Reflections of a Young Madhesi/Nepali Caught in Terai Violence

(This is a guest post by Shalini Gupta who currently lives in Terai and has experienced the unrest that most of us just hear about. In this short post, she reflects on some of the contentious issues that has caused much violence and unrest in the region. This post has been edited for publication.)

People in Nepal have the freedom to reside and work anywhere within the country. Although the new federal states in Nepal may have concentrations of one or more ethnic groups in a particular state, that does not bar any Nepali from residing in any state of her choice, irrespective of her ethnicity or identity.

Unlike the popular myth, Madhesis are not an ethnic group. Madhesh, aka Madhya Desh, is a region where Nepalis from multiple ethnic groups live. So, a Madhesi can be a person from any ethnic group who lives in Terai (Madhya Desh) and shares common identity and culture. As I understand, the slogan, “Ek Madhesh, Ek Pradesh” or multiple states in Terai is not a demand for one or more states for a single ethnic group. The demand is for demarcating states based on identity, which is different than ethnicity, and has been agreed on by four major parties. The first point of 16 point agreement reads,

1. The Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal will have eight provinces based on five criteria of identity and four criteria of capability.

The Police does not function on its own. It is “deployed.” Is it justified to have hard feelings for them? Is it sensible to burn Police Chowkis, vehicles, government offices, etc. ? Security personnel also have children, wives, parents, families, and a desire to live a happy life like we do. Similarly, why kill the civilians by firing live bullets and above the knee? And why fire bullets indiscriminately such that children in their homes get killed? Let us not attack each other. This is not a fight between the protesters and the police. Political solutions need to be resolved through a dialogue between political parties.

Before we blurt out, #NotMyConstitution or #ItsMyConstitution, let us deliberate a little and know the facts. At least read the constitution for ourselves. Let us not be a herd of sheep. However, it is none of our “personal” constitution.

Talking about ‘personal,’ what difference does the state demarcation make to the life of a common person? To your life or mine? As it is, what role do you think you play in the actual administration? Think about it. What difference does it make to you or me whether Jhapa, Sunsari, and Morang is included in State 1 or 2? Similarly, what difference does it make if the districts in Karnali are grouped with the districts in the Far Western region? I understand that it makes sense for groups who share a common identity to be grouped together in a state so, Kailali – a stronghold of Tharu population should not be separated from the rest of State 5 that is also populous with Tharus. Regardless, do we need to kill each other over this demarcation?

We have died trying to control a mass of people, we have died expressing our demands. And yet we claim to be democratic. We declare those who died during the process as “Saheeds.” Martyrs. Are they? Or is “victim” a better word? Let us get our definitions clear.

Let us all reflect on these issues, many lives have been lost and many are still in critical condition. It is high time for all of us to show compassion and love towards one another. If all of us can learn to give up arrogance and make compromises, we can all live together with harmony like we once did.