Posts filed under ‘Reports’

Tarai-Madhes Searching for Identity Based Security

Situation Update:                                                                    88 October 14, 2009

Tarai-Madhes :Searching for Identity Based Security

  • Bishnu Pathak, PhD*
  • Devendra Uprety**

Peace, justice and freedom must be major components of any future security in Nepal. However, Nepal’s transition is deepening in crisis due to the growing ranks of rebel forces, particularly in the Tarai-Madhes. While the State fails to deliver security to the ordinary people, particularly in countryside, the peace process of Nepal is endangered, justice is delayed, and freedom is restricted. The migration of hill-and-mountain dwellers out of the Tarai-Madhes has not stopped. The people who remain in such places have had much to fear. The cases of extra-judicial killings, forceful disappearances, torture, extortions, rapes and so forth continue. To understand this unfortunate state of affairs, it is necessary to delve into a brief history of the region.

Understanding the Tarai-Madhes

Nepal is divided into three areas topographically; Mountains1, Hills2, and Tarai-Madhes3. The Tarai-Madhes, though the flattest and most accessible part of the country, remained isolated until the mid 20th century due to malaria-infestation4. This area stretches from the Indo-Gangetic plains to the Himalayan foothills and connects the plains culture to the hill culture. Constrained between the Mechi River in the east and Mahakali River in the west, it makes up about 23 percent of the total land area of the country. With an average elevation of less than 100 meters (in sharp contrast to the highest Mountains in the world), the average length and breadth of the Tarai-Madhes are about 900 km and 70 km respectively5. The Tarai-Madhes incorporates 20 out of 75 districts, including close to half the 26 million population of the country. The region was annexed into Nepal during the unification period, beginning in the mid 1770s, by Prithivi Naarayan Shah. However, much of the ancient Tarai-Madhes areas, ruled by various kings and principalities for centuries, are now in the Bihar and Uttar Pradesh states of India6. The Anglo-Nepalese war between 1814 and 1816, and the resulting Treaty of Sugauli and subsequent treatieswith British India further reduced the Madhes region. The outer Madhes areas south of Dang and Chitwan valleys were previously under Indian Territory7. Banke, Bardia, Kailali and Kanchanpur districts within this region were once called the ‘New Nepal’ as they were ceded to Nepal by the East India Company in appreciation of the service of Nepali Gurkhas in suppressing India’s independence movement. The label “Tarai-Madhes” is of relatively recent public socio-political discourse in Nepal. The word “Madhes” is derived from the Sanskrit word Madhyadesh8 (middle country), collectively called Madhises or Madhesiyas. Even Manusmriti and Vinayakpitak, have indicated that it is attached to ancient historical traditions9. The Madhyadesh distinguishes the plains from the hill region or Parbat, from which is derived the meaning of Pahade (hill and mountain dwellers) in modern Nepal. A Madhesi, therefore, originally meant an inhabitant of this region10. Similarly, the Tarai (Nawalparasi to Kanchanpur districts) refers to the fertile strip of low-lying land sandwiched between the hills of southern Nepal.

In recent days there has been an issue of severe contention. Tharu, being of native origin, prefer to call the region the Tarai, whereas some others in the region prefer to call it the Madhes. In Tharu language ‘Tar’ means low, leading some to claim that the word “Tarai” is derived from the Tharu language.11 Others obviously disagree, as Wikipedia states:

“The Terai (“moist land”) , or (“foothill”) in Persian language, is a belt of marshy grasslands, savannas, and forests at the base of the Himalaya range in India, Nepal, and Bhutan, from the Yamuna River in the west to the Brahmaputra River in the east12.”

The resolution of this issue is beyond the scope of this update. However, the issue itself serves to highlight one of the overarching socio-cultural conflicts; the struggle for national identity between the indigenous ethnicities of the Tarai-Madhes, and the relatively recent immigrants from India (since the eradication of malaria). Tarai- Madhesi groups interact with each other, immigrants from the hills, and the rest of the country, in different ways.


The Tarai-Madhes is a less recognized area of study than many others in Nepal13; however, there are several works on the Tarai-Madhes that have been studied time and again by non-native and native scholars. Among the non-native scholars, Gaige14 (1975), Byrne15 (1999), Krauskopff16 (2000), Guneratne (2002)17, Anderson (2004)18, Bernando (1999)19, and among the native Bista20 (1991), Dahal21 (1996), Hachhethu22 (2007), Gupta23 (2004), Jha24 (1997), Lawoti25 (2001), Chaudhary (2065 BS) 26, Chaudhary (2064 BS)27, Panjiar28 (2000), Yadav29 (2003), Pathak (2007)30 Yadav (2060BS)31, can help in understanding the multiple dimensions of the region.

History of Discrimination and Injustice

In 600 BC, Shakya kings ruled the mid western Madhes. Gutam Buddha, who was born in 563 BC belonged to the Shakya (Tharu) dynasty. Similarly, Tarai-Madhes kingdoms were established in Simraungarh in the present day Bara district32. Indeed, several kingdoms were established and ruled by many dynasties. These states perished with time and the land was reclaimed by forests33. Gaige writes: “The ancient and medieval history of this region is a cyclic one in which men and forests havedominated in turns34.” King of Mithila, Hari Singh Dev, defeated by Mugals in 1324, arrived in Bhadgaon (present Bhaktapur) and formed an army of Mithila. Approximately 240 years ago, during the unification of the small warring states, Prithvi Narayan Shah defeated the Sen dynasty Kings of Madhes and then captured Kathmandu valley. When Prithvi Narayan Shah attacked Kathmandu in 1774, Jaya Prakash Malla countered with a 12,000 strong Mithila army, that had been known as Tirhoot army. Shah demolished the Tirhoot army upon conquering it. Following this, the dispute with the East India Company and greater Nepal intensified while the post-Prithvi regimes continued to attack weak principalities. Soon, the dispute of Butwal triggered the Anglo-Gorkha War 1814- 1816 AD. It seems somewhat unclear whom the local people supported, but the literature indicates that Madhes dwellers were closer with the British East India Company35. W. Brook Northey writes that a large number of undisciplined volunteers fought against Gorkha during the Anglo-Gorkha war36. The Treaty of Segowlee (Sugauli Treaty) presented on December 8, 1816 states “the Rajah of Nipal agrees to refrain from prosecuting any inhabitants of the Tarai, after its severance to his rule, on account of having favored the cause of the British Government during the war”. So, it seems there was a lot of dissatisfaction among native Tarai dwellers against the ruler of Gorkha37. Though Article 7 of the memorandum on the Sugauli Treaty mandated that the Nepali government would not take any action against the people living in the Madhes, many Madhesi dwellers were, nonetheless, ill-treated, tortured, and punished on the charges of treason. In this way, the consequences of the actions of the elite landlords overflowed to the common Madhesi. The Madhesi were alleged to be ‘followers of British and adversary of Nepali’ and their recruitment into the army was stopped38. It had not been resumed in the later regimes until now. The Madhesi have felt this an insult, as they were excluded from the national security force (and more likely to suffer brutality as a result). Subodh Kumar Sing writes that after the unification, Shah Rulers saw the virgin Tarai as a source of revenue and distributed land to the king’s family members, courtiers, and to army generals and colonels to garner their support39. Just after the Tarai integration into the Gorkha Kingdom (present Nepal), a number of conflicts erupted with the native Taraian people. Native Saptari people seemed to be uncooperative with Gorkhali at the beginning of 1774. A letter of Abhiman Simha from the period states that for salaries to troops and to meet other expenses, the revenues had been collected in the Tarai areas from Ambarpur and Vijayapur40. During the Rana Regime, prior to 1950, because of their strong relationship with the British, the latter was silent about the ill-treatment of the Madhesis. One form of discrimination toward the Tarain-Madhesi at the time was that they had to obtain visas to visit Kathmandu issued by the elite Kathmandu-based government from the Badahakim (Regional Administrator)41. Mahesh Chandra Regmi writes that both the pre-Rana and Rana rulers viewed the Tarai as a colony, and regularly granted large tracts of land to others. Sometimes even whole areas were captured for themselves, their families and their Bhardar as Birta (granted land) to loyal senior officials.42 However, the ruling elites, both Shah and Rana, did not have an interest in developing the Tarai in their long-term perspective. They feared that such development would not only attract a flood of British colonialism, but were also afraid that it would open the door to revolutionary ideas from south India.

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CS Center –C o n f l i c t S t u d y C e n t e r

PO Box 11374, 214 Rohini Marg, Purano Baneswar, Kathmandu, Nepal. Tel: +977-1-6218777



November 2, 2009 at 6:01 pm 1 comment

Trouble in Terai

An Excerpt from

Nepal: A Failing State or a State in Transition?

Oliver Housden

F E B R U A R Y 2 0 0 9

IPCS Research Papers


III. Trouble in Terai

Militant Identity Politics

The Terai is the most unstable and deeply troubled region of Nepal. Despite being Nepal’s industrial and agricultural heartland, it is wracked by lawlessness and sporadic violence which has escalated out of the control of local and state security forces. Militant groups representing the interests of not only the Madhesis, but also other numerous ethnic and caste groups, are increasing. To make the situation more complicated, the Terai is also plagued by a host of criminal activities, ranging from petty smuggling to regional counterfeit currency rings, which are linked to armed political activity.


Historic Madhesi Grievances

The Madhesi cause has been catapulted to the fore of Nepali politics ever since the Jan Andolan II in spring 2006. While it would be beyond the scope of this paper to provide a deep analysis of the Madhesi movement, it is important to reiterate that Madhesis have historically felt marginalised by the paharis (hill people) who they feel, have dominated political, social and cultural life in Nepal, on the basis of their culture, religion and ethnicity.74 Indeed, “modern Nepali nationalism, largely conceived and institutionalised in the latter half of the twentieth century, [that] was shaped around the monarchy, Hinduism and the Nepali language,” is a concept that Madhesis feel is deeply restrictive and discriminatory against their culture.75


Madhesi Armed Groups

While there are numerous pro-Madhesi armed groups, the main actors are the Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha – Jaya Krishna Goit (JTMM-G), JTMM-Jawala Singh (JTMM-JS), Akhil Terai Mukti Morcha (ATMM), the Nepal Defence Army, Madhesi tigers, Terai Madhesi Mukti Tigers, Terai Cobra, Terai Liberation Force and the Madhesi Virus Killers.76 It is important to note that many of these are former Maoists77  – such as Jawala Singh and Goit – and the organisational structure and recruitment strategies of these groups mirror the CPNM during the civil war.78 Crucially, the speed with which new groups have been formed means that they have little time to consolidate their structures. Bickering between group cadres, that has increasingly become defined by inter-caste squabbles, often leads to factional divides which threatens the loose association of most armed groups in the Terai.79 Thus, they are prone to constant splintering and reforming as new groups. As a result of their weak organisational structure, it is also difficult to determine the goals of these groups. Although most armed Madhesi rebels espouse ‘regional or Madhesi autonomy’,80 their ultimate goals are unclear. So too is their relationship with mainstream Madhesi political parties, as they have not agreed upon a “common party or individual to represent them.”81


More is known about their military capability and source of weapons. The flat physical geography of the Terai means that these groups do not have the natural advantages of the hills for successful guerrilla training and warfare which the Maoists enjoyed. Moreover, most analysts believe armed Madhesi groups are poorly armed and trained. In an interview with an ATMM military commander, I was told that their military arsenal consisted of small arms which are smuggled over the India-Nepal border, often through Bihar.82 Nevertheless, the rapid proliferation of armed groups means there is a severe information deficit about their long-term strategies and political ambitions.


