Infrastructure Of Violence
Measured with the ‘graveyard of dynasties’ yardstick, Simraungarh is settlement of historic import. Legends have it that Nanyadev, an itinerant warrior of Chalukya Dynasty, founded the Karnat House of Mithila with Simraungarh as its capital in the 11th century. Later, Muslim army from Bengal repeatedly ransacked the region between 1211-1226 but failed to annex it.
Shumshuddin Iliyas, formerly a vassal of Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq, declared himself independent of his overlord and sometime in 1345-46 finally conquered the entire Tirhut region, including the Karnat kingdom. Meanwhile, Harisimhadeva had already disappeared with his deities, queens, courtiers and concubines up into the mountains in the north in 1323 or so. Some of his descendents are believed to have ruled Kathmandu valley as Malla kings for four centuries when they finally fell one by one to the Gorkhali forces in late-18th century.
All that remains of nearly 400 years of imperial glory around present-day Simraungarh are a few earthen mounds, charcoal grains of rice said to have been burnt by invaders and huge ponds with the royal associations. Nearby Ranibas Bazaar does have a historic temple, but it was built by one of the consorts of Rana usurper Jangbahadur. Floodwaters of Bagmati and Lalbakaiya rivers have consumed even the ruins of the Karnat capital.
Some imperial legacies, however, are harder to shake off. The Gadhimai temple of Mother Goddess in nearby Bariyapur is reputedly the biggest sacrificial site in the world. Every five years, thousands of water buffaloes, pigs, goats, cows, chickens and pigeons are ritually killed to appease the celestial mother. Lawlessness is the defining feature of the blood-soaked earth of Bara district—woe betides the person who has the temerity of challenging any law-breaker in these parts. Withering away of the state is almost complete, but the resulting realm is that of bandit capitalism rather than a communist utopia.
The road from Kalaiya (the headquarters of the district administration) to Simraungarh passes through rice fields, mango orchards, fishponds and ramshackle hutments. Here and there, newly built concrete houses stand out as living monuments to remittance economy. However, there are few livestock to be seen on the way. That perhaps explains why teashops in Pathalaiya and Simra run out of milk by early afternoon—the supply is too low to fulfil even local demand. Wonder where Jitpur traders get all those goats and buffaloes to feed the ever-increasing requirement Kathmandu eateries for animal flesh? They probably buy their supplies from across the border in the vicinity of Ghorasahan Bazaar.
Relative absence of street dogs in these parts is even more striking. Locals believe that sanctified oxen, wild foxes and stray dogs were all hunted down by ration suppliers of Seema Sashatra Bal (SSB), the security force that stand guard on the Indian side of the 10-yard strip. Taste of some of their soldiers, particularly from the northeast, is believed to border on what is abhorrent to local Hindus and Muslims alike.
Canals crisscross the landscape, but beds of channels are either muddy or dry. The flow in them is dependent upon the decision of Indian authorities that control its main feeder according to the provisions of the Gandak Treaty. Alternative arrangements could have been made to keep these canals functional, but the priority of the government seems to be upon connectivity. Irrigation channels are in a state of disrepair, but their embankments that serve as rural roads are kept in passable condition. So what if the agriculture languishes? The trade must flourish.
A major chunk of commercial transactions, however, falls into the grey area. Illegal logging and timber trade is rampant. Cultivation of hemp and poppy is sometimes reported. Unauthorized import of raw materials for the Pathalaiya-Parwanipur commercial belt through earthen tracks connecting Indian border is a rule rather than the exception. All such activities have created organized gangs of adventurous entrepreneurs who operate with the connivance, if not outright cooperation, of law enforcement agencies.
A combination of religious fundamentalism, coercive apparatus of the state, easy means of cheap intoxication and instant gratification, and the ever-present encounter with disease and death without much hope for survival can transform even the most docile of population into militants.
In Simraungarh bazaar, shops are full of goods that most people do not need or cannot afford but essentials and agricultural inputs are perennially in short supply. The list of prominent landmarks of the settlement includes a multi-tiered pagoda style temple, a freshly whitewashed police post, a few arrack shops, cinema halls that screen Hindi movies, and the clinic of a quack that promises to treat almost all ailments. A combination of religious fundamentalism, coercive apparatus of the state, easy means of cheap intoxication and instant gratification, and the ever-present encounter with disease and death without much hope for survival can transform even the most docile of population into militants.
The prevailing ideology of individualism that emphasizes the creation of self-absorbed, self-indulgent and defiantly selfish consumers has resulted in disintegration of ties that bound people with each other. Decline of social norms is partly responsible for the lawlessness. However, the main culprit behind the statelessness is perhaps the increasing illegitimacy of the government. In that respect, Bara is like most other districts of Madhes and Pahad in Nepal.
EROSION OF AUTHORITY
Reflecting upon relationship between power and violence, political theorist Hannah Arendt once offered a powerful refutation to the dictum of Mao Tse-tung that power flowed out of the barrel of the gun. “Violence can always destroy power; out of the barrel of the gun grows the most effective command, resulting in most instant and perfect obedience,” conceded the theorist before proposing the clincher, “What can never grow out of it is power.” This is a lesson of history that the leader of the ruling coalition as well as the main opposition party seem to have missed in its entirety, groomed as most of them have been under the ideological shadow of the Great Helmsman.
