MIN RATNA BAJRACHARYA
Nearly half the country's population that lives in the plains have been affected, and the shutdown has crippled the rest of the country with shortages of essential goods. The annual loss to the economy is said to be Rs 1 billion a day.
The government's attempts to negotiate a deal are stuck because of hardened positions on both sides as well as a rift between Tharu activist groups.
The trigger for the unrest was the government's ordinance last month that lumped Tharus with the rest of the Madhes. The Tharu Kalyankari Sabha and the Tharuhat Sangarsha Samiti have been spearheading the movement demanding that the ordinance be revoked and the interim constitution not name 20 Tarai districts as Madhes.
The Sabha, which is led by Raj Kumar Lekhi, and has enlisted the support of other indigenous nationalities and Muslims, did not attend the talks with Peace Minister Janardan Sharma on Wednesday. Present were Samiti members ex-Maoist Laxman Tharu, ex-royalist Gopal Dahit and Kishore Biswas, who is ex-MJF.
Although relations are strained between the groups, they all attended the funeral at Devghat of a young Tharu activist killed by police last week in Saraha. Lekhi blames the Samiti of being inspired by royalist trouble-makers, while the Samiti accuses the Sabha of being a UML front. The government is now finding it difficult to figure out whom to talk to.
Political analysts have called for the reconvening of parliament so that the blunder of passing the ordinance can be rectified in the house.
Asked about this, CA chair Subhas Nembang told Nepali Times: "It is normal for various ethnic and other groups to raise demands for representation during the constitution-writing process. The governments needs to listen to the demands and streamline the constitution-drafting process and the activists must resolve their dispute through negotiations. There is no other way."
Most analysts are worried that various other groups are waiting to follow the Tharu example and bring the country to a standstill to get their demands heard. It is clear the economy, and the nation can't take this kind of beating any more.