Other Ethnic and Religious Minorities

The Limbuwans

By rapidly opening the political arena to ethnic minorities, “ethno-politics has become a major paradigm for reclaiming social space” in Nepali politics.83 The Terai, no different than any other region of Nepal, is host to numerous ethnic minorities which have begun expressing their grievances through violence and do not associate themselves with the Madhesi movement. An important illustration of this phenomenon are the Limbuwans. The Sanghiya Limbuwan Rajyaparisad [Federal Limbuwan State Council (FLSC)] has demanded that nine Districts lying east of the Arun River – Panchthar, Taplejung, Terhathum, Sankhusabha, Ilam, Jhapa, Dhankuta, Sunsari and Morang – should be declared the Limbuwan State.84 They have resorted to sporadic violence and organized strikes which have caused considerable disruption to hundreds of workers and brought everyday life to a standstill.85


The Tharus

In early November 2008, the Autonomous Tharuhat National Council created the Tharuhat Liberation Army in the farwestern district of Kailali with the intention “to make the revolt of the indigenous people successful”.86 Indeed, Mr. Laxman Tharu, one of the primary instigators of the movement said, “The government of Nepal has so far ignored the demands of the Tharu community and that we want the entire Tarai plains of Nepal be declared the Tharu Autonomous Region [and]…if our demands are not met with within three months, we are ready to wage yet another peoples’ revolt.”87 Indeed, the Tharu intelligentsia in particular, fundamentally object to being referred to as Madhesis and wish to distance themselves from “all Madhes, one state.”88 What is more, reports of Tharus requesting donations from villagers, especially in Dang where there is a large Tharu population, in support of their insurgency have now become increasingly common.89 However, the Tharu intelligentsia is too disaggregated from grassroots support to pose a huge threat to local security forces. The Tharu community is scattered over a wide area and only in several districts do they have a majority.90 Laxman Tharu has also admitted their arsenal is not particularly sophisticated.91 As a result, raising an effective insurgency is highly unlikely. However, this will not preclude further low intensity violence in Tharu regions that is bound to lead to displacement and violence against many innocent civilians.



The difference of political opinions within the Muslim population, which stretches across the Terai, is striking. While most Muslims in the East and especially around Biratnagar tend to support the MJF, in mid and far western regions, support for other political parties, such as the CPN-M, UML, as well as the MJF, is mixed.92 It is important to stress that Muslims as of yet, have not become militant. On the contrary, Muslim participation in civil society is beginning to flourish in some corners of the Terai.93 However, there has been speculation for some time that an increasing number of madarasas in the Terai have been funded by organisations in the Gulf with radical agendas.94 Such accusations, predominantly emanating from the Indian Intelligence authorities, have also maintained that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) operates along in the Terai in order to exploit the open border for anti-Indian activities.95 Indeed, the hijacking of an Indian Airlines plane which was bound for Delhi from Kathmandu on Chrsitmas Eve, 1999 was by a Pakistani who had allegedly been living in Nepal – an incident which soured Indian-Nepali relations.96 While there is no smoke without fire and the ISI is most likely to have some presence in the Terai – such as ISI’s links to counterfeit currency which shall be discussed below – it is difficult to provide a clear picture. Indeed many claims about ISI’s influence in Nepal are either unsubstantiated or exaggerated by the Indian government to deflect from their own intelligence failings.97 In order to reduce low-intensity violence in the Terai, Madhesis have to be included into the political process.98 On the face of it, initial developments under the new coalition government were encouraging, with the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (MJF) forming part of the current ruling government coalition.99 Indeed, the new Constituent Assembly is the most inclusive and representative political institution ever created in the history of Nepal.100 Madhesi political parties and their grievances therefore, now occupy considerable political space in Kathmandu. However, for Madhesis this is simply rhetoric and many do not feel they are adequately represented in the government. For instance, although they are in government they are not involved in major political committees, neither do they have enough top jobs in relation to their representation of the population. At the grassroots level, many Madhesis have not seen any visible change either. As one local told me, “whenever and wherever I go [to the bank, police station, hospital] all I see is pahari.”101 Therefore if change is going to be deep and long lasting, the psyche in Kathmandu must transform dramatically to include ethnic and caste minorities into central and local politics. However, there is also an onus on the Madhesi leadership to shift the direction of the movement. Popular feeling in the Terai towards Madhesi cadres is beginning to change, as disillusion grows towards both the political process and fear of armed groups. As Prashant Jha notes, one of the big questions for the future is which “political force will capitalise on this growing disillusionment with the Madhesi outfits and the resultant political vacuum.”102 Secondly, the Madhesi movement has already begun to exhibit the same caste and hierarchal ambivalence towards smaller, more marginalised ethnic minorities as say those paharis who had historically oppressed them. The Tharus and Muslims in the far west in particular, are frequently dismissed by Madhesi intellectuals as “backward,” “simple” or “who don’t understand or know what they want.” The Madhesi movement accuses major political parties, and particularly the CPN-M of provoking their cause in order to drive a wedge into India,” Seminar Report for IPCS, CLAWS, Delhi, 23 September 200 Madhesi solidarity.103 While this is partially accurate, it is also grossly patronising to assume that Muslims or Tharus cannot think for themselves. Many Muslims in the mid-west, for example, continue to support the CPN-M because they were the first and only party in their manifesto to advocate positive discrimination and political representation in favour of Muslims.104 Furthermore, the Limbuwans who demand autonomy for nine states, several of which are in the Terai, present another challenge to the Madhesi movement. As the major ethnic-based party in Nepali politics, Madhesi parties and especially the MJF must recognise these demands in their political discourse and the new political landscape of Nepal. As with the difficulties over the shape of federalism, accommodating such a disparate range of demands will be far from easy; but to ignore such voices would increase the possibility of more groups resorting to violence to achieve their goals.


Criminal Gangs and Activities

Other than groups with a political agenda, the Terai is host to numerous criminal groups as well. Yet, as with armed Madhesi groups, there is a gaping information deficit about the source and actors involved in criminal activity. However, there are several observations which can be noted. Firstly, the source of this problem in many respects is similar to that of armed political insurrection. Historic exclusion from politics and economic under development have left many ethnic, religious and lower caste minorities adrift and with minimal choices and opportunities. Depending on where one is in the Terai, it is common to find that the most marginalised groups tend to be involved in criminal activities. For example, Muslims in the mid-west and especially in Nepalgunj, who are more illiterate and unemployed than other groups, have been involved in smuggling sugar, detergent or oil. 105 The open border has facilitated the growth of criminal activity in the Terai. This is certainly not a new phenomenon as the porous nature of the border has been exploited by the illegal importation of timer, the drugs economy, and stone and pebble smuggling for cheap construction materials in India.106 However, more worrying was the recent discovery of counterfeit currency in Birgunj in November 2008. The scale of the operation – Nepal is the primary conduit of fake Indian currency in the subcontinent – is particularly worrying.107 As Bhaban Singh, an elected member as the CA member notes, the amount of Rupees currently being smuggled suggests that “politicians and policemen are involved in the fake currency racket. Otherwise how can so much cash come in through Kathmandu?”108 What is more, the Indian government maintains the racket was organised by Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) Agency in order to “fund terror and subvert the Indian economy,”109 once again fuelling speculation about the presence of ISI and radical Islam in Nepal. This evidence illustrates the conceptual problem of defining the source of unrest in the Terai. It is almost impossible to disaggregate political and criminal activities because they are often linked to one another. This is not only illustrated by the alleged links between ISI and the counterfeit currency ring but also by the supply of weapons by criminal gangs to armed political groups. Thus, the problem in the Terai is both a socio-political and law and order issue. Yet this is not solely because of an ineffective government in Nepal. The open border facilitates illegal activities as India, especially Bihar, has become a safe haven for criminal and armed political actors.110 Thus, the Indian government must engage with Nepal to improve collaborative governance to bolster security in the Terai.111 What is more, the lack of information about these groups severely limits the mandate of what peace talks can realistically achieve. Research centres, such as the Asian Study Centre for Political and Conflict Transformation, want to work on this issue, but since it is seen as bottomless pit, the study remains drastically under funded.112 However, the collection of reliable data about key actors in the Terai would be a huge step forward in aiding the peace process.



74 Data on the presence of ethnic or caste minorities indicates that Madhesi claims that they have been excluded from politics in favour of the Pahari, upper castes, are legitimate. The representation of Madhesis in Cabinet or constitutional bodies has traditionally been a fraction of the paharis. In Koirala’s cabinet in 2001, Madhesis held four out of possible 25 Ministerial posts; only two Madhesis were members of Constitutional bodies (versus 17 Paharis) and four Chief of Government Corporations and Committees, whilst paharis constituted the 52 other available posts. Table 9, Madhesi Representation in Cabinet, Constitutional Bodies and other Important Posts, in Amresh Kumar Singh, “Restructuring of the Nepali State: A Madhesi Perspective,” in Nepal : New Frontiers of Restructuring of State, ed. Lok Raj Baral (New Delhi: Adroit, 2008), 111.

Furthermore, as of 2007, the Proportional ShareIndex (PSI) rating of Terai Madhesis vis-à-vis their representation in the National legislature was 0.66, despite constituting 33 per cent of the national population. Conversely, the PSI of Bahuns and Chetris stood at 2.58 and 1.04 respectively, Table 8: Representation of Different castes and Ethnic Groups in National Legislature, [according to the 2007 Interim Constitution] in Ibid.: 110

75 International Crisis Group (ICG), “Nepal’s Troubled Tarai region”, Asia Report N°136, 9 July 2007, 2-5, south_asia/136_nepal_s_troubled_tarai_region.pdf


76 The ATMM, Pawan Giri-led SJTMM and JTMM-J, formally unified into the Terai Janatantrik Party in January 2009. See “Three Terai rebel organisations unite,”, 14 January 2009.

77 The Maoists sought to incorporate the Madhesis into the insurgency during the Nepali civil war. Throughout the conflict, the Maoists mobilised ethnic minority participation in the insurgency. Indeed, their success depended on these ties. Whilst Madhesi involvement in the conflict came much later in the conflict, their support nevertheless became extremely important in building the strength of the rebellion. The CPN-M’s calls for greater regional autonomy and self-determination certainly resonated with the Madhesi movement. However, the Madhesis quickly became disillusioned with the Maoists for failing to implement and act upon their pro-Madhesi rhetoric. In 2004, some Madhesis in the Maoists Jawala Singh and Jai Krishna Goit, separated, to form the JTMM. Subsequently, the number of armed groups in the Terai towards the end of the civil war grew and violence increased after the ceasefire in late 2006 and early 2007 (See International Crisis Group (ICG), “Nepal’s Troubled Tarai region,” Asia Report N°136, 9 July 2007. 78 U.N. Security Council, “Secretary-General Report on children and armed conflict in Nepal,” December 2006, 6

79 Prashant Jha, “Madeshi movement splintered by caste and militancy,” Nepali Times, 21-27 November 2008 lainSpeaking/15293

80 The major exception was the ATMM which demanded total Terai/Madhesi secession from Nepal, but after their unification with JTMM-JS and Pawan Giri, it is unclear whether their ultimate goal will be independence or regional autonomy.

81 “Nepal: Talks crucial to prevent upsurge in Terai violence – rights groups,” IRIN News, 21 October 2008 024

82 One can assume they are low-grade weapons, given the low-intensity nature of violence and small-scale attacks in the Terai. Author’s interview with ATMM District Commander for Sunsari District, Sunsari, 13 November 2008

83 D. Kumar, ”Nepal’s Future: Order in Paradox,” AAKROSH, Vol.11, No.40, (July 2008): 35

84 The FLSC’s vision of federal Nepal is an arrangement of autonomous regions demarcated along the traditional boundaries of ethnic groups. SATP, “Nepal: Assessment 2008,” x.html

85 “Nine eastern districts reel under Limbuwan bandh”, 30 November 2008; “FLSC strike cripples eastern Nepal for 2nd day”, 1 December 2008,

86 “Tharuhat Liberation Army is formed”,, 4 November 2008, 4/news06.php

87 “Nepal: Tharu Revolt imminent if identity ignored,” Telegraph Weekly Magazine, 25 October 2008, s_id=4497

88 Ibid.

89 Author’s interview with (Anon) civil society leader, Nepalgunj, Banke, 15 November 2008

90 See “Nepal National Population Census, 2001,” Central Bureau of Statistics, 2001, Kathmandu,

91 “Nepal: Tharu Revolt imminent if identity ignored,” Telegraph Weekly Magazine, 25 October 2008, s_id=4497

92 Author’s interview with Abdul Satar Ansari, Muslim civil society figure, Madhesi Intellectuals Society, Biratnagar, 10 November 2008.

