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Nepal: Terai Agitation Reaching a critical Stage- Need for talks- Update No. 314

Note No. 742                      Dated 2-Sep-2015
 
By Dr. S.Chandrasekharan
 
On 31st August in Birgunj, the Police had to open fire on an unruly mob resulting in the death of one Dilip Charasiya.  The demonstrators had defied the curfew order and in the scuffle between the Police and the protestors, more than 25 persons were injured.  This included six Policemen too.  
 
The tragedy was that in this incident two innocent children who had nothing to do with the protests received gun shot wounds.  One of them is in a critical condition with a head injury.
 
In the two weeks of demonstrations and resultant Police action, the death toll has reached 16 that included eight Police officers of the Kailali incident.
 
A district wise break up of deaths would be- Surkhet 3, Jumla 1, Kailali 9, Saptari 1, Rautahat 1 and now in Parsa one more.  
 
In Gaur,  the DDC’s office was torched a day earlier.  The protests in eastern Terai are still continuing and some Terai leaders have privately expressed their view that the agitation has reached the “point of no return.”  This is unfortunate.
 
It is still possible for the three main parties- the Nepali Congress, the UML and the UCPN- Maoist to shed their “political arrogance” and make a genuine approach to the Terain leaders to temporarily suspend the agitation and come for talks in Kathmandu.  At the same time, the Terain leaders particularly Upendra Yadav and Rajendra Mahatao should avoid provocative speeches and look for some peaceful solution.
 
It is a pity that what started as a dispute over the five Terai districts in the new federal dispensation proposed by the ruling parties, the agitation has spread to fifteen districts and could spread further to other Terai districts. The agitation in the eastern Terai has crippled life in the area and the protests are not ebbing.  The army has been called in “unofficially” though it is still being denied by the administration.
 
A Kathmandu-based analyst Siddhi B. Ranjitkar in “Kathmandu Metro” has critically analyzed the events and he has rightly called the attitude of the big three political parties as “political arrogance.”  He has also pointed out that the two thirds majority the three parties carry was for creating a constitution and not for intimidating the people and imposing their constitution.
 
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights ( OHCHR) has issued a very relevant and strong statement on 24 the August that deserves to be quoted in full.  It said “We urge the government of Nepal to create a climate where the minority or the dissenting views or beliefs are respected and security forces only employ force as a last resort and in full accordance with the standards laid out under international law for maintaining public order including detailed guide lines governing the use of live ammunition” It is a very serious indictment on the government in Nepal.
 
It is known that the Home Minister of Nepal is a “loose cannon” and that he is expected to make outrageous statements that included a comment that the mischief makers have come from India.  But what surprised me was the statement of Indian Home Minister on 31st August  in one of the functions of the SSB when he is supposed to have said on the political situation in Terai as follows.  “ Although the Madhesi problem is an internal issue of Nepal, the Indian government will protect the interests of the one crore Indians living there.”  This statement was quickly denied by the Indian embassy at Kathmandu, but the damage has already been done.
 
It is important for India not to comment or involve those living on the Indian side of southern Nepal right now.  The Madhesis are quite capable of looking after themselves and any public statement from the Indian side would only further exacerbate the situation. 
 
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