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Ram Manohar, July 12, 2008


Two war (Gurkha & then Nepal war in 1770’s and Anglo-Gurkha war 1820’s) and one faith; alienation of madhesi’s from the established mainstream governance structure. The madhesi has to go a form of colonization since then, passing through Rana’s oligocracry too, before reaching todays competitive ecosystem. A word “Madhesi” which respresented colonial token till Rana rule and became tabbu post Rana rule till last year is no more untouchable now. Thanks to 2006’s “Thanks Giving day” (Nov 7, 2006), the day when UN’s representative Ian Martin had group discussion with 55 top notch Madhesi people on their issue. Since then till today, Madhesi has achieved spectacular success, but at the cost of certain unwanted incidences. The future on the path of Madhesi success has lot more challenges to be handled with bravery, intelligence, and sensitivity. The most important challenge is defining the success itself.

Origin of Voice

On the advice of Kalu Pande, King Prithivi Narayan Shah too appears to be reliant on Teraian (then Tirhutia) army.1 Shakti Ballav Sardar (One among King PN Shah Aid) had brought 12000 armies from Terai to fight in Kantipur battle, but all of them died at the end of kantipur war.2 While Jaya Prakash Malla was preparing to fight back King prithvi Narayan Shah, he too relied heavily on Teraian People. In view of his distrust in Parbata troops, Jaya   Prakash Malla created a Madhesi army with recruits drawn from the southern plains. Feeling doubtful of the loyalty of the Parbata force, he naturally, began to rely more and more heavily on the Madhise army.3 Just 10 days after his conquest of Kathmandu, King Prithvi Narayan Shah sent Sriharsh Mishra, his teacher, as envoy to Lalitpur to persuade to ministers there to surrender.4 Teraian people had to pay the cost of supporting to the Jaya Prakash Malla during and after the defeat of Jaya Prakash Malla.

King PN Shah’s supporter (mostly Parbatia at that time) was up against Tirhutia at that time and wanted ouster of well settled Tirhutia from valley.5 Gorkha was a small country. But its hunger for power made King Prithivi Narayan Shah to try option of encroachment into others land, either by hook or crook. Though in hilly region one find states divided into Baishi (federation of 22 states) & Chaubishi (federation of 24 states), Terai (or say madhes) was mostly less fragmented. In these lower track of land Sen was the undisputed ruler, along with some other small country.

Vijaypur (todays Sunsari, Morang, and etc), Chaudandi (todays Saptari, Sirha, and etc), Makwanpur (todays Mahottari, Dhanusha, Sarlahi, Rautahat, Bara, Parsa, and etc), Palpa (todays Kapilbastu, Rupendehi, Nawalparasi, palpa etc), Tharu Kingdom (Banke, Bardia, Kailali, Kanchanpur, and Dang). Among them Vijaypur, Chaudandi and Makwanpur was ruled by descendent of same family, and Makwanpur being more powerful than rest, Palpa was ruled by another branch of Sen descendent, and Tharu kingdom was ruled by Tharu king.

The greed of King PN Shah landed up in looking for matrimonial relationship with Makwanpur’s Teraian princess Indra Kumari. The purpose of King PN shah for establishing matrimonial relationship can be gauged from his statement give in his Dibyopesdh “I will take the palanquin if you give a one-tusked elephant, and Naulakhi diamond necklace, too; or I will take the palanquin with the might of sword”.6 When matrimonial tactics didn’t turn up as favorable for king PN shah as anticipated initially, he openly resorted to war with King Digbandhan Sen (Indra Kumari’s brother) in 1761 AD7. To make Digbandhan Sen surrender, King PN Shah captured his female family members.8 The chief persons that had resisted his attack he put to death, some by the sword, some by the rope and some by flaying them alive. The family members of resisting chief were degraded to the lower caste.9

There was no such huge war for the capture of part of makwanpur Kingdom (Rautahat, Bara, Parsa), Chaudandi and Vijaypur, but the agreement with then British East India Company, which made these small states follow King PN Shah line. Dinanath Upadhyaya was sent as Vakil to British East India Company to negotiate this agreement.