93 Muslim civil society figures such Hasan Ansari, Head of the Eastern Nepal Civil Society (Biratnagar), Imam Haida, senior figure of Jamiyantul Olma Nepal, have sought to register madrasas with the Nepali government and the Fatima Foundation, a women’s rights organisation in Nepalgunj

94 Author’s interview with Ambassador K.V.Rajan, Institute for Higher Education (IILM), Delhi, 30 October 2009

95 For more, see International Crisis Group (ICG), “Nepal’s Troubled Tarai region”, Asia Report N°136, 9 July 2007, 2-5, south_asia/136_nepal_s_troubled_tarai_region.pdf

96 “Nepal suffers Hijack Fallout,” BBC News, 25 February 2000,

97 In an Indian intelligence report about ISI and madarasas in the Terai, the Shisul Uloom madrassa was accused of training and supplying Islamic militants. Not only is this madrasa tiny – 2000 square feet – it is surrounded by a big Hindu population who would have quickly reported any suspicious behaviour. Author’s interview with Imam Haida, Shahbazia Madrasa, Biratnagar, 11 November 2008

98 International Crisis Group (ICG), “Nepal’s Troubled Tarai region,” Asia Report N°136, 9 July 2007, 32, south_asia/136_nepal_s_troubled_tarai_region.pdf

99 ICG, “Nepal’s New Political Landscape,” Asia Report N°156, 3 July 2008, 10

100 Oliver Housden, (Ambassador KV Rajan), “Emerging Situation in Nepal and Implications for

101 Author’s interview with local villagers in Biratnagar, 11 November 2008

102 Prashant Jha, “Madeshi movement splintered by caste and militancy,” Nepali Times, 21-27 November 2008

103 Author’s interview with Abdul Satar Ansari, Muslim civil society figure, Madhesi Intellectuals Society, Biratnagar, 10 November 2008; Author’s interview with MJF Biratnagar Youth leader, Rangali, Morang, 11 November 2008; Author’s interview with Rajendra Prashad Sah, senior MJF and civil society leader, Sava’s Inn Hotel, Biratnagar, 12 November 2008

104 Author’s interview with Vice-President of Fatima Foundation, Nepalgunj, 15 November 2008

105 Ibid.

106 Author’s interview with Prashant Jha, Lalitpur, Kathmandu, 4 November 2008

107 VK Shashikumar, “Real or fake?”, Nepali Times, 31 October – 6 November 2008

108 VK Shashikumar, “Politicians and police are involved. Otherwise how can so much fake currency be smuggled?”, Nepali Times, 31 October – 6 November 2008

109 Ibid.

110 For example, both Jai Krishna Goit and Jawala Singh live in Bihar

111 Given the porous nature of the border and the fact that many Indians and Nepalis use the border everyday, politically and logistically, closing the border is a non-starter.

112 Author’s interview with Manish Thapa, Asian Study Centre for Political & Conflict Transformation, Kathmandu, 7 November 2008

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May 13, 2009 at 7:11 pm 1 comment

King George V’s Hunting in Terai Nepal in December 1911 Part I

King George V’s Hunting in Nepal in December 1911 Part I

About the photographs
These 50 photographs depict scenes of the shikar, or hunt, the hunted animals and the hunting camps of King George V in the Tarai in December 1911. The photographs feature the wild animals of the Tarai including tigers, bears and rhinoceroses, the use of the elephant “hunting ring” technique, the activities of the mahouts (or elephant trainers/handlers) and shikaris (or hunters) as well as the various dignitaries involved in the visit. Each individual photograph has a pencilled number, but no caption. The captions have been supplied by the ANU Library.

Hunting party on elephants fording a river. River is probably the Rapti. The hunting parties camped on the banks of this river during the hunt.


Slain tiger. There were a total of 39 tigers killed during this hunt.


Camp, with George V’s bungalow
Hunting party on elephants fording a river. River is probably the Rapti. The hunting parties camped on the banks of this river during the hunt.


George V and the Maharaja consult on foot. Other members of George V’s party, Nepali soldiers and shikaris are in the background.
Hunting party inspects the head of a slain rhinoceros. There were a total of 18 rhinoceroses killed during this hunt.


George V stands in his howdah.
George V’s party used two camps during the trip. The first was at Sukhibar on the Rapti river where the party encamped for five days, then the party moved to a second camp at Kasra, some eight miles farther up the river for the remainder of the trip. The second camp duplicated the first. The Maharaja of Nepal was in a separate camp lower down on the Rapti river. His 14,000 followers camped hidden in the jungle behind.
George V takes note of the number killed – 3-4 tigers and a bear. There were a total of 39 tigers and four bears killed during this hunt.
The tiger is camouflaged in the grassland. There are ominous shadows in the foreground.


A tiger lies in a stream, with the ring of elephants in view in the background. The “ring” is a method of hunting peculiar to Nepal. The hunters mounted on elephants form a “ring” and move in on their quarry, which has previously been stalked and enclosed in the area surrounded by the ring. [On the first day of the hunt, 18th December] “… the first tiger [was] shot by His Majesty in mid-air as it was leaping a small stream.” Historical record of the Imperial visit to India, 1911, p. 230.

The album

The album consists of 16 pages and 50 photographs. It appears incomplete with the back cover missing. The front cover bears the company name Herzog & Higgins, Mhow (Central India) and the words “Bound at the Caxton Works, Bombay” inside the front cover. The album was discovered in a rural Indian home in Madhya Pradesh by the donor, Dr U.N. Bhati, Visiting Fellow, Economics and Marketing, School of Resources, Environment and Society at The Australian National University. The album was given to Dr Bhati by a distant relative who had worked for the former Maharaja and Maharani of Ratlam (in Madhya Pradesh), Mr and Mrs Parbinder Singh – who had given him the album.


King George V

King George V’s reign began on 6 May, 1910. He was determined to visit India as soon as possible afer his coronation in London (22 June, 1911), in order to be crowned King/Emperor of India in Delhi. His advisors considered that an actual coronation ceremony was inappropriate, and suggested that he be presented as the crowned King/Emperor of India and receive the homage of the Indian Princes and rulers while he was seated upon his throne. This took place at a Durbar in Delhi on 12 December, 1911.

The King was passionate about shooting. After the Coronation Durbar in Delhi, he was looking forward to spending as much time as possible big-game shooting in Nepal. During his previous visit to India as Prince of Wales in 1905-1906, his planned shooting trip at the invitation of the Maharaja of Nepal had been cancelled due to an outbreak of cholera in the region. Before his 1911 visit, Maharaja Chandra Shamsher Jang Bahadur Rana, Prime Minister and ruler of Nepal from 1901-1929, had again invited him for a shoot in the Tarai region. Nepal’s political power was held by the Rana family, which had instituted a system of hereditary Prime Ministers in the mid-19th century. The King of Nepal, who only held an honorary position, died a few days before King George V’s planned trip, but had insisted before his death that the visit should not be cancelled.

The King travelled by train to Bhikna Thori in India, a few hundred metres from the border with Nepal. He proceeded by motor car to the first day’s shooting ground. After about 20 kilometres, they reached the valley of the Rui river, from where they mounted elephants and proceeded into the forest. The king shot his first tiger while it leapt a small stream. That day the party killed four tigers and three rhinoceroses. The camp for the next five days was at Sukhibar, on a bend of the Rapti river, with the forest behind. “The river flowed past the camp in a broad and placid stream, forming a splendid foreground to the open jungle on the other bank, while occasionally in the distance a view could be caught of the snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas.” (Historical record of the Imperial visit to India, 1911, p.230)

On 23 December, the camp moved to Kasra, eight miles farther up the river Rapti. The Maharaja’s entourage, who were in a separate camp further along the river, numbered 14,000 including 2000 elephant attendants. After Divine Service on Sunday 24 December 1911, the Maharaja presented the King with a collection of over seventy varieties of animals indigenous to Nepal. During the hunting that followed Divine Service on 25 December, nearly 600 elephants formed the “ring”. The King shot the largest tiger of the expedition on that day. On the last day of the visit, 28 December, the King reviewed a Brigade of four Nepalese regiments on his way to the hunting ground. The total number of animals killed during the hunting trip was 39 tigers, 18 rhinoceroses, and 4 bears. (Historical record of the Imperial visit to India, 1911, p.231-233)

Background on The Terai and the Hunt

The Tarai region of Nepal is a narrow strip of flat land bordering India. Being part of the plain of the river Ganges, its southern area is very fertile agricultural land. Its northern part is marshy and abounds in wild animals. Today, part of this area forms the Royal Chitwan National Park, a Natural World Heritage Site. The Nepali Rana rulers had used this area as a royal hunting reserve from 1846 to 1951, and had maintained a good supply of game for themselves and their guests through the strict enforcement of game laws. “The forested areas of the Tarai are the home of tigers and leopards, gaurs (wild ox), occasional elephants and buffalo, and many deer … The Lesser Rapti Valley, in the Chitawan district, is one of the last homes of the great Indian rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis).” (Encyclopaedia Britannica, s.v. Nepal).

Adrian Sever describes the King’s shoot as follows: “An army of beaters was employed for weeks before the event to drive into a selected area all the big game that inhabited the warm damp jungles of the western Tarai . . . some forty points were selected within the area chosen for the shikar, and kills, usually goats, were tied up so as to establish the number and location of tigers and leopards. They were then hunted in uniquely Nepalese style. The tiger that was reported overnight from a kill was encircled by an enormous ring of elephants and held until dawn and the arrival of the guns. At times, as many as 250 elephants were employed for one circle. As the tiger approached, the ring was contracted until the great cat’s escape was cut off. Upon the arrival of the visitors, ten or twelve specially trained elephants were introduced into the circle, which, in some cases was as much as 200 metres in diameter. These proceeded to form a line and march into the patch of jungle in which the tiger was hidden.” Eventually, the tiger was flushed out. (Sever, pp.246-247)


Encyclopaedia Britannica. S.v. Nepal.
Fabb, John. India : the British Empire from photographs. London : Batsford, 1989.
Fulford, Roger. Hanover to Windsor. London : B.T. Bataford, 1960.
Halperin, John. Eminent Georgians : the lives of King George V, Elizabeth Bowen, St. John Philby, and Nancy Astor. New York : St. Martin’s Press, 1995.
His Imperial Majesty King George V and the princes of India and the Indian Empire : historical-biographical. Compiled by K. R. Khosla; edited by R. P. Chatterjee. Lahore : The Imperial Publishing Co., 1937.
The historical record of the Imperial visit to India, 1911 : compiled from the official records under the orders of the viceroy and Governor-General of India. London : Pub. for the Govt of India by John Murray, 1914. [Hyperlink to text of pp.228-233]
Nicolson, Harold George. King George the Fifth : his life and reign. London : Constable, 1952.
Rose, Kenneth. King George V. London : Weidenfeld And Nicolson, 1983.
Sever, Adrian. Nepal under the Ranas. Sittingbourne [England] : Asia Publishing House, 1993.
Smythies, Olive. Ten thousand miles on elephants. London : Seeley Service, 1961.

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April 19, 2009 at 7:38 am 4 comments

Maithili linguistic research: state-of-the-art

Maithili linguistic research: state-of-the-art.(Statistical Data Included)

Publication Date: 01-JAN-00

Author: Yadav, Ramawatar


Maithili, a descendant of the Magadhi Apabhramsa, is an eastern Indo-Aryan language. According to an estimate (Davis 1973:316), it is spoken by approximately 21 million people in the eastern and northern regions of the Bihar State of India and the southeastern plains, known as the tarai, of Nepal. As a matter of fact, it is not easy short of a new linguistic survey of Bihar to ascertain the exact number of the speakers of Maithili in contemporary Bihar. Ever since the first Indian census for the Bengal Presidency in 1872, censuses of India have tended to underreport the figure lot Maithili-Maithili being erroneously viewed as a dialect of Hindi, or of a spurious language and a chimera called Bihari. For example, the 1961 census figure of less than 5 million (4,982,615) Maithili speakers in Bihar is, regrettably, grossly inaccurate vis-a-vis the figure of more than 9 million (9,389,376) estimated by Sir George Abraham Grierson as early as 1891 (Brass 1974:64). In a guesstimate of raw 1971 census figure arrived at by adding up the total population of the districts of Purnea, Saharsa, Darbhanga, Muzaffarpur, Bhagalpur, Monghyr (half) and Santhal Pargana (half), G. Jha (1974:4-6) argues that around 23 million (22,998,706) people speak Maithili in Bihar. Adding up the. Nepal 1971 census figure of 1,327,242 Maithili speakers to the population of Maithili speakers of Bihar, a total of more than 24 million (24,325,948) speakers may be said to speak Maithili in India and Nepal. In a yet further survey of the 50 most-spoken languages in the world, carried out by Grimes (1996:588) and reported on the Internet, it is stated that Maithili occupies the position of the 40th most-spoken language in the world and that it is spoken by 24.3 million `first language speakers’ in India and Nepal.

