Sitting around at a tea-stall in Pipra on the Janakpur-Jaleshwar road, the three banter about politics. "The netas went to Kathmandu after the elections and have not come back," one of them laughs dismissively, "it's always the same."
It has been exactly one year since Prime Minister Koirala said in Hindi on the Baluwatar lawns: "Believe me. I will implement the eight-point agreement." Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Madhab Kumar Nepal nodded. Mahanta Thakur reciprocated, and spoke in Nepali. The agreement promised an autonomous Madhes province, inclusion and collective entry into the army.
Paswan, Mandal and Kapar sipped tea, and shook their heads when asked about whether the promises had been kept. "No, we still don't have rights and if there is another movement, we will again be on the streets," said one.
That just about summarises the political mood on the Madhes street on the anniversary of the eight-point accord.The TMDP has called for a one-day shutdown on 28 February and is set to announce another round of protests next week. Asked about their specific complaints, TMDP's Bijay Singh says: "The province will be decided in the CA but the government and the major parties can at least initiate a dialogue. There has not been inclusion proportionate to the population. And there is little change in the army's character."
The TMDP's idea is not to trigger off mass unrest but to keep up the pressure on the government, use the period to mobilise and build up an organisation and occupy the moral high ground by exposing the fecklessness of the other Madhesi parties in the coalition.
The strategy has pushed the other parties on the defensive. Sadbhabana is planning a petition drive to the district administration as a warm-up. The MJF has been trumpeting the inclusion ordinance as a result of their pressure. But the Forum's local leaders say being in power has put them in an uncomfortable spot. Breakaway Maoist Matrika Yadav is still in his planning stage, in touch with underground militants.
The Madhesi protests are timed to coincide with the federalism debate. At a two-day event organised by the Mithila Natya Kala Parishad in Janakpur, speakers backed the formation of a Mithila state instead of a single Madhes province.
The new Maoist Madhesi face, Ram Rijhan Yadav told us: "We have decided to make the three sub-provinces: Mithila, Bhojpura and Awadh, into separate states. It is more scientific and will fulfill aspirations of different communities." The demand has drawn flak from Madhesi party leaders who say smaller provinces will allow Kathmandu to play one against the other.
The Madhes movement is still defined by a constant radicalisation against Kathmandu. But this is now tempered by a sense of confusion where Madhesis, including party leaders, do not know where politics is headed.
Analyst Bhaskar Gautam sums it up: "The Madhes is lost. It is trapped between the MJF which is in government but increasingly unpopular on the ground, TMDP which is protesting but is internally weak and a state that can't protect its citizens."
Prashant Jha in Mahottari
The centre can't hold