As a term of these agreement, Gurkhali king was paying tribute to East India Company for many years.10 Palpa’s sen king was betrayed on his state visit to Kathmandu as guest and locked up in Prison. Tharu land was re-installed into Nepal territory after Jung Bahadur provided support (financial & army) in suppressing 1857’s Indian Mutiny.

Butwal and sheoraj was the main dispute area on which Anglo-Gurka war was ignited. Sen Kings was follower of maithili tradition. And Western Terai kingdoms were following Awadhi and Tharu-Dhanuwar tradition.

State Kingdom was transfer from Gurkha to Kathmandu. Soon the kathmandu ruler started following King PN Shah Dibyopedesh. The new country was defined as country of “4 jat and 36 barnas” or “4 caste and 36 sub caste”, where four caste represents Brahmins, Khas, Magar and Thakuri.11 For kathmandu ruler teraian figured as the source of remittance to funds other army expedition towards western side of kathmandu valley.

Just after the terai integration into then Gurka kingdom (now Nepal), a number of dissatisfactions erupted among the native Teraian people. All these issues are collective well known as “Administrative Problem” in history, after ruler change in Teraian land.

Native Saptari people seems to be uncooperative to Gorkhali at the beginning of 1774, and has been mentioned in one of the letter to officers (Abhiman Simha and other) as “Pay the salaries of troops, and meet other expenses, with revenues collected in the Tarai areas under Ambarpur and Vijayapur. We have received the surplus amount of Rs 2001 transmitted by you.”12 Many of the people left the native land, and moved to adjourning Indian Territory and are recorded in Hamilton’s book.13 Since then the dissatisfactions has been coming from time to time in different forms from different locations.

The Tax levied on native people use to be very rude and unjust; like tax on marraige, tax of funeral ritual, tax on owning ox & cow, etc. Some of the unjustified tax levied in district Saptari during year 1810 AD is given in a letter written to one of the officer Subba Achal Thapa, “A letter sent by Ganga Prasad Giri to Raghav Singh has been referred to us. According to that letter, the ryots of Saptari are fleeting to India, and the country is being ruined, because you have been collecting the following unauthorized levies and payments: (a) A tax of three rupees from the owner of a draft ox. (b) Ghee worth five ruees for each buffalo from dairy-farmers. (c) One maund (i.e 40kg) of oil for each oil-press from oil-men. (d) Five rupees from each vendor operating with a capital of ten rupees. (e) A levy of 1½ annas on each ryot.”14

Many people and their leaders used to leave their native place and migrate to Indian side, when they were unable to cope up with the high unjustified taxes. This type of migration trends is seen quite often at times. A royal letter to officers to Mahottari(1810 AD) asserts “Persuade all Chaudharis, Mokadams, and ryots who have left the districts to come back and reoccupy their lands, and pay your taxes through the Subba.”15 Another royal order dating back to 1780 AD states “Chaudharis, Kangoyes, Mokaddams, and ryots who have fled to the Moglan (i.e India) shall be persuaded to come back. Partial remission may be made in arrears of revenue due from them.”16

Some of the people took the dissatisfaction in delegation form to the then ruler in kathmandu. Some people resorted to violence, and some deliberately ignored to obey newly ruler line, and refused to pay taxes. A local residence of Rautahut seems to disobey the Gorkhali order and is stated as “We have now received reports that you do not obey the orders of the jagirdar, but do what you like. If you want to stay on in that mouja, pay land tax at the rate of Rs 12½ per bigha.”17

There is one account from an order issued to a Gorkhali officers in 1810 AD, about an area near to Rautahut where some locals were challenging Gorkhali hegemony and is stated as “If the kanugoye (i.e registrar of an area) agrees to accept our claims to Chartla and other areas, as indicated in the course of talks held by the Mahila Guruju in Patna(India), settle the dispute accordingly in writing in the presence of the fouzdar, chaudharis, kanugoyes, jaiwars, and other knowledgeable people of Bara, Parsa, and Rautahat. If all mattes are settled with the exception of 50 or 100 bighas of land, do not let the dispute continue”18

The hegemony of Gorkhali continued steadily for long period in the plain region, with natives as well as British East India company, and is noted by W.Brook Northey in his book Land of the Gurkhas OR The Himalayan Kingdom of Nepal (pp 57)”From 1804 to 1812 the Gurkhas pushed steadily southwards into British territory, until by the end of that time no fewer than two hundred villages in the fertile Terai and Tirhut had been annexed. A commission, on which both sides were represented, was finally appointed to inquire into the matter, and, the result of investigation being entirely favorable to the British, a detachment of regulars were instructed to occupy the debatable ground. On these being withdrawn during the rainy season, however, and their places being taken by native police, the Nepalese troops raided the territory and put to death many of the latter.

