Zero Miles to Zero Miles
Zero Miles to Zero Miles
– Ram Manohar
March 02, 2008
On one side UDMF (United Democratic Madhesi Front) leader provoked common madhesi people to start the madhesi movement – II on street of village & towns to express their dissatisfaction with the state, and on the other hand same leaders were counting the increasing number of corpses and wounds after each people-police collision though media news so that their bargain position increase with these figures. While common madhesi people were raising the voice amid the shower of bullets and indiscriminate lathi charge, madhesi leaders were comfortably enjoying treats and reception inside lainchor and baluwatar. Instead of sharing pahari police atrocities with common madhesi people on dusty rough hot street, instead of motivating the poor madhesi peasants to stand united against atrocities by standing shoulder to should, and instead of speaking in chorus with madhesi people to encourage the voice against the discrimination and suppression, UDMF leaders were enjoying the comfort of company with the pahari leaders in the remote controlled AC rooms. Each moment madhesi people were opening their mouth against rulers, police were opening the barrel to oppose movement, on the same moment handful of madhesi leader were closing the “Closed Deal”.
- An autonomous “One Madhes, one province” with a republican order and right to self determination
- Immediate implementation of constitutional provision regarding proportional representation of the Madhesi, Indigenous, Dalits, women and all marginalised groups in all organs of the state Immediate en-mass recruitment of Madhesis youths in the Nepali Army on the proportion of their population
- A status of martyrs to 45 persons killed in the course of the previous Madhes movement, and adequate compensation and free medical treatment to those injured and/or physically disabled in the course of the agitation.
- A provision that allows the parties, which have filed less than 50 percent of candidacy for the CA elections, not to field candidates for in proportional representation system.
- Genuine efforts to bring armed outfits of Madhes to a negotiation table
- All past agreements (with MPRF) should be enforced before holding the CA elections
And here is an unofficial translation of the 8-points agreement done between UDMF and Government done on 26th Feb 2008
- The government will declare martyrdom for those killed during the Madhes agitation and provide proper compensation for the injured who haven’t been compensated yet. Similarly, expenses will be provided for treatment for those injured during the agitation, one million rupees will be provided as compensation to the family of those killed during the agitation and those arrested will be released immediately.
- Nepal will be a federal republican democratic state by accepting the wish of the Madhesi people for an autonomous Madhes state and wish of people of other regions for an autonomous state with federal structure. There will be distinct power sharing between the centre and the region in the federal structure on the basis of list. The regions will have complete autonomy and authority. The elected Constituent Assembly will devise a way to apply the formation of such states and the rights attributed to the region and the centre while keeping national sovereignty, unity and integrity intact.
- The current 20 percent legal provision mentioned in Article 7, sub-article 14 of the Constituent Assembly Member Election Act-2054 will be increased to 30 percent.
- The government will compulsory appoint, promote and nominate Madhesi, indigenous communities, women, Dalits, backward areas and minority communities to ensure proportional participation in security bodies and all organs of the state.
- The entry of Madhesi and other groups into the Nepal Army will be ensured to give the army a national and inclusive structure.
- The government along with the UDMF urged all armed agitating groups in the Terai to join the peaceful political process and come to talks to resolve all problems. The Nepal government will take immediate steps to create a favourable environment for the same. We appeal everyone to conduct the April 10 elections in a peaceful, fair, non-violent and terror-free manner.
- The Nepal government will immediately implement the agreement reached with the Madhesi People’s Rights Forum (MPRF) on August 13 last year including releasing those under police detention, dismissing cases against MRPF leaders and activists.
- All the agitation programs called by the UDMF will be immediately withdrawn.
Point numbers 7 and 8 are just procedural norms. Last point regarding withdrawal of agitation program is self explanatory. And point number 7 tries to align past agreements. But these points don’t justify the initiation of Madhesi Movement II.