A brief overview of Nepal’s own experiences is enough to show that the political influence of the Maoists grew exponentially during the period when CPN-UML and Nepali Congress took turns to shoulder the burden of governments led by stalwarts of Panchayat regime. Reversal in public opinion de-legitimized democratic order, empowered Maoists, and armed insurgency found widespread acceptability. But just as Arendt had argued, revolution was possible but not necessary when the power of the state under the direct control of an anachronistic monarchy had completely disintegrated. Nothing has yet emerged to fill the vacuum as the government attempts to rule purely on the strength of its coercive apparatus. Power is not a substitute of legitimate authority.
From the vantage point of an almost autonomous village deep in the countryside, antics of ministers in the anti-Maoist cabinet in distant Kathmandu look like bravado of puppet heroes fighting phantoms upon cardboard stages erected for them by those who control their reigns from somewhere else. Meanwhile, Maoists continue to gain economic and political strength.
It is not just the rural folks, even mill-owners of Simra and Kalaiya privately admit that allowing armed groups to grow to counter Maoists was a strategic mistake. With Maoists, the payer knows what to expect from the payee. That is hardly the case with either corrupt security officers or ideologically free armed-operators. No wonder, Maoists’ fund-raising capacity has increased without any extra effort on their part. Such an attitude, however, attracts more adventurers into politics of violence and makes existing challengers of Maoist hegemony even more brutal toward their victims. The gain for everyone is temporary while the social loss is enormous.
Nothing less than a prompt political settlement at the centre can stop the slide of the periphery into spiral of violence leading to complete anarchy, which would then engulf even those who began it all—the Maoists.
Bihar candidates ride Nepal radio waves
Patna: Never mind if they are riding foreign radio waves. Dozens of candidates in the Bihar assembly polls are finding the FM radio stations of neighbouring Nepal quite handy in wooing voters. Nearly half a dozen Nepal FM radio stations are airing advertisments by candidates in Madhepura, Supaul, Madhubani, Kishanganj, Araria, Sheohar, Saharsa, Muzaffarpur, and East and West Champaran districts.
Candidates cutting across party lines have opted this medium.
A ruling Janata Dal-United (JD-U) leader told IANS on condition of anonymity that there are no such homegrown FM radio stations in Bihar’s bordering districts, so they have little choice.
“We have no option but to use the services of Nepali FM radio stations to reach out to our voters,” he said. He said a campaign advertisement of 40 seconds costs Rs.3,000-4,000 for 12 insertions.
Nepal FM stations like Jaleshwarnath FM from Jaleswar, Rajdevi FM 93.2 from Gaur Baxzar, Radio Mithila, Madhesi Radio, Radio Today and Janakpur Radio from Janakpur are beaming advertisements in favour Bihar candidates, said a senior police officer posted near the Nepal border.
A Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader in Madhubani said FM radio stations operating in Nepal were a cheap medium for electioneering. “These FM radio stations have wider reach among people in the districts bordering Nepal.”
Most of Bihar’s districts bordering Nepal are going to the polls in the first four phases starting Thursday and ending Nov 1. The remaining two phases will be over by Nov 20.
“Since campaigning is the real backbone of the polls, candidates have been using FM radio stations operating in Nepal for it,” said Ranjeev, a social activist working in a Bihar district bordering Nepal.
He said these private stations of Nepal are very popular among people in small towns and rural areas along the 750-km India-Nepal border in the state.
Election Commission officials have not taken kindly to candidates using the Nepali air waves.
A district official in Kishanganj said the poll panel had taken serious note of the development. It has decided to hold dialogue with the union information and broadcasting (I&B) ministry to restrict Nepal from airing poll advertisements on FM radio.
The 47 constituencies in Bihar’s flood-prone belts will go to polls in the first round of elections on Thursday. About 10.6 million voters will decide the fate of 635 candidates in the fray for the first lot of the 243 assembly seats.
Lessons from India
• KNOWLEDGE & POWER
Of course, India is not a perfect democracy, as no democracy is, according to one of the top living political scientists in the world Robert Dahl, because democracy is an ideal. India, nevertheless, has more problems than other established Western democracies such as rampant abuses by state agencies in “trouble” areas, occasional violent conflicts and so on; but Phillipe Schmitter points out that democracies in the developing world should not be compared with the same criteria as established Western democracies that evolved over a much longer period and faced many problems during their evolution.
With regard to India, one can make a plausible argument that its democracy has matured because even big shocks such as conflicts in Kashmir and the northeast and occasional Hindu-Muslim riots have not destabilised it. India, unfortunately, also has a high level of inequality, among and within regions, and inequality is not desirable; but sustenance of democracy despite that, however, suggests the strength of Indian democracy.
India did face a state of emergency in 1975-77, but it was brief. India, however, has not faced repeated military and other forms of authoritarian regimes like in Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan. The internal Indian conflicts have been very costly to the victims, but if one were to compare conflict victims per capita, it is much less in India than in other countries like Sri Lanka. Indian democracy’s resilience, thus, is amazing — it is one of the few poor and diverse countries in the world that has maintained democracy after independence. Other poor and diverse countries attempted democracy, but fell down one after another or faced protracted violent conflicts that led to restrictions on political rights and destabilisation of the polities. When the ruling elite tried to retain disproportionate control over resources or maintain ethnic domination, the poor and excluded groups mobilised; and the resulting conflict destabilised the fledgling democracies.
As one of the few countries that has managed democracy over a long period, India has attracted a lot of attention globally from democratisation scholars. They are interested in finding out what India did differently than others so that the lessons could be learned by other poor and diverse countries attempting democratisation. Nepal, in fact, can learn a lot more than other countries from the Indian democratic experience because it is much similar culturally and economically to India than other countries, and hence Indian lessons can be more applicable to it.
