Fears of turmoil in Nepal as Terai party set for fresh stir

Last Updated: Sunday, October 25, 2009 - 15:48

Kathmandu: A top leader of a Terai-based Madhesi party on Sunday stepped up pressure on the Nepal government to provide greater political and economic rights for the people living in the plains bordering India as he announced an agitation coinciding with protests planned by the Maoists from November 1.
Nepal`s former foreign minister Upendra Yadav, who is also president of the Madhesi People`s Rights Forum (MPRF), said that the party will begin an agitation from November 1 for the implementation of the past agreements with Unified Madhesi Democratic Front (UMDF), which comprises MPRF and two other Madhesi parties currently in the CPN-UML-led government.

The leader of the MPRF, which is the fourth largest party in the 601-strong Constituent Assembly, said he is seeking to implement the eight-point agreement that includes declaring the Terai plains an autonomous region and greater representation for the Madhesi community in the state structure, including the army and the police proportionate to their population.

Yadav was quoted as saying in the local media that MPRF is discussing the nature of the protests and the agitation programmes will be made public soon.

Yadav warned that if the initial phase of the agitation fails to make the government act, the protest would be intensified with strikes and shutdowns.

Nepal`s Terai plains are home to about half of the country`s 27 million people, and the residents of the region, known as Madhesis, have long complained of discrimination by the nation`s hill communities.

The pro-Terai parties argue that people in the Madhesi-dominated Terai region have long been treated as second-class citizens in Nepal, where hill-origin elites dominate politics, the security forces and business.

The agitation plan by the Madhesi comes amid threat by the Maoists to launch a fresh protest from November 1 if the government failed to find a consensus to discuss in Parliament President Ram Baran Yadav`s controversial decision to reinstate then Army Chief General Rukmangad Katawal in May.

The protests by the Maoists and the Madhesi party could cripple Nepal, both politically and economically. The ultimatum by the Maoists, if carried out, could derail the fragile peace process, while the Madhesi agitation could block the main supply line for essential goods through Nepal`s Terai plains bordering India.

The Maoists have already been blocking the Parliament since Prachanda resigned as the Prime Minister on May 4 after President Yadav reinstated the then Army Chief dismissed by the Maoists supremo.

The blockade of the House has disrupted the passage of the country`s crucial budget for the current fiscal year. Parliament must approve the budget by mid-November or face a likely shutdown of the administration, with the government unable to pay salaries to its civil servants.

The political standoff has put new stresses on Nepal`s reconciliation efforts, amid fears that fresh round of agitation in the country may derail the peace process and create new economic hardships for the people.

Bureau Report

First Published: Sunday, October 25, 2009 - 15:48
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