Terai-Madhes and Geo-politics
Terai-Madhes and Geo-politics
Tuesday, 31 March 2009 18:17
Class struggle and caste division in Nepal are inextricably bound up to each other. Divided exclusively into the high and low castes, the former have always suppressed the latter. Terai-Madhesh is not an exception to this rule. It displays a complex caste hierarchy among Madheshis being categorized sharply into the forward (Brahmin, Rajput, Bhumiyar and Kyastha), the backward (Yadav, Teli, Baniya, Kurmi, etc.) and harijan (Dom, Dusadh, chamar, Mushar, etc). Besides, indigenous Terai populations (Rajbanshi, Gangai, Satar, Dhimal, Tharu etc.) and hill people occupy a substantial space in the territory. The harijan and indigenous are the real subalterns, repressed by both the forward and backward. The so-called high castes have also exploited the backward communities. However, the territory as a whole, has been dominated by the Khas–speaking elites who exercise a monopoly in the state machinery.
The high caste elites patronized by monarchy were given an upper hand in the state organs to preserve the feudal institution ever since the misquoted unification by Prithivi Narayan Shah. The same pyramid of autocracy was carried out during Rana, Panchayat and Post 1990 regimes, creating a strong hatred among the margins against the feudal.
Terai-Madhesh became relatively a more prey to the oligarchy. The khas vernacular was deliberately institutionalized and established as a singular discourse to show the hegemony over the non-Khas speaking. It was particularly aimed at keeping Madheshis and indigenous populations miles away from the mainstream. Unable to express their grievances and exchange ideas due to their inability to communicate in the state imposed monolithic Nepali (Khas) language, the Madheshi and indigenous people suffered from inferiority complex and helplessness. They looked up the Khas speaking people as their superior and ruler. Being victimized by the state, they confined themselves to the inferior and ruled. The linguistic barrier crippled them and only a handful of them could acquire virtually a nominal space in the mainstream politics and bureaucracy.
The state turned a blind eye to the genuine demands of Madheshi and other indigenous. Millions of them were deprived of citizenship and had to live like in an exile on their own land. As united Terai-Madhesh could be a threat, the state always kept a hold over the people of the plain by implementing ‘divide and rule’ policy. Whenever they got united to fight for the common cause, the state played tricks to bring a split among them. Consequently, most of political organizations formed by them got either eliminated or split in sub groups.
The plot to weaken the unity of Terai-Madhesh could be seen in a 22-point agreement signed on Aug 30, 2008 between the government and the Madheshi People’s Right Forum. The accord was made in direct contravention of the spirit and sentiments of February Madheshi uprising and its continuity, which sacrificed scores of lives. The agreement was nothing of novelty, which had not been addressed by the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. The accord failed to address the genuine political, economic, cultural and linguistic issues of Terai-Madhesh. However, the state succeeded in bringing a division among the agitators. Upendra Yadav, Supremo of MPRF was ousted by the dissenters on charge of abandoning proportional representation in the CA polls and autonomy in a federal state.
Madheshi and the indigenous masses lived in a state of despair and desolation for years. They took their plight as destiny and sealed their lips against exploitation, humiliation and discrimination of all kinds. But things changed radically over a decade and half. The subalterns spoke and voiced against the autocratic state. They overcame their hesitation, got united and fought vehemently against the autocratic system. They took active part and laid down several lives in every uprising and movement in the nation. They also took a leading role in the Maoist’s insurgency and April uprising. They proved their nationality by sacrificing the best souls of the soil.
The Madheshi and indigenous people, however, got disillusioned with the uprising being aborted in mere 19 days. Subsequently, the Madheshis resumed the agitation, popularly known as ‘February Madhesh Uprising for their emancipation in particular and all the margins in general. They moved the derailed republican train towards the intended destination at the cost of 42 lives. Because of the Madheshi agitation, the defender of the status quo UML and Congress were forced to march along the republic path. Likewise, the staunch royalists RPP and RJP appeared as the advocates of republic and the messiah of Madheshis in fear of being socially and politically discarded in Madhesh.
The stereotyped Nepali psyche underwent a transformation and recognized the significant role of Madheshis in the geo-politics and Terai-Madhesh being an integral part of the territory. The Madheshis registered their dignified presence on the high walls of the capital by heralding, “Say with pride we are Madheshis, the sons of the soil, not foreign immigrants”. The Madheshis joined their hands with the repressed ethnic groups like Limbuwan, Khambuwan, Tamsaling and others and are on the path of building an inclusive federal republic.
Being petrified with the secular and nationalistic identity of Madheshis the imperialist, royalist, regressive and Hindu fanatic elements have been playing fouls in Terai-Madhesh. In their initiation, coverage and financial assistance over a dozen secessionist groups are resorting to sabotage the constitution-making process. Having utterly failed to jeopardize the racial harmony in Madhesh and fully stripped off after Gaur Carnage, they have now directed their vulture’s eyes upon the hill, where armed outfits are threatening the innocent Nepalese people making several lame excuses.
The regressive forces made the capital a second target to disrupt the racial harmony between hill and Madhesh peoples. They blasted a series of bombs indiscriminately in public places in the valley on Sept 2, 2008 that killed 3 civilians and left over two dozens injured. But here also, they did not succeed and were exposed in the eyes of the sensible Kathmanduites. The people of the valley refused to be misled, displayed an exceptional criticality and maintained communal harmony. They learnt instantly that the so-called Madhesh based seemingly Hindu fanatic underground outfits were falsely projected and the real culprits were the same royalists. The mysterious Mr. John, Chief of Terai Army caused a lot of speculations on the mind of Nepali. The obscure figure was unmasked and was eliminated later.
The intra-class struggle can be seen in the recent Tharu agitation when they strongly voiced against the Madheshi feudal in conspiring to eliminate the Tharu’s separate identity by enrolling them in the list of Madheshis. The Tharus, led by the Maoist-schooled leader, Laxman Tharu, and Raj Kumar Lekhi, a Marxist by training, led the agitation ahead for their ethnic identity by blocking highways for 13 days and sacrificing two lives. Their genuine voices were heard ultimately and the high-sounding terminology “Madhesh” got changed into Terai-Madhesh, which accommodates all the Nepalese residing in the territory. Tharus make up seven percent of the Nepali population and have been residing for centuries before elimination of malaria. The all-inclusive nature of their agitation was also underscored by the margins of both hill and Terai people.
The history has offered us great opportunities to build a new nation free from exploitations and discriminations. Nevertheless, a new Nepal cannot emerge unless we ensure autonomy, right to self-determination, a federal democratic republic, end of oligarchy, autonomy within autonomy and full proportional representation to Madheshis, women, indigenous, dalits, disables, Muslims and other margins. The materialization of the above said pre-requisites will unify the nation with her multi-ethnic, multi-linguistic and heterogeneous rhetoric identities.
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