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Asian Centre For Human Rights, 2009

full report: pdf

One of the least reported, but most significant changes in Nepali politics since the 2006 People’s Movement is the emergence of the ‘Madhes’ as a political force. With the opening of the democratic space, the Madhesis, who largely but not exclusively live in the southern plains and constitute 33 percent of the population1, asserted themselves. The Madhes speak languages like Maithili, Bhojpuri, Awadhi, Hindi and Urdu2 and have extensive cross-border ties with India3. They challenged the hill-centric notion of Nepali nationalism and staked claim for greater representation in the state structure.4 After a period of two and a half volatile years which has seen the repeated formation and fragmentation of Madhesi parties, the proliferation of militant armed groups in the Tarai, and reluctant measures by Kathmandu to share power, Madhesi politics is once again at the cross-roads. The ouster of the Maoist government in May 2009 and the subsequent formation of the Madhav Nepal led coalition government was accompanied by striking changes in political alignments in Tarai. The biggest Madhesi party, Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (MJF) led by Upendra Yadav, split into two factions – with one supporting the government and the other out in the opposition.5 The split was driven by personality-centered as well as ideological issues. The Tarai Madhes Loktantrik Party (TMLP), which had stayed out of the Maoist government and even announced an agitation in the Tarai, has now become a participant in the ruling dispensation. The Sadbhavana Party continues to occupy one ministerial portfolio. These three Madhesi parties were critical in helping Madhav Nepal form a majority government. Even now, if two of these parties withdraw support, the coalition runs the risk of losing the confidence vote on the floor of the house.6 All these parties have come together on an anti-Maoist
plank, sharing the belief that the Maoists must be stopped in their quest for ‘total state capture’. They have termed the alliance as a broader democratic alliance. But it is riddled with internal contradictions.

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