Here is the Republica’s Report, that includes voices of Madhesi intellectuals and business persons in Birgunj who call current Indo-Nepal border blockade government propaganda. They have urged the political leadership to hold talks with disgruntled political forces and groups without further delay to end the ongoing protests in the Madhes region. They believe that addressing the demands of Madhes-based parties is key to end the deadlock.
Politicians in Kathmandu haven’t been able to gauge the Tarai situation properly. They have been describing the present situation as a blockade, which is not true. It is true that people from across the border have supported the agitation. Life here in Tarai districts has been paralyzed for weeks. But the government hasn’t held talks with the protestors. The longer it takes to hold talks with the protestors, the costlier it is going to prove for the country. Talks should be held as soon as possible. Nepal faced such blockade in 1989-1990, but we couldn’t find any other alternatives. Some have proposed developing deeper relations with China as an alternative to India. But what are we going to do when we will have problem with China as well? Those who won elections from Tarai but didn’t lobby for the cause of Madhesi people are betrayers. If the constitution they have promulgated is better, why aren’t they unable to convince the people about it?
Our children haven’t been able to attend school for the last 45 days. Industries have not been able function properly. Mistrust among various communities has deepened. Madhesi people are fighting for their rights. But now the protesters are being defamed by accusing them of imposing blockade. Had the establishment heeded Madhesi people’s demand, the situation wouldn’t have become this serious. The state should be more responsible at such critical times. But every time the Indian side has had to intervene to settle Madhes issue. At present, Indian authorities at the border have intensified inspection for security reasons, which has been described as a blockade. We have to settle domestic issues on our own. The provincial boundaries should not have been drawn by the politicians. This should have been done by experts’ commission. The proposed federal map should be revised. In general, there should be three provinces in Madhes and four in other parts.
Both protestors and authorities haven’t acted responsibly while enforcing general strike or curfew. The authorities didn’t even allow vehicles to supply essential items such as milk. Similarly, the protestors imposed general strike for indefinite period without any prior notice. The protestors resorted to blockade as a last option because the government didn’t listen to their demands even after they continued protests for over a month. Both the government and protestors should give up their ego and sit for talks. The establishment side should become ready to address the demands of agitators instead of fueling baseless propaganda. We the business people have become frustrated due to the continued protests, but we can’t oppose it. The private sector may find other places to start their businesses.
There is a serious dissatisfaction in Tarai-Madhes. The Madhes movement was for redefining the nationality. People often associate Madhes with India and Madhesi people want to get rid of that. Mithila, Bhojpuri and Awadh provinces wasn’t the demand of Madhes movement because there are places of similar identity in India as well. Madhes movement had demanded Madhes province. The establishment always should consult the people of bordering areas while holding talks with neighboring country on border issue. When Kathmandu and Delhi hold diplomatic talks, the Madhesi people must extend unconditional support to Kathmandu. The government and the political parties must implement the past agreements signed by late Girija Prasad Koirala. They should be ready to endorse the agreements through a cabinet meeting, or to amend the constitution. They can make political commitment before that. Such initiatives can help find solution.
Our country is at a crossroads where it has to choose between peace and violence. All of us should pursue peace. I urge the leaders of major political parties to listen to the voice of Madhes. Demands of Madhesi people looked at suspiciously. It is also the responsibility of the Indian government to support Nepal’s peace process as a neighboring country. What is going on in Tarai should not be seen as an Indian intervention. Protests have been ongoing in Tarai for over one-and-a-half months. But why our demands are still being ignored? The main issue is not the blockade; the government should address demands of Madhesi people. The government’s reluctance has seriously hurt Madhesi people. The leaders based in Kathmandu should reach out to Madhesi people and hold talks with them.
The continuous strike has severely crippled life across the country. The government’s suppression has only fueled people’s anger in Madhes. It is the responsibility of the government to bring disgruntled parties on board. Those who were against federalism are now celebrating. Though there are 22 districts in Tarai region, a province with just 8 districts was formed. This is a key reason to protests in Tarai. At least two to three provinces should be made of the 22 districts in Tarai region. The government should immediately address our demands. Indian people have shown solidarity to our protests.