Ultra-nationalists and lazy analysts in Nepal, however, criticise Indian democracy by pointing out only the problems and fail to take note of the rare achievement India has attained that becomes clear with a global survey of democratic experiences in poor and diverse societies. Nepalis might aspire for a well functioning democracy right away, but they are unlikely to get it — as all democracies that have consolidated, the road will probably be long and not smooth. If Nepal, like India, can overcome autocratic rule in the future, that itself would be a major achievement.
What did India do that most other poor and diverse countries in the world failed to do? One lesson Nepal could learn from India is in managing diversity. Scholars studying India have argued that political institutions have accommodated diverse caste, ethnic/national, linguistic, indigenous and religious groups, managed conflict and helped to consolidate democracy. For instance, linguistic, religious and ethnic federalism accommodated diverse groups in India. India has recognised 22 “official” languages, and has adopted policies supporting three languages in many of its regions.
Even though a Hindu majority, India adopted state secularism to promote equality among religious groups. The recognition of Muslim family law has provided them with a degree of autonomy. Reservations or quotas have ensured representation of Dalits (untouchables), tribal and other backward groups in the administration, legislature and educational institutions. Of course, reservation has faced backlashes from upper caste Hindus; but would Indian democracy have survived a revolt, which was avoided through Dalit cooptation, that was bound to come after the Dalits became mobilised, especially if the Dalits were continued to be excluded?
In the ongoing debate about federalism in Nepal, the Indian experience is further instructive. In spite of the Indian National Congress’ commitment to the creation of linguistic provinces in free India as early as 1917 in order to mobilise the masses efficiently against colonial rule and formed linguistic-based party organisations and Gandhi’s desire to reorganise India along linguistic provinces in place of the colonial administrative zones, modernist Nehru began to work against it after Gandhi’s death. He, along with Vallabhbhai Patel, considered language as “fissiparous forces”.
Two committees formed to study the question rejected the demands. Similar to what is heard in Nepal among the political and social elite, the second committee, which was formed after linguistic activists objected to the finding of the first one, headed by Nehru stated that “primary consideration must be the security, unity and economic prosperity of India… every separatist and disruptive tendency should be rigorously discouraged”. However, the massive movement for linguistic provinces, including the death of Gandhian Potti Sriramulu after a 58-day fast, forced Nehru to reluctantly reorganise the provinces along linguistic lines.
In the subsequent decades, India formed religious (Punjab in addition to Jammu and Kashmir) and ethnic (northeast) based provinces. Today, there is consensus among democratisation scholars that the reorganisation of the provinces along religious, linguistic and ethnic lines consolidated the unity of India. They operated as a constructive channel for provincial identities and pride. The ethnic, linguistic and religious autonomy also contributed to the subsidence of separatist movements in provinces like Tamil Nadu, Punjab and Mizoram. If a common person can be proud of his/her identity and hold his/her held high within a polity, why is there a need to seek a separate state?
Contrasting India’s experience with similarly poor and diverse countries shows an opposite outcome. Failure to recognise identities equally has led to rising assertion of identities in Nepal while Sri Lanka endured a three-decade-long violent conflict. The Indian experience, in addition to the global experience, shows that recognition of identities diffuses mobilisation along identities while denial and repression fuels mobilisation along them. For the Nepali people, the lessons are there to be learned from India and other diverse countries in managing its diversity. However, to learn lessons, the first condition is that one’s eyes and mind have to be open to see things that exist. Are Nepali minds and eyes open to learn useful lessons from India?
(Professor Lawoti is the author of Federal State-building: Challenges in Framing the Nepali Constitution, Bhrikuti Academic Publications, 2009)
NEPAL: Citizenship Laws and Stateless Citizens.
Guest Column: By: Dr. Hari Bansh Jha
Article 15 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights conferred upon each individual in the world the right to have a legal connection with the state. This right is not availed by mercy. In fact, each one individual has right to nationality as it not only provides her/him a sense of identity but entitles her/him necessary protection from the State, apart from many civil and political rights. Hence, in regard to citizenship, Chief Justice Earl Warren of USA rightly commented in 1958, “Citizenship is man’s basic right for it is nothing less than the right to have rights.”
However, millions of people in the world are without citizenship and so they are living in stateless condition. Of the various factors responsible for statelessness are: conflict of laws, administrative practices, discrimination, lack of birth registration, denationalization, and renunciation.
Internationally, there have been different ways to get citizenship. One method to get citizenship is through right to blood (jus sanguinins), the second through right of soil (jus soli), the third is through the process of naturalization, the fourth is through choice and the fifth is through acquisition of territory.
History shows that in Nepal the seeds of citizenship problem were rather sown during the regime of Prithvi Narayan Shah. The inhabitants of the Terai were not given any important assignments during his rule because they were reserved for certain ethnic group. In the matter of assignments, first preference was given to the hill people and the second to those who settled in Nepal with their family members and who were rich, faithful and respectful. Opportunity in assignments was given to Madheshi people when individuals from the above two categories were not found. It was in rare circumstances that the Jimidari and minor government posts were assigned to them.
Till 1950s, the Madheshi people were treated like the subjects of a colony in their own country. Until 1958, it was essential for them to acquire passport before entering into Kathmandu. The passport had to be obtained at Birjung which was checked at Chisapani Garhi on route to Kathmandu.