Demographically, Maithili is the second most widely spoken language of Nepal and the constitution of Nepal recognizes it as one of the `languages of the nation’ (rastriya bhasa) of Nepal. True, Maithili is not yet recognized as an official state language of Bihar; nor has it been included in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution of India. Maithili, however, has been recognized as an autonomous modern Indo-Aryan language of India by the Sahitya Akaderni since 1965. Today, Maithili is recognized as a distinct language and taught as such in the Indian universities of Calcutta, Patna, Bihar, Bhagalpur, Mithila and Benares, and the Tribhuvan University of Nepal. Maithili is also taught as a school subject in the secondary schools of India and Nepal.

Since Hindi is used as the medium of instruction in north Bihar schools, most literate Maithili speakers of Bihar are bilingual in Hindi. By the same token, the literate Maithili speakers of Nepal are bilingual in Nepali–Nepali being the medium of instruction in the schools of Nepal. Literate Maithili speakers in the Nepal tarai also tend tO be bilingual in Hindi due to constant travel across the border in india for social commerce and preponderant use of Hindi newspapers, magazines, and films. However, the illiterate rural masses of Maithili speakers in India and Nepal are by and large monolingual.

On the boundaries of Maithili, a number of modern Indo-Aryan languages are spoken: Bangla in the east, Bhojpuri in the west, Nepali in the north, and Magahi in the south. Within its own territory in India, Maithili has both contiguity and contact with Santhali–a Munda language. During 14th to early 18th centuries, Maithili also came in close contact with Newari (a Tibeto-Burman language spoken in the Kathmandu Valley) and it, in fact, occupied a pride of place in the royal court of the Malla Kings of Nepal.

Within the boundaries of India and Nepal, Maithili is characterized by considerable internal, regional, and social, especially caste variations (Yadav 1995, 1999) — the full extent of which has not been adequately surveyed since Grierson (1883-87). The standard of spoken Maithili is tacitly identified with the speech of the towns of Madhubani in Bihar and Rajbiraj in Nepal.

In the course of its history, Maithili has developed a number of innovations that set it apart from other neighbouring languages. For instance, Maithili has almost lost the OIA gender system. Modern Maithili has no grammatical number either. Maithili has also developed overwhelming honorificity distinctions in its pronominal system as well as an uncharacteristically complex verbal agreement morphology, not shared by other Indo-Aryan languages of India and Nepal.

Phonetics & Phonology

Prior to my undertaking research work on an experimental phonetic study of the Maithili language in mid 1970’s, the nature of phonetic research was epitomized in the following rather uncouth and highly impressionistic accounts of phonetic facts made by Sir George Abraham Grierson and Dr. Suhhadra Jha.

Grierson (1881a: 5-6) wrote:

The pronunciation of the vowel a [[??]] is peculiar. It is not so broad as
in Bengali, but on the other hand it is broader than that of the neutral
vowel in High Hindi. I know of no sound exactly equivalent to it in any
language with which I am acquainted. The best way of describing it is by
saying that it is halfway between the o in not and u in nut, when preceded
by a hard guttural check, and followed by a soft labial check. It thus may
be said to he the u of cub, rounded or the o in cob, neutralized.

Subhadra Jha (1941:436)wrote:

Short [i] may be about 1/3 away from the Cardinal [i] towards the Cardinal
[e], and approaches a central place …

Grierson (1935: `Introduction’, xvi-xvii) wrote:

As a further guide to the pronunciation of Indian names and other words
occurring in this translation, I advise readers not acquainted with
oriental languages to produce all vowels as in Italian and all consonants
as in English.

Subhadra Jha’s 1941 paper is, to the best of my knowledge, the first synchronic study of the phonetics and phonology of Maithili according to the principles of modern descriptive linguistics. In that study, Jha argues for fifty-six “essential” phonemes of Maithili: to him every grapheme is a phoneme. Later, in his monumental work, S. Jha (1958) discusses the historical development of the Maithili sound system and provides diachronic explanations for the synchronic usage. Govind Jha (1974, 1979) also provides an insightful account of the sound system of the Maithili language.

My doctoral dissertation, entitled Maithili Phonetics and Phonology and submitted to the University of Kansas, USA, was completed in June 1979. It was published in the form of a book of the same title in Germany in 1984. This book is the first full-length phonetic study of Maithili; the experimental methods used in this study are mainly acoustic and fiberoptic in nature. In it, I have presented a description of Maithili sounds in a generative phonological framework gaining in invaluable insights from articulatory as well as acoustic parameters. I have argued that Maithili has 8 oral vowel phonemes and 26 consonant phonemes. All vowels can be nasalized underlyingly–thus increasing the number of vowel phonemes to 16. Only the back vowels are rounded. Length is not distinctive in Maithili — although the Devanagari script in which Maithili is now written does provide separate graphemes for long and short vowel sounds. In this study, I have also argued that a number of sounds, i.e. [[??]], [n], [s], [s], [r], and [w] and [y] should more appropriately be described as `marginal’ phonemes for a number of reasons the details of which I will spare you at the moment. Please note that these so-called `marginal’ phonemes are in fact phonemes of Sanskrit and it has been customary to treat them as phonemes of various modern Indo-Aryan languages, including Maithili. For more information, the reader is referred to Ingemann & Yadav (1978) and Yadav (1976, 1979 ab, 1982, 1984 abc).

The main contribution of Yadav 1979/1984c, however, lies in a fiberoptic and acoustic analysis of voicing and aspiration in Maithili. Research for this study was carried out at the Haskins Laboratories in New Haven, Connecticut. In this study, made to investigate the temporal course and width of the glottis during the production of four types of Maithili stops and affricates and two types of resonants occurring in various positions, the results show that the voiced-voiceless distinction correlates with the adduction-abduction gesture of the larynx. The study also suggests that glottal width is the key factor for aspiration and that sounds which are produced by a combination of vibrating vocal cords and aspiration should, in tact, be called `voiced aspirated’ consonants.

In 1984, Sunil Kumar Jha completed his Ph.D. thesis entitled A Study of Some Phonetic and Phonological Aspects of Maithili and submitted it to the University of Essex, UK. The thesis is as yet unpublished, although parts of this scholarly study have been published in journals in India and Nepal. Sunil Kumar Jha also has an experimental bearing on his work; most of his data are kymographic, spectrographic and oscillographic in nature. In sum, barring a few minor issues, Jha’s work is a continuation and in effect confirmation of most of my major findings reported in Yadav 1979/1984c.

In 1996, Mithilesh Mishra completed a doctoral dissertation entitled Aspects of Maithili Phonology and submitted it to the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, USA. I have not yet availed a copy of it. But all indications are that his work is a study in non-linear phonology of Maithili.

Morphology, Syntax and Semantics

The first grammar of Maithili was written by a firangi: I am of course alluding to George Abraham Grierson (1881a). The chief merit of this work lies in the fact that it accorded Maithili the position of an independent language. In 1883, Grierson’s valuable paper entitled `Essays on Bihari Declension and Conjugation’ was published. In 1885, Grierson attempted a sketch of the Maithili grammar based on the texts of two songs (“taken down from the mouths of two itinerant singers in the Nepal tarai” p. 17) — popularly known as the Git Dina Bhadrik and Git Nebarak, published in Germany. The major contribution of Grierson, however, lies in the very extensive dialectal survey of what he called “Bihari”, published during 1883-1887. A consummate summary of all the major findings of Grierson was later published in Grierson (1903/1968).

The earliest Maithili grammar by a native scholar, and written in the manner of the ancient Sanskritic tradition, is that of Dinabandhu Jha. Written in Maithili, D. Jha’s grammatical treatise is entitled Mithila-Bhasa-Vidyotana and was published in 1353 sala/circa 1946 A.D. The Vidyotana is written in the form of sutra, followed by explanations thereof in a rather heavily Sanskritized and abstruse Maithili. The Vidyotana has a long Dhatupatha (1949-50) appended to it in the truly Paninian manner. D. Jha’s 1948 paper may be described as the first morphological study of word formation in Maithili; it presents an interesting account of reduplication in Maithili and attempts to provide a semantic explanation for all such two-word combinations.

Subhadra Jha’s The Formation of the Maithili Language was published in London in 1958. It is the earliest and the most exhaustive diachronic description of Maithili to date. In it, S. Jha has undertaken to trace the history of Maithili from the Old Indo-Aryan period and has labored assiduously to assign Sanskritic etymologies to practically all forms of Maithili. For a contrary view, emphasizing the Santhali (i.e. Munda) influences on Maithili and for limitations of S. Jha’s far-fetched Sanskritic etymologies, I would simply refer you to two reviews of this classic work by De Vreese (1962) and Southworth (1961). In my 1984 paper entitled `Maithili Phonology Reconsidered’, I have also argued that S. Jha’s data on modern Maithili should be used with care and even caution for any serious historical as well as phonological research on Maithili (Yadav 1984b).

One of the earliest attempts to describe the morphology of the complex verbal system of Maithili was made by Govind Jha (1958). In this study G. Jha sets out to show that the presence of a multiplicity of optional forms in Maithili verb conjugations does not lead to the conclusion, arrived at by Grierson, that Maithili is probably a “partially cultivated” (1881 a: 50) language. As a matter of fact, G. Jha takes strong exception to Grierson’s phrase “partially cultivated” and goes on to claim (rather than demonstrate) that “all the different forms of [the Maithili] verb have and are used in different shades of meaning” (1958:169). Ten years later, in 1968, G. Jha’s Maithilika Udgama O Vikasa appeared. It is the first full-length historical account of Maithili written in Maithili, and therefore it deserves our praise and admiration. In 1974, G. Jha’s Maithili Bhasa Ka Vikasa was published, which, though elaborate in detail, owes much of its information to G. Jha’s 1968 study. G. Jha’s Uccatara Maithili Vyakarana was published in 1979. In Yadav (1996), I have stated: “After Grierson, it is the most noteworthy contribution to the field of Maithili linguistics” (p.8). Written in Maithili as a textbook for students and teachers at the university level, this work offers fresh insights into the application of linguistic principles in the analysis of a modern Indo-Aryan language.

In the mean time, in 1972, Indira Junghare published a paper entitled `The Perfect Aspect in Marathi, Bhojpuri and Maithili’ with an aim to ascertain the genetic relationship among these languages. Her conclusion is that these three languages are indeed genetically related and belong to the Outer Group of Indo-Aryan languages as suggested by Grierson. In Nepal, linguists from the Summer Institute of Linguistics, Davis (1973) and Williams (1973) published two valuable papers on Maithili syntax and semantics, both written in the Tagmemic framework as propounded by Kenneth L. Pike. These studies, based on the field data collected in the village of Ghorghas near the town of Janakpur, make significant contributions to the analysis of Maithili clause and sentence patterns.

The first linguist to describe the syntax and semantics of the Maithili language in the transformational-generative and relational grammar framework is Udaya Narayan Singh. This he did in his Ph.D. dissertation entitled Some Aspects of Maithili Syntax: A. Transformational-Generative Approach and submitted to the University of Delhi in 1979. The thesis is as yet unpublished. Singh has published a number of scholarly papers on aspects of Maithili language and linguistics, in particular, Singh (1980, 1986).

