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The divided Front

Tuesday, December 29th, 2015
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The four Madhesi parties, which have been spearheading protests against Nepal’s new constitution for the last four months, now appear divided over whether to call off border sit-in programs.

Two of the top four leaders of the Madhesi Front, Mahant Thakur and Upendra Yadav, are now pressing for calling off sit-in protests at Nepal-India check-points. But Rajendra Mahato is not flexible, and he is also putting pressure on others to intensify protests. It is not clear where Mahendra Ray Yadav, the fourth leader of the front, stands, but he is strategically close to Mahato.

Mahato and Ray Yadav had together left for New Delhi via Patna early this month. A day later, Thakur and Yadav also flew to New Delhi from Kathmandu. They were apparently told by India to show flexibility on a road-map presented by the ruling parties, but Mahato is determined to continue with protests.

On this weekend, Mahato himself tried to block the Jogbani check-point and was beaten up by police. He is still undergoing treatment at a hospital in Biratnagar. After Mahato was thrashed, his Sadbhavana Party put pressure on the Front to boycott talks unless the government apologises.

But Thakur and Yadav upset Mahato by refusing to pull out of talks. In a statement, the Front condemned the attack on Mahato but did not warn of reject talks.

After India welcomed Nepal’s decision to amend the constitution to ensure proportional representation of Madhesi people and set up an all-party committee to revise federal boundaries within three months, the Front is clearly under pressure to withdraw border-centric protests so that New Delhi can resume supply of fuel through Birganj and restore relations with Kathmandu.

The Front knows it will not be able to sustain its agitation without India’s support, but internal rivalry is clearly stopping it from calling off border protests. Nevertheless, Thakur on Tuesday said: “When our scheduled protests end in the first week of January, we will discuss whether to continue our border protests.”

But Sadbhavana Party’s General Secretary Manish Suman, who is close to Mahato, dismissed reports about possibility to call off border protests. “We will be blocking the border as long as federal boundaries are not revised,” he said.

So whether the Front will call off border protests now depends on who, Thakur or Mahato, prevails at the end of the day.

Om Astha Rai

 

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