- PRASHANT JHA
I have been thinking of the current moment in Madhes and what should be done. Two quick points:
Madhes should pick tips from the Indian national movement. At times when the agitation against the British (non-cooperation, civil disobedience) tapered off for different reasons, Gandhi shifted focus to constructive activities – from khadi to battling untouchability.
When the anti state agitation is not at its peak, Madhesi society should turn inwards and focus on social reform – especially on caste and gender questions. There must be more engagement with Dalits and their concerns: we have to admit that Dalits have not been given space in the movement and relate to in only marginally; there must be internal party churning to give greater representation to Dalits, Muslims, Tharus, women; regressive customs must be fought; the more subtle forms of discrimination against Dalits must be recognised and challenged; girls education must be encouraged; women should be encouraged to work in formal spaces instead of restricting them; there must be a voluntary land reform drive and a clear roadmap of how the land question will be settled; there must be an apology from upper caste groups for the discrimination they have perpetuated for generations against others. Of course, there are many more internal problems within Madhesi society and let us all think through that and identify priorities.
Madhesi parties may have become the face of the movement – but we all know that the movement was far far broader than the parties.
Given their rotten state, i would spend more time engaging with other sources of strength for the movement. There must be more investment in media houses in Tarai so that we have an alternative voice; ours is a civil rights movement and human rights is a key ethical issue and political tool and we should think of more ways to frame it in that manner and spread awareness; there has to be more academic work/research on Madhes’ relationship with the state + what the Madhes provinces would do if and when they are created and their development trajectory; there has to be constant engagement between young people of various castes from across the east to west of Tarai, for at the moment the geographical divide between east and west is fairly deep.
The Madhes movement is a generational struggle. There will be ups and downs. We have to learn how to use the ‘peace time’ more productively to prepare for the next stage of battle, which is inevitable. I would like this note to be a starting point for a conversation about what else should we focus on during this period. Please feel free to comment.