Professor Sukh Deo Muni is a well-known public figure and a diplomat, who is closely watching Nepali politics, and Nepal-India relations at various junctures and sharing his commentaries. He has once again been in the limelight at a time when Madhesi parties are protesting against the country’s new constitution. While Nepali media and ruling parties echo Indian blockade, Prof. Muni reiterates that Nepal’s internal problems (protest in border areas) have caused obstruction of supplies from India. He strongly objects the reluctance of major political parties in Nepal to provide equal rights to Madhesis and Tharus.
India has always extended her support to Nepal’s historic movements but she is currently extending her support to Madhes for the first time ever in the history. During his recent visit to New Delhi, our colleague BP Sah, editor of Hulakinews, had a discussion with Prof. Muni on contemporary Nepali political affairs.
Here is the excerpt of Prof. Muni’s talk written by Praveen Kumar Yadav in English.
What is your opinion about the ongoing movement in Madhes of Nepal?
The ongoing movement of Madhes has participation of the Tharus as well. The current uprising and struggle is justified. The rights that Madhesis and Tharus deserve have not been ensured. The past promises made to them have not been materialized. The agreements that former Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala signed with Madhesis and Tharus have not been implemented. The assurance of their rights that Interim constitution had already made have not been executed. The framework that the people’s movement had mandated has not been incorporated. Therefore, their agitation is totally justified.
But, why are there differences among Madhes based political parties themselves, and also among national parties?
In the meantime, the way Tharu leaders got separated from Madhes seemed to be problematic. The ruling parties had joined hands with Tharu leaders and assured them that their demands would be met. But they did not fulfill their demands. Likewise, they did not address the demands of Madhesis either. The UML has a strong ideology not to fulfill the demands of Madhesis and Janjatis at any cost.
And how about Madhesi leaders?
The problem with Madhesi leaderships is that they have already lost their credibility. There are many such leaderships, who had once supported Monarchy while others do not have good repute. Even the new Madhesi and Tharu leaderships are there but many are not satisfied with them as well. However, they are with the current leadership. Young generations have much angst and pain. They say that if their issues are not addressed, they can be more aggressive and may resort to violence. I do not like their point of view, because violence does not bring any solution.
What do you see the government’s role in the current uprising?
The government’s action is absolutely wrong. The way the government has deployed security forces in Terai/Madhes is wrong. Till now, around fifty people have been killed. However, the actual number of deaths and those disappeared during the current uprising is yet to ascertain. The problem cannot be solved by fighting against the protesters. Many, including women, launched their revolutions to oppose the constitution in Kathmandu but there was no police brutality against them.
A section of leadership in Kathmandu believes that Madhesis alone cannot revolt. They think the use of excessive force will crackdown the Madhes uprising. With the same motive, there has been heavy deployment of security personnel and excessive use of force during protests. But, this move (of the government) has already been criticized by Human Right Organizations. This issue has also been raised in the United Nations recently. It is clear that the use of force has yielded no results.
How do you view the role of India and China in the Madhes uprising?
As far as roles of India and China are concerned, China is always happy that the lesser the representation of people from Terai in politics and other sectors, the better it is. But India always wants dignified representation of people from Terai in power sharing and constitution of Nepal. This is why, India and China have different stands.
China lacks direct access to Nepalese politics. But, India has always remained directly accessible to Nepalese politics. India has played a constructive role in democratic movements in Nepal specifically after the end of Rana Regime in 1950/51.
Every change in Nepal has impact on India and vice-versa. Many Nepalis , including BP Koirala, had actively participated in the independence movement of India. Puspalal Shrestha had launched communist revolution from India in 1947/48. Hence, Nepal and India has maintained very close relation with each other. Like Nepal’s relations with India, the relations with China does not exist at social level. Given the fact, India’s role in Nepalese politics cannot be denied. But, this time India is supporting Madhes. Here I would like to add that India had never extended her sympathy for Madhes but this is the first time ever in the history that India is standing for Madhes.
But another community of Nepal is more discontented. Why do you think so?
If they are more discontented, it is their decision. They are unhappy with India not because she stands for Madhes, but because they think that she has cut off supplies. But the reason for the obstruction of supplies is not India, but Madhes where there is protest.
At the initial phase of the ongoing protest, there were no obstruction of supplies. Subsequently, Madhesis started creating the obstruction of supplies to wake up Kathmandu’s indifference towards Madhes. As a result, general public had adverse effect. Therefore, they are blaming India. This is not the first time, whenever Kathmandu’s ruling groups are not satisfied with anything, they blame India.
But the current Madhes uprising is being defamed by linking it with India? How do you find it?
You might recall that when the protest against the constitution process was underway, former Prime Minister Sushil Koirala had stated that India is inciting the protest. Their expressions showed that Madhes has no demands. They think that India is using it as a pawn. This is not true. The current Madhes is not those of 1970, 1980 or 1990s. Madhes has awakened. This is the Madhes, which has actively contributed in People’s Movement I and II. The youths from Madhes are raising their voices. That is why this Madhes is different.
It is wrong to think that whatever Madhes does is on tacit approval of India because India had never supported Madhes. When Madhes opposed Maoists in 2007, no one said that Madhes acted on directions from India because Nepali Congress and UML that time wanted the Maoists to be weak in Madhes. When Madhes opposed Maoists, NC and UML had explained it from political point of view. But today Madhes has been criticized. This is not right. Madhes is now dissatisfied. This is the first time India has supported the dissatisfaction of Madhes.