Ramawatar Yadav also published a number of papers on Maithili morphology, syntax and semantics. The ones that may deserve mention are: (1985, 1991 & 1998). R. Yadav wrote a paper on sociolinguistics of Maithili (Yadav 1999a). R. Yadav also wrote a book-length description of Maithili (Yadav 1996). Research for this book was carried out in two phases. An initial draft of the grammar was prepared during my term as an Alexander-von-Humboldt Postdoctoral Research Fellow in 1983-84 at the Department of Indology, University of Mainz, Germany. The final draft of the grammar was completed during 1989 as a Senior Fulbright Visiting Scholar at the University of Kentucky, Lexington, USA and again as an AvH fellow at the Department of General and Indogermanic Linguistics, University of Kiel, Germany. Very recently, I have also contributed an invited submission in the form of a chapter on Maithili in a book entitled Indo-Aryan Languages to be edited by George Cardona and D. Jain (Yadav 2001).

The first linguist to assess the implications of movement rules for the theory of Government and Binding as propounded by Noam Chomsky is Yogendra P. Yadava. This he did in his doctoral thesis entitled Movement Rules in Maithili and English: Their Implications for the Theory of Government and Binding, submitted to CIEFL, Hyderabad in 1983. His thesis is now published under the title of Issues in Maithili Syntax: A Government-Binding Approach in 1998. Prior to it, Yadava published a number of articles, in particular, Yadava (1981, 1982).

Since the publication of Dinabandhu Jha (1949-50) and Govind Jha (1958), a number of linguists have studied the phenomenon of complex verbal agreement and honorificity distinctions in Maithili in detail. Prominent among these are: Udaya Narayan Singh (1979 b, 1989), Gregory T. Stump & Ramawatar Yadav (1988), Ramawatar Yadav (1995, 1996); Balthasar Bickei, Walter Bisang, and Yogendra P. Yadav (1999), and Yogdenra P. Yadava (1996, 1999).

Mention may be made of Bal Krishan Jha’s unpublished Ph.D. thesis entitled A Descriptive Study of Maithili Language in Nepal and submitted to the University of Poona in 1984, Nabin Chandra Mishra & Shivakant Thakur (1984), and Dhirendra Nath Mishra (1986).

Mention may also be made of a number of native grammarians of Mithila. Prompted by the intense desire to teach Maithili to students in schools and colleges in Mithila, native scholars of Maithili have produced a number of textbook grammars. I mention six of them here, but there may be more. These are:

1. Ramanath Jha 1955/1971 Maithili Bhasa Prakasa

2. Balgovind Jha “Vyathit” 1966/1981 Adhunika Maithili Vyakarana

3. Dayanand Jha 1976 Maithili Vyakarana evain Racana

4. Yugeshwar Jha 1979 Maithili Vyakarana aora Racana

5. Bhola Lal Das n.d. Maithili Subodha Vyakarana

6. Anand Mishra n.d. Mithilabhasaka Subodha Vyakarana

To judge the above works from the point of view of linguistic considerations would be simply unfair as these do not purport to be scholarly studies. I may just want to draw your attention to one point. In spite of Ramanath Jha’s (1955/1971:19) firm assertion that there is a total absence of sandhi rules in Maithili (“…. Mithilabhasme ehi niyamaka carca nirarthaka”), all the other works cited above discuss sandhi rules in detail.


If there is one aspect of Maithili linguistic study which has suffered immeasurably from tremendous neglect, it is the lexicographical study of Maithili. As of today, no satisfactory Maithili-English, English-Maithili; Maithili-Hindi, Hindi-Maithili; Maithili-Nepali, Nepali-Maithili dictionary is available. The publication of Govind Jha’s (1999) [MAITHILI TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] A Maithili-English Dictionary is therefore a welcome addition to the scanty list of Maithili dictionaries on the bookshelf.

The first Maithili-English dictionary was published by Hoernle and Grierson (1885; 1889), while the first Maithili-Hindi-Sanskrit dictionary/word list (24 pages only) was published by a native scholar Bhava Nath Mishra (1914/1322 sala). The first well-known and complete Maithili-Maithili dictionary was published by Dinabandhu Jha (1950), followed by a two-volume complete Maithili-Maithili dictionary by Govind Jha (1992, 1993) and by another complete Maithili-Maithili dictionary compiled by Mati Nath Mishra (1998). In the mean time, Alice Davis’s Maithili-Nepali-English-dictionary was published in 1984 and two fascicules of a total of 11 proposed fascicules of [MAITHILI TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (1973, 1995) have been published by Jayakanta Mishra. I have had the good fortune to review the dictionaries of Govind Jha (1992), Jayakanta Mishra (1973, 1995) and Mati Nath Mishra (1998) and these reviews have appeared in different journals in India and Nepal (Yadav 1994, 1999b, 2000).

A closer scrutiny of the dictionaries published thus far reveals that there are a number of critical issues that the lexicographers of Maithili need to resolve with a modicum of accuracy, and I might add, elegance. Take, for instance, the issue of head words and their relationship to other words. A commonly observable practice in lexicographical methodology is that head words usually take the form of single words, abbreviations, or affixes, while multiword units and morphologically related words are listed under the headword — assuming that they are closely related in meaning. Thus, for example, Govind Jha (1993: 45) represents the single word entry [MAITHILI TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] `nose’ as a headword and subsequently lists, under the head entry, a number of subentries with the use of a tilde to avoid reduplication of the headword and to save space in the dictionary, e.g. [MAITHILI TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], and so on. Jayakanta Mishra (1973, 1995) on the other hand, observes the practice of overdifferentiation and chooses to compile practically all the attested forms (from the printed works of Maithili literature upto 1860 and beyond) as `separate’ entries-irrespective of the morphological and/or semantic relationship that might obtain between a head entry and its subentries.

I will illustrate this point with the help of a sample verb entry [MAITHILI TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] `to satiate’ from Jayakanta Mishra (1973). On pp. 28-29, J. Mishra lists a total of 11 separate attested verb entries (i.e. [MAITHILI TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] in addition to the head entry [MAITHILI TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. In all 11 cases, J. Mishra cross-references each of these fully inflected verb form entries repeatedly to the infinitive-headword [MAITHILI TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] and thereby not only adds to the bulk of the dictionary and renders it rather cumbersome but also misses out a significant generalization of the Maithili linguistic insight that these 11 so-called separate headwords are after all morphologically as well as semantically related to the headword [MAITHILI TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII].

Indeed, the basic problem that confronts a Maithili lexicographer is: what form should the head entry take? Put differently, should the head entry consist of verb stems/roots alone (as is the case in the dictionaries and lexicons of Hoernle & Grierson 1885, 1889 and Dinabandhu Jha 1949-50)? Or, should the head entry consist of verb infinitives (the linguist’s darling) ending in –[[??]] b or eb (as is the case in the dictionaries of Dinabandhu Jha 1950, A. Davis 1984, Govind Jha 1992, 1993 and Mati Nath Mishra 1998)? Or, alternatively, should the head entry consist of fully inflected verb forms (as is the case in Jayakanta Mishra 1973, 1995)?

Another equally important issue relates to the writing of core meanings and definitions of a word and providing examples of usage thereof in a dictionary. The success of a lexicographer is measured in adroitness and skill with which (s)he gives the meanings of/defines a word in a dictionary. Usually, the convention is to strictly confine oneself to the use of a limited set of “defining vocabularies”, consisting mainly of highly frequent words in the language. Thus, for example, The Cambridge International Dictionary of English (1995) contains approximately 100,000 words and phrases arranged under 50,000 headwords, but definitions are written using a controlled vocabulary of under 2,000 basic word forms.

Maithili lexicographers tend to ignore this convention by and large and are persistently prone to usingrather “high” vocabulary to define a word. The problem is further exacerbated by an acute lack of a word-frequency-count study in Maithili. After all, to date and to the best of my knowledge, no lexicon of say 2,000 most frequent words in Maithili is available.

Finally, a word about grammar in the dictionary. More and more dictionaries today tend to reflect contemporary thinking and knowledge on aspects of grammar. In other words, recent development and insight into grammatical theories and descriptive tools/labels are covertly and occasionally overtly couched in the manner in which head entries and subentries are arranged and their meanings and definitions provided in a dictionary. Unfortunately, a major blemish of a number of Maithili dictionaries (and I don’t wish to name any individual lexicographer here) is that they provide highly inadequate and even inaccurate grammatical information.

As we all know, dictionary making is an extremely arduous, time-consuming, and painstaking endeavor. On top of it, there is always room for improvement– so much so that as early as 1755 Samuel Johnson wrote:

Every other author may aspire to praise; the lexicographer can only hope to
escape reproach and even this negative recompense has been yet granted to
very few.

Concluding Remarks

Maithili shares a common core vocabulary with other Indo-Aryan languages such as Hindi and Nepali. As a matter of fact, over 90% of Modern Maithili vocabulary is Indo-Aryan. Modern Maithili, however, diverges from earlier Indo-Aryan in a number of ways in that a few newer traits have emerged. Modern Maithili is characterized by loss of number and gender. It has developed profusely overwhelming honorific distinctions; and, at the same time, it has developed a highly complex verbal agreement system. These recent developments have led modern-day linguists to conclude that Maithili is a distinct language. As early an investigator as Sir George Abraham Grierson (1881 b `Preface’: v-vi) observed that:

The native language of every Bihari … is as different from Hindi as
French is from Italian … but it [Hindi] is not, never was, and never can
be the vernacular of Bihar. History and the laws of philology alike decide
against it, and experience has shown how Norman-French never became the
vernacular of England.

Finally, I may want to end my presentation with a word of appeal to the scholars of Mithila. Ever since Paul Brass did his field work in the Maithili-speaking areas of Bihar (Brass 1974) and brought to the fore the sad lack of “the forging of the bonds of community necessary to the building of a common Maithili consciousness” (p. 115) and even drew our attention to the sociological and political reasons leading to the failure of the Maithili Movement vis-a-vis the Punjabi Movement and the Urdu Movement, other Western scholars have revisited the area only to harp again on the sore theme. Thus, Richard Burghart (1996) talks about “a quarrel” in the Maithili language family and reports on the Maithil Pundit’s obsession with the caste exclusiveness and a micro-region called the panc kosi area. In his own words, “… it is clear that the quarrel in the family of Indo-Aryan vernacular can never be sorted out; it stems from conflicts in the heart of Maithili political culture” (p. 408). An American social worker, Claire Burkert, who runs an INGO under the rubric of Janakpur Women’s Development Centre also talks about this preoccupation, and adding to the high caste-low caste divide a new dimension of man-woman divide, she raises a million dollar question: “Who is in charge?” (Burkert 1997).

I would like to utilize this occasion to urge the native Maithili scholars to dispassionately engage themselves in the task of scientifically analyze the sociology of Maithili speech. I would also like to exhort the scholars employed in the Maithili departments per se of various universities in Mithila to cross their fences as it were and carry out research on aspects of Maithili language and linguistics. After all, as Claire Burkert would have it, “Being Maithil is more than speaking Maithili, or chewing pan and quoting Vidyapati” (1997:251)

Colophon: This is a slighly modified version of the Kameshwar Singh Memorial Lecture, delivered at Maharajadhiraj Kameshwar Singh Kalyani Foundation, Kalyani Niwas. Darbhanga, Bihar, India, on November 28, 1999.


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December 20, 2008 at 8:38 am 7 comments

UN OHCHR – Human rights violations Report of Terai Protest Feb 2008

Excerpt of human rights concerns arising from the Terai protests of 13 – 29 February 2008

Human rights violations

Right to life

The most serious violations during this period were those relating to the right to life. OHCHR investigated the deaths of six civilians, all male, who died during the protests; in Nepalgunj on 17 February, Siraha district on 19 February, Saptari district on 25 February (two persons), Nawalparasi district on 26 February and Sunsari district on 27 February. OHCHR’s findings indicated that five died as a result of police fire and one as a result of injuries sustained when he was hit by lathis. In the cases of death by police fire, OHCHR has reached an initial conclusion that in most cases the use of lethal force was not justified. At least thirty civilians were treated in hospitals for bullet wounds sustained as a result of police fire; most bullet injuries were sustained above the knee. The figure was probably higher as some hospitals were unable to give precise numbers. Many protestors had head injuries as a result of being beaten over the head with lathis although senior police officials have made commitments on several occasions to stop this practice.

