TALE OF TWO CITIES: Protests in Janakpur last month over the relocation of a tax
A politicised dispute over the supposed relocation of a tax office in Mahottari has widened the rift between Madhesi and Pahadi people and threatens to re-ignite hills vs plains tension in the eastern Tarai.
The Internal Revenue Department says it had no intention of relocating the tax office from Janakpur to Bardibas, it was just trying to open a sub-office along the East-West Highway. However, Madhesi political parties enforced a shutdown in Janakpur last month in protest.
The government backtracked, and this led to a counter-shutdown of the East-West Highway in Bardibas by people of hill origin, many of whom were forced out of areas further south during the Madhes movement in 2007.
The agitation shows no sign of subsiding and the Madhesi parties have closed down Jaleswor for nearly three weeks now. It says much about the Kathmandu media that the Jaleswor shutdown has got almost no coverage in the national newspapers.
"Instead of trying to bring the hills and plains people together, the political parties are trying to widen the divide between them and spread fear and suspicion," says Birganj-based intellectual, Binod Gupta.
Five years after the Madhes movement, people from the plains have got increased representation in the Constituent Assembly, the president and vice-president are Madhesis and the current coalition has senior Madhesi figures as ministers. However, the lack of development and the continued marginalisation of the eastern Tarai has fed frustration here.
On top of that, there is growing animosity among people of hill origin who were forced to sell their property and homes for a pittance and pressurised to move out.
A counter protest in Bardibas after the government cancelled the relocation. As it turned out the office was not being relocated after all, and a sub-office was being opened.
Madhesi dissatisfaction has also been fuelled by both contesting proposals submitted by the State Restructuring Commission that divided the Madhes into two provinces. While the CA mulls the issue of federalism, the hardening rhetoric of Madhesi leaders in the last few weeks indicates which way the wind is blowing.
At a function organised to observe the fifth anniversary of Madhes uprising in Kathmandu last week, the Madhesi leaders and intellectuals made a grim assessment of the last five years. While political access to the power centres of Kathmandu has increased, the lives of common Madhesis have actually become worse.
There is speculation that prominent leaders of the Madhesi parties who are facing corruption charges, or have been jailed for kidnapping, are using the race card to put pressure on the state.
Madhesi leaders know they can use hardline rhetoric to mobilise anger in the Tarai over issues like the inclusion bill which is in limbo. Madhesis still do not feel Kathmandu gives them enough respect and their fight is for acceptance and inclusion, not for isolation and an exclusive identity.
JP Gupta's statement that Madhesis will sever their ties with the state in the near future got him a sharp reprimand from none other than President Ram Baran Yadav, himself a Madhesi. Sarat Singh Bhandari had to resign when he suggested secession, and Education Minister Rajendra Mahato was greeted with howls of protests in Kathmandu when he threatened to blockade the capital.
The credibility of Madhesi leaders holding influential positions in the government for most of the last five years has taken a battering. They were busy forging passports, extorting businessmen and looting state coffers while the condition of the people in Madhes went from bad to worse.
The 'anti-Madhes' posture of the mainstream media and political elites puts off many moderate Madhesis and their voice is now sorely missed. As a result, the field is wide open for anyone spewing hate. Feeding all this is growing unemployment and the lack of opportunities for Madhesi youth. Criminalisation of politics has added further fuel to the fire. Unless the discontent on the streets gets a political voice and attention of the state, the Madhes is only waiting for a spark. The Tarai is tinder dry.
Navin Jha is a reporter with Himal Khabarpatrika.
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Have i missed something.....has there been more development in the hilly and mountainous part of Nepal than in the terai region? I just dont get it. Are hilly people have more employment opportunities? Except for the blood sucking, corrupt and criminal politicians...can anyone tell for which race is this god damned country good for? Are we not all being indiscriminately screwed by the politicians? Is it fair to say that the development should now focus more on Terai and they should be given priority? Have the terai people who complain about terai being neglected, even been to a hill? Man, everyone is so twisted.
