Ground Realities

The third Madhes movement started on the 21st of July and has been ongoing for almost three months, undermining the conscious efforts of discrediting the protest by few so-called intellectuals and self-proclaimed social-media deities by engaging in falsely representative op-eds. Recently, I came across Rubeena Mahato’s article “Restraint, resolve and resilience” in Nepali Times, which details a false representation of reality on ground. Although, I am a Madhesi and am actively reporting from the ground, I neither proclaim my voice to be final verdict, nor claim it to be above criticism. Difference of opinion should be respected and acknowledged.

There has been a lot of chest-thumping by ‘nationalists’ on this China card, but in truth, ‘winter is coming’ and the mighty Himalayas makes this ‘China card’ geographically and economically unviable.

I write this article to share the differences between Mahato’s article and my first-hand experience as a local of the Madhes region. Mahato writes “Working with a foreign country to enforce blockade against fellow Nepalis..”. It should be noted that the Nepali political envoys, the Foreign Minister/deputy prime-minister et al. visited ‘Delhi’ to seek a solution to the fuel crisis rather than talk to Madhes. These self-proclaimed nationalists are pretending to be internationally diplomatic, while ignoring the cry for help from their own citizens in the Madhes region. Republica wrote “KATHMANDU, Oct 9: The Cabinet has formed a three-member dialogue team to deal with the Indian government on the ‘supply of petroleum products’ on Friday”. India has officially maintained the position to bring peace and order in the Madhes region of Nepal to resume the normal supply of petroleum. Despite clear signal from Delhi to talk to the protesting parties, the government approached China, colloquially known as “Playing the China card”. There has been a lot of chest-thumping by ‘nationalists’ on this China card, but in truth, ‘winter is coming’ and the mighty Himalayas makes this ‘China card’ geographically and economically unviable. It is the protesters of Madhesh who started the blockade, the dharnas are arranged by protesters in the ‘nakas’. It is astoundingly foolish for the incumbent government to avoid addressing the legitimate demands of Madhesis and drag India in the middle of our internal crisis.

Mahato further accuses the movement of “…Inciting violence by offering cash prize for martyrdom...” Comparing monetary gain for martyrdom is itself ignominious. Those who are accusing the people’s movement are underestimating the resolve of those who are still going strong after two and a half months of deliberate ignorance by the political elites and 45+ deaths. Mahato should realize that these protesters were not there for money and no-one should malign their martyrdom. Let me also remind a similar cash reward offered by those who are in power now. In the people’s movement against monarchy analysts said, “So, what are you telling your future generations about martyrdom? That there is a Rs 1 million-reward waiting for you at the end of your life?” Mahato should have mentioned that to approach this issue genuinely.

This double standard of reporters and writers is astounding and they shamelessly defend using the hateful communal shields that exists in Nepal against the Madhesis.

After a prolonged, relentless protest, if someone still tries to spin the people’s movement as a paid movement, that itself raises questions on the legitimacy of such claims. In the ‘Respect to martyrs’ program organized on the 31st of October in Janakpur, a political commentator Mr. Khagendra Sangraula aptly said

“The problem with the mainstream media, elites and a few others is that they tend to focus more on the effect and ignore the cause; they focus on shadows rather than the object; They focus more on the tree than the forest”.

Mahato further mentions “…To support this group (protesters) and say that it represents ordinary Madhesis…” While I agree to this claim partially, I was hoping to see how Mahato explains the reasons behind uninterrupted support to the Morcha from ordinary Madhesis since the last 78 days.

Why are people pouring in the protest in rickshaw, tanga, thela, bail-gada, horse and elephants? Whenever there’s public gathering organized in Janakpur, where I am stationed, tens of thousands of people from village come carrying snacks to sustain them through the day.

The pictures do not lie, and it is well known in public sphere. Discounting all this, she says “It is tragic that some are willing to support the Indian blockade just because they don’t support the constitution”. It is surprising and ‘tragic’ to see that instead of supporting the legitimate demand of Madhes, someone is busy blaming India and morcha, and not the the failures of the incumbent  government. It’s equally ‘tragic’ to see someone give way to communal hatred, after 45+ deaths, by only thwarting India without empathy to Madhesis.

Serious about the talks, are they?

“Businesses, industries and hospitals are affected, schools are closing down but this makes no difference to this delusional cohort”. Let us face it that this is a fight between the oppressors and the oppressed where the oppressors, with their exhausting tactics, are in no mood to give in. Damage to business and education is collateral. Had the government been serious, they would have played constructive role as responsible guardians of the nation. Instead of that, they form a dialogue team under the leadership of the same Kamal Thapa who was the home minister when 19 brave Nepalis lost their lives fighting against monarchy and has been saying “I do not voice for King but rather for royal institution”. A 24th September article in the Himalayan Times read, “Sitaula calls agitating parties to sit for dialogue.Mr. Sitaula is the same person who was the Home minister when more than 50 Madhesis lost their lives in the 1st Madhes Andolan, 2007. Serious about the talks, are they? The team set up by the government to talk to the Madhesi protesters does not reflect of its commitment. Especially, when they are always postponing the talks and it clearly seems that they are in mood to talk to India, plead and beg to China but not to address the demands of Madhesh.

Those who say, Nepal has never been a communal country suffer either from selective-amnesia, or a schizophrenic disorder.

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Poverty is the worst form of violence” and Madhesh has been impoverished by the government whose economic policies have always been against Madhesh. The irrigation, fertilizer, seed and focus on agriculture has always taken the back-seat in the budget. What we see today in Madhes, is the anger of relentless ignorance by establishment, economic deprivation and political under-representation. Mahato claims, “Despite all attempts to pit one group against the other, we have never been a communal country”. Those who say, Nepal has never been a communal country suffer either from selective-amnesia, or a schizophrenic disorder. For, Madhesis have been historically discriminated, at times brutalized by police which doesn’t understand the language, to quote specific example: Hrithik Roshan Kand. Not looking into historical facts, is not the right way. A lie might make us look good, but underneath, the monster of communalism keeps growing. In fact, the truth has been, till recent times, Madhes had always endured the abuse of “Marshya, Dhoti, Kale” without replying back, but now Madhes is ready  to fight back. I would suggest the Madhesh experts stationed in Kathmandu to visit Madhes, talk to the ordinary Madhesi people, and then report. Violence is to deny people’s legitimate demands, violence is to kill unarmed civilians. The counter violence is the law of nature unfortunately, and I am not a supporter of any kind of violence. Perpetrators on both sides should be investigated and held accountable.

By now, I assume, any informed citizen is well aware of the categorical demands of Madhesh, so  a humble request, instead of slandering the people’s movement, please build pressure on the incumbent government to be serious about talks with Madhesh, else we all will be party to further disasters. Lastly, I am not predetermined to block anyone who cares to critique my writing here. Unlike some ‘celebrities’ with paramount self-worth at the center of the universe, I am prepared to face an objective discussion.

[Avinash (@thekotp) is from Janakpur and often refered to as a Non-Aadarsh Madhesi by Nepali Nationalists]