Has India succeeded to fulfill the demands of Madhesh in Nepal?

jivesBy Jivesh Jha

With the India’s welcoming gesture over the Nepali cabinet’s decision to amend the constitution aiming at ending prevailing unrest in the Terai region, sadly enough it has become crystal clear that the Nepali politics is carried at New Delhi’s directive.

As if the Madheshi issues and the Madhesh unrest continued from the last four months was not a domestic affair and carried at India’s behest, Nepali Foreign Affairs Minister Kamal Thapa on Monday informed his Indian counterpart that their cabinet has taken decision to address and resolve the demands pressed by the agitating Madheshi parties. It would have an icing on the cake had the foreign affairs ministry informed the same message not in particular, meaning the “positive developments” were informed to the globe as whole not only India in particular.

With this unprecedented move of Nepal, it is being argued by elite sections of people in India that their (Indian) government has again come victorious on Nepali political affairs. It is also argued in India that “Nepal finds solution when India comes in motion.” Of course, their claims attain validity when we cite the political understandings reached lately. In order to give a safe landing to a decade-long Maoist insurgency, India came forward to let the Nepali political parties and Maoists signed the 12-point understanding in New Delhi. Subsequently, when the Madheshi Protestants had hit the roads of Terai, the Nepali government was suggested by India to address the grievances of agitating Madheshi parties and eventually on two different occasions’ 8-point & 22-point agreements were signed between government of Nepal and Madheshi parties.

However, in what being seen as Madheshi people’s deep dissatisfaction, India never came forward to expedite pressure over the Nepali state to let the latter fulfill those promises inked on the agreement papers. So, the time has come to identify who is the real friend of Madhesh– the Indian government who presents themselves as pseudo-friend of Madhesh or Nepali state who signs the agreements to resolve the crisis. In fact, India’s pressure tactics only makes the Nepali establishment to at least hear the voices of agitating Madheshis, not makes the state bound to fulfill those promises. So, instead of taking the southern neighbor into confidence, the Madheshi parties should win the trust of Nepali establishment in Kathmandu which will ultimately impose a moral obligation over the state to work in the line with the agreed words.

At a time when the cold is taking zenith, the folks of India got a recipe to warmth their body—India won the game in Nepal. This type of gesture is suffice to prove that the unofficial trade embargo imposed on border points by India, leading a humanitarian crisis, was just and fair in the eyes of Indian people. And, moreover it was a pressure tactics to make the Nepali state bound to work at their behest.

While talking about the three-point proposal laid down by the Nepali cabinet, which is often described as a formula to appease the southern neighbor, the proposal is not a sufficient to win the heart and mind of the Madhesi people as it does not offer a concrete and solid vow of fulfilling the concerns. Though the proposal projects a strong pledge of the government, it fails to specify the specific period within which the demands of Madhesh would be fulfilled. Moreover, still a big question revolves round the mind of Madheshi people that what if the government fails to walk on the talk like in earlier days? Noted, the 22-point agreement and 8-point agreement signed between the government and the Madheshi parties have been put under suspended animation by the government.

Then the question comes: What is the need of signing the agreements? Only to appease India or to give a temporary safe landing of the agitation!

The conspirators and self-proclaimed jurists have succeeded to convince the people of largest democratic country of the world that Nepali constitution is not broad-based and favors more to Hills. As the majority of people makes their opinion basing on media content, the Indian media have come victorious in feeding their audience that the new constitution has made the bear of Hill unexpectedly bigger than plain’s.

The plain dwellers of Nepal were taught that fundamental document of the country has intentionally made the bears of Hill bigger than Madheshi’s and it can speak louder. However, these media outlets have always failed to inquire the effectiveness of the agreements. They simply report as per the directive of the establishment. So, from this lollipop tactics also, it becomes clear that there is no need for Madheshis to find happiness in reporting style of Indian media. In fact, they have succeeded in proving themselves as dictator for Nepal. It will not be futile to claim that India pressurizes Kathmandu to believe that the Madheshi issues have strong connection with them.