This was one of the reasons of Anglo-Gurkha war.19

One of the instances of economic suppression of native saptari people by the Gorkali ruler is inscribed by Francis Bauchanan Hamilton in his book, An Account of the District of Purnea in 1809-10(pg 577). “In autumn 1809, for instances, there being at Nathpur a great demand for gain in order to send it to patna, the merchants made large advances to the farmers of Suban Saptari, where there was a good crop, and agreed to give a rupee for two mans (i.e 40kg) of rice in the husk, and for other grains in proportion. When harvest came, the Nepalese Collector issued an order that no grain should be exported, alleging that the Raja was afraid of a famine and would purchase whatever the tenantry had to spare. Large stores were erected and the grain was received; but the Raja gave only his own price, that is, one rupee for four mans (i.e 40kg) of rice, and in proportion for the other kinds. The tenantry suffered a great loss, and of course will give over cultivating more grain than they can consume. Our merchant have lost all that they have advanced; and the Raja’s profit is not likely to be great. The merchants of Nathpur have been invited to go to the stores, where they are offered the grain cheap, that is, for twice as much as it cost the Raja, but in August 1810 still declined to purchase, as their compliance would no doubt encourage the repetition of such enormities.”20 This paragraph shows that competitiveness of Saptari farmers was negatively influenced for vested interest of Gorkhali Government.

Following King PN Shah’s Dibyopadesh policy21, all the passes linking hills with Terai was closed (with thorny and Bushy vegetation), and started watching closely with army setup. In 1800’s the approval of Visa system further restricted movement of people from Terai towards Hills.22

The greedy encroachment expedition of post PN Shah era had many dispute arising from East India Company (then ruler of India). Soon the dispute of Butwal triggered the Anglo-Gurka war 1814-1816 AD. There don’t seems clear proof about which side local Teraian supported, but sources citation below indicates that Teraian was more close to British East India Company. Author W.Brook Northey in his books “The Land of the Gurkhas or The Himalayan Kingdom of Nepal” talks of “a large number of undisciplined volunteers” fighting against Gurkhas during the Anglo-Gurkha war.23 In one of the recent article, published by Conflict Study Center Kathmandu, it is stated that landlords in Madhes had supported the British during the war. They were then labeled ‘followers of British and adversary of Nepali’ and as a result many Madhes dwellers were ill-treated, tortured and punished on the charges of treason.24 The treatment of native is against the spirit of Treaty of Seogowlee presented on December 8, 1816 which states “the Rajah of Nipal agrees to refrain from prosecuting any inhabitants of the Terai, after its revertance to his rule, on account of having favoured the cause of the British Government during the war”.25 As discussed in above paragraphs, there seems a lot of dissatisfaction among Native Terian people against Gorkhali ruler, so it might have been possible that Teraian might have regarded East India Company as another better choice.

Anglo-Gorkha war and Treaty of Seogowlee seems to play another turning point in relationship of Teraian with hilly region. Teraian was split into two lands; give and take business was done among East Indian Company Government & Gorkha Government at the cost of separation of human relationship, social structure, geography of native Teraian.

After the Treaty of Seogowlee in 1816 AD, the present shape of Nepal was formalized. In the newly formed state the rulers adopted a new policy called the policy of Gorkhanisation.26 Based on new policy, Gorkhali language get promoted, Gorkhali culture get promoted, and isolation of Hills from rest of the Terian land. Kathmandu ruler gave more stringent order to block any route leading towards southern Plain land. The physical movements of Teraian people were further closely watched.27

A lot of harassments have been created since centuries for native Teraian people. Gorkhali entered into Terai territory mainly for vast unexplored wood and to exploit Teraian human resource for supplying the foods and monetary needs to fund army expedition and Gorkhalies lavishness. This is how Laurence Oliphant (1852 AD) put in his book A Journey to Katmandu (pg 93); “Ghorkhas are a handsome and independent race, priding themselves upon not being able to do anything but fight”.28

