We are into the fifth year of the first Madhes uprising and if Girija Prasad Koirala was alive, he would have looked back and admitted his failure to gauge local sentiment cost this nation dearly. The estrangement of Nepali politics with the Madhes outlived him.
This week when Minister JP Gupta warned about severing ties with the state, it drew howls of protests. But he was not speaking his own mind, he was echoing the larger sentiment across the Tarai. If lawlessness, refusal to recognise the Madhesi identity and suspicious eyes of Kathmandu's hill establishment were not enough, state apathy towards the misery faced by the Madhesi people has pushed this constituency towards the tipping point.
The power struggle in Kathmandu makes headlines everyday, but this is in shameful contrast to how little people in the capital are aware of the woes of those living in the plains. There are hundreds of villages across 20 districts of the Madhes with no roads. There are villages right on the East West Highway that are not on the national grid. Few have drinking water and sanitation. Thousands of Madhesi youths have been denied education, and those who have gone to schools don't have jobs because they can't prove they belong to this land. Hundreds languish in jails, guilty or innocent, with no legal remedy because 'officially' they don't exist. With no hope for a better future, many have migrated or resort to cross-border crime.
Many in eastern Tarai froze to death this winter. But the fatalities were reduced to statistics in the media, the numbers masked the glaring ostracisation of a people who don't count because they are dirt poor. There is a gathering storm over the Madhes and choosing not to see will not wish it away. The Madhesi Janadhikar Forum, which led the first and the second Madhes uprising has since disintegrated into three factions and there is a political vacuum in the Tarai. Public opinion polls have shown that the Tarai people are as disillusioned with their own leaders as the traditional rulers in Kathmandu.
Madhesi leaders including Gupta are themselves facing corruption charges and there is seething anger that in spite of being in power for most of the period since CA elections, Madhesi parties have done little to improve the lives of those they claim to represent.
Rajkishor Yadav of MJF-Republic admitted to me: "The political leadership including those in Madhesi parties have failed to even symbolically integrate Madhes with the Nepali state." While thousands of Maoist combatants are being integrated in the army as a political compromise, the state failed to appease Madhesis with even a symbolic gesture. The unreasonable delay in the implementation of the Inclusion Bill by the Public Service Commission is another case in point.
For a while, the fact that the president and vice-president were Madhesi diminished the anger in the plains, but many still see Nepali nationalism defined by the traditional Kathmandu rulers in daura suruwal. The humiliation of being called a traitor in your own land is something 65 percent of the population will never understand.
The burden of statelessness and exclusion is at the heart of the demand for 'One Madhes'. Leaders like Yadav admit that the Madhes may be embroiled in resource conflict with upstream provinces in a future federalist structure, but they find identity more important in the here and now.
The fault lines of ethnic politics are real and the bigger parties are faced with twin challenges of balancing issues of identity with maintaining social harmony. It may be relatively easy to address the demands of the agitating hill ethnic groups by ensuring radical changes in the state structure that grants autonomy.
But the real challenge is still what it was three years ago: can Kathmandu convince half this country's population which lives in the plains that they are not second-class citizens?
What's with the numbers? What is 65%, what is "half the country's population?"
That's why I say: a basic requirement for journalists should be some understanding of math and sciences. The total population of Terai is about half of the total population, but ethnically this population is a mix of Hill people and plain people. The actual proportion of plain people is somewhere around 33%.
Before commenting on anything that says that hill people dont understand the plain, understand that the plain people also do not understand the fear hill people have of being outnumbered in their land. Statistics and lies like this help.
10 FEB 2012 | 12:49 PM NST
2. who cares
ok ok lets give 100 million more from south nepali citizenship and then you can proudly call your self, "I come from the proud land known as bollywood".
10 FEB 2012 | 2:04 PM NST
3. who cares
by the way, should i warn NT for publishing this kind of column?
should i make threat to kunda dixit for hiring this columnist?
10 FEB 2012 | 2:06 PM NST
4. who cares
tell them go back to where they came from. and they dont have to complain about being second class citizen.
nepalese born too complain of being second class in indian airports, in US, europe. some students are kicked back from UK.
why dont you fight for their equal right, hum?
may be some day we would be able to call newyork "Little Nepal", london- "Kantipur away from kantipur", pairs "new nepal".
trying to be over smart with I.
