The Indian Century Begins In Madhesh

(In reply to How Nepal Was ‘Lost’)

The Indian Century Begins In Nepal
by Paramendra Bhagat

For the first time in my life I feel like the word Madhesi exists in Patna, Lucknow and Delhi, for the first time an Indian Prime Minister, an Indian Home Minister, an Indian Foreign Minister have taken personal interest in the Madhesi cause. This is supposed to be bad news?

The ruling elite in Kathmandu, the Khas, all of them came from India over the centuries, but now Indophobia is their number one organizing principle in Kathmandu. The Madhesi are native to Madhesh. The term Madhesi does not exist in Bihar or Uttar Pradesh. It is a term peculiar to Nepal. But the cultural affinity across the border is unmistakable and cross border marriages are the norm, the most famous obviously being the Ram Janaki marriage. There is an open border like exists nowhere else on the planet, but one hopes will exist everywhere perhaps in the 22nd Century, because it is so cutting edge.

All South Asian borders are unnatural, thanks to the British. You find the same people living on two sides of the border everywhere, be it the Pakistan India border, the India Bangladesh border, or the Nepal India border in Nepal's western hills. The Madhesis are not unique.

There is sheer pragmatism. Should the conflict go the militant way, maybe 10,000 Madhesis might pick up arms, but likely three million might flee to the south and swamp Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. Would that be a welcome scenario for Delhi?

And there is the no small issue of doing what is right. All Madhesis are asking for is equality. Or are they supposed to give ground and go the way of the Rohingya?

This is also about India coming of age and going toe to toe with powers like China and the United States and projecting itself on the global stage.

I try to look at China with an open mind. China has lifted more people out of poverty than any power in history and I respect that. I want India and Africa also to lift large numbers of people out of poverty. America ploughed its surplus into Europe and built infrastructure there after World War II. China seems to want to plough its surplus into building infrastructure across Asia and in Africa. And that is a good thing. I can see why China might feel jittery about the South China Sea. You could practically choke the Chinese economy by obstructing that sea route through which it gets all its oil supplies. But the sea lanes have to be kept open and safe for commerce, not just for China, but also the smaller powers. Europe and America seem to do just fine in the Atlantic. India, China and Africa should be able to together handle the Indian Ocean. Indian origin minorities may not be put to harm by local powers in countries like Sri Lanka, Burma and now Nepal. China can not be seen to be taking sides against the Madhesi if it aspires to see an Asian Century. China is the next America, India is the next China, and Africa is the next India. For me it is not an ego issue. It is an issue of global poverty elimination. Poverty robs people of basic dignity. Poverty is offensive.

India is an eight trillion dollar economy, measured for Purchasing Power Parity. That is not a small economy. India's time is not in 20 years. India's time is now.

China is not a democracy. It can appear to speak in one voice. India, on the other hand, is a democracy. It is but natural that the opposition in India will seek to speak against Modi on every issue imaginable, including the Madhesi issue, and it does. It does not disturb me to see that. Democracy is what makes India great and appealing. I will not have it any other way. Those voices are but normal. But the counter arguments have to be made. If Madhesh were a separate country and Modi could run for Prime Minister, he would collect 90% of the votes in Madhesh right now. That is how right he has been for the Madhesis who are fighting for 20th century rights in the 21st century. This is still pre-1947 for the Madhesh. It is like the British never left.

Modi is but in his second year in office. Independent of the Madhesh issue I think he is poised to rule India for 20 years and turn it into a First World country. This is your Deng Xiaoping, India, this is your Lee Kuan Yew. During his first year in office he has put India on the global map. Indians should take pride that their Prime Minister is currently the most popular politician in the world. A 200 billion dollar expenditure on defense can not buy you something like that. There are some things money cannot buy. We live in the era of soft power. And Modi, by that account, has conquered the world. Victory is yoga going to every town on earth, and we are already halfway there.

As a last resort Modi has to be ready to do a Bangladesh on Madhesh. He pulled a Rajiv Gandhi in 2014 by getting the wide popular mandate. Maybe he will get to pull an Indira Gandhi on Madhesh. And if I am proven right and he does rule for 20 years, he will also have pulled a Nehru.

Call me an Indian Imperialist, but my vision does not clash with the basic premise that all human beings are equal. My imperialist thoughts are about deepening Indian democracy, not subjugating peoples. There are too many countries where minorities get meted out second class treatments for no reason other than that they are Indian. That can not stand.

I am an Indian Imperialist in that I live on a planet where the sun never sets on Indians. I have seen more of America than anyone who ever ran for President Of The United States. There is not one town anywhere in America where you will not find at least one Indian family. I think Indians deserve political equality no matter where they are, not to say right in India's backyard, and ultimately it is India’s responsibility to make that happen. India can and should become a 240 trillion dollar economy by 2050, all it would take is a sustained double digit growth rate, and I personally would like to play my small part through my tech entrepreneurship and digital activism. I envision a Madhesi rule in Kathmandu and an eventual Nepal India political economic union. I would like to see a casteless Hinduism created in India and taken across the globe. I want Buddhism taken to all parts of the world. After all, Buddha was born a Madhesi like me. Yoga should be taken to every town on earth. I want to see a total, peaceful spread of democracy, and I want to see India take the lead there.

The Indian Century beings in Madhesh.

(Paramendra Bhagat, a Madhesi from Janakpur, is an early stage tech entrepreneur in New York City.)


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