Harassment of natives was created using the marshal attitude and practice. This fact has been underlined in many of the historical references. A royal order dating back to 1780 AD, written to Fouzdars And Munsiffs in Saptari And Mahotari, confirms the extensive use of military for collecting tax from native civilian.29 Hamilton has described this as “The land-rent is collected by two Fouzdars (i.e Military Chief), one for Saptari, the other for Mahottari; but these also collected some trifling dues which have not been let with the sayer or duties on markets; for there is no regular system of finance. These dues are those on marriage (Bihadani), on contracts concubinage (Sagora), and a fine on adulterers of rupees 2-10/16 levied by the collector, besides the fine that goes to the Raja; for the man who has farmed the duties on the markets takes a part of the fine, amounting to rupees 2- 0/16.”30 A royal document (1865 AD) shows appointment of all military officers team “to realize arrears of land-tax and other revenues in the seven districts of the eastern Tarai region as well as in Chitwan”.31 James Inglis in his account “Sport and Work on the Nepaul Frontier” (1878 AD) has written “The government of Nepaul is purely military. All executive and judicial functions are carried on by military officers. With practically irresponsible power, and only answerable directly to his immediate military superior, an unscrupulous man may harry and harass a district pretty much as he chooses. Our old Major seemed to be civil and lenient, but in some districts the exactions and extortions of the rulers have driven many of the hard-working Nepaulese over the border into our territory.” 32

Another historical incidence of high importance is Indian Mutiny of 1857 AD. Tharu land was re-installed into Nepal territory after Jung Bahadur provided support (financial & army) to British Government in suppressing 1857’s Indian Mutiny. Instead, it returned 5 districts through a 1860 Treaty with Nepal. After that Jung Bahadur started treating this land as personal property, and land from original inhabitants (Tharu) were consfiscited. And as a result of this, kamaiya tradition was started with the same set of Tharu people.33 This was the age of Rana supremacy in Nepal.

Selective tax regulation and inclusive in governance seems to be of more pain to Teraian. Based on Dibyopedesh, Teraian found neglected in Governance Structure. Many unnecessary taxes were collected from Teraian, like tax on Marriage tax, tax on death, tax for building temple in kathmandu, and etc. Taxes rate were inflated many times. Fauzdar was deployed to collect taxes. Land was confiscated, if people were unable to pay taxes. The confiscated land was mainly given to the Hilly people close to rulers for their service in maintaining rule in Terai. “Naya Muluk Bandobast Adda” for western Tharu land “Madhesh bandobast adda” for rest teraian land were constituted, with different set of laws, rules & regulation, to monitor Teraian districts since Bir Shumshere Rana time.

Post Rana rules also didn’t come as a relief to Teraian. In 1955 AD, “The Terai General Administration Act (Madhesh Goswara Ain)” regulations were formulated separately for Teraian, and General Administration Act 1957 for Hilly region.34 Late Mr. B.P. Koirala was the first Home Minister of Nepal in 1951 AD. Post Rana rule, there was a major strategic change in the way Terai was being treated from Hill side. Terai was now seen not only as remittance and resource center, but also as a potential habitation center and opportunity generating land for people of hill origin. The fear of malaria infected Terai was removed with the beginning of 1960’s. In the name of land reform, Nepal Government confiscated lands from Teraian farmers by imposing ceiling in 1964 AD.35 These lands were being used to settle batch of migrants from Hills.

Mass migration from hill towards Terai was state sponsored under the project named Rapti valley Project (1955 AD)36 and Jhapa-Kanchanpur-Nawalparashi rehabilitation project (1964 AD)37. Two-third of total migration happened between 60’s and 70’s under King Mahendra’s direction.38 Jungle was cleared to facilitate migration. Hilly people were also being settled near Indo-Nepal border land.39 Hilly ethnic people from Burma, Assam, Bhutan, Sikkim were also given accommodation through these settlement project, but native madhesis got neglected.40 This process was termed as the “Paharization of the Tarai” by N. R. Shrestha in his book “Landlessness and Migration in Nepal”. To make this drive more impact full, some other initiatives were also taken simultaneously.

