Missing the story

February 12, 2008 at 4:59 pm 3 comments

Missing the story
Kathmandu’s civil society and media are a part of the problem
Kathmandu’s self-righteous civil society and media have done the impossible. They have matched the insensitivity, insularity, inertia and ignorance of the central state.The Madhes has been in crisis for a year. People are scared. There are ‘political’ killings every day, though most stem from personal rivalries, caste and property feuds, and revenge. The increasing number of rapes go mostly unreported. The legal system is a sham and justice elusive.

Nepal’s activists were at the forefront of raising human rights issues during the Maoist insurgency. Yet on the Madhes, how do Kathmandu’s human rights organisations react? Silence. Propped by donors, they spout buzzwords like “inclusion” but forget the exclusion within their own organisations. The district heads of Insec in the Madhes, for example, are Pahadis.

How else does one account for the absence of any fact-finding reports or investigations into the various forms of atrocities in the Tarai? It was only after the Gaur incident that Kathmandu’s human rights wallahs got agitated enough to go down and produce what later proved to be inaccurate reports. For them no other incident, or the pattern of killings was worth a response. There is no report on the violations, if any, by the STF. Is the life of a Madhesi worth less than a Pahadi?

This week, police killed three people in Birgunj, claiming they were criminals. Independent observers say that there was no way to ascertain guilt. Either way, the police had no right to shoot first. Madhesi groups as well as the Madhesi leaders within the seven parties are furious and want action against the SP. The town has been shut down. But not a single national human rights group has, till presstime, issued even a statement.

And where are the OHCHR’s reports on Nepalgunj, Lahan, the Madhes movement, Kapilbastu, and the general human rights situation? Are sporadic statements and internal confidential reports enough to justify the huge expenditure incurred for the upkeep of Richard Bennett & Co?

The Kathmandu media, it has to be said, is part of this conspiracy of silence. In an emerging conflict, one would assume that editors would attempt in-depth analysis, follow-up on stories, send their trusted journalists for on-the-ground investigative reportage. Instead, in most papers there seems to be a deliberate ploy to underplay and underreport the gravity of the Madhes crisis.

If one only read the major dailies, it would be easy to believe that apart from sporadic incidents, the seven party mass meetings in the Tarai were a success. The Janakpur and Birgunj rallies were a disaster. Three thousand police were deployed and the state herded people into the rally. Even so, attendance was dismal, there were scuffles across town, more than 60 people were injured, and Ram Chandra Poudel had to run off after his speech. The impression in the Tarai was that the Pahadi parties were bulldozing their way through. Birgunj marked a major escalation in the level of violence, and may be a sign of things to come.

This week there were strike across the Tarai, multiple bombs in Rajbiraj, killings and tension in Birgunj, clashes in Nawalparasi, Banke and Mahottari, simmering communal tension and increase of activities of armed groups like Pawan’s SJMM in Kapilbastu, targeted killings of at least one Pahadi each in several districts, no breakthrough in talks with the government and plans to escalate the movement.

Yet, the editorial line in most papers does not help. Seeing Madhesi groups as opportunists and irritants to be removed echoes the mainstream political line and misses the nuances. Advocating army deployment is counter productive. And hoping, as one paper did, that Madhesi mainstream groups would support such aggressive security measures is naive.

Kathmandu’s civil society and media need to wake up and be a part of the solution. The risks of not doing so are too high.



Entry filed under: Articles.

Geopolitics of Madhes: Ballot or Bullet in Nepal! FAQ commentary on Madhes/Tarai Conflict

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. DIVAS  |  February 13, 2008 at 9:31 am

    some Questions for Madhesis


  • 2. aAkaR  |  February 13, 2008 at 12:18 pm

    I’m always confused…………what is madhes and what is terai???………….i’m confused bcoz there is madhes andolon but there is terai banda………….why????????????do u have answer?????????…………………..if madhes exists and there is andolon then madhes should be banda……………….and if terai exists then there should be terai aanadolon and terai should be banda………….F**K all the political leaders………….they are not going to do anything………………..yes, they are intented to do BANDA………………….and mudered of people…………

  • 3. Son of of Tirhut  |  February 13, 2008 at 1:52 pm

    Dear Prashant Ji,
    Your article is 100 correct, the reason behind this because the UNHCR and Media is entirely dominated by Khasiya Bahuns and Kshetris, ans so they stay mum in case of Madhes revolution. They are not willing to give us the autonomous terai with self decisive power from east to west. But we have achive our goal through the tough struggle. These days these people are trying to split Tharu community from Madhes, i request tharu brother to be beware if this kind of conspiracies.

    Jai Madhes/Tharuhat/Terai!!!!!

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