“Ek Madhesh, Ek Pradesh”: How feasible is this proposition by Nepalese Madheshis?

July 18, 2008 at 5:05 am Leave a comment

“Ek Madhesh, Ek Pradesh”: How feasible is this proposition by Nepalese Madheshis?
By Arabinda Ghose

Even after the “resignation” of Shri Girija Prasad Koirala as the Prime Minister of Nepal a few days ago, signifying the “coronation” of Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal alias Prachanda as the next Prime Minister, and the first Prime Minister of Republican Nepal. Shri Koirala continues to hold the office of not only the Prime Minister but also of the head of the State.

Till date, it is not clear whom Shri Koirala will hand over his resignation letter and when will Shri Prachanda take over from him, after a President of the Republic is elected.

The constitutional processes are being thwarted by the adamant attitude of the three Tarai-based parties who do not allow the meeting of the Constituent Assembly (CA) being held, disrupting the House proceedings by getting into the podium and shouting slogans, much like the Parliament of India where opposition parties disrupt proceedings often for a few days in a row, in support of their stands on particular issues. But then, a fundamental issue that arises is who after all are the Madheshis and why do they want the demand of “Ek Madhesh, Ek Pradesh” being accepted by the CA before the House proceeds with its agenda.

For seeking answers to these questions, one has to go back about three hundred years in history. We all are aware that the Mughal empire started disintegrating after 1706 when Aurangzeb died and it was grabbing of territories by the force which had become the order of the day. The English, who had been in India as traders since the previous nearly 100 years, began empire-building by defeating Nawab Sirajuddaulah of Bengal (which included parts of today’s Bihar and Orissa too) in the battle of Palashi (often misspelt as Plassey) in 1757 through treachery by his minister Mir Zafar and others.

Prithvi Narayan Shah, a Rajput chieftain ruling at a place called Gorkha, north of Gorakhpur, had harboured dram of conquering Nepal (The Kathmandu Valley of about 2000 square miles was Nepal, not the country whose map we see these days. This map was drawn only in 1816).

A degree of treachery by the ministers of the Malla King Jayaprakash also helped Prithvi Narayan, just as Mir Zafar had helped Robert Clive.

Prithvi Narayan, was both ruthless and politically adroit, and expanded his influence to the east and the west as also to the south. After his death, his worthless elder son loved pleasure and died soon. The second son Bahadur Shah and the Prime Ministers such as Bhimsen Thapa expanded the kingdom towards the south too. In this push towards the south, the Shah dynasty occupied areas in north Bihar and had soon come into conflict with the expanding British. In two wars, the Gorkhas were defeated and had to sign a Treaty called the Sugauli Treaty which demarcated the boundary of the Kingdom which now is known as Nepal.

The areas in north Bihar and northern (today’s) Uttar Pradesh areas had come under Gorkha expansion which had people speaking languages such as Maithili, Bhojpuri, Avadhi and even Bengali (eastern extreme) who became citizens of Nepal without knowing either the Nepali language or its peculiar customs and social mores (even though they were and are Hindus). These people became known the Madheshis (inhabitants of Madhya Desh, the land between the mountains and the plains).

These Madheshis had been treated more or less as second class citizens by the “Pahadi” Nepalis for the last 230 years or more.

In the elections held on April 10, the Madheshis have acquired muscles and the worm has turned. They now want not only an autonomous Madhesh (but sovereignty resting with Kathmandu as before) but have also raised two more slogans. One is “Ek Madhesh, Ek Pradesh” which means a unbroken territory along the entire southern border of Nepal and “block entry” into the Nepal army, which they have been denied for the last 230 years or more.

All these demands are untenable on the ground that the “Ek Pradesh” will mean a sort of a buffer state between Nepal and India. No Nepali would like to be “Madhesh locked’ like they are “India-locked” today. (Nepal is a land locked country).

As for their block entry into the army one will quote an incident of 1990. When in June 1990, Shri Krishna Prasad Bhattarai (Kishunji), then interim Prime Minister of a democratic Nepal, had come to New Delhi. He had addressed a press conference at the Press Information Bureau, attended by this reporter. When a correspondent had asked why the Nepalese Government never recruited Madhesis in the army, he had reposted with “Aap Kyon Nahin Karte” (Why don’t you do the same?). Which implied that while the Government of India did recruit Nepalis (called Gorkhas) in the Indian Army, they never recruited Madheshis from Nepal.

History apart, today these are the burning questions in Nepal and it is anybody’s guess when solutions for these demands will be found and when Shri Prachand will take over from Shri Girija Prasad Koirala provided the Constituent Assembly elects a President of the Republic of Nepal who will accept the resignation of Shri Koirala, submitted to no one in particular about two weeks ago.



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