In Nepal, the system of granting citizenship on the basis of an individual’s birthplace and descent started in 1952. A person was eligible for acquiring naturalized citizenship if one resided in the country for minimum five years.
Subsequently, more restrictive clauses such as ‘Nepalese origin’ and ‘ability to speak and write Nepali’ were made pre-requisite for acquiring citizenship on the basis of naturalization. Clause (a) of Article 8, Section 2 of the 1962 Constitution made a provision whereby two years of residence for a person of ‘Nepali origin’ and minimum twelve years of residence for a person of ‘non-Nepali origin,’ apart from oral and written skills in Nepali language was made mandatory for a person to acquire citizenship certificate.
Interestingly, the 2962 Constitution and the Citizenship Act, 1964 did not define as to what the term ‘Nepali origin’ meant. Deliberately, it was left to the officials responsible for distributing citizenship certificates in different districts to make interpretation of the term ‘Nepali origin’ to the way they thought. But it was obvious that the government officials interpreted a person of Nepali origin as Pahadi origin. As it could be expected, many of the people from Terai we were inefficient or less efficient in oral and written skills in Nepali language and as such they were denied of taking citizenship certificates.
The Nepalese constitution 1990 introduced more stringent legislation to discourage people from getting citizenship. It not only repealed the provision of citizenship by birth but also made it mandatory for the foreigners to reside in Nepal for 15 years to qualify for naturalization.
As a result, many of the Nepalese citizens mostly in the Terai region virtually lived in stateless condition. An independent survey conducted by Centre for Economic and Technical Studies in early 1990s showed that 16% of the sample households from among the Madheshis in Terai region were not given citizenship certificates. Accordingly, 1.5 million people in Terai were estimated to have been denied of citizenship right. Later on, independent commissions constituted by the Government of Nepal at reported that the number of those without citizenship was at 3.4 million to 5 million in 1995.
Following, the second democratic movement in 2006, there was a general consensus among the political parties to issue citizenship to the Nepalese citizens liberally to ensure their participation in the CA election. Accordingly, new laws were introduced to facilitate the process of citizenship to the Nepalese nationals. In this process, the provision of issuing citizenship on the basis of birth was revived.
The Interim Constitution of Nepal 2007 mentioned, “Any person born and living permanently in Nepal before the end of mid April, 1990 shall acquire the citizenship of Nepal by birth in accordance with the existing law.” But this revision was only half-hearted as it added a clause whereby application for citizenship by birth was made valid for two years only until 26 November 2008.
Significantly, a massive campaign was launched in all the 75 districts of Nepal between January and April 2007 with the support of nearly 4000 staff to distribute citizenship certificates to all eligible Nepalese citizens of 16 years age and above. Citizenship was provided to 2.6 million eligible Nepalese people on the basis of certain documents like the citizenship certificate or land registration of immediate family members, supporting documents from the VDCs and other concerned citizens with citizenship certificates. This was a positive development as citizenship in Nepal not only provided legal identity but it was also a source of access to formal sector employment opportunities, banking facilities, property transactions, business and industrial opportunities, and social security. The failure to acquire citizenship in this country virtually means the state of de facto statelessness.
Subsequently, it was found that a number of Nepalese citizens failed to acquire citizenship due to the lack of documents related to land ownership certificates required to prove one’s length of residence in the country; illiteracy; lack of awareness; poverty; discouragement to the girls and women in certain communities to apply for citizenship; difficulty in getting supporting documents on account of poverty; damage or destruction of records at the VDCs; and non-availability of the VDC Secretaries in several VDCs, particularly in conflict-torn Terai region.
As per UNHCR estimates, nearly 800,000 people in Nepal are still living in the stateless situation in Nepal due to the lack of citizenship certificates. It is largely believed that most of these stateless people belong to Madhesh origin.
If the original estimates made by government constituted high level commissions about the number of people without citizenship (3.4 million to 5 million) are considered, nearly 1 million to 2.4 million eligible Nepalese citizens are yet to be provided citizenship certificates. This is the difference between estimated 3.4 million to 5 million populations without citizenship and those 2.6 million who were provided citizenship by the government in 2007-2008.
Views about the Denial of Citizenship
In the book, The Terai Community and National Integration in Nepal the persons belonging to different districts in Nepal expressed their views on citizenship related problems in the following manner:
The saints of Vaishnav sect at Janakpur who maintain celibacy lifelong commented, “We the saints have a tradition of selecting our disciples as adopted sons. These disciples are expected to be the heirs of our property. This is what has happened all though the ages. But for certain years, our disciples are being denied of this right”.
Ali Mohammad Kawadi stated, “The procedures of producing necessary evidences are so complex that we do not get citizenship”. Dhun Mun Harijan said, “I am settled her for last 60 years. But I don’t have any evidence to produce. So I am not getting citizenship”.
Dilim Bhuimali expressed, “My father died several years ago without having citizenship. When I approach the authorities concerned for my citizenship, I am told to produce the citizenship certificate of my father. Since my father did not have it, I am denied of citizenship right.” Likewise, Kamal Devi Yadav added, “I am being denied of citizenship for a long time”.
Bharatendru Kumar Malik said, “Many Madheshis people living in the Terai have been denied of citizenship certificates. On the other hand, the people of certain community coming from foreign countries, such as India, Bhutan, and Burma get citizenship in to time”.
