Nepali Times
Tarai tinderbox

Your editorial ('Put out this fire', #328) highlights the history of discrimination against the madhesi people and the need to redress this politically. Madhesis today have only six percent of civil service jobs because of a conspiracy by the ruling elite groups. This is why the madhesi people want electoral constituencies divided by population, and why the ruling elite doesn't want it, because it would mean madhesis would gain power. Why can't a son of a madhesi become prime minister? Inclusiveness also begins with NGOs that work in the tarai and don't employ madhesis. Just go through the staff structure of NGOs and INGOs working in the tarai. They advocate equity, rights, and social justice, but don't practice it in their own organisations.

Krishna Kumar Deo
Institute of Medicine, Kathmandu

. In response to your last editorial, the current concern about migration from 'across the border' into the tarai exposes a real double standard. The border between Nepal and India is a political one, and Nepal itself has seen real changes in size and shape in the last 260 years. A political border does not divide people who have historically been used to moving across a certain area.

There has never been one-way migration. Proof is in the rise of the Nepali-speaking community in Darjeeling, Uttaranchal, and the tarai. Our ruling classes have never minded marrying across the border. If we really want to talk about migration, let's open the discussion up. The migration of hillspeople down to the tarai was state-initiated and supported.

As for current migration from across the border into the tarai, if it really is happening on the scale that some people are worrying about, then the silence of tarai people on this is a sign that they are comfortable with it. This isn't just a matter of cross-border cultural similarities, but also about attitude, perhaps that of the 'new' migrants compares favourably with that of hills people.

In the history of modern Nepal, the tarai has been an asset, but its residents a liability, to the point that their loyalty to the nation and their very nationality is in question. The bar is set higher for them than for other groups, although loyalty and nationalism are always and everywhere functions of time, geographical location, people's origin, and state responsiveness.

For example, large portions of present-day Himachal, Uttaranchal, UP, and the Indian tarai were once part of Nepal. What tests of loyalty and nationality should we pose Nepalis from these places? A large portion of the current Nepal ('naya mulk') was part of India before 1856. What about residents of these lands? Why were people from the tarai given the special title of 'madhesi' instead of just being Nepali? For almost 200 years now, Nepali soldiers have served in the British and Indian armies, where does their loyalty lie? Many rulers of modern Nepal have Indian maternal bloodlines. If tarai people have family and cultural relationships with India, surely Nepal can use this fact to strengthen bilateral relations. The people of the tarai feel there is a tacit double standard in what your editorial calls the state's 'hill-centred nationalism' in dealing with them. Unless this is changed, resentment will grow.

Name withheld,

. The media seems to be lost in celebrating the victory (whose victory, I wonder?) and ignoring the ground reality of everyday life in Kathmandu which has become unimaginably fearful. I only hope this were a real victory for the Nepali people as whole, and not limited to high-ranking politicians of the seven parties and the Maoists.

Name withheld,

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)