In most of the instances in which live ammunition was used directly against protestors by the police, information gathered by OHCHR suggested that the police did not always comply with Nepal’s domestic law or international legal standards. Direct live fire was rarely preceded by a clear warning, as required by international standards and the Local Administration Act, and other methods of crowd control had not always been exhausted. In addition, in most cases there did not appear to be an imminent or grave threat to life or serious injury. Of the five persons who died as a result of police fire, three were found not to have been actively participating in protests and could not have presented any kind of threat to life. Detailed summaries of the six cases are annexed.

The wording of curfew orders issued by the CDOs in different districts was too broad and allowed police forces wide discretionary powers regarding the use of firearms during curfew that risked resulting in violations of the right to life. A curfew order issued by the CDO of Banke district on 17 February stated that ‘…the security forces deployed for security reason may even open fire if anyone is found moving…’ The same day, a 25 year old construction worker, Guljar Khan was fatally shot in forehead during the curfew, in Gahasmandi area of Nepalgunj.

Similarly, the CDO of Morang issued a curfew order on 19 February, which mentioned that, ‘…security personnel may open fire if this order is violated.’ In Parsa district, the CDO issued a curfew order on 26 February, which mentioned that, ‘…if anyone moves about, assembles, or does any other act which is not allowed in that area, and if anyone violates the curfew order the security personnel who have been deployed for security may, as necessary, take [someone] under control or shoot.’

These curfew orders failed to cite the provisions of the Local Administration Act that require that police may use firearms to enforce curfew, on the orders of the CDO, but only if they judge it necessary after using all other non-lethal means of force. Furthermore, the curfew orders do not instruct the police forces that they must issue a clear warning before using firearms. These omissions tend to create a perception among some of the police personnel that with the imposition of curfew in a particular area they are not under the legal obligation to use force in a graduated manner. When OHCHR raised this issue with the Home Secretary, he explained that the curfew order is the public notice of the curfew but that police are still under an obligation to use firearms only on specific instructions from the CDO. However, it would appear that there is some confusion on the ground about this.

The imposition of curfews was not always clearly or systematically broadcast by CDOs, and the police were often quick to take action against individuals violating curfews in an excessive and unnecessary way, whether or not the violation was deliberate. On 20 February, OHCHR found that the District Administration Office (DAO) had failed to inform Birgunj radio stations, usually used to relay curfew times to residents, of the curfew times that day. At least three people were beaten by police that morning for inadvertently violating the curfew, including a man going for a morning walk whose foot was broken by an APF officer. A journalist informed OHCHR that he had on that day prevented APF from beating a young boy attempting to cross a road.

Right to physical integrity

The police faced a difficult and frustrating situation and were often themselves the target of violence. OHCHR found that the police used considerable restraint on some occasions, with a level of force appropriate to control violent crowds in difficult conditions. On others, OHCHR witnessed the police, and in some cases the same police, using unnecessary and disproportionate force against people who were already under their control, no longer posed a threat or were simply not involved in the protests. OHCHR also witnessed police throwing stones back at protestors and sometimes using catapults to do so.

Statistics from one hospital in Dhanusha district illustrate the level of violence during protests. As of 26 February, Janakpur Zonal Hospital had registered a total of 281 admissions, including seven persons injured with live or rubber bullets, 272 by lathis, stones or physical assault, seven by teargas and one who had burns.

OHCHR witnessed police beating protestors with lathis, often on their heads or upper parts of their bodies, in an excessive and violent manner. OHCHR observed numerous protestors with serious head injuries as a result, and some with bone fractures. On 17 February in Nepalgunj, OHCHR witnessed at least three incidents in which police personnel severely beat protestors under their control. In one incident, OHCHR observed a group of more than 20 police surround one demonstrator and hit him repeatedly with lathis as he lay on the ground. OHCHR received numerous reports of police personnel assaulting residents of private homes they entered in pursuit of protestors, including elderly persons and juveniles. On 17 February, APF personnel at a violent UDMF rally in the main bazaar area of Nepalgunj (Banke district) entered Madeshi populated side streets in Ward 14 in search of demonstrators. APF systematically forced their way into residences, indiscriminately attacked locals, including men, women and young children, in their homes with lathis, and destroyed property including five water pumps. OHCHR observed three residents with serious head injuries and five persons with signs of lathi injuries, including bruises on the back and on the hip Also in Banke district, on 20 February, following violence at a rally of around 200 local people heading toward Nepalgunj, a group of 20-25 APF reportedly chased demonstrators into a residential area in Jaispur VDC and fired at least five rounds of tear gas, as well as live ammunition. The APF also reportedly entered houses, damaged household goods and stole some items, including money. A 60-year-old woman was shot in the hip by APF, reportedly while trying to stop them from looting money from her house. Her husband sustained a head injury and several other locals were reportedly injured from being hit with lathis.

In Rautahat district, following a clash in the centre of Gaur on 22 February when protestors tried to prevent a helicopter carrying electoral material from landing, residents who lived 15 minutes walk from the site reported that APF personnel forcefully entered their homes and physically assaulted inhabitants. Several students were also allegedly taken out of a nearby school hostel and beaten with lathis and the butts of firearms. In Birgunj (Parsa district), APF officers reportedly forced entry into two houses in Murli Pokhara on 20 February, smashed property and beat at least three people, including a ten year-old boy. Blood was still visible on the floor when OHCHR visited a house where one man was reportedly beaten up in his bed. OHCHR also confirmed allegations that APF personnel beat residents of Golbazaar and Mirchaiya, Siraha district, in their homes, between 16 and 19 February and in Malleth VDC in Saptari district on 26 February. After OHCHR raised concerns at the latter incident with the CDO, he instructed the APF team to leave the area.

On 19 February, the APF was accused of surrounding civilians taking part in a rally near the Dhanusha District Electoral Office and lathi charging them towards a pond. One witness described seeing four persons chased and kicked by the APF into the pond. A human rights defender told OHCHR that he was beaten when he intervened to help someone who had fallen into the pond. The APF reportedly then pursued civilians into 15-20 houses and indiscriminately beat residents. Following this incident and the resultant criticism of the Armed Police Force, the police changed its strategy, reduced the visibility and presence of the police, particularly the Armed Police Force, and tension between protestors and the police decreased as a result.

Violations of physical integrity were also reported in the context of attacks by police against journalists who were reporting on or taking photographs of the protests in Dhanusa, Mahottari and Rautahat and Banke districts. They include allegations of physical assault, verbal abuse and deletion of photos from photographers’ cameras. In Garuda VDC, Rautahat district, four journalists were reportedly beaten by APF personnel on 26 February after taking photographs of APF personnel allegedly committing abuses against the local population. On 18 February, police officers reportedly entered the office of Mithilanchal FM radio station in Dhanusha at around 17:00, lathi charged employees, verbally abused them and threatened to stop broadcasts. They also reportedly detained one media person for around 15 minutes and beat him with lathis. After two other journalists complained about police behaviour, journalists and human rights defenders met the CDO and senior police officials to address their concerns. The police reportedly apologized and the CDO set up an investigative committee to look into the allegations.

Some injured protestors who were arrested by police were not given proper medical attention. At least eight injured persons arrested in Nepalgunj on 17 February following a violent UDMF rally were not provided with adequate medical care during their initial detention in the DAO compound. Six had serious head injuries and two others had breathing problems. They were initially provided first aid by medical assistants and then, at OHCHR’s insistence, the CDO authorized their transfer to a hospital opposite the DAO. One man detained, diagnosed with a fractured leg, was not taken for treatment for 72 hours.

OHCHR also received allegations that police fired tear gas into hospital compounds on at least three occasions. On 18 February, police allegedly fired three rounds of tear gas within the Janakpur Zonal Hospital premises, forcing the medical staff to evacuate patients from the emergency ward. On 25 February, Nepal Police and APF personnel under the command of an APF inspector entered a hospital in Rajbiraj and fired teargas inside the hospital premises to disperse UDMF supporters who were there either for treatment or to help others. According to eye-witnesses, the police approached the emergency section and accused hospital staff of being biased and failing to treat injured police. On 22 February in Siraha, some 50 police personnel reportedly came into a hospital, including into the emergency ward, and beat protestors receiving treatment.

Freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention

Most protestors arrested by the police were released after a short period, even protestors who had engaged in criminal actions. For example, more than 90 UDMF cadres who obstructed candidates from registering their nominations at the District Electoral Office of Rajbiraj on 25 February were arrested by police, but released the same evening.

OHCHR found that there was a general lack of respect for legal procedures in the case of many of those arrested. In Nepalgunj, for example, 31 persons were arrested on 17 and 18 February for offences committed under the Public Offences Act during a violent rally on 17 February. Of these, 18 were detained at an irregular location (the Byaamsala Nepal Police riot control reserve camp) for lack of space at the District Police Office (DPO). OHCHR found that they were not informed of the reason for their arrest and were not provided with arrest and detention letters within 24 hours, nor were they brought before either the CDO as required by the Local Administration Act or the court within 24 hours as required by the Interim Constitution. By 28 February all 18 detainees had been released without charge.

Torture and ill-treatment in detention

OHCHR received some allegations of serious ill-treatment of protestors by police after arrest and in police custody, and was also concerned that, in some instances, injured protestors were arrested from hospital wards.

In one of the most serious cases, on 25 February in Rautahat, APF personnel arrested two people in separate incidents during protests near Garuda in Shivanagar VDC. Both were allegedly severely beaten with lathis and the butts of firearms during arrest and whilst in APF custody overnight. They were taken to hospital after they were handed over to the Nepal Police the following day. Despite serious head injuries and multiple bruises they were taken back to the DPO, but returned to hospital a few hours later following a deterioration in the condition of both detainees.

Freedom of assembly

In some instances, the police reportedly disrupted peaceful rallies. On 17 February several witnesses reported that in Birgunj, Parsa district, police officers, mostly APF, lathi charged and used tear gas to disperse a peaceful UDMF rally. Rally participants were setting up banners and loud speakers by the clock tower when they were attacked. A witness who tried to explain to police that this was a peaceful rally was also beaten up. The CDO and Nepal Police later insisted that police had charged only after rally participants had thrown stones at them.

Failure to observe impartiality

At some locations, OHCHR observed that police failed to act with impartiality when policing demonstrations. In Biratnagar, for example, on 19 February, OHCHR observed several hundred youths congregate in the Sarauchiya area, throw rocks and vandalise property in the mostly Madheshi neighbourhood. The police watched but did not intervene; some even participated in rock throwing. On 21 February, OHCHR observed confrontations between Madheshi demonstrators and APF personnel, who were supported by rock-throwing youths, that continued until shortly after the imposition of curfew in the area at 17:00. In Kapilvastu and Rupandehi districts, where the CDOs had issued prohibitory orders banning meetings of more than five people, OHCHR observed that the orders were not enforced impartially. Whilst they were enforced against bandh supporters, the Seven Party Alliance (SPA) was permitted to carry out a ‘harmony rally’ in Rupandehi and in Kapilvastu; the police also allowed various political parties to hold rallies whilst submitting their candidate lists at the District Electoral Office.

At Murli Chowk in Birgunj, Parsa district on 20 February, OHCHR’s investigations showed that the use of derogatory language by the Nepal Police against Madheshi protestors led to a deterioration in an already tense situation.


OHCHR has consistently stated that perpetrators of human rights violations and abuses must be held accountable if future violations are to be prevented. Criminal actions, no matter who they are committed by, should also be investigated and prosecuted according to the due process of law. In Nepal, the current lack of accountability means that persons breaking the law, including police officers, can do so knowing they are unlikely to be punished. This diminishes the effectiveness and credibility of the police and denies others their rights to truth and justice.

Of special concern are the cases where police action has led to loss of life. The UN’s Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials require that in the event of death or injury from firearms, police officials must submit a detailed report of the incident. A detailed report must also be sent to the authorities responsible for administrative review and judicial control. Furthermore, Governments and civil law enforcement agencies are obliged to ensure that an effective review process is in place for incidents when there is evidence of excessive force by law enforcement officials. The appropriate administrative or prosecutorial authority must exercise jurisdiction to investigate the allegations. However, Nepal’s domestic laws and regulations do not require police to conduct internal investigations into allegations of excessive use of force. Nonetheless, the Nepal Police are obliged by domestic law to register information about all crimes (that is, lodge a First Information Report (FIR)) and initiate a criminal investigation.

