Nepal Def Min sparks row with secessionist remarks

Nepal`s Terai plains are home to about half of the country`s 30 million people.

Updated: Sep 28, 2011, 21:48 PM IST

Kathmandu: Nepal`s Defence Minister Sharad Singh Bhandari has sparked a row here with demands being
voiced that he be sacked for allegedly calling for the
separation of the Terai plains from the country.

Bhandari, a senior leader of Madhesi People`s Rights
Forum (Democratic) which is a key ally of the ruling
coalition, allegedly threatened that the 22 districts of Terai
would be separated from the country if a four-point deal
signed between the Joint Madhesi Front and the UCPN-Maoist was
not implemented.

Nepali Congress president Sushil Koirala and top leaders
of UCPN-Maoist have slammed the Defence Minister over the
controversial remarks. The opposition as well as ruling party
leaders have sought his dismissal for the alleged remarks at a
function in Kathmandu.

Nepali Congress (NC) President Sushil Koirala has termed
the statement made by Bhandari as "irresponsible".
Koirala said such "irresponsible" remarks at a time when
the country was in transitional phase would be interpreted

Two senior leaders of UCPN-Maoist also denounced
Bhandari’s remarks, saying it had offended the nationalists
and demanded that he be relieved from the responsibilities at
the earliest.

Nepal`s Terai plains are home to about half of the
country`s 30 million people, and the residents of the region,
known as Madhesis, have long complained of discrimination by
the country`s hill communities.

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

The Maoists and the Madhesi alliance reportedly inked a
pact ahead of last month`s prime ministerial election that
included the provision to oppose the idea of a state
restructuring commission and ensure en masse entry of Madhesis
into the army among others.