Chet Ram Harijan reported, “The bribery at the office of the CDO creates problem in acquiring citizenship certificate. It may not be a problem for the rich, but it is really a problem for the poor”. Moreover, Chhotelal Vaishya pointed out, “I could not bribe the ward chairman for recommending my name for citizenship. Therefore, I failed to acquire it”.
Birbal Prasad Kanojia maintained, “My wife is being denied of citizenship as she comes from India”. Dinanath Jha reported, “My wife could not get citizenship because her name was not enumerated by Nagrikta Toli (Citizenship Committee)”. Similarly, Fakir Mohammad stated, “My wife is not getting citizenship though I have been sincerely trying for it . I am afraid if after my death she will be able to establish claim over our property.”
Furthermore, Radhe Shyam Mahato expressed, “My wife could not get citizenship as the concerned authorities ask for the citizenship of her father. Since her father died without having citizenship and the authorities do not give any importance to the citizenship of her mother, she has not been able to acquire this certificate.”
But Manoj Kumar Jaiswal said, “We are denied of citizenship because we are falsely branded as Indians”. On the other hand, Satyanarayan Singh revealed, “I originate from India. But I have been teaching in Nepal for 26 years. I wish to get Nepalese citizenship. Yet I am denied of this privilege. ”
Effects of Denial of Citizenship
Denial of citizenship has created problems for certain people. Firstly, they do not get service in government, corporation and private institutions. Secondly, they cannot run industry and trade. In the absence of citizenship, the industry and trade are not registered with the government bodies and as a result no loan is given by any banking and financial institution for such activities. Thirdly, denial of citizenship in one’s own country means humiliation as one is treated as a foreigner. And fourthly, the denial of citizenship is the denial of the basic human rights to hold property; the reason is that no body in Nepal is liable to purchase land in the absence of citizenship.
Recently, the Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles Committee of the Constituent Assembly in Nepal has further complicated the procedure for getting citizenship certificates. Provision has been made in the concept paper to harass those who would like to acquire naturalized Nepalese citizenship through marriage relations.
A foreign citizen marrying Nepalese citizen would be required to relinquish foreign citizenship and reside in Nepal for 15 long years in the anticipation to become entitled to receive naturalized citizenship certificate of Nepal. Till that period, the person would be given merely identity card and would not be entitled to any political rights, right to vote or hold any public positions for 15-year period. This also means that such a person would not be entitled to avail economic rights, like earning property, purchase and sale of property, engagement in business and industry, banking transactions or any other gainful employment in formal sector, which is a clear violation of Article 15 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Many of the Maithili, Bhojpuri and Awadhi-speaking people in the region have experienced problems in acquiring citizenship certificates as they are treated as “none” or “less” Nepali on the ground of the languages that they speak. Because of such cultural and linguistic criterion in providing citizenship, a large number of people from these communities found it difficult to register their land in their own name no matter for how long they and their ancestors lived in the Terai region.
Citizenship to Foreigners
There is certain group of people in Nepal who hold India responsible for the influx of population in Nepal. Even if this were the situation in certain cases in the past, there are many people from other countries including Burma, Bangladesh or even Tibet (China) who were provided Nepalese citizenship. And more recently, it is believed that 60% of the over 100,000 Bhutani refugees living in Nepal have been granted Nepalese citizenship certificates. It is not understood how the Nepalese authorities provided citizenship certificate to so many of the Bhutanese living in different camps in Nepal. Equally important is the reality that when these Bhutanese have been granted Nepalese citizenship, how it that they are being taken by the consortium of countries is including the United States of America and Australia in the name of Bhutanese to get them resettled in the respective countries in different phases. Such a trend, if not checked, might have serious security implications for Nepal.
The denial of citizenship affects the political, social and economic conditions of a person. However, there is no justification whatsoever to grant certain foreign citizens like the Burmese, Indians, Bangladeshis, Tibetans (Chinese) and more recently to the Bhutanese refugees citizenship certificates – be it in the name of Nepalese origin or other political reasons – as many people within the country including the Madheshis have been denied of this right. In this context, the provision made in the concept paper by the Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles Committee to deny the spouses of the Madheshis in Terai marrying across the border in India their right to citizenship for so many years is the denial of human rights. Since time immemorial, the Madheshis have tradition of cross border marriage relationship with people across the border in India. Even during the Ramayanic period, such a relationship was common. By overlooking these age-old relations among the border inhabitants, the Committee members have exhibited their lack of understanding of the ground reality in cultural, economic and political relations among the border inhabitants in Nepal-India border area. Such a step, if not corrected, might invite more of problems rather than resolving the conflict in future in Terai and so to say in the country.
Jha is Professor of Economics and Executive Director of Centre for Economic and Technical Studies in Nepal.
Tarai-Hills gap big hurdle for MDG in schooling
OM ASTHA RAI
KATHMANDU, Sept 28: In its attempt to meet the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target for primary education by 2015, the government has focused on enhancing children´s access to schools. This has, however, had very little impact on children in the Tarai districts, as compared to the Hills and mountain areas.
Since 2005, especially after the government decided to speed up constructing new schools and upgrading old ones, the number of public schools across the country has increased by 15 percent. However, irrespective of the sharp increase in the number of schools in five years, children in Tarai districts still have little access to public education.
The National Planning Commission (NPC)´s latest progress report on the MDGs states that schools in Tarai are overcrowded.
According to the latest flash report published by Education Management Information System (EMIS) at the Department of Education (DoE), there are a total of 32,130 public schools, apart from traditional and religious ones, across the country.
