overbearing. Therefore, there is high possibility that the dream of the majority Madhesi people to achieve their desires, expectations and rights will be ignored. Besides, Madhes is suffering: first, they do not have faith in the free, fair and impartial election; secondly, they fear to reach the polling booths safe; and the third and the last, they regard themselves insecure from the protesting forces in future if they cast vote.

Nepal‘s population is 24.5 million, but the CA seats are 601. When there was CA in India, it had 700 million population, whereas mere 330 CA seats. People expect that the new constitution will be excellent. However, if the ‘same old’ leaders with feudal mindset and empowered through money, muscle and mafia will be in the CA again instead of new people with mind, how could a new transformed Nepal will be built? How could their needs and rights will be fulfilled? Because of these ‘masters’ of the people, not only Madhes, but many parts in the hills and mountains also are burning.

The government has adopted the trend that it signs any agreement without any serious homework, but hesitates and procrastinates in implementation. It follows the Nepali proverb that hatarma samjauta garne ra furshad ma pachutaune (agrees in a hurry and regrets later). Another factor for lack of commitment in implementation is the high prevalence of culture of impunity in Nepal.

Now, the voices of mobilization to Nepal Army for the polls have gradually been intensifying from all corners. Nepali Congress is forefront on it, CPN (UML) is still confusion similar in the past, but the insurgency strategist Badal of the CPN (Maoist) is in favor of mobilization of army if the STF could not improve security situation. The STF is not active as expected earlier due to frustration on them as near and dear of the Minister and other powerful elites are transferred on abroad and customs for better economic opportunities and have promoted junior ones. Equally, other voices are also coming out of mobilization of ex.-combatants along with Nepal Army similar in the Angola, Burundi, Congo, Cambodia, Mozambique, Sierra Leon etc. All Madhesi factions are against the mobilization of such armies. If this happens, the country is sure to fall into the trap of disaster, more chaos and bloodshed than the People’s War.

The alliance of the Madhesi separatist and other groups has led to decline in their influence. The Madhesis wish a democratic, peaceful, prosperous and stable republic Nepal; they are not in favor of eliminating the Pahades living in Madhes. They also fear that such actions can bring retaliation to Madhesis living in the cities and towns of the hill regions. Therefore, they wish the decision by ballot, not the bullet. If the mainstream political parties want to hold free, fair and impartial ballot, the SPA first appoints officials to the local governing bodies, which will resolve half of the current problem uniting all of them and another half through the constructive dialogue. If bullet overtakes on ballot, Nepal shall intensify the socio-cultural and regional divisions further, inviting more chaos, bloodshed, devastated economy and possible disintegration of the state itself. Nepal should learn lesson from multi-ethnic, mixed-culture, linguistic diversities and unitary state Kenya.

Sometime back, Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala had commented Madhes problem would be solved instantly if India wishes so. It is an observation that he has not withdrawn yet.

=================

Contributed by: Bishnu Pathak, PhD and Chitra Niraula

Assisted by: Ganga Puri, Rushma Shakya, Rita Chaudhary and Prem Pathak

Conflict Study Center (CS Center), South Asia Regional Chapter of TRANSCEND International (www.transcend.org), is an academic, policy oriented and research based non-government, non-partisan and non-profit autonomous institution registered with the Government of Nepal. Its purpose is to promote peace, respect human rights, enhance democratic process, and protect the poor, marginalized, disadvantaged and vulnerable people and endorse social justice and dignity through education, training, action research, action advocacy, capacity building and networking as a Think Tank, Center for Excellence. It has networks with 2,000 academic and professional institutions, including TRANSCEND, International Peace Bureau, TRANSCEND Peace University, European Peace University, etc. in more 76 countries. It’s International Advisors are: Peace Professor Dr. Johan Galtung, TRANSCEND; Professor Dr. Virginia E. O’Leary, USA; Professor Robert Kowalczyk, Japan, Professor Dr. Dietrich Fischer, EPU, Austria; Professor Rene Wadlow, Chief, Reduringsentative of the Association of World Citizens to the United Nations, Geneva; Professor Dr. David Seddon, UK; Professor Dr. Raymond Saner, Switzerland, Professor Dr. Brigitt Steinmann, France; Professor Dr. Olga Murdzeva-Skarik, Macedonia; Professor Kai Frithjof Brand-Jacobsen, Romania; Associate Professor Dr. Karen Valentin, Denmark; Associate Professor Dr. Richard Gendron, Canada; and Associate Professor Dr. Renato Libanora, Italy

 


[1] January 30, 2008: Jana Aastha.

[2] 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) (Situation Update 50).


Conflict Study Center (CS Center)
PO Box 11374
House No. 214, Rohinimarg,
Purano Baneswor, Kathmandu, Nepal.
Tel: +977-1-6218777
Email: cscenter.nepal@gmail.com
cscenter@wlink.com.np
URL: www.conflictstudycenter.org

 

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