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Before it’s too late

Monday, September 28th, 2015
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Southern Nepal is in the middle of a humanitarian crisis, we need to act soon

PURU SHAH

Madhes protest

The country, its capital and the media have been largely silent about the humanitarian crisis in the Tarai and the human rights violations. Most of the victims are children, journalists, and ordinary Nepali civilians who have nothing significant to gain from the constitution or federalism. They simply want to live with dignity in a safe environment, earn a living and feed their families. Millions of Nepalis in Terai who have no say have been caught up in this political unrest.

As the protests turned violent, millions of ordinary Madhesis have locked themselves inside their homes for more than a month now. They are not even safe in their homes as police often enter while chasing fleeing protesters. The blockage of the border is now making life even more difficult.

Most Nepalis of the Tarai have no interest in participating in any of the protests with the Madhesi Morcha, or to attack the police. Please do not let violent methods of a few thousands overshadow millions of peaceful Nepalis who are suffering. There was an acute shortage of basic foodstuff and fuel even before, now it is worse. The unrest in the Tarai has become mere statistics, but there is a human side to the story and it affects half of Nepal’s population.

Millions of children in the Tarai have been unable to attend schools and several have died in protests. Children have been victims of police brutality, and many are psychologically traumatised. My three-year-old nephew is terrified of the police. Army trucks patrol the streets, pointing guns at whoever dares to poke their heads out.

In response to a few greedy political leaders, we have the response of a rogue state. The headlines are all about clashes between protesters and police, but this is a much bigger disaster. The National Human Rights Commission of Nepal will most likely investigate these deaths and send thick reports to the government. But how is that going to bring back the dead?

We have to end the blame game between the Madhesi Morcha and Kathmandu. Who started it doesn’t matter anymore, what matters is that it needs to stop. When innocent children and civilians inside homes are killed by police, or a mob lynches policemen things have gone too far, and we need to speak out.

The state and most of the Kathmandu-based media have only criticised the violence against the police while the brutality against civilians continues unchecked. A majority of Nepalis are still indifferent, and this needs to change to save Nepali citizens in the south from a full-fledged humanitarian crisis.

We know there are extremists on both sides. People face discrimination in the Madhes and in the Pahad. It is time to move beyond those differences and build a better and united Nepal. Except for a few, most Nepalis are tolerant and want to live in harmony. When a policeman was lynched in Jaleswor two weeks ago, a Madhesi Nepali saved another policeman’s life by helping him escape from the mob.

Many young Nepalis in the Pahad and Madhes feel a sense of alienation. Many wonder what has befallen upon us that we have become so deeply polarised that reconciliation seems to be a challenge. The provincial demarcation was all gerrymandering. The number of federal states have oscilated between 14, 11, 6, and then 7 which shows that political agreements can change to accommodate grievances. Sooner or later, political squabbles will be solved, with or without India’s mediation. We know this from history. But innocent lives cannot be brought back, and communal tensions need to be healed.

When the earthquakes struck in April, Nepal was united. People in the Tarai collected food and relief to the hills. Today, the Tarai is in the midst a humanitarian crisis, yet the rest of the country appears indifferent towards the people there. How can one part of the country celebrate while the other is mourning for its dead?

This constitution is historic because it was formulated through a democratic process by members elected by the people. It has also institutionalised federalism and the republic, which are big achievements. Yet, it has still not guaranteed gender equality for women and citizenship for their children. People in the Tarai and elsewhere have also been cheated on the basis of citizenship, proportional representation, number of constituencies, cultural, and linguistic freedom. We should fix these deficiencies.

Irrespective of the constitution and the federalism model, most Nepalis will still have to fend for themselves, like they always have. The survivors of the earthquake are still waiting for help that never came, but somehow they have tried to make do.

The Madhesi people also know that they cannot depend on the government for jobs, education, healthcare or basic services. Most of us will gain little from the new constitution or the federalism structure. All we want is to live with dignity but for the last month we have faced oppression, death, fear and humiliation. Even moderate and indifferent Madhesis are resentful. It is still not too late to heal and unite.

Puru Shah is the founder of Madhesi Youth.  