However, irrespective of the fact that the largest pie of population lives in the Tarai, only 30 percent of public schools are located there.
According to the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), 49 percent of school-aged children (between 5-16 years) reside in the Tarai while only 43 percent of them are in the Hills. Because Tarai has fewer number of schools, Net Enrollment Rate (NER) and literacy rate are relatively low in this area, according to the NPC report.
The NPC has pointed out the regional disparity in terms of net enrollment and literacy rate between the Hills and the Tarai as one of the major challenges in meeting the MDG target in education.
“It is an issue of exclusion,” Zahid Perbez, a researcher at Research Center for Educational Innovation and Development (CERID) who is involved in a number of researches about Islamic education, told myrepublica.com. “It demonstrates how the government has excluded Madhesi people in education, as in all other sectors.”
Naturally, the number of schools should be high in the Hills, keeping in view its difficult terrain that creates obstacles for students to reach schools. However, the disparity in terms of access to public schools between the Hills and the Tarai regions is palpably high, resulting in considerable overcrowding in schools.
“The overcrowding in schools has adversely impacted girl students´ enrollment rate in the Tarai,” said Perbez. “In the Tarai, where society is relatively more conservative, the government should build sufficient schools to increase girls´ enrollment rate.”
However, according to Perbez, no government official, including those who represent Madhes, has ever understood this simple fact to date.
Madhes-based political parties, which surged in the wake of the abolition of the monarchy, too, have failed to raise this issue vociferously. However, the parties disagree with this.
“We have always pressed the government for adopting a policy against all types of educational disparities,” argued Jitendra Sonar, joint general secretary, Tarai-Madhes Democratic Party (TMDP), adding, “It is clearly mentioned in our election manifesto as well.”
TMDP leader Sonar flays the government for not taking concrete initiatives for constructing adequate number of schools in the Tarai. “By and large, the government has never built schools in the Tarai,” he asserted. “The construction of almost 90 percent of schools in the Tarai was made possible only through the effort of the local communities,” Sonar said.
Hari Prasad Lamsal, under secretary at the Ministry of Education (MoE), rubbishes this argument outright. “Our practice is that the government builds schools only upon the community´s request,” Lamsal said. “Therefore, the low number of schools in the Tarai does not mean that the government´s policy is discriminatory at all.”
Madhesi activist claims discrimination and gross misconduct of security at Nepal’s international airport
Madhesi activist claims discrimination and gross misconduct of security at Nepal’s international airport
February 3, 2010
— By Mikeldunham
Ordinarily, I don’t publish unverified accusations leveled against Nepal’s security forces, although I have received them often enough in the past. I’m making an exception today and posting the following appeal because:
1) the accuser is fairly high-profile
2) this is a critical moment for the Nepali government and Tribhuvan International Airport’s security. Recently, the subcontinent has been place on high alert for terrorist infiltration and Nepal cannot afford to be identified as the loose link in South Asian security measures. The Nepali government is already waffling on India’s request to allow air marshals on those Indian aircraft landing in Kathmandu – an absurd stance fueled by ill-advised hyper-nationalistic sentiments.
If the accusation is true, the government should immediately rectify its sloppy response to international concerns by replacing sub-standard personnel at the airport. There are many extremely capable men and women in Nepal’s police force who can handle this important assignment with vigilance, sobriety and intelligence.
If the accusation is false, I welcome readers’ evidence to the contrary.
Santosh Shah’s allegations dated February 1, 2010
When I crossed the main entrance gate of Tribhuvan International Airport Kathmandu, 1st February at 9.45pm, as the usual routine the Security personnel past the entrance asked me for my passport/tickets. I said that I had come to airport to pick up an important guest from abroad arriving at 10.30pm by China Southern Airlines. I produced my Press ID Card issued by the Department of Information, Ministry of Information and Communications. The police denied my entry. I requested that since the guest is a woman and since it’s really late in the night, its important that I go and receive her. Then I even produced my ID Card of the United Nations, Kathmandu. The police, three of them gathered by now, asked me to step out of the taxi, asked me to pay the taxi and asked the driver to vanish. They looked at my IDs, and didn’t seem to be able to read them well. The scene was intimidating, with three armed police personnel in the barren street – I said them that I hold a respectable position in society and knew their high ranking officers at Airport and at Police Headquarter. The head among the three; with 1-star on his uniform shouted out to me “Of course, you f*### Madhise have such contacts and respect. Dial the number to whomever you want, and I will see how you go in.” I told him “You know that no one will lift a call at this late hour, and you are going to have your racial take on me”. He smelled drunk. These are the three guys responsible for the entry and exit of all the incoming and outgoing vehicles, trespassers etc. into the International and Domestic Airport of Kathmandu. The head police among the three wasn’t wearing his name plate; when I asked him for his name; he refused to give his name and said – “This is point no 13”. And then he told me – “You want to see my power, see!” He allowed at least half a dozen of vehicles pass through without checking their documents or ID.
Since I didn’t use any foul word and maintained my politeness; that avoided any possible assaults. The guy was drunk and had already committed several offenses in front of me including allowing people to enter without checking; I already felt intimidated – I thought the best solution was to walk back. I walked down to the main road, ring road, and saw another cab by the open waiting area at the main airport entrance. Since the area was empty, dark and quiet, and Kathmandu isn’t that a safe place; I convinced the taxi driver to wait for me and my guest. My guest called me from the airport and I directed her to walk all the way down to highway. This was definitely not an easy thing for her to do. Fortunately she made it to the main road and I dropped her.
