Nepal News (10)

मधेसको पेट्रोल पम्प बात पेट्रोल दिजेल किन बितरन नगरेको ? के यो मानव अधिकार हनन होईन ? कहाँ छन पखन्दी स्वभिमानी पत्रकार हरु ? किन लेख्न को लागी कागज कलम छैन ?

Posted by Mahesh Yadav Adhikari on Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Is India really behind Nepal's economic blockade?
What has sustained the four-month occupation of the Maitreyi bridge on the India-Nepal border? On a recent January day, people on either side of the line shared their answers.
The Raxaul-Birgunj bridge is a key crossing on the open border between India and Nepal, connecting to the shortest land route to the capital Kathmandu, 150 kilometres away. ...... They claim that the new Constitution perpetuates the discrimination they have long faced in the mountain country. ....... The protests have resulted in huge economic losses for Birgunj's business community. Sohna Lal Sah said his small incense business had suffered losses of Rs 1.3 lakh since the blockade started in September. But he was there to support the protest. “Adhikaar se zyada business thoda na hai! Business is not above our rights.” ........ “Unlike the hill communities, we are dark complexioned, so the government says, 'Madhesis are Biharis, Dhotis, encroachers from India'. But we are citizens, we are Nepali.” ........ “In fact, we keep sticks and spears next to us when we sleep on the bridge, because Indian officials send smugglers to attack us at night.” ...... Nepal's government believes this undeclared blockade is just like the ones India had imposed on it in 1969 and 1989. Kathmandu says this time it is doing it to punish Nepal for ignoring New Delhi's advice on altering Nepal’s Constitution. Indian authorities deny the charge, and say the protests reflect the Nepal government's failure to accommodate the demands of various ethnic groups, such as the Madhesis. India claims that freight transporters have been deterred from moving goods through Nepal's disturbed plains because of the threat of violence. ....... the Tharu, an indigenous group in the western plains, and the Madhesis, a group of several communities in the central and eastern plains. .......

Successive Nepalese governments dominated by the upper castes from the hilly regions have discriminated against both groups. The Tharus were dispossessed of their land, forcing many to work as bonded agricultural labour. The Madhesis are viewed as being Indian, and their loyalty to Nepal is questioned. Madhesis, Tharus and other janjati groups are under-represented in the legislature and in all departments of the state. These disparities are reflected in their economic, social and development conditions, which are well below average.

...... In Birgunj, which lies in the central plains, a sense of racial discrimination and lack of opportunities is a recurring theme. “Sab haakim pahariya hai. Only the hill people get elected as officials,” said Eenar Jyoti, a farmer in her 20s who was visiting Birgunj from Chaukiaberia village. Chandan Gupta, a 19-year-old high-school student who has taken part in several protests, said the Nepal government discriminates against Madhesis, giving them the runaround when they apply for citizenship cards and jobs. But was there a lack of economic opportunities in Birgunj, a decades-old commercial centre? “Not everyone can set up a business,” Gupta said. ....... even if they have to suffer now, once their agitation succeeds future generations will not have to bear the discrimination that they have faced. ...... Dubey said he had supported the protestors initially, even getting into a scuffle with Nepal's paramilitary in September in the initial weeks of the protest. But he, like other transporters in Raxaul, has been losing thousands of rupees worth of business every day. Surely by now, he argued, the Madhesi leaders in Kathmandu should have been able to make some progress? ......... “People voted for Madhesi leaders in large parties like the Nepali Congress,” Soni said. “But once inside parliament, they did not speak up for Madhes – some were scared, others sold out.” ....... “The Maoists, now in power, are trying to crush the Madhesis, because after all they too are ruled by the powerful hill communities,” added Shambhu Yadav, a farmer. ....... They cut short the time for parliamentary debate and public consultation, and rolled back or diluted several provisions they had agreed to in the interim Constitution. The politically fragmented Madhesi leadership failed to assert itself. ....... Madhesis were agitated. Were the deaths in the Madhes movements of 2007 and 2008 in vain, they asked. This anger led directly to the current crisis. ...... In Birgunj, officials say that for most of August, demonstrations were organised during the day and the police escorted trucks carrying goods and fuel from the Miteri bridge through the town at night. Political workers say they were increasingly frustrated at a lack of response from the government. “For 45 days, we expressed our demands through a simple protest,” said Bhupinder Tiwari, a political worker with the Sadbhavna Party, a leading Madhesi political party. “But this deaf government was not bothered.” In the last week of August, the protestors began to obstruct the night-time traffic of trucks. .........

As protests intensified, Nepal Armed Police killed five youth in Birgunj over August 30-31, shooting them at close range in the head, face and back.

