Here is how the communication between Nepal and India has progressed in the last few days. First, the Nepal government decides to brutally suppress the agitation in Madhesh and proceed with promulgating the constitution without their inclusion. The Indian Minister of Foreign Affairs releases a well crafted statement that lauds constitution drafting process. It also devoted two paragraphs to explicitly mention that it is concerned about the “horrific” violence in Terai and stressed on the need for “flexibility on the part of all the political forces so that any outstanding issues are addressed through dialogue and widest possible agreement, in an atmosphere free from violence”.
Pro-Government Bias in Nepali Media Reporting
However, our jubilant and obedient Nepali media interpreted this statement as a congratulatory note on constitution drafting process, completely ignoring the two paragraphs about ending violence and incorporating voices of Madhesis and Tharus who account for more than 36% of Nepal’s population. Here are a few headlines from major daily newspapers in Nepal.
My Republica – India, US welcome progress made in statute making process
The Kathmandu Post – India welcomes gains in Constitution making
I was concerned and appalled at this bias in media reporting and wrote,
— Puru Shah (@digitalsubway) September 15, 2015
The Nepali media is a master manipulator and a champion of showing pro-government bias in its reporting. At the same time, here are some headlines from foreign media that interpreted the same statement.
Reports in Foreign Media About Statement by India
Reuters – US, India urge restraint in Nepal constitutional debate
Hindustan Times – India ‘concerned’ over Nepal strife, wants ‘durable’ constitution
NDTV – India Voices Concern Over Nepal Violence, Urges Flexibility
Here’s a balanced headlines from
The Himalayan Times – Indian govt urges Nepal parties to be flexible, resolve outstanding issues
In other words, the government of Nepal ignored and brutally suppressed the grievances of more than one-third of the population and proceeded to promulgate a constitution, claiming it to be inclusive. Below is a tweet from Nepal’s PM Sushil Koirala.
Nepal is promulgating the Constitution in a most democratic manner. I am sure the international community will support it. – PM in CA — PM Sushil Koirala (@PM_Nepal) September 13, 2015
Following the statement from Indian Foreign Minister, Nepali media and nationalists stoked patriotism values once again to claim that Nepal can solve its internal problems on its own. They were quite oblivious of the fact that every major political event or transition in Nepal has happened with India’s support and mediation. I am not proud of this. The end of an autocratic monarchy and a decade long armed struggle by UCPN Maoists were no exception either. A fellow Nepali wrote,
Another Nepali wrote,
Perhaps India refuses to “add oil to the fire” but following this statement, KP Oli, CPN-UML leader, sent two pigeons to Delhi to appease India. That unpatriotic move by allegedly the next prime minister of Nepal must have surely quashed their nationalism spirits. Here are two stories from the most read daily newspaper in Nepal – Kantipur and an English daily My Republica.
Kantipur headline – ओली दूतको ‘दिल्ली–व्रिफिङ’ सुरु [Oli’s Messengers’ Start Delhi Briefing]
— myRepública (@RepublicaNepal) September 15, 2015
A day after the two pigeons sent by CPN-UML leader KP Oli failed to appease India, the Indian ambassador to Nepal, Ranjit Rae held a press conference in Kathmandu to educate Nepali media on how to properly interpret India’s statement. Read our post “Indian Ambassador Rae Reiterates Flexibility And Inclusive Constitution”. These series of events demonstrate mutual concern between the two neighboring countries who share an open border, significant portion of trade (at least Nepal does) and much of culture.
(The opinions expressed in this article are my own, and does not reflect the official stance of Madhesi Youth.)