» » What happens next in Madhesh will be clear after PM's India visit

-Prbeen kumar yadav

In his recent newspaper article Madhesh analyst Tula Narayan Shah concluded that Madhesh Movement has reached a point of "miscarriage." He holds Madheshi leaders responsible for this. Shah had announced an end of Madhesh agitation long back, when United Democratic Madheshi Front (UDMF) leaders came to vote in Prime Minister's election in the Parliament last October. But Madhesh agitation continued until this month. Therefore it would be wrong to ascertain that Madhesh movement has fizzled out. Here is why.

First, the credit for constitution amendment (that ensures constitution delimitation on population basis and proportional representation in state bodies) goes to five-month-long Madhesh agitation, whose credit goes to UDMF leadership. Yes, this does not fully address Madheshis' demands but it is a step towards the right direction in breaking half-year long impasse.

Second, no campaign other than current movement would have been able to raise political awareness among people in Madheshi people within such a short span of time. During my last visit to Janakpur, I found that even a rickshaw puller is aware of how the state has discriminated against Madheshi people.

Unlike in the past two movements of 2007 and 2008, youths were drivers of the current uprising in Madhesh. This is also evident from the fact that most of demonstrators killed in police firing were Madheshi youth. There are youth on the ground in Madhesh. Participation of women in political protests was an unheard of thing in the past. They actively participated in the demonstration this time in which five of them lost their lives.

Third, a political movement does not have consistent flow. Withdrawal of general strikes and border blockade may have given the impression that Madheshi leaders have relented. But this was necessary because blockade had adversely affected people's lives across the country and put our economy at stake. The border centric protest was aimed as a tactic to pressure the government to amend the constitution. It has achieved that goal, though much needs to be done yet.

During the Madhesh Movement and border obstructions, common people suffered the most. Smuggling of fuel and black marketeering of essential goods were rampant in both sides of the border. UDMF called off strikes and withdrew border centric protests in view of this. It does not mark the end of movement in any way. Those who raised Madhesh agenda and those who believed in it still prevail. Local demonstrators are continuing with peaceful rallies and assemblies even today.

Fourth, what happens next in Nepali and Madhesh politics will be clear after Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli's first official visit to India starting this Friday and the upcoming General Convention of Nepali Congress (Nepal's largest party in the parliament) slated for March.

India's influence in Nepal's political affairs remained ineffective during constitution promulgation. But with its support for Madhesh Movement, it has reasserted its role in Nepal. India is eagerly waiting for PM KP Oli's visit and NC's new leadership. Oli is reportedly going to sign some vital deals with India which will be in favor of Madhesh. NC was India's old friend in Nepal since its funding years. It failed to take India into confidence during constitution promulgation. Post-convention, NC's stand on Madhesh and India will be clearer under the new leadership.

The UDMF is being strategic. It wants to see what will unfold after Oli's India visit and NC's general convention. It has taken end of strikes and border blockade as an opportunity to facilitate resolving pressing issues. Had they continued with strikes and blockade even now, it would have affected both PM's visit and NC's convention. UDMF have great expectations from Oli's India visit and NC's new leadership.

Madheshi leaders are engaged in uniting fringe parties for formation of a grand alliance to take the movement forward in the future. As part of this strategy, UDMF has taken three more Madheshi parties—Rastriya Madhesh Socialist Party, Nepal Sadbhawana Party (NSP) and Madheshi People's Right Forum (Republic)—into its fold.

Earlier Madheshi parties were divided into two different alliances—UDMF and Federal Inclusive Madheshi Alliance (FIMA) and had been launching protests separately. Three parties which recently joined UDMF come from FIMA. The fourth constituent of FIMA, Jaya Prakash Gupta-led Tarai Madhesh Rastriya Abhiyan (TMRA)—has no seat in the parliament.

UDMF has now seven constituent parties with their representatives in the Parliament. People in Madhesh are happy to see Madheshi parties coming together for united struggle. They have finally come together to intensify struggle for the cause of Madhesh. It is a step forward in the right direction. UDMF is also working to take Tharu organizations, JP Gupta and Matrika Yadav factions into its fold.

Prior to his departure for India, Prime Minister Oli has promised a deal with UDMF to form a political mechanism to address province demarcation issue. So much depends on whether he will keep this promise. Political course in Nepal may take a different turn after Oli returns from India. For the moment, Madhesh Movement is far from over.


About Suresh Yadav

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