Southern bluesKathmandu should be cautious about how splinter ideology is spreading in Tarai due to its continuing negligence of the region
“Within a day in Kathmandu, six people—a mix of politicians, donors, diplomats, activists—have told me that Chandra Kant Raut’s popularity is shooting up in the Tarai.” This is what I saw posted on the Facebook wall of Prashant Jha, an associate editor of Indian daily Hindustan Times. This post had sparked my curiosity, and I wanted to know more about Raut’s political activities in the Tarai.
Coincidently, I was invited to attend the Janakpur Literature Arts Festival as a panellist. The event was organised in Janakpur where CK Raut has been residing for the last few months. Most importantly, several guests from different walks of life, like politicians, journalists, academics, poets and others had also been invited to the programme. During my three-day stay in Janakpur, I spent a lot of time talking to several people about the ongoing activities of CK Raut, and tried to get an idea about the possibility of the success of his ideology.
CK Raut, a scholar who previously worked as a scientist, heads an organisation called the Alliance for Independent Madhes (AIM). He appeared in the public domain after he was arrested by the Nepal Police in September 2014 when he was delivering a speech about how Madhes had been colonised, and that partition was the only way out for a better Madhes. AIM marks anti-racism day every year on November 25, commemorating the day when he had been arrested for the first time.
This year, several of his cadres have been arrested from different places—58 from Bhairahawa and seven from Kapilvastu. Raut himself got arrested from Janakpur. Similarly, on December 4 during the Vivah Panchami festival, youths associated with AIM were arrested on the charge of committing a public order offence when they were serving drinking water to pilgrims at Ramananda Chowk, Janakpur.
Likewise, on the very next day after Vivah Panchami, 17 AIM cadres were picked up from the premises of the Janaki Temple when they were cleaning up the place.
Mood of Madhes
Is this the way to solve the problems being seen in the Madhes? I don’t know whether Kathmandu has been updated about the results of arresting AIM cadres. But the reality is that whenever they arrest Raut’s cadres in Madhes, it only results in a multiplication of his sympathisers. Indirectly, it benefits radical splinters and like-minded people.
Since the emergence of AIM in the Tarai, Madhesi psychology has been divided into three sections. The first group is directly associated with CK Raut and thinks that his way is how the Madhes can become free. The second group believes in moderate politics and is associated with the Madhes-based parties and the so-called national parties. They think that a fight with Kathmandu will last long, but they should get each right by being an integral part of Nepal. The third group has no association with direct politics. But when they see the activities of Kathmandu and feel that their legitimate rights are being curtailed even after three Madhes movements, they are compelled to think that the ultimate solution is to endorse the ideology of CK Raut.
In such a scenario, Kathmandu should analyse the situation critically. As a lover of sovereign Nepal, what I think is that the size of the first group is small. The second group is not in a mood to walk on the ideological path of AIM. But the third group, which is neutral, can be challenging for Kathmandu in the coming days because it is a large group. Their genuine concerns about the outcomes of three Madhes movements and manipulation by Kathmandu have compelled them to get organised for an ultimate solution to the Madhes crisis. If Kathmandu fails to allay their concerns, it will be a challenge to cope with the situation.
Nepal may be a small country but it has many big problems—ethnic, social, economic, religious and political. The Madhes has a long history of marginalisation, a fact accepted by almost all the leaders of the country. So it’s a mystery why they don’t trying harder to solve the problem. Currently, the core reason behind the political deadlock is the Madhes issue. The coalition government of the Nepali Congress and the Maoist-Centre has tabled an amendment bill in Parliament about which Samyukta Loktantrik Madhesi Morcha (SLMM) is positive.
The amendment bill says that there will be two states in the Tarai and that the dispute over the five districts will be finalised later by forming a commission. Regarding the issue of representation, the bill says that provinces in the Tarai will have a greater number of representatives in the Upper House. Similarly, languages identified by the Language Commission as mother tongues will be made official languages and they will be incorporated in the constitution in an annex, giving them statutory legitimacy.
What needs to be said here is that Kathmandu should be cautious about how radical splinter ideology is spreading in the Tarai due to its continuing negligence of the region. Second, the more responsible leaders try to dismiss the amendment issue lightly, the more people will be alienated; and this will make it difficult to have a grip on the mood in the long term.
Chaudhary holds a Bachelor of Law degree