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Front regrets failed blockade

Thursday, February 4th, 2016
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A few trucks have entered Nepal via Birganj trade point this week despite Madhesi protests. Photo: Jiyalal Sah

Nearly five months after they began sit-ins at border points, giving an excuse for India to impose a trade blockade on Nepal, Madhesi leaders say their strategy of choking off supplies failed to create pressure on the government and has instead inflicted pain on ordinary people.

Madhesi leaders say they are now thinking of reviewing their pressure tactics and might call off all forms of border-centric protests this weekend. The Madhesi Front, an alliance of four Madhesi parties, is organising a meeting on Friday to plan their next move.

The Front had incited sit-ins at all Nepal-India checkpoints on 23 September of last year to pressure the government to amend the new constitution. Sit-ins at other points have not been sustained however, and only the Birganj-Raxaul point remains blocked.

But locals have started to demand that Madhesi leaders reopen the Birganj trade point as well. A few trucks carrying goods have entered Nepal through this point in the past week. After the first amendment of the constitution last month, India has also reportedly asked Madhesi leaders to reassess their strategy.

Rajendra Mahato, one of the top four leaders of the Front, has been leading the sit-in at the Birganj-Raxaul check-point. But on Thursday he told journalists: “There is no point in blocking Birganj because other trade points have already opened.”

Mahato said he will introduce a proposal himself to open the Birganj check point in the next meeting of the Front. “We failed to create pressure on the government by blocking border points,” he said. “We only caused suffering to ordinary people.”

Mahato, a hardliner within the Front, was against calling off border-centric protests in the past. Now he has changed his stance, and other Madhesi leaders are also expected to follow his lead.

Madhesi leaders, however, say their struggle is far from over and that they will continue to fight for their rights. They are still demanding only two Madhes provinces encompassing the whole Tarai region, despite the Big Parties’ opposition to putting three eastern districts and two far-western districts in Madhes provinces.

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