10 FEB 2012 | 2:11 PM NST
5. who cares
nationalists out there, its time to demand investigation on "who are nepalese and who took nepali citizenship fraudulently".
10 FEB 2012 | 2:13 PM NST
6. we care
who cares really needs a job to occupy his mind. the hatred that he spews all over this space, week in week out, makes him more of a traitor! what's your problem in life? a lot of citizenships were given away without proper verification due to our leaders' love of money, but the concerns of the Madeshi people is real and you can't get away everytime by calling them traitors or Indians or fakes. maybe 10 out of 100 people living in the Madesh got their citizenship through fraud, but what about the remaining 90 'authentic' red blooded Nepalis. should we say do hell with them. with people like you in the country and in positions of leadership, i wouldn't be surprised if Madesh breaks off in the future.
10 FEB 2012 | 3:06 PM NST
7. we care
i think i speak on behalf of many NT patrons when i say this, i think it is time to block off who cares and his rotten attacks. we don't need him.
10 FEB 2012 | 3:10 PM NST
8. Dipendra Bahadur Basnet
Both " who cares and jange, " they suck. I agree with no. 6 we care, - that both these idiots need to take a step back. Both of them only spew hatred. Both of them are holier than all the others. NT, its disgusting that you publish such filthy commnets day in and day out from these 2 low lifes. It's not people of Madesh, but the leaders of NC, UML and Maoist that need to be really punished. The Koiralas are the biggest chamchas of India, they have sold Nepal over and over again to the Indians. Makuuney also deserves to thrown out, along with Deuba and Baburam and Pushpa K and Jhala Nath. These are the real criminals of Nepal. We need a Syrian or Eygptian style revolution to overthrow of these traitors of Nepal. We need to close the Indian Embassy in Nepal. Unless and until we get rid of the Indians, Nepal will never prosper. You can take that to Rastra Bank.
10 FEB 2012 | 7:34 PM NST
As much as #8 hates 'who cares' and 'jange', he has fallen into the same trap of blaming the Indians for all our troubles and inability to get out of this rut. yes yes, it's true our southern neighbours have meddled with our internal politics and have many times made decisions that has harmed Nepal. but this is also OUR OWN fault. since we have zero political and economic stability, we are absolutely voiceless on the international front. no one cares what Nepal thinks or wants. and having gundaa, spineless netas has worsened the situation. so let's stop spewing hatred agains our own people (Madhesis) or our bigger, more powerful neighbours. not going to help.
10 FEB 2012 | 8:34 PM NST
Just want to second the sentiment expressed by Dipendra Bahadur Basnet............I feel it too. Girja Koirala, ex King G and Pushpa Kamal - they all had the power to change a lot for Nepal.....all of them f***** it all up.
We will need another revolution - either Nepali spring, summer or winter.........to possibily get somewhere........
10 FEB 2012 | 10:37 PM NST
Well, if you give importance to useless comments and ignore rational ones like #1, wouldn't that encourage people to post more of hate-comments?
Btw, it is upto NT to block comments that do not fit their policy, but I'd suggest getting more creative than relying on blocking. You can implement up-votes and down-votes in comments (like facebook likes) and make comments with most down-votes be hidden by default. Do not encourage censorship on the internet, be creative and exploit the medium to achieve your ends.
10 FEB 2012 | 11:10 PM NST
12. we care
Bibek, I like your idea of up-vote and down-vote. and I wasn't necessarily calling for heavy censorship. But sometimes it gets really frustrating when certain commentators spam the entire website with bigoted or hate filled or irrelevant posts rather than criticising or praising or even just having a simple discussion about the topic(s) covered in the article. "do i agree with the writer? do i disagree? why? what alternatives can I put forward?" i think if we answered these questions we could use the comments section for more rational and focused discussions which would benefit all of us other readers.
But this is not only a problem in NT or in Nepal. People all over the world love to go off on random tangents, write page long rants and hate messages. It's everywhere - on youtube, on CNN's website, on BBC's facebook page. And the ease with which we can all hide behind anonymous identities (myself included) makes the situation worse. More comments like #1 and less of the rest would make this world a better place.
