August 20, 2014


[An article on Nepal's Madhesh Independence Movement posted without changing a single word whatever, as it is received here today. Although it was published seven years or  so ago in some other portal already, it holds water today also because the issue still lingers down there and Nepalese law makers sit there in Kathmandu nowadays to restructure a New Nepal. The author seems to be practically correct that Nepalese Terai or Madhesh is fairly a mixed-bag, not a monolith or redoubtable mass of some certain group of people. The other concern would be about India’s profound interest in Madheshi leaders and projects it does directly fund through some influential Nepalese leaders' channels such as : President Dr. Ram Baran Yadav, Nepal Communist Party, United Marxist-Leninist President K. P. Oli, Nepali Congress Secretary-General Krishna Sitaula, Madheshi leaders Amaresh Kumar Singh and Mahendra Roy Yadava etc. Now, the Modi Nepal Visit has a positive impact on Nepalese mindset but should some Indian dilpomats  and their officers in Kathmandu keep on doing such a nasty stuff, that would certainly degenerate what the visit was intended for most recently. - The Blogger]

By Dr.Upendra Gautam*

The political forces, which look splinter and peripheral from Kathmandu, have raised arms for independence of Madhesh, the middle flat territory, from the unified Nepal. The most immediate cause of Madheshi (people of the middle flat territory) uprising seems to be the grand geo-political success of armed insurgency of the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M). The long term historical cause of the political uprising nevertheless is rooted in the failure of the majority of the oligarchy rules in Nepal. These oligarchy rules instead of introducing visionary pro-people reform and development across state affairs always treated the state, its people and territories, as their private property.

In such a background, the foremost demand of independence of Madhesh from the unified Nepal must not surprise a discerning political analyst. Historically South Asia has been a region in the world where war of independence never ended even after the imperial British power quitted the region in 1947. Immediately after the British left, Kashmiris started it. Soon people from east Bengal joined them for the independence of Bangladesh. Tamils have been fighting for independence since early 80s. Natives of Assam, Punjab, Sikkim and Maoists in the Republic of India (RoI) have their own independence ranking in the respective territory. Now enter the Madheshis in the South Asian arena of independence.

Just two years before in 2004, the Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha (JTMM) was formed after splitting from the CPN-M. The JTMM has further split into two factions – one led by Jai Krishna Goit and another led by Jwala Singh. JTMM split from the CPN-M was motivated by its perceived "pahadepan" (Hill character) of the CPN-M against its own "madheshipan" (Flat character).

But the geo-cultural differences between the CPN-M and JTMM appear to have assumed serious political dimension when the Eight Political Parties (EPA) moved fast to promulgate Interim Constitution of Nepal on 15 January, 2007. The violent protest program that JTMM announced from 3 January has since been intensifying. It is further joined by the Madheshi People's Rights Forum (MPRF). The MPRF has demanded that the Constituent Assembly elections should be held through a proportionate electoral system to represent the Madheshis and other marginalized minority groups. Jwala Singh has categorically alleged that “the interim constitution lacks even a single word in favor of Madheshi people” and demanded creation of a separate and independent Madhesh state.

In an interview published in Himalini, a Hindi Magazine from Kathmandu, January-February 2007 and reproduced in the Nepali Weekly Janadharna (18 January, 2007), leader Jai Krishna Goit said, "I am not a Nepali… Nepal annexed Tarai…. Entire territory south of Mahabharat mountain range is Tarai and it belongs to us…You have witnessed movement that started 10 years before with traditional weapons…In our case we have begun it with ultra modern weapons…"

Madhesh thus sounds set for independence. Notwithstanding political power, leaders like Goit, Mahato and others may take indefinite time to realize their real goal of attaining independence. As the priority tasks ahead may include but not limited to the following:

The sovereign boundary of independent state of Madhesh with India: This boundary needs to be fairly defined in all directions. In addition to Nepal, it is essential to delineate border-line of independent Madhesh with the Republic of India - RoI. The agreement on the inviolable sovereign border-line of independent Madhesh with the RoI can ask for greater sacrifice and struggle on the part of the Madheshi people.

Given the fact that on the daily basis the livelihood and basic rights, the Madheshis have suffered more at the hands of their southern neighbor, delineation of sovereign international border with the RoI through international oversight and guarantee is a pre-requisite for Madhesh independence. Each and every inundated area, each and every encroached area, each and every illegally built water control structure, each and every demographic invasion by all sorts of people in the name of "open" border are glaring examples that make Madheshis suffer on a daily basis. If the majority of oligarchs from Kathmandu hunted Madhesh once a year, the Maharaja faction of the RoI used to take decision to bleed Madhesh on a daily basis.

Status and division of ethno-nationalities in Madhesh:

This question needs to be thoroughly addressed. Like the Pahades (hill people), Madhesh is not a singular unit in any sense - ethnicity, caste, nationality, religion, language, world cultural heritage or bio-diversity. For example, people are more of a hill character in part of Madhesh closer to Uttranchal. All sorts of languages are there in Madhesh - Doteli, Tharu, Abadhi, Bhojpuri, Maithali, and Rajbansi etc. All sorts of religions are there too : Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Vaishyaism. Madhesh has all sorts of ethnicity/nationalities: Khas, Tharu, Muslim, Mandal, Mishra, Yadav, Jha, Rapjut, Rajbansi, Assamese, Bhutanese, Bengali. From west to east, each part of Madhesh has its own indigenous and external interfaces depending upon its history, ethnicity/caste/nationality, language, religion, socio-economic activity and relative proximity with particular Indian provinces, which were formed considering a set of communal values such as ethnicity/nationality, religion and language.

Recognition to independent state of Madhesh:

This should be a top priority for the Madhesi leadership. The people of Madhesh must not suffer because of prevailing double standard in South Asia about national independence. Proposed independent Madhesh faces a neighbor in south that does not respect any border or is happy without neighbors. So from the very beginning it should mobilize its "government in exile" to garner all international supports including the support of the UN and its Security Council for its independence and recognition of this independence by all legitimate international actors.

Perhaps Madhesh too can positively learn from the history of Nepal. This is a great irony for Nepali people, who received unified political state status way back in 1769, that theirs was so loose a political federation of oligarchies that all geo-cultural units in the country were more independent to one another than to outsiders. Can independence of Madeshh make a difference in the neighborhood (also other geo-cultural units such as Kashmir realizing independence)? Or is independence of Madhesh just a ploy to kill two birds ( Nepal and its erstwhile unified unit Madhesh) with one raw stone?

The author is a professor, freelance writer and one of the founding members and senior functionaries of Jalshrot Vikas Sanstha (Water Resources Development Board) in Nepal. He is interested in institutional aspect of water resources management and has experience in farmer community led irrigation management works in ChinaIndiaNepal, the Philippines and Guyana. He is a member, editorial/ review board of the Journal of South Asian Studies.