OHCHR followed up with police the six cases of civilian deaths during the protests and found that two FIRs had so far been submitted, one on the initiative of the police in the case of the death of Guljar Khan in Nepalgunj, and one by a private individual in the case of the death of Mohammad Biskud Miya in Sunsari district. The police told OHCHR, however, that an investigation has not yet been formally initiated into Biskud Miya’s death.

Police failure to register FIRs in relation to the other deaths is a breach of domestic law. Police told OHCHR that a murder investigation will be conducted in the case of Rajesh Thakur, who was killed in Siraha, but no FIR has yet been registered. Police also informed OHCHR that investigations were under way in relation to three other deaths, those of Guljar Khan in Nepalgunj, Lakhan Safi in Saptari and Jagadish Pasi in Nawalparasi. The nature of these investigations, whether internal or criminal, is unclear. OHCHR is concerned that without the registration of FIRs, there will be no criminal investigations into these killings. Finally, the police told OHCHR that they had no plans to initiate an investigation into the death of Gultan Das in Rajbiraj.

OHCHR has also followed up on the allegations of the beating of two civilians in APF custody in Rautahat district. The two were also initially denied adequate medical assistance. Both the CDO and the Nepal Police told OHCHR they will only conduct an investigation into the allegations of ill-treatment when the alleged victims report back to the Nepal Police from hospital, where they were taken as a result of the seriousness of their injuries.

The need to end impunity for current and past violations of human rights was strongly stated during the visits of both the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and her Deputy, in January 2007 and February 2008 respectively. The effectiveness of the police force and, more broadly, the consolidation of the peace process will continue to be at risk until the authorities ensure full accountability by the security forces.

Lack of investigation into criminal offences

OHCHR is also unaware of any FIRs or police investigations into the sometimes violent and criminal behaviour associated with demonstrators and actions to enforce the bandhs, including the use of violence against police and others and the attacks on government buildings, including police posts and private property. All of those arrested appear to have been released without charge. The practice of providing amnesty or pardons in agreements with different groups prevents police from investigating crimes, as well as the prosecution of people accused of criminal activity.


Some restraint was demonstrated by law enforcement agencies during the February 2008 Terai protests in a situation where they were under considerable pressure. However, the human rights concerns highlighted in this report indicate that although the Home Ministry, APF and Nepal Police have expressed commitments to address concerns arising from past incidents, including the Jana Aandolan of April 2006 and the Madheshi protests of January/February 2007, many of the deaths and injuries incurred during the recent Terai protests may have been avoided if earlier recommendations had been implemented. OHCHR remains available to scale up its assistance to the Government on the human rights aspects of public security and recommends that the Government take advantage of all available international expertise to address institutional concerns relating to public security and the maintenance of public order, so that Nepal is better equipped to meet its human rights obligations under international law.

During investigations into allegations of use of excessive force, for example, OHCHR has found that guidelines for the use of lethal force need to be strengthened. On many occasions, firearms using live ammunition have been employed without detailed instructions from commanding officers and without the benefit of standard operating procedures that meet international standards. Of special concern is the Nepal Police and APF officers’ capacity to apply the principal of proportionality in situations where they are under pressure. OHCHR has on numerous occasions found that police officers under pressure have resorted to using lethal force in situations when other options were available.

Some of the violations and issues raised in this report were influenced by the lack of preparedness of the police to deal with the circumstances faced. OHCHR was informed by some police officers that they had acted to restrain the junior ranks, many of whom had no experience of monitoring violent demonstrations. In some cases, OHCHR learnt that police personnel in the front lines were new recruits. OHCHR was also informed that police were often forced to work long hours under difficult conditions and were unable to protect themselves or property from attacks because of a lack of appropriate equipment. Police at the Maheshpur police post in Nawalparasi district commented that they were forced to use live ammunition to disperse a crowd (during which one protestor was shot dead) because they did not have alternatives, such as tear gas, rubber bullets or loud speakers.

OHCHR considers that strengthening the accountability of the police would help to prevent and deter human rights violations. Internal police accountability mechanisms do not exist in most cases and where they exist are neither independent nor seen to be credible. Government appointed commissions, such as the Rayamajhi and Terai Commissions, set up in response to the Jana Aandolan of 2006 and the Madheshi protests of 2007, have been of limited impact as they have not been adequately followed up. According to OHCHR’s records, not one Government or law enforcement official has to date been held accountable for any of the human rights violations committed from the time of Jana Aandolan until today. A review of internal accountability mechanisms of the district administration and law enforcement agencies and the development of mechanisms that comply with international standards appears necessary.

In the course of its monitoring of the Terai protests, OHCHR again observed a common problem; the population’s perception that the local administration, the Nepal Police and the APF working in the Terai districts are not impartial in the execution of their functions. OHCHR’s monitoring shows that this is only true in part. In many instances, the local administration and police act in a professional manner, striving to be both objective and fair in carrying out their duties. There are, however, instances where OHCHR has observed behaviour that gives many Terai residents the impression that the police are biased. This includes instances where police officers have been inactive during violent protests by people of mainly hill origin, but have intervened forcefully during similar protests by bandh supporters. On other occasions, police officers have been heard to use derogatory language while policing demonstrations that indicates discriminatory opinions. OHCHR welcomed recent steps taken by the Government to be more inclusive, including through the appointment of Madheshi CDOs to some Terai districts, as well as the adoption of quotas for recruitment to the police and civil service and encourages the Government to ensure that the local administration in all parts of the country becomes fully inclusive.

Citizens also have responsibilities. The right to protest, reflected in the rights to freedom of speech and assembly, is only applicable when protests are carried out peacefully, with respect for the law and for the rights of others, including local government officials and the police. The State has the right to intervene to protect the rights of others. The leaders of political parties and other groups have a special responsibility to make sure that protests are peaceful. OHCHR observed many incidents when protestors committed criminal acts for which they should be subject to investigation and prosecution.

Some protestors, including members of armed groups, interfered with the Constituent Assembly electoral process and threatened or intimidated electoral candidates. This demonstrates a lack of respect on the part of these protestors and possibly their leadership towards the democratic process which is the legitimate vehicle for the change they demand. The use of threats and violence, which infringe upon the rights of others cannot be justified under any circumstances.


Cases where possible excessive use of force by the police resulted in loss of life

Case 1: Guljar Khan, killed on 17 February in Nepalgunj, Banke district

Guljar Khan, a 25-year-old construction worker from Neplagunj, was shot in the forehead at around 15:20 on 17 February by police and died shortly afterwards.

At 14:00 the Chief District Officer of Banke district had imposed a curfew in different parts of Nepalgunj municipality following a violent protest and clashes with police and some 2,000 bandh supporters that started around one hour earlier. The UDMF had announced their intention to close Government offices and OHCHR observed that the violence started at around 12:50, when UDMF supporters approached the District Administration Office (DAO) along the main bazaar road from a northerly direction, and started throwing stones and bricks at police deployed there. The police responded with graduated force, first baton charging then using tear gas and firing rubber bullets. During this time, demonstrators scattered northwards and along side streets. The police gave chase and demonstrators re-emerged throwing stones. This pattern was repeated many times. Sometime after 13:00, a Government office in the vicinity of the DAO was looted and equipment burned.

At around 15:00, police officers in the main bazaar area, the scene of most of the violence, reportedly announced that they would use firearms. According to various sources, at around 15:20 Guljar Khan was at that time on a side road approximately 100 metres east of the main bazaar road. Information gathered by OHCHR from several sources indicates that he was not taking part in the protests and was in fact on his way home for lunch. According to a person who was with him, he was stationary on the street when a police team (it is not yet known if they were from the Armed Police Force (APF) or Nepal Police) approached from the direction of access to the bazaar road, to the south. The team reportedly fired four rounds of live ammunition northwards, in Guljar Khan’s direction. Guljar Khan was shot in the forehead, and his companion was shot in the hip. Around 15 minutes later, Guljar Khan was taken by ambulance to the nearby hospital, where he died shortly afterwards. The post mortem report records the cause of death as “head injury due to firearm”.

OHCHR observed two bullet marks at around three meters and five meters high, in a wall some ten metres north of the location where Guljar Kahn was shot, which appeared to confirm information from sources that the police fired shots above knee level, in violation of national legislation. OHCHR found no indications that Guljar Kahn represented a threat to life at the time he was shot to justify the use of lethal force. OHCHR concluded that he died as a result of excessive use of force.

An FIR into the death of Guljar Khan was registered on the initiative of Nepal Police on 20 February. Both the Nepal Police and APF are conducting internal investigations to establish the circumstances of his death. In addition to the fatal shooting of Guljar Khan, eleven men sustained bullet injuries on 17 February in Nepalgunj, seven above the knee.

Case 2: Rajesh Thakur, killed on 19 February in Bishnupur, Siraha district

Rajesh Thakur died on 19 February as result of bullet injuries sustained during a confrontation between UDMF demonstrators and police at a place where demonstrators were blocking a bridge on the main highway to enforce the bandh. Thirty Nepal Police and 60 APF were deployed to clear the road. Throughout the day, demonstrators threw stones at the police. Police first responded by throwing stones back and with a lathi charge, pushing the demonstrators several hundred metres away from the bridge. This was followed by firing in the air and tear gas shells. As the confrontation continued, a small crowd of approximately 30 demonstrators grew to several hundred.

Between 14:30 and 15:00, police fired on the crowd of protesters attempting to approach the highway. According to an eyewitness, Rajesh Thakur was shot from a distance of 100 metres, while picking up a stone to throw at the police. At least two other people were also injured by live ammunition fired by the police at this time. OHCHR found fourteen bullet marks on nearby buildings. More than half the marks were less than a metre from the ground. According to police records, four rounds of .303 ammunition and 30 rounds of shotgun ammunition were fired by Nepal Police, as well as nine tear gas shells and 15 rubber bullets. According to the Armed Police Force, tear gas was used but no live ammunition was fired by APF personnel during the incident.

Rajesh Thakur died in an ambulance on the road to the hospital in Dharan. Multiple road blockades set up by demonstrators may have contributed to his death. According to the post mortem report, the victim died of injuries caused by two bullets – one piercing the upper abdomen, and a second fracturing the right arm.

The Nepal Police denied that Rajesh Thakur died as a result of police fire, claiming that someone else shot him and that they would thus conduct a murder investigation. Witnesses who were present, including Human Rights Defenders, told OHCHR that they did not see anyone with firearms in the crowd. No FIR has been filed. According to the police, the government has already declared the victim a martyr and provided the family with compensation.

While the police were faced with a hostile crowd and acting lawfully to remove a road blockade, OHCHR’s preliminary investigations suggest that firing live ammunition into the crowd was neither necessary nor proportionate and amounted to an excessive use of force.

Case 3: Gultan Das, killed on 25 February in Rajbiraj, Saptari District

OHCHR has concluded that an APF officer shot and killed 30 year-old shop owner Gultan Das during a confrontation between approximately 800 UDMF cadres and police on 25 February, after police arrested UDMF cadres who attempted to stage a sit-in protest in front of the electoral office in Rajbiraj. Throughout the day, UDMF demonstrators had confronted both Nepal Police and Armed Police Force, throwing stones, rocks, bricks, bottles and using sling shots. Police responded with multiple lathi charges, firing of tear gas shells and firing of live ammunition into the air. At least ten other civilians were injured during these clashes, as were at least three Nepal Police and, according to the Armed Police Force, at least seven APF personnel.

According to several eyewitnesses, Gultan Das was not taking part in the confrontations, but was leaning against a rickshaw watching from the front of his shop at a distance of approximately 100 metres from where the police were deployed when he was shot. Several sources, including the Nepal Police, speculated that shots were fired by APF personnel when the crowd threatened to vandalize an APF vehicle that was carrying an injured APF officer. A bullet reportedly pierced the hood of the rickshaw and hit Gultan Das in the chest.

According to the post mortem report, he died from multiple gunshot wounds. A second person who was near Gultan Das was shot in the thigh.

