The Economist: Federal Express
A nasty bout of ethnic violence in an already battered country
MANY Nepalis believed the world was ending in April. A huge earthquake killed nearly 9,000 people and flattened over 600,000 buildings. ..... The politicians moved ahead because Maoists, former soldiers who had handed in their rifles to form a political party,
dropped demandsfor special conditions for women, the lowest Hindu caste and indigenous people. ....... the politicians moved unusually fast because they wanted a shot at many plum posts, including a presidency ...... upset the ethnic Tharu, roughly 1.7m people who live in western Nepal and who would be divided between two states. They fear being weakened as a voting bloc. “This is a time for do or die for us,” says a Tharu lawmaker, recalling that many of her people were treated as serfs until only a few years ago. ...... Politicians in Kathmandu ignored the protests until August 24th, when tens of thousands of people massed in Tikapur in the western plains and, in confrontations, killed at least seven policemen. That sparked fears of wider ethnic violence in more towns, and of a crackdown by the police and army, which were deployed to enforce calm. Mobs of non-Tharu men nevertheless burned the homes of dozens of Tharus in the west.
The police, who have an ugly reputation, reportedly detained and tortured some Tharus. Human-rights groups and others fear outbreaks of violence worse than anything since the civil war that ended in 2006. ........ if ethnic or caste groups as big as the Tharu feel excluded by the federal design, then stability will surely prove elusive.