The current agreement is the joke in itself. It implies that to pressure the Government for declaring previously killed 45 madhesi as Martyrs, parties made more 7 people die in fresh agitation. And to make government realize that they are yet to implement past agreement, one more agreement is written after agitation pressure. Point numbers 1, 2, 4, 5, and 6 of new agreement are already part of past agreement done between Madhesi People’s Rights Forum (MPRF) and Nepal government on August 13, 2008.
The remaining point on new agreement is point number 3 on which UDMF can claim to have got victory on their negotiation with Nepal Government. Point number 3 raises the bar from 20 percentages to 30 percentages regarding not having compulsion of CA candidate for proportional representation declaration Article 7, sub-article 14 of the Constituent Assembly Member Election Act-2054. How much it is justified, to make 20% to 30%, so many of people lives were risked and so much of resource/energy has to be wasted?
Let’s compare the after (UDMF-Govt) agreement with the pre-agitation list of UDMF demands. What happened to the fancy phrase like “one Madhes, one province”, “right to self determination”, “Immediate en-mass recruitment of madhesis youth in Army”, “Immediate proportional representation implementation” and “Enforced past agreements before holding the CA elections”? These phrases seem to have gone under the red carpet for time being. But the big question is, why was these phrases brought to provoke people on street? Or is it that leaders have preserved these tools for next round of movement? Even big question is, why has leaders repeated the points of past agreement done between MPRF-Government in the new UDMF-Government agreement? If madhesi leaders feel that Government has not respected the commitment of past treaty, then madhesi leaders should have appealed in National/International court for justices and penalty against Nepal Government. This would have saved few lives and several injuries during agitation. Or is it that UDMF leaders are playing foul game with madhesis using confusing phrases to extract short term mileage during close door negotiations? Point to note is UDMF leaders have completely closed eye on “excessive use of live ammunition to suppress people voice” during madhesi movement in the hast-fast of closing the deals. Even if biased media is to be believed, there are more than half dozen new Martyrs named Mohammad Riskutmiya (died Feb 27, Duhabi), Idris Ansari (d. Feb 27, Duhabi), Jagadish Pashi (d. Feb 26, Maheshpur, Nawalparasi), Kalbari Paswan (d. Feb 26, Maheshpur, Nawalparasi), Gulten Das (d. Feb 25, Rajbiraj, Saptari), Rajesh Thakur (d. Feb 19, Lahan), and Gulzar Khan (d. Feb 17, Nepalgunj) including thousands of injuries spread across Terai.
Most of the madhesi people are still dependent on agriculture as their primary source of livelihood. These people are village locked for almost 3 months during monsoons every year. That means madhesi are lagger from rest of the world by at least a quarter. While world is progressing on agriculture technology and providing sufficient subsidy support to farmers, madhesi farmers are still reliant on natural miracle for justifiable agro produce. For whatever surplus produce of each farmers, the only mean to exchange other required service/product with rest of the world, they can’t get justifiable price due to lack of market infrastructure and unfavorable state regulations. Health and education infrastructure is unsupportive to provide quality service to madhesi population. People rely on Indian side for higher education and better health treatment. Unemployment is driving poor labors to look for short term seasonal migration towards Punjab for employment. Literate people are looking gulf countries as bi-annual/tri-annual employment hub. Madhesi people are confused about its own history and culture in front of the propaganda by government. Local values are eroding day by day in the absence of protective regulation.
The very important question arises; will UDMF-MPRF-Government agreement lead to the freedom to the common madhesi peasant? Neither MPRF nor UDMF as a whole has vision, not agreed with the government about any dimension other than political structure. UDMF (MPRF, SP, and TMDP) don’t seem to pursue any other agendas other than the political. UMDF hasn’t clarified vision impacting madhesi on economics, sociological, cultural, environment, demographic, unemployment, illiteracy, educational, technological, agricultural, health, and regulation dimension. Neither government has any favorable policy in these dimensions for madhesi, given its discriminative attitude towards madhesi.