Although the District Administration had issued an order restricting demonstrators from entering the area surrounding government offices, the area where the victim was shot was not within the prohibited area. A curfew was imposed only after the killing.

Sources within the District Administration and the Nepal Police indicated that the death occurred as a result of APF fire. The District Administration claimed that the APF personnel who fired the shot had intended to fire in the air and, in any case, had acted in self-defence. No FIR has been registered in the case, and the police indicated that they were unlikely to initiate an investigation on the grounds that a police investigation would not be viewed as impartial by the community. Although the APF has acknowledged that at least 43 rounds of ammunition were fired in Rajbiraj that day (aerial shots), an APF source claimed that no APF personnel were present at the site of the incident.

OHCHR found no evidence that the victim, who was not even participating in the demonstration, posed a threat. OHCHR’s preliminary investigations therefore suggest that he died as a result of excessive use of force by the police.

Case 4: Lakhan Safi, fatally injured on 25 February in Rajbiraj, Saptari District

On the same day, a 57-year-old man named Lakhan Safi was injured during a lathi charge by the Nepal Police and the APF and died three days later in Dharan Hospital.

According to several eyewitnesses, a joint team of Nepal Police and APF were deployed at Hatiya in Rajbiraj to enforce a prohibitory order restricting demonstrators from entering the area surrounding the District Electoral Office to obstruct the registration of candidates. During several hours of confrontations, demonstrators threw bricks, stones, glass bottles and used sling shots against the police as they attempted to enter the prohibited area. Police responded with multiple lathi charges, firing of tear gas shells and firing into the air.

Several sources stated to OHCHR that Lakhan Safi was injured during a lathi charge by both APF and Nepal Police at approximately 15:30, after several hours of confrontations. A post mortem report confirmed that Lakhan Safi died as a result of internal haemorrhage leading to shock and death after sustaining two blunt injuries in the left leg and thigh.

The Nepal Police told OHCHR that they had formed a three-member police inquiry team to look into the circumstances of the death, and would draw their conclusions by the second week of March. No criminal investigation has been initiated or FIR filed.

Case 5: Jagadish Pasi, killed on 26 February in Maheshpur, Nawalparasi district

On 26 February, 19 year-old Jagadish Pasi was shot in the chest by Nepal Police while participating in a protest in front of the customs police check-point on the Indian border at Mahespur, Nawalparasi district.

Early in the afternoon, a crowd of several hundred UDMF supporters and local villagers reportedly approached the police post and some UDMF leaders requested that the Nepal Police leave the police post. The Nepal Police claim to have heard shots fired from the direction of the crowd that was moving towards the police post and saw a group of people heading towards the nearby house of a former minister and NC Nepali Congress candidate in the Constituent Assembly elections, which was subsequently looted and burnt. A few minutes after receiving the request, the Nepal Police fired five or six rounds of ammunition into the air. Some shots were then allegedly fired into the crowd, which had already started dispersing after the initial shots were fired. Eyewitness report that the victim was standing about 50 metres away from the compound of the police post and was shot as he was turning to run away, after the first set of shots had been fired, allegedly from the balcony of the police post. This is reflected in the post mortem report, according to which the bullet entered from the right side of the chest, passed through the thoracic cavity penetrating the lungs and heart and exited on the left side of the chest. The post mortem report indicated that Jagadish Pasi died from excessive bleeding due to a bullet injury.

OHCHR found that whilst the use of force was probably necessary to deter the crowd from attacking the police station, but that the use of lethal force by firing into the crowd was neither necessary, nor proportionate. The crowd, including Jagadish Pasi, had already begun to disperse when he was shot. He was not at that time posing a threat to life. OHCHR found out afterwards that the police post was not equipped with any means to control the crowd apart from firearms and was without loud hailer, tear gas or rubber bullets.

The Nepal Police acknowledged that Jagadish Pasi was killed by a police bullet but claimed that it was a stray bullet and that no one fired from the balcony. Nepal Police informed OHCHR that an investigation had been initiated but that no FIR had yet been filed.

Case 6: Mohammad Biskud Miya, killed on 27 February in Duhabi, Sunsari District

A fourth civilian death occurred in the Eastern Region on 27 February at approximately 08:00 at Duhabi in Sunsari District when a group of civilians entered the streets in defiance of a curfew. According to eyewitnesses, approximately six Nepal Police deployed at the edge of the area under curfew clashed with residents when 15 to 20 people entered the road to place bamboo sticks across the highway (to block the police from approaching Madheshi houses). According to the police, at the time of the incident, more than 100 people took out a rally in the curfew area and began to pelt the police with rocks. From a distance of 20 to 30 metres, the police fired approximately four rounds of live ammunition into the air from .303 rifles to disperse the crowd.

At this time, the crowd began to disperse. According to an eyewitness, the victim, a young Muslim man named Mohammad Biskud Miya, was standing in front of a tea shop on the side of the road when he was shot by an Nepal Police officer fired at him from a distance of 10 to 15 metres without warning. The victim ran from the shop and collapsed approximately 100 metres from the tea shop, where he died from blood loss. The post mortem report states the cause of death as “haemorrhagic shock and injury to the lungs due to bullet injury”. An FIR has been filed by an individual alleging he was killed by the police, but an investigation has not been formerly initiated. Without explicitly acknowledging responsibility, the District Administration, after consulting with the Home Ministry, has pledged to compensate the victim’s family, and declare the deceased a martyr.

OHCHR found no indications of a real, imminent and serious threat to police personnel at the moment when Mohammad Biskud Miya was shot that would justify the use of lethal force by police. OHCHR concluded that the use of live ammunition was neither necessary nor proportionate and amounted to an excessive use of force.

Detail Report Source

March 30, 2008 at 11:48 pm 1 comment




Thomas O. Ballinger
University of Oregon

In March of 1958 this writer was afforded the opportunity of visiting and confirming an earlier report on the location and ruins of Simraongarh, former capital of the province of Mithila located in the Terai of Nepal. 1

The purpose of this paper is to bring to the attention of interested scholars the condition of this ancient site as it stands in the mid-twentieth century. The few examples of sculpture and carving selected to support visually the commentary serve as photographic documentation of the evidence on the surface at Simraongarh. It is likely that this material, as well as the few other examples of stone carving that subsequently found their way into the Kathmandu and Patna Museums, are the “idols” mentioned by Hodgson in bit earlier account:

“Some twenty idols, excavated from the ruins by pious labour of a Gosain, are made of stone, and are superior in sculpture to modern specimens of the art. Many of them are much mutilated and of those which are perfect, I had only time to observe that they bore the ordinary attributes of Puranic Brahmanism.” 2

The site lies fifteen miles to the south of the sub-Himalaya hill system. It is this lower range of the Himalaya that forms the southern boundary of the valley of Nepal, i. e. the Kathmandu valley. The geographical milieu of the Simraongarh area is a combination of dense growth and clearing with some cultivation adjacent to several small villages in the vicinity. This jungle area, known as the Terai,  constitutes the northern terminal point of the vast Indian plain north of the Ganges River- For many centuries the inhospitable environment of the Terai has served as a successful barrier against invaders from the south.

In regard to the founding of and the eventual destruction of Simraongarh, histori­ cal accounts differ.3 It is well within reason, however, to use the first half of the twelfth century as the time when Naya Deva established the kingdom. Some two hundred years later King Hara Singha Deva reigned as sovereign, Dhana Bajra Bajracharya, in Itihas Samsodhan, offers a detailed account of this period.4 It is almost certain that prior to the Bengali campaign of 1381 the commander of the Muslim forces, Ghazi Malik Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq, after assassinating the Sultan of Delhi (.1377 A. D.) swept into Tirhut and the Simraongarh area with the intent of total destruction of all remaining Buddhist and Hindu culture. The facial mutilation of all deities found on the stone carving is testimony to such zeal.

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January 3, 2007 at 7:02 pm Leave a comment

Disturbances in Terai

Nepal: Disturbances in Terai

By- PG Rajamohan
Research Fellow, IPCS e-mail:

As Nepal struggles to resolve its decade old security and political problems, disturbances erupting in the Terai region are not being noticed by the government. A threat to Pahadiyas (hill people) of ethnic evictions, along with insurgent group killings, abductions and extortions, has made this region volatile. Political exclusion and discrimination against this region has fanned the secessionist ideology, which threatens to plunge the country into violent and bloody conflict.

The Terai region occupies 17 per cent of Nepal’s land area and contains 48 per cent of its 26 million people. The inhabitants called Madhesis, are multi-lingual, multi-religious and multi-ethnic. This natural resources-rich region with its abundant manpower contributes a major part to the nation’s economy through trade and agricultural production. Although Madhesis contributions to the country are high, their demands for equality and political representation have been ignored by the central administration. After three decades of peaceful political movements and frustration, the Madhesis were lured into the Maoist fold, who assured them their political rights alongside other marginalized communities allied to them. Thereafter, the Maoists have operated actively across the Terai region, using it for their insurgent activities and arms smuggling.

In recent months, a Maoist splinter group, Terai Janatantrik Mukti Morcha (TJMM), led by Jayakrishna Goit, has been harassing settlers from the hill areas to drive them out of the Terai region and confiscate their properties. Goit, a former Maoist and first Chairman of the Maoists’ Terai Liberation Front (MTLF), floated the TJMM after serious differences with the Maoist leadership in late 2004. His falling out with the Maoists and formation of the TJMM arose over three major issues – Goit’s replacement by Madrika Prasad Yadav in the MTLF, anti-Madhesi discrimination within the Maoist hierarchy, and the Maoists’ division of Terai into two separate regions – the Madhes autonomous region spanning east to west-central Nepal, and the Tharuwan autonomous region encompassing western Terai. TJMM has been fighting the Maoists for the Terai and promoting secessionism to establish a sovereign and independent state in the region.

Terror in the Terai flared up when the TJMM rejected the Maoists’ call for a dialogue, and the subsequent declaration of war by the Maoist Madhesi leader Madrika Prasad Yadav in July 2006. Yadav claimed that the palace and India were helping the TJMM against the Maoist cadres in their strongholds, mainly from the Saptari to Rautahat districts in east-central Nepal. Their cadre strength is estimated to be around 150-200 only, but their growing popularity impedes Maoist activities. The TJMM is also distributing pamphlets protesting against the actions of the Maoists. Earlier, in a similar situation, Maoists killed two of their former cadres, Ajay Yadav and Raju Mishra, the then top guns of the Madhesi Tigers in April 2005, which is a small armed outfit targeting Maoists cadres and their camps. The Maoists are expected to resort to more violence as they have already lost at least a dozen cadres in TJMM attacks. While moving freely with their arms across the country, Maoists could perpetrate more attacks against anti-Maoist elements to ensure that their writ runs over the entire income-generating Terai region.

Political parties representing the Madhesi community have not ensured them any substantial political rights in the past 14 years of democratic rule in Nepal. Even now, over 50 lakhs of Madhesi people have been denied citizenship. Absence of their representation in the central decision making process and continued negation of their rights has aggravated the issue. The decade long Maoist armed struggle forced the state to concede their demands. It is important to prevent the Madhesis from adopting these same tactics to claim the attention of the government and not repeat the mistake of treating their upsurge as only a ‘tempest in the tea cup’.

Appreciating the fragile political situation in the country, it is vital to preserve peace and security in the Terai. The Indian stakes are very high in this region because of the existing open border and concentration of major Indian industries and investments in the Terai. A disturbance in this region would have its adverse impact on at least four Indian states which border the Terai. The growing Maoist extortion from Indian industries and fear of their possible closure would destabilize the economy of Nepal. Further, resettlement of displaced people, unemployment, education and healthcare are some of the issues that need to be addressed. An impoverished, landlocked country facing a violent insurgency since 1996, Nepal can ill afford another separatist movement just when it is seeking to resolve the Maoist conflict.



November 8, 2006 at 9:10 am Leave a comment

Older Posts

Celebration of 1,00,000

Madhesi Voice

United We Celebrate

People Celebrating faguwa (Holi), with the fun of music, quite popular among Terai people. Holi is celebrated each year on the eve of falgun purnima Faguwa (Holi) Celebration

Past Posts


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