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JOHN NARAYAN PARAJULI in MAHOTTRI


The only people who say elections can't be held in the terai are looking for an excuse to defer polls again. That is the prevalent feeling in the madhes.

The plains may be ravaged by floods and communal extremism, but the situation didn't seem as precarious as it is made out to be in the Kathmandu press.

"The elections are possible, I now have my citizenship papers and I'm ready to vote," says Behsan Mukhiya, a Janakpur rickshaw puller.

The Election Commission is in place, and UNMIN observers have arrived. "We are ready," says Janak Karna of the Election Commission's Dhanusha unit, who is starting a voters' education program 18 August-18 October. "But none of the parties have come to ask us about procedures."

Local politicians say the floods have delayed things but they intend to plunge headlong into campaigning once relief operations are over. Aid agencies are worried about the difficulty in getting aid to submerged VDCs because of local political interference. (See p8-9)

Indeed, the lack of flood relief is of more serious concern at present than security. "Sure there is a climate of fear," says Janakpur resident Hari Katwal, "but it's not as bad as it is portrayed in the news."

Only well-off pahadis are leaving the tarai, Katuwal says, others aren't. Janakpur municipality has a population of about 105,000 of which roughly 22,000 are of hill origin. Local officials say most of them have no intention of going anywhere.

"The high-profile kidnappings and assassinations of pahades makes the militant groups look stronger than they actually are," says a security officer. Threats are made by phone but many have defied them and stayed on without consequences.

"There is no communal animosity between the two communities," insists the UML's Jha. Local police confirm this, but say they haven't been able to act on criminal gangs with links to militant groups because Kathmandu doesn't give them the authority or werewithal.

Even those who were sceptical about elections being held in November said repolling or phased voting may be required in Siraha and Saptari. Despite the highway blockades, violence, and floods, the tarai seems more eager to vote than people in Kathmandu.

Realated Articles
. Split personality
. Mainly in the plains
. Fleeing the flood
. After the deluge
. Classroom No. 9



LATEST ISSUE
638
(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)


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