17 FEB 2012 | 12:21 PM NST
2. who cares
one of the reasons nepal is backward is cause we have to feed, give jobs, provide free education, healthcare and many other services freely to millions of foreigners.
countries like US, europeans, japan, korea etc have controlled plan regarding accepting foreigners, but in our country, foreigners come when ever they want, and still curse us, complain, threaten and what not... just like this column.
let's calculate the real no of nepalis who are truely nepali, living in nepal since unification or those who got nepali citizenship legally,without using threat, or by force from regional power or corruption and cheating. and revoke the citizen of those who are not nepalese.
unless we identify real nepalis, those who are not should be barred from any right meant for nepali only.
17 FEB 2012 | 4:08 PM NST
3. K. K. Sharma
@ # 2.
Just give power to the Madhesi, who have been living in the Terai since the time of King Janak, and Gautam Buddha, then they will sort out who are the foreigners and who are not in no time. The hill people cannot know the difference. And in spite of their incapacity, still do not want to give power to the Nepali Madhesis.
Also what was the nationality of the Indians of Nepali origin, like B. P. and G.P. Koiralas, or K. P Bhattarai with their respective names in the voters' list in India. Or of the many of those from North of West Bengal. Naturally, the hill Nepalis cannot know the difference.
17 FEB 2012 | 11:40 PM NST
4. Chandra Sharma
I simply don't understand what the more than 1/2 madhesi ministers , 1 vp, 1 president are doing now. Madhesis should wake up and stop complaining now. Madhesi intellectuals like CK Lal or Tul Shah now routinely back discredited politicians like JP Gupta and curse Pahadiyas for no reason, which is a real shame.
and @3, for your information, BP, GP were in India because their father was expelled from Nepal. You don't understand a family's history and their struggle for equality for all men and women in Nepal, then you better shut up.
18 FEB 2012 | 5:55 AM NST
5. Suedip joshi
@2, My fellow Nepalese Brother/Sister, let us not ashame each other trying to figure out who is more nepalese or whatsoever. Irrespective of which part of country we live in, let us be proud of being a Nepalese. It is only ignorance and stupidity to proclaim another fellow Nepalese a foreigner.
@kk sharma, i wonder on what basis would you compete that the madhes is more capacitated than the hill dwellers? What more would madhesh need than such a wide political representation. The problem of Madhesh's underdevelopment is the underlying corruption and political hegemony in control of elite upper class minority. Madhesh has largely failed not because of hill dwellers but due to the power hungry, immoral , corrupt and half wit leaders of the same region. If Madhesh has to blame anyone, blame yourself against the unresponsive, corrupt and unaccountable representatives they have in state institutions and politics. The real revolution madhes needs to undertake is to curb its own intrinsic loopholes.
Having said all these, by no means i commend that the rest part of nepal is better off, but it is simply unacceptable to blame others and find a scapegoat.
18 FEB 2012 | 10:07 AM NST
Strange piece. Since the madhesh movement there has been successive governments in which those leaders have held key positions and yet they've failed to address the demands of the region. There have been people who have been in every governments since and yet all they have done is to blame the hill establishments for failing to deliver what they'd promised. Madhesi leaders need to look at themselves before asking questions about inclusiveness. However, the lack of development and the continued marginalisation of the eastern Tarai has fed frustration here. Either I'm seriously unaware of the situations in eastern terai or the writer has made a mistake. If the population density and the number of high profile industries present in Eastern terai is anything to go by, it is the most developed part of the country after kathmandu.
And the calls for a one unified terai-madhes? Wasn't the Terai movement intended to end the centralized government and establish a more accountable and efficient state governments? Then who's to guarantee there wont be another centralized government in terai itself say in place like Birgunj or Biratnagar? Are we gonna have movements and revolutions for the rest of our lives?
Everyone knows that change is required in the country regarding inclusiveness and equality but it's these repeated cries for movments that fuel communal tensions.
