By Dr. S. Chandrasekharan
Disturbing news continue to come from Nepal. The Ruling Parties are taking their own their own time to file the constitutional amendments. The Madhesi groups having rejected the amendments are also prolonging their agitation.
Protests turned violent in Terai and one of the leaders of the Nepal Sadhbhavana party was badly injured. State-sponsored anti Indian protests continue and in one or two instances offices of Indian projects were bombed. The Terai agitation found fresh support from one of the leading parties from Bihar- the RJD and this is not a good sign. Some youths in Terai were arrested recently for acts of subversion as they called for an independent Madhes. All in all the situation is very disquieting.
Meanwhile Rambo Oli continues with his cabinet expansion with no work being done by any one. The Jumbo cabinet has 6 Deputy prime ministers, 21 ministers,9 state ministers and two asst. ministers. Departments are being sliced to provide for the new comers.
Foot Dragging by the Ruling Parties on Constitutional Amendments
The Parliament failed to commence discussions on the constitutional amendments for want of a quorum. This was on 28th December. There were hardly 124 members against the minimum of 149 required for the session to discuss the issue. This only shows the mind set of the ruling parties and even the Nepali Congress in moving the amendments.
The Chief Adviser to the Prime Minister admitted on 31st December that they have deliberately slowed down the process. His contention was that the Morcha (SLMM- Madhes Group) should table its own amendment or should take ownership of the existing amendments. A tall order indeed when the Morcha had already rejected the amendments and wanted their 11 point demand to be considered first.
One of the Morcha’s leaders and perhaps the most reasonable one-Mahant Thakur said that on the most contested issue of redrawing of federal boundaries, the Morcha has agreed in principle to the redrawing of federal boundaries through a political process later. But he wanted a respectable amendment bill before it could consider it. It looks that the ruling parties particularly the UML is unwilling to concede even this and this suits the Maoists too.
As expected, the UDMF (United Democratic Madhesi Front) took a hardened stand and said that the group will neither take part in deliberations on constitutional amendments nor relax the on going agitation till its demands are met.
The rigid stand taken by the major parties- UML, NC and CPN M that they would push or the constitutional bill through the Parliament even without the support of the Madhesi groups has further angered the Madhesi leaders. Mahant Thakur’s response was that the chances of an agreement are “slim.”
Violence in Terai
Already 53 people have died in the agitation. The Police for the fist time instead of shooting at the heads of agitators shot in the air to drive off the agitators.
Protests turned violent in several districts of Madhes. Many agitators carrying batons resorted to vandalism. Police had to fire in the air in Kalaiya – Bara district to disperse violent agitators.
“Baton Rallies” were carried out in Biratnagar, Mahottari, Siraha and Saptari districts. Clashes between the Police and the agitators took place at Inaruwa (Sunsari Dt) when the Dy. Prime Minister Gachhadar tried to address a meeting. Nine persons were injured.
Ex Minister and one of the leaders of agitating Sadbhavana party- Rajendra Mahato was badly hurt by Police action in a protest he led on the Jogbani border on 26th December. Mahato has been airlifted to Delhi for further treatment.
Upendra Yadav, another senior leader of the Madhes group declared that the Madhesi demand will be addressed through “street protests.”
Now the school children are getting involved. On 26th December, the school children in Birgunj took out a massive rally. They carried placards protesting against the police authorities on the UDMF protestors. Two days later thousands of school children followed it up with massive rallies and shouting slogans in Bara, Parsa, Rautahat, Saptari and Sunsari districts.
- Involving school children is not a good idea and it is hoped that the Madhesi leaders realise the long term consequences. The Nepal National Human Rights Commission Chairperson Mohana Adhikari expressed concern over using children in protest marches.
- The ruling party members both the UML and the Maoists are carrying on a vicious propaganda against India. The result has been that some Indian establishments are being targeted. Unidentified persons suspected to be Maoists threw a bomb at the office of GMR energy on the evening of 5th January. Last month a similar attack took place GMR’s project site in Surkhet district.
- For the first time, a leading political party in Bihar has openly come out in support of the protests of the Madhes groups. RJD Vice President and former Union Minister Raghubandh Singh declared that the Madhesi issue is no longer an internal matter of Nepal. He called on the Centre in Delhi to intervene and end the dead lock.
Meantime PM Oli continues to sit on his high perch and does not seem to be concerned about the serious consequences that may occur if the agitation continues. His rigid stand may cause permanent damage to Indo-Nepal relations.