10 FEB 2012 | 12:03 AM NST
The real culprits in Nepal are those , who started to spread hatred against King Prithvi Narayan Shah,who united and founded the country. They are the traitors.In building of the nation ,like in a revolution; "weshould first know,who are our friends and who are our enemies ." Let us organize PrithviSena or some volunteer organization in his name first and foremost in order to correct"the mistaken idea in the party."( with apology to Chairman Mao). The country will disintegrate if these racially inspired buggers don.t correct themselves.
10 FEB 2012 | 4:30 AM NST
14. Statistician -2
#1 Statistician. The population of the 20 Southern districts of tarai is about say 50 % of the country. The Hill- Mountain folks called the Pahadis are 36 % in the Tarai,(including the two Bhitri-Madhes districts of Chitwan and Dang.) The population of Tharus and Muslims in the Tarai is 22 %. So the real Madhise comprize of 42 % of the Tarai . (That means 64 -22= 42 %) So Real Madhesi population in the country is half of that i.e.21 %. This comprizesof the total of Tarai Upper castes + Tarai Dalits + Tarai Ethnics+ others. So according to the 2001 census,Madhesis are 21% only. This is thumb rule method-wise.
10 FEB 2012 | 4:30 AM NST
15. Tapan Das
Jai Prakash Gupt is facing corruption case. The verdict must have been given by now.
Why is the delay? Who is the power behind that is influencing the verdict? Internal? No. External ?Yes.Definitely. Justice delayed is justice denied or not. So is the case with Rajendra Mahato. Implicate these corrupt political goondas/dadas and save the nation. Tarai or Madhes has plenty of good persons who can lead the country and save this nation in trouble,because of these rogues.
11 FEB 2012 | 10:39 AM NST
#12, What is your problem with anonymous identity? If I post with an imaginary but real sounding name like "Narayan Shrestha," will that be ok to you because you are stupid enough to think it is not anonymous? This is not hiding- this is how the internet works- if you don't like it, you should disallow comments on your writing or not write on online medium at all. You seem to have a liking for authoritarian systems and maybe you'll say the general elections should also disallow "hiding" too, meaning that everyone has to cast their vote out in the open.
And, if you write shitty pieces like this, you should get shitty comments. What is your reply to comments #1, #13 and #14?
As long as the corrupt Madheshi leaders hold the Madheshi people hostage and blackmail benefits out of the state, with threats like "severing ties" or "disintegrating," do not expect the Hill people to relax and be open about them? They are afraid of course, and at the lack of viable alternative leadership in the Terai, this seems to continue. This is true not just for the Terai, lack of a good alternative has also made the Hill people helpless. Do you think most of the people care about if we have a president or a parliament, if we have king or the maoist? No, they want food, development, employment first. The Terai issue is about respect, recognition and acceptance first. Are their leaders doing anything to achieve that?
Also, what's with the citizenship thing? How can every 2-3 million people be without citizenship every 3-4 years? They distributed massive number of citizenship cards just before the CA election, some a little before that too. Now they are saying another 3-4 million people need citizenship cards. How is this possible? And do you think Hill people should just sit, smile and clap at this?
They won't. And blocking commenters will just make you feel they have, but then there's no cure for stupidity.
11 FEB 2012 | 12:44 PM NST
17. we care
#16. the only problem i have with being anonymous is it becomes so easy for me to write "i hate the people of tarai, they are all indians, they are ugly, they are sucking our system, let's throw them out" and other such biased and baseless claims. if giving our real identity was mandatory, i would think 10 times before posting such crap and maybe it would force me to use my brains a little and make more relavant observations like "How can every 2-3 million people be without citizenship every 3-4 years?" or question the reliabity/usefullness of statistics like some of the commentators above have done.
11 FEB 2012 | 4:52 PM NST
I agree with the columnist. Despite some flaws in his statistics, his main message is right on. Madhesh justifiably feels estranged from the country, and we need to work hard to make them feel like us. There are two aspects of this problem:
1. The Madhesi parties haven't done their jobs. Any Madhesi who looks at them must feel pretty depressing. Like the columnist pointed out, the Madhesis are president, vp, major ministers including vice PM, and there is really no one who should be fulfilling their demand. Why Madhesi ministers not working enough to uplift the districts they look after is beyond me.