18 FEB 2012 | 6:41 PM NST
7. boy next door
completely agrees with sudeep joshi .....lets unite , respect each other and work for the country. madhesi shouldnot justify corruption and abuse of authority by ""madhesi politician"" just because he is a madhesi.so just dont fall in the trap by politicians
18 FEB 2012 | 8:43 PM NST
8. Rajaram Singh
It is the duty of the genuine madhesi citizens to point out those intruders from south of the border who have taken false citizenship certificates. It will happen sooner or later. We have to be careful, as some vote bank politicians will try to exploit the settlers from India for getting votes from them, It has happened with the Bangaladesi refuges in the past.in Nepal also in the Panchayat days. We must take lesson from the happenings in West Bengal and Assam where there is a large influx of refuges from Bangaladesh and unpatriotic vote bankers have exploited there votes for power during elections. .
19 FEB 2012 | 5:42 AM NST
9. who cares
3&5 and others#
a few days ago, a minister from foreign land threatened us to cut our finger..
5# if you look for where he originally came from, you would understand what i have been trying to say.
a grand design to annex or divide nepal began when nepal was made to accept the foreigner without visa. and their unwillingness to barbwire boarder is the continuation of that design.
just yesterday in kantipur there was a column where he wrote:
* birbahadur distributed citizenship or included names of foreigners in voter's list during the referendum "democracy or improved mandala raj" ... .......... i used to think that shah only ignored when southern invaded part of out land, to protect their interest, to keep on being in power, to protect their royalty, but it was more than that.
* girija distributed citizenship to foreigners after first people's movement
* one of the first demand of maoist, after joining peace process, was distribution of nepalese citizenship to foreigners.
so if we study this trend, we can say that, for every help nepalese rulers get or beg from southern, in exchange, the southern makes nepalese ruler to distribute citizenship to their people.
it even could be possible that after being elected executive head in the southern, their bureaucrat may brief him or her that their traditional nepal policy is to push as many citizen of theirs into nepal to get nepali citizenship.
may be this is why they raised maoist.
if we look closely, we can see maoist always create problem in foreign investment- in hydro or industries, which are in out interest but never oppose distribution of nepalese citizen to foreigners- which is the main threat to national sovereignty. ...
i think attacking foreign investment is their way of diverting nepalese from their main goal which is distributing citizenship to foreigners.
5# its ok for me to gift some of our water and some electricity to poor neighbor (officially),
but i wont even move a millimeter away from my view regarding national sovereignty, security.
and distributing nepali citizenship to foreigner is the no 1 threat to out national sovereignty, security.
then followed by- giving printing of our passport, currency, control of our international airport etc to countries we share boundary with.
time has come not just preventing such mistake but also its time to correct our past mistakes.
19 FEB 2012 | 11:08 AM NST
10. Tapan Das
Madhesis were neglected in the past,no doubt.In fact there is no great difference between Madjhesi and the socalled Pahadi Upper castes.There is neither Madhes nor Pahad;when two stalwart stand face to face.
Now we are in a democratic ,inclusive set up. Past is past. Muslims destroyed thousands of temples and monestries in the past in India. The Christian missionaries ,( including the famous St. Francis Xavier)were resposible to destroy temples and have done atrosities in Goa etc in the past. But we condemn destruction of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya or not. This is new times. We should go according to the progressive ways. Madhesi demand One Madhes; can they reject the demand of the Jhapali when they ask for joining the Proposed Limbuwan? They know that the Pahadi there want to linked with Ilam. They too have the right of self-determination. So we have to be reasonable. No one should leave the table with a sense of gain or loss. Win win is the best solution.
Madhesi some times make absurd demands.
20 FEB 2012 | 4:04 AM NST
"The Tarai is tinder dry"-- yes my friend, and you are fueling the fire. Why don't you dare to ask yourself-- 'what is wrong within us?' After all, the top positions are held by your own representatives in the 'New' Nepal, e.g. key ministerial portfolios in the successive cabinets, both the posts of the President and the VP, the highest elected public positions in the country, still you feel angry, discarded and humiliated. You have some of the best fertile lands in the entire country, you have some of the best industries, you have access to some of the best educational institutions across the border, you are connected to one of the emerging 'BRIC' countries, you can travel freely across the border without any visa or Nepali passport, what else do you want? It seems you have a "pathological" obsession that you have been exploited and chased by someone else-- by whom my friend? Stop blaming others, overcome your "inferior complex," and better fight within yourself (self-contest). Do you really trust in the kind of leadership of JP Gupta? Speak up loudly, my friend! It is not too late.
