16-22 January 2015 #741

The Madhes saga

Navin Jha, onlinekhabar.com, 12 January

While parties in the capital are busy with the federalism debate, the Madhes is once more mired in uncertainty. Leaders are busy forming alliances and intensifying protests on the streets. The UCPN(M), the Madhesi Morcha and CK Raut (despite his broken leg) with his cadres are all campaigning against the promulgation of a new constitution.

Top leaders in the region JP Gupta and Matrika Yadav have announced an alliance and are busy with preparations to stage major demonstrations across the Tarai.

The main dispute is over federalism. The NC and UML want to merge the eastern district of Jhapa, Sunsari and Morang and the western district of Kailali and Kanchanpur with the hills. But the Madhesi parties want these five districts to be part of the Madhes province. The Madhesi Front which originally wanted a single Madhes province has agreed to a two-state model. But the NC and UML are trying to drive through their proposal with their two-third majority.

While NC and UML leaders in Kathmandu claim to be the official representatives of Madhes, they seem to be unaware that local leaders from their own parties are in agreement with the Madhesi parties on the subject of federalism. Many NC and UML leaders had previously left their parties to join Madhes based parties during the Madhes uprising.

The latest protests in the Tarai may be an indicator of bigger conflicts to come. Many are worried that the Madhes, mired by violence from various rebel groups, may once again be on the verge of a violent uprising if dissatisfaction over the constitution isn’t addressed.

aybe that is why national political players have been active in the plains of late: the RPP-N, NC, UML and even ex-king Gyanendra have all completed their rounds of the Madhes. UCPN(M) Chair Prachanda promised support for the region during speeches in Simraungadh and Janakpur.

The latest round of violence clearly shows how unstable Madhes is and how it has become the epicentre of national politics. Without a constitution that addresses the demands of the region and its people, there will be continued instability.