2. Pahadiyas need to get rid of this "they came from south and got citizenship" mentality. I mean, come on, guys, you don't really know. We are also talking about people who are dying of cold in cold wave in Madhesh, and more likely these people are the ones trapped in poverty here since generations. Mithila has a long history; these people are bright people and has a proud history, and they have very old connection with the hilly states, so they are justified in being aggrieved.
3. However, there is one more part that doesn't make sense. Why Madhesh needs bigger state? How come an identity fight assumes a bigger name (Madhesh), when people in Madhesh are different from each other? Madhesi leaders themselves need to respect the heterogeneity. When they say it is "fight for identity", it looks fairly contrived argument to me. The fight is "for equity", for "more shares in national decision making"--and not for identity. The demand for identity is vague, and will work as a centrifugal force, and nothing more.
11 FEB 2012 | 9:33 PM NST
19. Vikash Lama
This columnist is spreading communal conflict. Some selfish Madhesi leaders are playing with the sentiment of innocent madhesi people to grab their votes only. It is not the crisis of identity, it is the greed for power and money of Madhesi Leaders. In Nepal, where is not poverty? why only talk about Madhes? To-days problem is invited by Madhes Andolan, regarding state restructuring and federal system. GPKoirala had done great mistake, other leaders are also equally responsible for this chaos. In the name of federal state and restructuring we are losing this beautiful country. I am sorry to say that most, if not all Madhesi Leaders are spoke-person of South Block, New Delhi.
12 FEB 2012 | 12:06 PM NST
#16 Yoo Shit is not shit ,only something put in the wrong place.
12 FEB 2012 | 2:14 AM NST
Experience proves that empowering the Madhesi politicians has not empowered the Madhesi people,and this is true for other communities as well.
The politicians want to hide all their failures and their corruption behind slogans, and by inciting the people to focus only on ethnic issues,as though that is the main problem faced by the people, and not the lack of jobs,security, water,electricity and list can go on.
The politicians primary aim is to be ministers and enrich themselves-those who cannot be ministers in Kathmandu want to be ministers in the manynew federal states that they envision, all at taxpayers cost.
It is understandable that people all over the country,not only Madhesis,are getting more angry at the political leadership, by their inability to focus on the problems of the people.
So,if there is going to be a storm it will be not because ofethnic reasons,but because even the basic needs of the people are not being addressed by the politicians .And it will be a much bigger storm than that envisioned by this writer, one that will engulf the entire country.
13 FEB 2012 | 9:19 AM NST
"There are hundreds of villages across 20 districts of the Madhes with no roads. There are villages right on the East West Highway that are not on the national grid. Few have drinking water and sanitation."
I think the same can be said about villages in the hills aswell.These are national issues not regional .if thats the reason for severing ties with the state,then do you think the villages in the hills should also severe their ties with state and merge with india.
"But the real challenge is still what it was three years ago: can Kathmandu convince half this country's population which lives in the plains that they are not second-class citizens?"
how do you propose we do that?arent madhesis getting equal privileges (if not more) in Nepal these days?if the situation was like you write it ,then how would both the president and vice-president be madhesis?
"Thousands of Madhesi youths have been denied education, and those who have gone to schools don't have jobs because they can't prove they belong to this land"
what????now its getting funny.do u urself even believe this?
Writing articles like this will only help widen the gap between the "pahadis"and "madhesis".and you my friend will also have palyed your role in it.
13 FEB 2012 | 5:35 PM NST
23. Soni But the real challenge is still what it was three years ago: can Kathmandu convince half this country's population which lives in the plains that they are not second-class citizens?
Can Kathmandu-based publications convince this country's population living everywhere that they won't continue to make a mickey out of citizens by writing ridiculous pieces based on imagination.
The whole country is bleeding because of this country's intellectual's idiotic notions!!
Somebody says that the cause of backwardness is this country's "ancestral religion", a hill high caste elite descendant blames hill high caste elite descendants of being selfish when they oppose a hill high caste privileged children's atrocities.
Everybody appears to be frantically offloading their bile in public through newspapers owned by their pals. There has to be a limit to this nonsense. Surely.
Being a Madhesi, I assure you that your Pahari pitying is a useless waste of time. Just hear the "Netas" delivering their silly little rants at the Neta chowk's in this plains and it will send a shiver down your spine, unless of course you are one of the intellectuals of this country, in which case you might sympathize with your bile oozing comrades.