With the above analysis it is clear that madhesi people should learn not to run behind the AC comfort leaders blindly, putting life on stake for the illusionary enlightenment, so that their contribution becomes ego satisfaction for handful of people. Rather people lead and practice an alternative way of registering the dissatisfaction with state, like boycott of administrative establishment, or blackout for some day without using state electricity power, or disobedience of law, or mass boycott of certain manufactured products / service.
During the course of movement, the roles of third parties were also of notable nature. Different Nepalese Media reported a meeting between Nepali Congress and UDMF leaders into the Indian Embassy premises on Congress suggestion. This incidence derives the fact that Pahari leaders have more reach and confidence with Indian establishment than madhesi leaders, but madhesi leaders seems to have failed to leverage this opportunity to ask, why madhesi are discriminated by Indian establishment. Pahari ethnic media downplayed the news coming from agitations, and have shown it old biased attitude. On the other hand pahari dominated state pardoned not even human Right workers and media person of madhesi ethnic. In many places these police were found to have entered houses, temple and hospitals to beat madhesi people including children, women, and injured.  People were beaten even in police custody. People used enormous live ammunition and tear gas to suppress people peaceful voice against state discrimination. Amnesty International (AI), UNMIN and OCHCR came up with token sympathies towards madhesi agitator but they fail to bring state administration on book in the charge of what they called “excessive use of live ammunition to suppress people voice”. None of the international diplomat came with the any press release during madhesi movement II, and seems to have closed their eye without giving any priority.
There was two more agitation going on simultaneously with madhesi movement; Samyukta Tharu Rastriya Morcha (STRM) and Federal Republican National Front (FRNF) movement. But UDMF leaders seem to have failed to reach to these organizations to understand their pain point and possibility of unified movement.
Aftermath of UMDF-Government agreement is that the agreement is being rejected by strong quarters. The Nepal Sadbhavana Party’s youth wing Nepal Student Mancha expressed agreement as “against the spirit of madhesi movement” in their press release on 29th march. JTMM (Goit) appeared on private TV channel Avenues to rebuff the recent agreement. Similarly, JTMM (Jwala) in his press release termed the agreement as “farce”. But most enigmatic reaction was from the SPA partners Nepal Workers Peasants Party (NWPP), Janamorcha Nepal and United Left Front who expressed disagreement with the deal. Now the home minister Sitaula reaction on the agreement as “procedural mistake” has underscored the doubt on the intent and content of UDMF-Government agreement. Or is the opposition from SPA leaders just one more conspiracy to project Koirala as pro-madhesi to give his Nepal Congress party a face saving victory in CA election?
Till the time madhesi is not able to see, even a handful increase in their agriculture produce, improvement in their living standard, food security, relief from monsoon-created constraints, more opportunity for unemployed madhesis, and end of suppression and discrimination from state bodies, madhesi will not have freedom from chronicle disease. For the time being Government short term agenda is to conduct thrice deferred CA election just to improve reputation in front of foreign donors. UDMF-Government agreement need to be seen in the same context as is emphasized by home minister statement “Procedural mistake to be rectified after CA”. Rajendra Mahto, leader of UDMF, completes the statement on current agreement as “Agreement was only the first chapter of their movement. Until and unless we attain full rights, we will be agitating in one form or the other, sometimes from the street and sometimes from within the parliament”. With core madhes & madhesi development agenda in none political entity list and chance of vulnerability of madhesi sentiments at its pick, the madhesi issue don’t seems to be dying in near future given the active discriminative and conspiracy from ruling pahari class. Even after sacrificing so much of lives and resource in the hope of betterment of situation, madhesi people seems to have traveled “From Zero miles to Zero miles”, and there remains miles to go before actual peace and freedom prevails.
 http://www.kantipuronline.com/feature.php?&nid=139147 http://www.kantipuronline.com/kolnews.php?nid=139140
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