Nepali Times

Madhesi identity

Many thanks to Prashant Jha. 'Nepali Too' (Guest Column, #332 ) is one of the best things I've read in recent weeks. His tone, his empathy, and his self-awareness are admirable. Apart from other things, he reminds us not to be too quick to represent those whose realities we have barely imagined, let alone experienced.

Subha Ghale,

. In response to Prashant Jha ('Nepali too', #332), I would like to add a few things. The social, cultural, religious identity, what shapes Nepali nationalism, is pahadi-defined.

Pahadi nationalism uses fear to keep the madhesi community from access to power, claiming it is untrustworthy and pro-Indian. The fear that nationalism will die if madhesis have equal access to power is true-if you fall into the popular trap of believing pahadi nationalism is the only kind there is.

As a pahadi, I see the current madhesi movement not as an overturning of pahadi nationalism or privilege, but a way to bring together pahadi nationalism with the sensitivity and riches of the madhes.

I blame our education system for nurturing and sustaining the poisonous, untrusting environment between the two communities, which pahadis use to dominate politics. We are simply not taught enough about the importance and resourcefulness of the madhesi community. Real social inclusion starts from education. It's not too late for the state to alter the curriculum to allow the next generation to understand how important the madhes is in Nepal's geo-political development, and for us to respect to each other, recognise to each other's values, and be equal citizens.

Jagannath Lamichhane,

. My thanks and appreciation for Prashant Jha's 'Nepali too'. While his piece was timely in light of the current madhesi-pahadi clashes in the tarai, it should strike a chord with anyone who has ever had to justify calling themselves a Nepali, with anyone who has been told that they are too light, or too dark, or too slant-eyed, or have ancestors from the wrong place, or speak with too much of an accent to be a 'real' Nepali. Bravo.

Diku Sherpa,

.There's no doubt that the genuine demands of madhesis should be addressed by the new loktantrik government. Now that the citizenship issue seems to be heading towards a resolution, the most important thing would be the redistribution of land among poor madhesis.

But when the demands skyrocket and look like a call for breaking up the nation, the word 'enough' must appear. And, when madhesi leaders talk about madhesis, do they mean 'dhoti-clad, paan-eating, Bihari-looking' people only ('Nepali too', #332) or do they also include 'topi-wearing, flat-nosed, Bahadur-type' people who've been living in the tarai for many years? A continuous recitation of

'pahadibad' by well-off madhesis doesn't help when many pahadis in the tarai are flocking to Kathmandu because of the same treatment from madhesis that the latter are complaining of. And Prasant Jha shouldn't be flaunting his inability to speak Nepali properly. When he can speak three languages fluently, one wonder why he can't learn Nepali.

Biplab Nepali,

. It is true there haven't been equal opportunities for all Nepalis in the past. But it is not true that madhesis are the most discriminated against. Look at those in Kalikot or Humla-they don't even get enough food. And what about dalits in both pahadi and madhesi communities? We never had a proper democratic system in the past. Now, we shouldn't block our way into new territory by raising communal issues. There will be plenty of time to sit together and solve our age-old problems in the new Nepal.

M Kaphle,

. I can't agree with Anand Jha ('Tarai demands', Letters, #332) about the treatment of madhesi people. I'm from an area where all the teachers and traders were madhesi. They enjoyed a lot of influence and were not discriminated against. I remember the days when most staff in the district agriculture office and departments of roads and irrigation were madhesi. Nobody complained about that.

The ruler of Nepal were samants, not really representative of pahadis. The problem lies with the samants of the tarai, not with pahedis, and the Maoists will be haunted for a long time by the divisive ethnic issues they've raised.

There can be some discrimination among various communities in any country (look how Biharis are hated in other states in India) but it is not that serious. In fact, the discrimination between upper caste and lower caste members of the madhesi community is much worse. People are making opportunistic arguments with no ideological basis.

New Delhi

. It's heartbreaking to see our tarai rice-bowl in flames. Communal hatred and mistrust are turning into something like a civil war, with the Maoists rather than the government taking charge. It's ridiculous to blame the monarchy and a vague 'foreign force' for the whole episode. The same duo is accused no matter what happens. Our 'constitutionally strong', but bedridden PM is letting the country cry its bloody tears and the eight parties only show up at the Reporters' Club or on tv screens. This is surely not loktantrik governance. This is hypocrisy and anarchy.

P Sharma,

UN lessons

The analogy Sheetal Kumar draws between the Rwandan genocide and the lessons learned in Nepal's context seems a bit premature ('Farewell to Annan', Eyes wide shut, #331). One cannot draw parallels between what the UN or Kofi Annan did or did not do 13 years ago without understanding the geopolitical situation in 1994 and its implications for the actors involved.

To discern the role of the UN in the genocide, one needs to first understand that the UN is not an entity without its member states. UNAMIR (the United Nations Mission in Rwanda) did not intervene in the genocide that was taking place because it was not mandated to do so. Its actions were limited because (among other issues) the United States simply refused to use the term 'genocide' to describe the situation and pressured the Security Council to veto any actions taken to expand UNAMIR's role in Rwanda. The Clinton administration was not ready to drag itself into another bloody confrontation in Africa six months after 18 US soldiers' bodies were paraded across the streets of Mogadishu. It took a year after the events in Rwanda for the White House press secretary to refer to the killings in Rwanda as 'genocide' and another four before the president offered his half-apology to the country at the airport in Kigali.

I agree with Kumar that we should 'think for ourselves'. But it is misleading to compare different situations without a comprehensive understanding of the issues at hand.


PM watch

This brief summary of Girija Prasad Koirala's health may be of interest:
Skin: very thick, insensitive.
Skull: thick.
Brain: clever, but with total amnesia for past mistakes and misdeeds.
Mouth: sharp teeth, forked tongue.
Nose: insensitive to the stench of corruption surrounding him.
Ears: deaf to Nepali voices but responsive to orders in American English or Hindi.
Lungs: capable of generating immense quantities of hot air.
Heart: calcified, turned to stone.
Intestines: nonfunctional.
Arms and hands: good at grasping and manipulating.
Legs and feet: good at sidestepping responsibility and evading consequences.
Spine: degenerated, no stability.

Bina Shrestha,

PP\'s big motorcycle

I wait every week just to read the Backside column by the Ass. I understood Under My Hat columns better. The Ass is full of people or places unknown to me. That doesn't mean the Ass should be sacked, though. I am writing about PP the CP. On my second day in Kathmandu a year-and-a-half ago, I saw this strange figure on a Harley Davidson driving down Darbar Marg, swaying left and right, like they do in Formula One to heat up the tyres. My first thought: "What a jerk". I then noticed that the show-off had a police escort and found out who he was. Later bike riding became impossible, I guess, because there are no bulletproof bikes, hence the Jag for him and pops.

What is PP doig these days. We came up with the following possibilities:
1. He starts the bike in his garage and goes vroom, vrooom.
2. He rides round and round his house without escorts.
3. He has his friends make videos of drives around Kathmandu and its outskirts. He watches these on a huge TV screen in his garage. With the engine running, he 'virtual' rides through.

Lorenzo Locatelli-Rossi,

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)