On a separate context, it is of expedient to mention the constitutional provisions which will surely come victorious to knock down the deep-seated bigotry in Madhesh. In a major breakthrough, the Nepali constitution under Article (U/A) 38 envisages that rights of women shall be fundamental rights (FR). Moreover, it also provisions that both spouses shall have equal rights in property and family affairs. If we take only this provision, it has paved the ways for ending gender-based discrimination prevalent in Madhesh. Moreover, the directive principle of state policies (DPSP) and FR provisions talks about progressive provisions, envisaging a broader value. However, the Indian media outlets never reported about the progressive provisions. The Indian media’s way of disseminating half reality aimed at serving the interest of establishment clearly proves that they can win the innocent hearts of Madhesh like their government but will always be reluctant to appreciate the progressive constitutional provisions where Nepal is ahead than India’s.

While talking about the major demands, one of the demands of the Madheshi people was to scrap the citizen provision embodied under Article 11 (3). It is described that the leaders failed to understand the cultural relations of Madheshis across the border by putting an unreasonable restriction on the modes of acquiring the citizenship by descent, envisaging in order to get a citizenship by descent, the offspring’s both “father and mother should hold citizenship by descent.

When asked whether the Nepali parliament completely failed to understand the cross border tie up of Madheshi people, the President of Non-resident Madheshi Association (NRMA) Sujit Thakur insisted that the current constitution is document of ambiguity. “When we read citizenship provisions thoroughly, it appears that one provision contradicts the other. The major ambiguity is set by Article 11(2)(b) and Article 11(3) where the former Article provisions that whose ‘father or mother’ was citizen can be given citizenship by descent while the latter imposes an unreasonable restriction, allowing a person to acquire citizenship be descent only when his ‘father and mother’ both were Nepali citizens,” adds Thakur in ironic tone.

However, when further asked whether India stands by the side of Madhesh, Thakur says, “India is neither concerned about the Nepali cause, nor about Madhesh. The yesterday’s welcoming gesture shown by India was merely a part of face saving tool and a clear attempt to gain a popular sympathy.” He believes that even the 3-point proposal floated Tuesday would fail to give any political passage. “Even if this time around, the Nepali establishment fails to walk as per the essence of agreements, the resentments would further breed in Madhesh that would give an air to the separatist forces.”

Thakur was of the view that the demands pressed by Madheshi parties were not anti-national in nature. “In what being seen as the Nepali establishment was reluctant in nation building process since 250 years, when it comes to appear that on one after another occasions the Nepali state has taken steps to reduce the territory of Nepal by signing deals with India. Then question comes: Who’s politics is against the integrity & sovereignty of nation?,” adds Thakur in an ironic tone.

Another commentator of Madhesh politics Dr Mukesh Jha also finds the Indian gesture merely as a way to gain the sympathy of Madhesh. “The way India is advertising their current move; it appears that they have become successful in mainstreaming the Madheshi people in Nepali state affairs—which is a big lie. The major demand of Madhesh was to enforce the 8-point and 22-point agreement but India did not utter even a single sentence in this regard. Noted, even those two agreements were inked as per India’s directives. From their current move also, it has become evident that India’s pressure tactics has a limited scope—buy the popular voice of Madhesh & intervene in domestic affairs of Nepal.”

He further claims that India is a not a perfect well wisher of Madhesh the way its’ been described. “Though the Indian side is well versed with the discriminations of Madheshis at the hands of Nepali state, they only present themselves as a mediator to suspend the embargos temporarily. The mediator or well wisher in real sense is he, who makes sure that the same conflicts will not arise in future and the agreement will take a course. The Madheshi people have trusted India even a decade ago while 8-point and 22-point agreements were signed but the fruit was bitter as it gave no result in their favor. So, the India’s welcoming gesture has not given an ample solution for Madheshis but has raised a ground for doubt when it comes to analyze that whether the state will stand by the words of agreement.”

Still, the question comes: India’s role is there to end the stalemate or to garner a popular sympathy in their support? The Madheshi people should make an analysis at this juncture.


The Author is a Kathmandu University graduate and currently pursuing Legal Studies in Dehradun, India).)

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