...... Birgunj's Narayani sub-regional hospital's emergency ward files “Madhes Andolan” as a separate category. “Dilip Chaurasia, dead with bullet in left shoulder. Dharamraj Singh, 21, dead with bullet in the head. Suresh Yadav, 19, shot in the cheek. Rajababu Sah, 16, shot in chest...” ...... These records show that between August and November, 228 protestors were treated for bullet wounds and other serious injuries. Similar incidents of fierce protests and lethal police violence were recorded in the adjoining districts. Human Rights Watch has investigated the criminal attacks by the protestors as well as several instances of use of disproportionate force by the police. ........ “The Indian government had stood as a guarantor on the previous agreements during the Constitution drafting process, and the ruling parties unilaterally abrogated those agreements,” the official said. “The continuing disturbances across the border are a security concern.” ....... In Birgunj, curfew continued till September 20. On that day, the Nepal government ratified its Constitution by a large majority. ...... “How long are we to live under the shadow of the guns of the police?” asked an incensed Pradeep Yadav, district president of the Federal Socialist Forum. “They put us under curfew, while everything went on as normal in Kathmandu. After they signed off on the Constitution this way, we felt we had to do something.” ....... On September 23, an alliance of Madhesi parties gave a public call to shut down all government offices and to intensify protests along the highways. The next morning, in Birgunj, political workers occupied the Maitreyi bridge. ........

They were joined by hundreds of youth, brought together by hectic phone calls and WhatsApp messages

. ....... Shiva Patel, general secretary of the Nepal Sadbhavna Party, said that when the Nepal Armed Police began firing teargas shells at the protestors and even fired gunshots in the air, Sashastra Seema Bal personnel reached the Indian side of the bridge. “One of their men then came up to the Nepal Armed Police,” said Patel. “After that, the police here stopped firing.” ......... Rajan Bhattarai, a member of Nepal's parliament representing the ruling Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist), said the protestors were sitting on the bridge on the Indian side and that India's support to the blockade has already caused irreparable damage to the relations between the two countries. ....... the Indian Oil Corporation depot, located a few metres from Raxaul bridge, has supplied nearly 60% of Nepal's fuel needs – diesel, petrol, aviation fuel and superior kerosene – since the 1960s. ...... Mahesh Agarwal, an Indian businessman and a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh, the ideological parent of the Bharatiya Janata Party, is an unusual link between those on the Indian side and the protestors. Agarwal has been feeding the protestors two meals a day on the Indian side of the bridge since the blockade began. ..... The river Sirisiya, over which the Maitreyi bridge was built, has dried up. Further away, with open fields on all sides, it is hard to tell where the border lies between the two countries. ..... No four-wheeled vehicles are being allowed on the bridge, but thousands cross the bridge every day on foot. Many carry fuel from Raxaul to Birgunj in cola bottles and 15- and 20-litre plastic jars. Young men on motorbikes zoom back and forth multiple times each day, filling their tanks in Raxaul, selling the fuel in Birgunj, and returning for a refill. .......

In Raxaul, every government agency views the Madhesi protestors through its own lens.

...... At the customs office at Raxaul, officials were a little less patient. “The protestors are a nuisance,” said an official who declined to be named. “On an average, we earned Rs 50 lakh per day in customs duties on iron, rubber and consumer goods passing through here every day – up to Rs 120 crore a year. How long will they obstruct international trade this way?” ........

The official blamed Raxaul businessman Mahesh Agarwal for feeding the protestors, allegedly for political gains. Agarwal, whose company Mahima Exports trades in detergent and chemicals, is one of the most influential businessmen in the commercial border town. He was under stress, he said, with Raxaul's transporters and the business community mounting pressure on him to discontinue feeding the protestors...... “I have spent Rs 10 lakh already,” said Agarwal, as he monitored construction of a retail store inside his massive home on Raxaul's Bank Road.

......... I had provided meals to Madhesis even in their previous andolan nine years back, so I agreed. I even collected Rs 2 lakh as contributions from other local businessmen. ....... Agarwal and several senior government officials concur on one point: when the protestors first occupied the bridge, they had expected the situation to last a week or two at most. No one had anticipated that the protestors will be continue to occupy the bridge even after 18 weeks. .............

Once the movement ends, said Alam, he and 11 others will have to face trial for a police case filed against them for attempting to obstruct trucks leaving for Kathmandu

from the Sirsiya dry depot, 3 kilometres away, where imports were being transported in double the quantity from Kolkata by trains. ........

“If Madhesi leaders return empty-handed this time, or compromise, we will beat and shoot them,” Alam said, voicing the mounting frustration of the protestors.

........ “Det rahi suun, det rahi suun, we are going to give you something – this is how the large political parties keep delaying to tire the Madhesis,” said Ramshankar Sah of Bindhbhasini village. He said he, and others from his village, were prepared to continue the protests even if it dragged on for more months. ........ "Andolan neeman hai. Maang de do toh khatam hai (It is a good movement. It will end if you fulfill our demands),” said Kishore Sani, a construction worker from Malangwa village, speaking in Bhojpuri.

“Aur neta ke bas mein hamne kahan hain. We are not controlled by any politicians’ whims.”

राजेन्द्र महर्जनओलीज्यू, “माकः फुइँ” हैन, प्रेमपूर्ण संवाद गर !मधेसका मुद्दालाई अपहरण गरेको दिल्ली दरबारप्रति महान राष...

Posted by ESamata on Thursday, February 4, 2016


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