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Nepal: Madhesi Groups Renew Stir- a wrong move: Update No. 333

Note No. 766                                      Dated 20-May-2016

By Dr. S.Chandrasekharan.

The Madhesi groups led by a few opportunistic leaders have once again embarked on a renewed programme of agitation to press for their demands.  The new programme is said to be different in the sense that it will be Kathmandu centric and will also involve other marginalised Janajathi groups.

This movement is bound to fail and the result would only be more suffering for the ordinary Madhesi people who have had enough after months of agitation in the Terai.

The Madhesi groups have no support in the valley except for a large number of Madhesis working in the government and in the firms owned by the Pahadis and the Marwaris.  These people will not risk their jobs.

Secondly, the valley has suffered the most in the four months of unnecessary and unfortunate blockade by the agitators in the no man’s land between India and Nepal. One therefore cannot expect the people in the valley to support the very same agitators who have caused enough economic havoc in their daily lives of the people in Kathmandu valley.  I have myself seen many people walking long distances just to get half a litre of rationed petrol for their motorbikes.

Thirdly, except for being marginalised, the Madhesis and the Janajathi groups have nothing in common.  The Janajathi groups are not interested in either one or two Madhesi provinces.  Their agenda is different. They are also heavily infiltrated by elements from the three main stream political parties.

Finally, the rare unity shown by the two groups in the form of Sanghiya Gathabandhan in renewing their agitation from 14th May cannot be sustained for long as divisions are bound to happen.  What is more, even the Madhesi groups will not remain united for long.  Already there are complaints that Upendra Yadav has nominated himself as the coordinator without consulting his colleagues.  His Madhesi colleagues are naturally unhappy.

It is time that leaders like Upendra Yadav and Rajendra Mahato take a back seat and allow other stake holders in the Terai to chart out their future.

The agitation on the 14th was followed by another on the 15th when the Singha Durbar -the seat of the government was targeted.  The agitation so far was peaceful except for a few minor incidents but could escalate, if the Oli government does not make any serious attempt to talk to both the groups.

PM Oli in one of his earlier meetings with other party leaders conceded that the demands of the Madhesis should be addressed through dialogue and consensus.

So after a gap of more than three months, Oli’s government formally invited the Madhesi groups SLMM ( Samyukta Loktantrik Madhesi Morcha) to come to the negotiating table.  The Madhesi groups on the other hand had put forth two pre conditions- one- acceptance of two Madhes Provinces and two- providing a statutory status to the political mechanism agreed to earlier. 

The government turned down both the government as no talks can be held with any pre conditions.  On the other hand the government does not seem to be serious either in proceeding with the political mechanism.  There is thus a stale mate.

The political mechanism for redrawing the boundaries was announced on February 18th.  So far the commission headed by the Deputy Prime Minister Kamal Thapa has not had even one sitting.  Both the Nepali Congress and the Madhesi Groups have dissociated themselves from the commission as they were not consulted in selecting the members of the commission. 

There appears to be no likelihood of the political mechanism taking off.  This PM Oil is fully aware of and perhaps did it perhaps to get the Terains off from the agitation!

The best way for the Madhesi groups is to go slow on the agitation, consolidate their unity and try to find common ground with democratic mainstream political parties like the Nepali Congress.  For example both are opposed to the conduct of local body elections in November without redrawing the provincial boundaries first.  Both are opposed to the unilateral formation of the High Level political mechanism by Oli government without prior consultations.  There are other pressing issues like reconstruction work when about three million people are still living under dire conditions without permanent roofs!  The economy is also in a bad shape with the danger of approaching near zero growth. (See our last update).

Instead of pressing ahead with the critical issues all that the Madhesi agitation has done is to throw the UML and the Oli Government into the arms of the Maoists.  The nine point agreement between Oli and the Maoist leader Prachanda is an affront to all those victims of decade old civil war and the human rights groups.

It is not a surprise that the writ petition filed by a few against the nine point agreement was thrown out by the Supreme Court.  But the reasons for quashing were not on substantive grounds but for other reasons as the agreement was only an intent between two political parties.  As and when the agreement is translated into executive or legislative orders, could the affected parties- the Madhesis and other democratic groups approach the Supreme Court again.

One cannot accept “entrenched impunity” on any ground.