9-15 October 2015 #779

North and South

This is an internal Nepali problem that should be resolved through dialogue, not intimidation, protests or a blockade
Puru Shah
BIKRAM RAI


The disruptions that affected just the Tarai for the past two months has now spread to Kathmandu and nationwide for nearly two weeks now.

There is a crippling shortage of essential items, and the economy has taken a direct hit. Not a single Nepali is happy about it. Protests in Tarai have turned more peaceful and strategic which has prevented  further fatalities. However, the country is now deeply divided along ethnic lines between North and South.

There are now two courses of action. One is to blame someone, whether it is political leaders of ruling parties or Madhesis or India. Another is to reflect on how we got here.

The protests continue in Tarai against the constitution and federal demarcation. Many in Kathmandu protested against India with slogans like #BackOffIndia. Blaming India and defaming it internationally is one option to get back. But so far, it seems to have only hardened the Indian position.

The constitution fiasco and Kathmandu’s inability to accommodate grievances of Nepalis from the Tarai has upset India and eroded our diplomatic and economic ties. Let us not delude ourselves: the solution to our current problem has to come from within Nepal and the only way is via a meaningful dialogue between the political parties and the dissidents in the South.

Talks are going on, but the negotiations started nearly two months after the agitation started and more than 40 people were killed. The government was simply not serious about holding a meaningful dialogue or showing any flexibility until the fuel shortages made life difficult in Kathmandu. The unfortunate reality of Nepal is that the dissidents were forced to revolt on the streets before their grievances are heard. MJF-D was forced to leave the four-party alliance and engage in protests after its leader’s suggestions were completely ignored by the three ruling parties. The Maoists popularised this technique during the conflict, and the Madhesi parties are just emulating it.

The act of blaming solely India for all problems in Nepal, including fuel shortage is misguided. The 1974 Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Nepal and India obliges Nepal to import fuel exclusively from the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC). By signing this MoU, our leaders literally handed over Nepal’s sovereignty to India.

Energy supply is the choking point for any region, state or country and even more so for a landlocked Nepal. To deepen this dependency, Nepal and India signed another MoU in August to build a 41 km oil pipeline between Raxaul to Amlekhgunj to supply petrol, diesel and jet fuel. Before signing the MoU, NOC had argued it would be difficult if it had to award the oil supply contract to suppliers other than IOC in future. Nepali leaders have therefore chosen to perpetuate our dependence on India.

Furthermore, while CA was in the final stages of constitution approval, UML leader KP Oli, the prime minister-in-waiting sent his trusted aides Pradeep Gyawali and Yubaraj Banskota to India. Sher Bahadur Deuba and Pushpa Kamal Dahal also made the pilgrimage.

Does every Nepali leader need to go to India to get approval? If not, why should a leader of any sovereign country send aides to gain a foreign country’s consent before assuming premiership? The world does not disappear when you close your eyes. Ignoring facts and selective reporting erodes journalism ethics and readers’ trust.

Who is to blame for this crisis: the Madhesi parties, ruling parties or India? All India says it wants is for the ruling parties and the Madhesi groups to engage in a meaningful dialogue, show ‘flexibility’, and make a constitution that is fully owned by all regions of Nepali society. Is it wrong for a country to  ask a neighbouring family to stop quarreling and make peace?

Obviously, the unofficial economic blockade has angered many Nepalis and damaged relations with India. But remember the suffering of the Madhesi people has gone largely unreported and unnoticed for two months. Who will end their suffering? Nepali state has neglected and terrorized them. Do they have a choice other than to look towards India for help? They have, and their actions have made life difficult in Kathmandu. But this may finally make Kathmandu understand what people in Tarai have been going through. 

Our leaders were elected by us, so they are answerable to us. We have to make it clear to them that this is an internal problem and should be resolved through a dialogue, not intimidation, protests or a blockade. Once we resolve our internal issues, we can then deal with external ones collectively, as one nation, a united strong Nepal.

Read Also:

India-locked, Bihari K Shrestha

Proxy war, Editorial

Barking up the wrong tree, Anurag Acharya

Before it's too late, Puru Shah

Showing who's boss, Editorial

Tarai talks, Tufan Neupane

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