By Ram Manohar Sah
Madheshis had a lot of expectations from the recent Janandolan-II. Madheshis expected more than mere announcement of distribution of Citizenships certificate to eligible Madheshis. The Madheshis expected, at least, the fulfillment of promises (Federalism and Participation in all sphere of institutions) from all power players and policy makers.
Modern Nepal’s movement started long back around 250 years ago, with the movement of King Prithivi Narayan Shah. Nepal was unified into a single string by many peoples, among them King Prithivi Narayan Shah is supposed to have contributed the most. But at the same time, it was King Prithivi Narayan Shah, who sowed the seed of regionalism and ethnicity. Prithivi Narayan Shah, who married first time with a Teraian Princess Indra Kumari [Daughter of Maharaja Hemkarna Sen, Maharaja of Makwanpur, Simraongarh] had taken the military help of Teraian in the initial movement. But King Prithivi Narayan Shah, never ever considered any Teraian for top most administrative or military post. As soon as King Prithivi Narayan Shah conquered Vijayapur Kingdom in 1774 AD, it was divided into pahad & madhesh; based on ethnicity. This was the first separatism move on the ground of ethnicity and regionalism, which has culminated in today’s madheshi-pahadi conflict.
Tharu had proper kingdom and setup in Dang in 1843 BC. Dang was conquered and handed over to Salyan, and thus integrated under the flag of Nepal. For some historical period, some portion of Tharu land (Banke, Bardia, Kailali and Kanchanpur) moved to Indian territory. After it was reintegrated into Nepal, it was treated as personal property by ruling Rana Class. Tharu, originally inhabitants of Dang, were displaced from the place under coercion, and thus, were compelled to become Kamaiya. The freed land was then filled with people from a specific ethnic group.
For the administrative purpose the word “Madhesh” was promoted in the past. “Madhesh bandobast adda” was constituted, with different set of laws, rules & regulation, to monitor districts as western Terai, Morang, Saptari, Mahottari, Sarlahi, Bara, Parsa and Rautahat during Rana-rule. This administrative structure to divide Madhesh from the rest of the country was prevalent till Rana-rule. Madheshis had to obtain visa to enter hilly region, including Kathmandu in Rana’s period. The discriminating administrative attitude toward Madheshis had, thus, given rise to different identities among Madheshis other than being attached to Nepal.
Till Rana regime, it seemed that Nepal Government was influenced by British rulers in India, and was governing Madhesh like a colony.
Even the Post-Rana regime has not created conducive environment for Madhesis. Nepal Government continued to have separate administrative block for Madhesh (“Madhesh Goswara Ain“) till 1955 AD. After the Malaria eradication in 1954 AD, then Nepal Government initiated special movement of rehabilitating and settlement, through distributing land to landless. This project was aimed at benefiting a certain set of people along the ethnic line, and was termed as “paharization of the Tarai” by N. R. Shrestha. In the name of land reform, Nepal Government confiscated lands from Teraian farmers by imposing ceiling in 1964 AD, and was distributed to people from different geographical region, neglecting the local landless peoples. These incidences only promoted the ethnicity and regionalism. The spirit of land reform is increasing productivity of agriculture goods, which requires consolidation of land holding, rather than redistribution to many farmers.
If Madhesh was part of Nepal, then why Madheshis have not been given any chance to prove their patriotism in Nepali Army, the most patriotic institution of the country? As noted by a former Nepalese PM, Madheshis were not suited for army because Madheshis are not healthy and fit. If this argument stands true, Madhesh (said to be rice bowl) are facing “hidden hunger” (intakes of nutrition deficit diet) and need nutrition and health care from Nepal Government.
Maoist respected Madheshis, in contrast to Government belief, and gave them military responsibility in PLA (People Liberation Army). But unfortunately, Maoists reiterated the same theme, as rest of the previous rulers. Maoists used the same word ” Madheshi“, the most hated word among madheshis. Madheshis need more respectful words for its identification, not “Madheshi“, which sometimes were even used in worse manners like, “Madhesiya” and ” Marsiya“, with the twisted tongue.
Madheshis had a lot of expectations from the recent Janandolan-II. Madheshis expected more than mere announcement of distribution of Citizenships certificate to eligible Madheshis. The Madheshis expected, at least, fulfillment of promises (Federalism and Participation in all sphere of institutions) from all power players and policy makers. But the constitution of all the recently formed high level teams, political appointments and negotiation teams has underscored the Old Testament. On the frontal note, the so-called involvement of Government mechanism in Nepalgunj has not received any convincing clarification from current care-taking Government. This collective act has created breeding ground for the likes of JTMM.
Even after the cry from madheshi MP’s, Nepal Government has not initiated talks with JTMM (either factions, Goit and Jwala). Government has not even reciprocated the call from JTMM to sit for negotiation. DPM Sherchen’s disclosure of having handed over the duty of handling JTMM issue to the Maoists, itself raised many questions. First, whether Government is incompetent to take-up national issue on its own. Second, why Maoists should handle JTMM issue, when both of them had problematic relationships between them? Third, whether Government has given green signal to Maoists to use its bullying tactics against JTMM. If we consider Maoist strategy of letting Government reinstall police force in Madhesh, then the whole issue of Madheshi gets complicated, in the light of opposition of such strategy by JTMM.
JTMM is now calling for the separate country based on ethnicity and regionalism line. JTMM has used the same ethnicity and regionalism issue, as it was there at the time of King Prithivi Narayan Shah, Rana Rule, and Post-Rana rule. JTMM came into existence two years back, but people have only started to notice it now, when it has landed up in bloody conflict. Whole county is fearing about division along ethnicity and regionalism, but the timing is wrong; the issue which should have been discussed long back in 1774 AD is starting now, but it’s not late yet. But, is the Government serious? If not armed JTMM, is the Government then finding any serious group among Madheshis, with whom Government wants to discuss Madheshis’ needs? But the recent concern of OHCHR (UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights), regarding arrest and detention of Madheshi activists from peaceful protest organized by MPRF (Madheshi People’s Right Forum), shows lack of seriousness of Government.
Post-Rana rule, Nepal has seen a lot of development. A lot of National and International investment came in different sectors of country. But Nepal Government has never asked Madhesis of their need. Government of Nepal has always used “Madheshis” in the opportunistic way, be it as faculties in Kirtipur, or as teachers in different schools, or as agriculturists for feeding the rest of the country, or revenue from madhesh as remittance for rest of the country.
Madheshis need sound economy, which will act in symbiotic relationship with rest of the country, but don’t need host-parasite relationship. Madheshis need agriculture infrastructures, which can produce surplus food grains above national requirements that can generate foreign exchange for the country. Madheshis need more and more employment opportunities in its land, where they can still accommodate job aspirants from rest of the country. Madheshis need administrative power; to build Madheshi society based on its local value, ethos, culture and identity.
Its not the only Nepal Government, but the whole country, which has to show confidence in Madheshis. The Madheshis need more respectful acceptance in Nepal, before Madheshis start finding some meaning in JTMM preaching. Madhesis need more respectful words for their salutation, than the word ” Madheshi“, which gives a connotation of being away from own homeland.
(Currently studying in India , the author hails from Janakpur and can be reached at email@example.com )