Introduction of Citizenship Act (First time in 1952 AD), Imposition of Nepali as sole language for education in Tarai and closure of Hindi medium of instruction and in radio broadcasting (1957), New Citizenship Act based on 1962 Panchayat constitution (1964).41 Citizenship act (1964) clearly mentions different set of eligibility criteria for teraian people and mandatory fluency in Nepali language, making it next to impossible for teraian.42 In 1965, Radio programs broadcasted in Nepali, Newari and Hindi was converted to either Nepali or English.43

After democracy installation post 1990’s, there was another form of voices coming against madhesi. One of the PM openly said in the public gathering that Teraian is not eligible for Army post.44 After Janandolan-II, the promise of federalism was neglected and couldn’t find mention in the first edition of Interim constitution. As a result of which, just a day after passing the Interim constitution, in Jan 2006, the protest broke from Teraian people. Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (MJF) initiated a movement demanding for Constituent Assembly (CA) election with proportional electorate system, autonomy to entire Madhes region, provide citizenship certificate to all Madhesi without discrimination, establishment of regional autonomous governance system including right to self-determination, etc and burnt the Interim Constitution on Jan 16, 2007.45

Government arrested 28 of these protesters, which further escalated country side protest. A teraian boy was killed in protest on Jan 19, 2007 in Lahan,46 and which further sparked protest from millions of teraian people, taking massive form of “First Madhesi Movement on street”. After second address by PM on national media (9th Feb), promising fulfillment of demands, the people suspended the movement.47 The Madhesi movement protest on the street which ended for 21 days saw 42 teraian killing48 and 1,951 injuries49 from the hands of pahari state machinery. Since then sporadic protest is continuously happening till date. Pahari dominated media is charged of neglecting news during madhesi movement.50 Pahari dominated Human Right organization is charged of partial treatment of madhesi complains during madhesi movement. On pressure from MPRF, government reached as agreement with MPRF on 23 point agenda, including declaration of autonomy, and compensation for movement victims.51 The pahari dominated state police is charged of using excessive force during madhesi movement.52 The status of implementation of agreement between MPRF and Nepal Govt is so far negligible, and problems remain as it is.

The UNMIN in latest report presented on Jan 23, 2008 wrote “agreement had not satisfied the Madhesis, Janajatis and Dalits, and other marginalized groups. Political leaders were now trying to find an acceptable balance between ensuring inclusion and representation in the election, and not prejudging the prerogatives of the Constituent Assembly.” PM GP Koirala too underlined during the election  ampaigning phase that madhesi demand is yet to be fulfilled “The onus lies on me to fulfill all your demands and I’ll fulfill them if they only say that they will take part in the elections”.53 But GP Koirala statement doesn’t explain how implementation of past agreement is constraint byelection?

1 http://www.infoclub.com.np/nepal/history/history_unification.htm

2 Balchanda Sharma, Kathmandu Uptyaka ko ek Banshabali, Ancient Nepal, Number 6, 1969, pp 13


3 Surya Bikram Gnyawali, Prithvi Narayan Shah’s Conquest Of Nepal, Regmi Research Series, Year 6, No 1, 1974, pp 9

4 Baburam Acharya, Annexation Of The Malla Kingdoms, Regmi Research Series, Year 5, No 3, 1973, pp 57

5 Balchanda Sharma, 1969, pp 15

6 http://samudaya.org/articles/archives/2005/07/dibyopadesh.php

7 Francis Buchanan Hamilton, An account of Kingdom of Nepal, 1819 AD

8 Dr Rajaram Subedi, Makwanpur Rajya, Ancient Nepal, Number 147, June 2001

9 Francis Buchanan Hamilton, An account of Kingdom of Nepal, 1819 AD

10 Dr. Ludwig F Stiller S.J, The Role of Fear in the Unification of Nepal, CNAS, Volume I, No 2, 1974, pp

– 21 http://www.thdl.org/texts/reprints/contributions/CNAS_01_02_04.pdf

11 http://samudaya.org/articles/archives/2005/07/dibyopadesh.php

12 Mahesh Chandra Regmi, Fiscal Policy of King Prithvi Narayan Shah, Regmi Research Series, Year 14, No. 8, 1982, pp – 121