21 FEB 2012 | 3:19 AM NST
12. Soni "The 'anti-Madhes' posture of the mainstream media and political elites puts off many moderate Madhesis and their voice is now sorely missed."
This is all a bit odd, its like reading about something that is being carefully choreographed. Fuel shortage, agitation and disputes that do not appear to have any connection with ground reality.
It is almost as if the important points are being deliberately sidelined and real issues obliterated along with the history of this nation.
Here are the issues;
A bunch of criminals were legitimised by the mainstream media, and the voice of intellectuals.
A largely peaceful country, which appeared to be well placed to leverage the growth in its neighborhood to become moderately prosperous in relative terms, is sabotaged by power hungry politicians who work overtime to derail progress. The mainstream media endorses those politicians.
A democratic set-up is destroyed and replaced by an oligarchy.
Instead aligning with its government, and the constitution that they had endorsed, political parties align with the criminal bands.
6 years, many billions wasted, money borrowed from employee provident funds, pilfered from donors, and stolen from people is utilised to reward murderers.
And the thing that roils our intelligentsia is the move of a tax collection office, set-up in Janakpur by an oppressive, madhes hating regime, away from Janakpur, by, hold your breath, a madhes hating regime manned by madhesis?
Something is really, really odd about this.
22 FEB 2012 | 8:49 PM NST
13. K. K. Sharma
Nepalis have gone to India for many variety of reasons. Not all have taken Indian citizenship. Those stranded in India after the British took away lands from Nepal during the Anglo-Nepal war are and had been Indians of Nepali origin, as well as those who had settled in North of West Bengal and North East India, for trade and occupation even during the Malla period and after.
Some have gone to India due to economic hardship ( push factor), all of them are not Indians of Nepali origin. Some have gone due to better opportunity ( pull factor), in this group some have Indian citizenships and have become Indians of Nepali origin, others have not. K. P Bhattari's grandfather was sent to Banaras by the then government of Nepal, his son and grandson, K. P. Bhattari, took Indian citizenship ( and their names were in the Indian voter list.). Many like Ganeshman Sing had gone to India due to political reason, but did not chose to be an Indian of Nepali origin, while the Koiralas DID. So they are Indians of Nepali origin. and NOT NEPALIS.
Being Indian and the reason for migration to India are two DIFFERENT THINGS. B. P and G.P were Indians, entered Nepal, because they saw no scope in politics among the Biharis. But the Nepalis could not distinguish between Indians of Nepali origin, like the Koiralas and Nepalis like Ganeshman Singh, or Bal Chandra Sharma etc, who had also gone to India due to political reasons..
If reaons for going to foreign country, could justify taking up citizenship of such country and still be considered as being of the original country, then the British, would also be stupid enough to call and accept most Americans of British origin or the Canadians of British origin, as still being British. But they are not stupid. And can make the distinction.
If you travel in Terai, you will ( if you are a Pahadi ) not know who are the Nepali Madhisis, and who were immigrants from the South. And if you ask the Madhisis, they will easily point out the difference. They will tell you who settled in the Terai during the thirties, when timber was exported to India in a large scale.( Shree Teen Chandra SJB Rana's time), and who were there before that time. And those who immigrated to Terai after India as a country, was born in 1947. Those who have come to Terai after 1947 were Indians, but those who have taken Nepali citizenship, ( not duel citizenship ) can of course be considered legally Nepalis, ( though as Nepalis of Indian origin ), but the Nepali Madhesis can tell you who is who.Their social relations, and slightly different culture, and knowledge of new commers, gives the Nepali Madhesis this advantage, which the Pahadis do not have.
There are many Indians especially along the Indian Aided roads, ( including the incomplete RTO roads ) who had come as construction workeres, traders, and vendors, etc have remained in the Teri. But to the Pahadis, such Indians look, just like the Nepali Madhesis, and so cannot make any distinction between the Nepali Madhesis and the Indians.