@digitalsubway

Read more: 

Fighting our own battles Jivesh Jha

Costly constitution Anurag Acharya

Anger at Kathmandu

Blockade against Kathmandu

A constitution, like it or not Bidush Dhungel

 

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8 Responses to “Before it’s too late”

  1. Abhishek B on Says:

    Well done Puru Shah! Thanks for penning this down and sharing with the rest of the country. Yes, youth of our country should come together and build the new Nepal. Madhes, Pahad, or Himal we are all Nepali first. The old generation of leaders have let us down. I hope new generation can unite and do better. I hope rest of the country will listen to your very poignant write-up. Indeed it’s time for Nepalis to reach out to our fellow Nepalis in the Terai!

  2. Dheeraj on Says:

    You are absolutely right. We should heal each other’s wounds not fight. Identity based federalism is at the root of the problem. It has opened a pandora,s box.

  3. dgupta on Says:

    No one likes india in the subcontinent. Period.

  4. Satnam Singh on Says:

    India is not imposing any of its will on Nepal. Its very concerned of fall out of violence on its border. India has open border with nepal and has friendship of centuries old. No matter what Pakistan and China say India will never ever give you any pain. India never gave. No supply has been blocked by Indian side. If the supply had been bocked, how trucks would have reached border of Nepal. Just think. Its your own people revolting. India have its own people to look after. Nepal Govt must act swiftly and talk to all stake holders. Nepal must bring balance between two arch rivals China and India. Best of luck for your Future. Your well wisher and brother. An Indian.

  5. Bir Bahadur on Says:

    What is hindering the PM of Nepal talking directly to the PM of India if both of them are for the good of their people as they use to say when they meet in Nepal ?
    The chiefs of the governmennt duty is to take care of their common citizens, not to
    engage in their vested party lines in both the countries. You leaders well know, and give long lectures on importance of friendship and taking each others care in crisises, that putting common sincere people in danger and hunger is not your duties, but to avert causes of those situations and take them out of such situations with all thier good will and effort. But why you do not act now. Do not turn deaf ears and blind eyes, the world is watching you government CEOs. Put the words that you say about the eastern civilization, love and affection into action without delay by directly talking to each other to show the validit of our ancient value and wisdom into deeds right now.Wake up do not lie to the world show them we can do solve crisises wisely. Get up boldly and talk wisely human beings.

  6. prakash on Says:

    Casteism and communilism which is a menace and our shared legacy, which I condemn. Its time to talk about meritocracy and mutuality . im from chettri community, so what, nothing to boast about (did any one apply to god for the choice of their birth)I have seen friends from madhes and janjatis forge ahead because of their education and aptitude than me and i accept it. We rare striving for better future and the progress will testing, painful, evolutionary , tiring , refreshing, steady and especially dignified and respectful. So i there are no fix-quick here. Let Nepalease find our path and journey together. So prabhu lets get get together and defeat this twin catastrophe of extremist and mediocrity from both sides. I truly want to embrace you and desperate for a tight hug from my madhesi bhai.

  7. prakash on Says:

    Casteism and communlism which is a menace and our shared legacy, which I condemn. Its time to talk about meritocracy and mutuality . im from chettri community, so what and nothing to gloat about(did any one apply to god for the choice of their birth)I have seen friends from madhes and janjatis forge ahead because of their education and aptitude than me and accept it. We rare striving for better future and the progress will testing, painful, evolutionary , tiring , refreshing, steady and especially dignified and respectful. So
    i there are no fix-quick here. Let Nepalease find our path and journey together.So i repect you prabhu and lets defeat the twin catastrophe of extremist and mediocrity from both sides. Waiting for a tight hug.

  8. Ravi Raj Kaur on Says:

    Business and emotions. My feeling and understanding is usually it is the COLD INDIFFERENCE people rebel against.

    We know India cannot heal Nepall in one day. The real problem being unemployment when all these fighters worked even as volunteer to reconstruct Nepal it would not be like this. Balance is still missing. Madhesi know why they have been left out and we know it is unfair it feels like the struggle of the uneducated against the educated. The maoists have killed schoolteachers!
    In the same time everyone is all teary because the wife of an ex combatant is now President ( of Parliament no?) for the sake of balance, remember also how many good people FLED the country due to crazy violence.
    India is right to stay out of it, China is happy to move on and on.
    This is a time where the west went down but I agree meritocracy means value for your studies and jobs not just I was born a sharma so I am wonderful already, meritocracy should replace tirrany of the past. Women therefore are better than equal and so on. But they also have to do more than make babies at 19 and sit at home!

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