Normally, I use my office vehicle and have my securities maintained. I go to this airport at least a hundred times a year. So, this was quite an odd, rater revealing experience for me. If a public face of one of Nepal’s leading channel has to face this at the international airport; what must be the fate of an ordinary citizens in rural backdrops of Terai where the monitoring of security surveillance does not surface out.
I am taking it seriously as this is not just a racial discrimination or security intimidation, but it also shows how vulnerable our International Airport is due to some drunk and lunatic security personnel. Our International Airport has the history of an Indian Airlines hi-jack by Taliban a decade ago. Every month we hear issues of human trafficking, drugs trafficking and smuggling of counterfeit currencies and illegal animals’ parts. The security entrance of this airport is guarded by three police, who are:
– Drunk and on duty
– don’t wear their name badges
– can’t read an ID Card issued by the Government and UN agencies
– look at the ID of a passer-by facial reading, with racial discriminations
– fail to recognize their own senior officers in the police command
– allow a dozen vehicles to enter without a check to show-off his power to a journalist.
This is a serious security threat to the airport and an intimidation to tourists arriving at midnight at a barren airport.
This is not the first time that I am facing a racial discrimination; but this is the first time I am facing this level of intimidation and that too from a civil servant. According to the article 13 of interim Constitution of Nepal, racial discrimination is a punishable act. And in this case its committed by the protector of the law; the Police personnel stationed at International airport.
I am preparing to approach the concerned government, civil and international authorities for justice.
For phone-calls/information: Santosh Shah, President, Today’s Youth Asia, Kathmandu. Anchor, POWER TALKS TV Show. Panelist, United Nations Youth Advisory Panel, Nepal. Mobile: +977-98510-91562. firstname.lastname@example.org
Madhesi Movement in Nepal: Implications for India
Dr. Nihar Nayak began by offering some basic facts about the Madhesi movement. Although there exist a number of versions about what the word ‘Madhes’ stands for, the most popular or accepted version is that it refers to ‘Madhya-desh’, a region between the hills and the plains. Also known as ‘Terai’, Madhes region consists of twenty districts, all of which share their borders with India. Many Madhesis are of Indian origin and thus have strong socio-cultural ethnic linkages across the border. In the paper, Dr. Nayak flagged three questions: Is the Madhes issue likely to bring in deep-rooted conflict in Nepal? Can external forces take advantage of the situation to India’s detriment? How will Madhesi politics determine the future of Nepal politics and India-Nepal relations in the future?
Over the years, Madhesis have suffered from a sense of discrimination and consequent deprivation. They also feel exploited and discriminated against by the upper caste Pahadi migrant communities. Hindi-speaking Indian Madhesis particularly feel discriminated against by the Nepali state due to the following factors. Firstly, Indian Madhesis, under the Citizenship Act of 1964 and the Constitution of 1990, were debarred from citizenship certificates, due to which they could neither acquire land ownership nor could avail government benefits. Although the Citizenship Law was amended in November 2006 making it possible for people born in Nepal before 1990 and those residing there permanently to acquire Nepali citizenship, it has been alleged that many Madhesis and Dalits are still deprived of citizenship. It has also been alleged that instead of taking into consideration the Madhesis’ cultural affiliation with India, the Nepali government has adopted a discriminatory attitude towards this group by trying to introduce compulsory Nepali language for both official work and as the medium of education in the Madhes region. Despite the fact that the Madhesi population constitutes nearly one-third of the Nepali population, their share at the level of gazetted level employees is merely 9.9 per cent. Madhesi people have also voiced concerns about the economic exploitation of the resource-rich Madhes region by the Nepali government. Although Madhes contributes 70 per cent of the agricultural production of Nepal, 65 per cent of the GDP, and 76 per cent of the country’s total revenue, the infrastructure in this region is considered to be much poorer than in the hill areas. Allegations have also been made regarding how during the monarchy, in the name of land reform, land belonging to Madhesi people were given away to Pahadis.
A feeling of deprivation and exploitation made the Terai or Madhes region a hub of the pro-democratic movement during the 1950s and 1960s. During that time, perceiving India as anti-establishment and the Madhesis as India’s agents, and fearing that Indian immigrants in Terai might prompt India to claim it as Indian territory, the Nepali elite adopted stringent policies to curb the Madhesis’ activism. But this led to the emergence of identity-based movement in Madhes, particularly with the formation of two groups: the Nepal Terai Vongress led by Vedanta Jha in 1951 and the Madhesi Mukti Andolan led by Raghunath Thakur in 1956. At present, numerous political parties and non-state actors are involved in the Madhesi cause. In this context, examples of Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (MJF), Terai Madhesh Loktantrik Party (TMLP), etc., can be particularly cited. There also exist a number of major armed groups in the Terai region, such as the Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha (JTMM), Terai Cobra, Nepal Defence Army (NDA), Nepal Janatantrik Party (NJP), and Chure Bhawar Ekta Samaj (CBES). Although all these forces are involved in armed revolution in Nepal, there seems to be a divergence in the goals each of them aspires to achieve. While JTMM demands the establishment of an autonomous Terai region, and Terai Cobra aspires to launch an armed separatist struggle for a sovereign Terai state, the objective of NDA is to form a Hindu army with suicide bombers to fight against religious extremism, conversion, as well as Maoists. Similarly, while as a royalist outfit, the NJP aspires to retain constitutional monarchy and multiparty democracy in Nepal, the CBES basically demands the establishment of a Chure Bhawar federal region in Terai and is opposed to ‘one Madhesh one Pradesh’ demand.
