By Dr. S. Chandrasekharan
One of the well known analysts in Nepal, in writing about the current situation said that “spewing hate against Madhesis and India will not do.” This is very true.
The media is full of features bashing India for all that has gone wrong in Nepal. There is no mention either that the protests by Madhesis in Nepal started even before the new constitution was promulgated and India had no role in that.
Before taking over it is said that PM Oli told his close friends that he was very much aware of his bad image in the Madhes and that he would correct it not by words but by actions. He has done neither though he has been in office for more than a month now.
In the latest round of talks on 16 November with the senior leaders of the political parties, top leaders of the SLMM ( Samyukta Lok Tantric Morcha) while demanding the implementation of the 8 and 22 point agreed to by the earlier agreements, were willing to reduce their demands to 11 and these included –
- Guarantee of proportional inclusion in all State organisations.
- Demarcation of provincial boundaries on the basis of the report of erstwhile State Restructuring Commission.
- Recognition of more than one language as official language of federal and provincial governments.
- Demarcation of Election Constituencies on the basis of the population.
There was no positive response from the government side.
The Nepali Congress who met separately the Madhesi leaders were willing to push the constitutional amendments suggested earlier by them and then they would try to forge a consensus on issues of political boundaries gradually.
The Madhesi leaders while turning down their offer, told the NC delegation that they would prefer a package deal on all the issues raised and not for any gradual redress. More importantly, the Madhesi leaders pointed out that once the package deal was reached on all the demands, the UDMF would lift its blockade on the border entry points. ( Then why blame India for the blockade?)
While Hridesh Trpathi one of the leaders of the SLMM told the press that they are open to compromise on the details of demarcation, the General Secretary of the Nepali Congress who had headed the drafting committee of the Constitution, made a categorical statement that there will be no immediate change of boundaries.
One should be surprised by this rigid stand when serious negotiations are still taking place on the very same question by the leaders of the opposing groups! . One of the Deputy Prime Ministers ( there are many) Chitra Bahadur KC made a strange statement that a separate Terai State from the hills could disintegrate the State. Then why go for a federal constitution?
Prime Minister Oli in his first address to the nation on 15 November 2015 made a direct attack on India. He said that his country is on the verge of a humanitarian crisis due to a blockade imposed by India. He described the blockade as cruel, inhumane and beyond imagination.
Oli may have been infuriated by a reference to the events in Nepal in the joint statement made by Prime Ministers Modi and Cameron on 12th November. The statement said and we quote- “ The two Prime Ministers stressed the importance of a lasting and inclusive constitutional settlement in Nepal that will address the remaining areas of concern and promote political stability and economic growth.” Many in Nepal considered this statement as an interference on the internal issues of Nepal.
Equally controversial was the briefing given by the Indian Ambassador in the Reporters Club meeting on 10th November. He made three points and all of them could be misconstrued as being supportive of the current Madhesi agitation. The last one was certainly avoidable.
- Supplies via Birgunj Border will resume only after agitating Madhes based political parties stop their protests along the Nepal-India border.
- The crisis will remain until unless the government of Nepal and the agitating parties reach an agreement on the disputed issues.
- The Indian side had been consistently suggesting to Nepal’s major political parties to produce a new constitution, taking all sections of society with confidence so that all the communities could own the national charter.
Prime Minister Oli should consider the following.
- The agitation has been going on for more than 80 days and shows no signs of any fatigue. The determination of the protestors and their remarkable solidarity should be an eye opener that it is a “do or die” choice for the Madhes. One should see the blogs and postings in the face book and twitter to realise the seriousness of the situation. It is not an edifying sight to see pictures of gun toting men and women and calls for secession.
- The new Constitution was pushed through in a hurry in the last stages without consulting the Madhesis who form one third of the population. This has not brought in the expected peace.
- The security personnel showed no restraint in dealing with the protestors. Over 50 have died so far.
- The ethnic harmony is getting battered. ( This statement is coming from within Nepal itself)
- Blame India and by all means get all the stuff from China. But talk seriously to the Madhesis.
- Do not forget that the tottering economy has been hit very hard. Besides the Kathmandu valley, there has been no economic activity in the Madhes too. For the last three months. Schools in Madhes remain closed.
- Above all, the alienation of Madhes- real or perceived is now complete.
The PM should therefore take it upon himself to directly talk to the agitating Madhesi groups and not leave it to Dahal or the Nepali Congress to deal with them. He should as I have said before come down from his perch and be a little conciliatory.