13 Francis Bauchanan Hamilton, An Account of the District of Purnea in 1809-10, pp-257

14 Saptari and Mahottari Affairs, A.D. 1810-11, Regmi Research Series, Year 14, No. 8, 1982, pp – 124

15 Saptari and Mahottari Affairs, A.D. 1810-11, Regmi Research Series, Year 14, No. 8, 1982, pp – 128

16 Fouzdars And Munsiffs In Saptari And Mahotari, Regmi Research Series, Year 4, No. 9, 1972, pp – 168

17 Bara, Parsa, and Rautahat in A.D. 1810, Regmi Research Series, Year 10, No. 4, 1979, pp – 52

18 Bara, Parsa, and Rautahat in A.D. 1810, Regmi Research Series, Year 10, No. 3, 1979, pp – 35

19 W.Brook Northey, Land of the Gurkhas OR The Himalayan Kingdom of Nepal, 1937, pp – 57

20 Francis Bauchanan Hamilton, An Account of the District of Purnea in 1809-10, pp-57721 http://samudaya.org/articles/archives/2005/07/dibyopadesh.php

22 Regmi Research Collection, Vol. 24, pp. 50-56

23 W.Brook Northey, Land of the Gurkhas OR The Himalayan Kingdom of Nepal, 1937, pp – 58

24 Madhes Violence: The Identity Clash in Nepal, Conflict Study Center, kathmandu, Situation Update 24, Jan 2007

25 C.U Aitchison, A collection of Treaties, Engagements,and Sunnuds, 1863, pp-207

26 Tulasī Rāma Vaidya, 1992 AD, Nepal: A Study of Socio-economic and Political Change, 1992, pp.171

27 Regmi Research Collection, Vol. 36, pp. 343-44

28 Laurence Oliphant,A Journey to Katmandu, 1852, pp-93

29 Regmi Research Collections, Vol. 5, P. 596

30 Francis Buchanan Hamilton, An account of Kingdom of Nepal, 1819 AD, Page 150-151

31 Regmi Research Series, Year 17, No. 1-2, 1985, pp – 25

32 James Inglis, Sport and Work on the Nepaul Frontier, 1878, pp 217

33 Mahesh Chaudhary, Pre-history about Dang valley and Tharu in generous People,


34 http://www.moha.gov.np/about.html, retrieved on 03-Feb 2008

35 Poshendra Satyal Pravat, Keela University, A History of Forest Politics in the Terai, Nepal: A Case of Equity or Ecology? 2006/3/6


37 Chetan Adhikari, Uttar ra Dakshin ko Dabab ma Madhes, Feb 2007,


38 Chetan Adhikari, Feb 2007

39 CK Lal, Jan 2007, http://nepalitimes.com/issue/382/StateoftheState/14356

40 Chetan Adhikari, Feb 2007

41 International Crisis Group, Nepal’s Troubled Tarai Region, July 2007, pp 38

42 Ali Riaz, Ālī Rīyāja, Subho Basu; Paradise Lost?: State Failure in Nepal; 2007, pp 85

43 Urmila Phadnis and Rajat Ganguly, Ethnicity and Nation-Building in South Asia, 2001, pp 189

44 CK lal, madheshi mudda ko rastriyakaran, http://www.nepalihimal.com/2063/paush-1-15/bishleshan_madhesi.html

45 Dr. Bishnu Pathak and Chitra Niraula, Conflict Study Center Kathmandu, Situation update 25, Feb 2007

46 http://www.kantipuronline.com/kolnews.php?&nid=97991

47 Dr. Bishnu Pathak and Chitra Niraula, Conflict Study Center Kathmandu, Situation update 25, Feb 2007

48 Interview Hridayesh Tripathi, Dec 2007, http://www.kantipuronline.com/interview.php?&nid=131373



50 Indra Adhikari, Media not objective, impartial towards Terai movement, Aug 2007,  http://www.nepalnews.com/

51 http://www.peace.gov.np/admin/doc/Madhesi.doc

52 http://kantipuronline.com/kolnews.php?&nid=127711

53 http://www.kantipuronline.com/kolnews.php?nid=135747

Source: http://drdivas.wordpress.com/2008/07/12/origin-of-madhesi-voice-a-glance-on-historical-chapterspart-i/

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