There are reports of ‘internal tensions and lack of clarity on immediate demands and long term strategy’ of Madhesi groups. While the Madhes-based parties take a soft stand on the issue, the armed groups are demanding nothing less than sovereignty. Moreover, the Madhesi political parties are in a dilemma especially regarding whom to take sides with among the major parties. They cannot support a liberal democratic government in Kathmandu as their autonomy demand would be lost. They cannot really support the Maoists basically due to the prevailing fear of losing a multi-party democratic system in Nepal under a Maoist led government. In the meantime, due to their involvement in kidnapping, killing and extortion, some armed groups involved in the Madhesi cause are often dismissed as criminals by most Madhesis themselves. In this scenario of diffused leadership and objectives, the future of the Madhes cause remains uncertain.
In his presentation, Dr. Nayak tried to draw attention to the fact that unstable Nepal, particularly the border regions of Terai, can provide avenues for both China and Pakistan to encourage anti-India elements there, through arms and fake currency trafficking, madrasas, terrorist outfits, etc. Reportedly, China has already extended its support to the faction of the MFJ led by Upendra Yadav. In recent time, the United States too has taken particular interest in the developments of Madhesi region. Although it has listed JTMM on the US terrorist list, it granted a visa to Upendra Yadav to attend the Terai Diaspora event held in Washington.
Over the years, while treating Madhesi issue as an internal matter of Nepal which can be resolved by accommodating minority rights within the new Constitution, India has largely taken a stance of non-interference. Even then, the Pahadis often allege India of encouraging the ‘one Madhes, one Pradesh’ demand. According to Dr. Nayak, if such perceptions gain further ground, it would aggravate the prevailing anti-India sentiments in Nepal and consequently give more space to China and Pakistan to use Nepal as a hotbed for anti-India activities. Ironically, the Madhesis accuse India of neglecting the Madhesi movement. Recently, in June 2009, allegations were raised regarding India’s involvement in engineering divisions in the MJF. Debate has also been brewing in the Terai that the Madhesis have failed to take any concrete decision about their future because of India’s support for the liberal democratic parties opposed to ethnic-based federalism.
According to Dr. Nayak, anti-Indianism of the Madhes movement is likely to affect India’s economic interests in Nepal. Frequent protests will affect India’s trade and commercial relations with Nepal. It will also affect India’s hydroelectric projects and the business operations of Indian investors in Nepal. Since the Terai is the link between India and northern Nepal, a troubled Terai may affect “every major highway, custom point. The industrial, economic, and other fertile resources of Nepal are in Madhesh, helping circulate trade relationship.”
Under the prevailing circumstances, India is faced with certain difficult choices. Any constructive attempt by India to salvage the Terai situation through proactive involvement is likely to be interpreted as unnecessary intervention in the internal affairs of Nepal and upset its Pahadi constituency and Nepal Army. At another level, passive indifference to developments in Terai will be misconstrued as shirking of responsibility by observers at home as well as by the Madhesis themselves. India cannot possibly afford to ignore developments in Nepal and especially the discrimination in Terai. At present, the best approach for India seems to be to work as a positive facilitator to strengthen the capacity of various democratic institutions to resolve the social tensions in Nepal in general and in Terai in particular. Given India’s leverages in Nepal, India could also make an earnest effort to bring all political parties together to have a dialogue on the contentious issues.
Important points raised during the discussion of the paper:
- From a topographical point of view, Nepal is vulnerable to both India and China. Terai is not only important for India, but also for Nepal itself. Over the years, the Nepali government has been trying to make this place inhabited by people ‘friendlier to them’ and people who look like them. The sentiment behind taking such stance by the Nepali government should be respected by the Indian government.
- In this paper, more space should be devoted to analyse the impact of the Madhesi movement on India.
- India’s concern about the Madhesi problem cannot be anything more than neighbourly.
- Nepal suffers from paranoia of being encircled by India. But it does not seem to have a similar problem with respect to China. India has to understand this psyche among the Nepalese.
- The Madhesi problem should be studied in relation to the challenge of governance that Nepal is currently facing.
- The strong sense of opportunism among Madhesi leaders makes it difficult for India to get involved in this movement.
- Indian policy vis-à-vis Nepal since the Maoist uprising in 1997 has been to keep other players out of it. But this policy seems to have misfired particularly because of the involvement of so many external actors in it.
- Geo-strategic importance of the Terai region should be analysed in the paper.
- There is a need to mention the Jan Andolan III.
- The clash between Madhesis and Maoists in which 21 Maoists were killed should be mentioned.
- Due to Madhesi identity, Maoist influence in Terai has weakened considerably. Madhesis are expected to become future kingmaker of Nepal. India needs to take that factor into account.
- With the advent of democracy, the Muslim vote bank in the Terai has become important.
- The paper needs to clarify the significant factors for the potential of conflict in Terai. Those factors are basically identified as intra-Madhesi conflict, Pahadi-Madhesi conflict, and elements of communal violence.
- India should try to harmonize Madhesi politics. It should particularly take interest in brining about economic development in Terai region.
- India’s role in brokering the 8-point agreement between the Madhesis and the government should be highlighted.
- Future of Madhesi politics should be analysed in the paper.
- The paper also needs to bring out ordinary Madhesi people’s perception about India.
Report prepared by Pranamita Barua, Research Assistant, IDSA