No headway in resolving anti-Constitution agitation in Nepal, Madhesi Morcha to launch fresh stir

The new phase of agitation will be Terai-centric and all the protests will focus on the Terai.

Kathmandu: With no headway in resolving the four-month-old anti-Constitution agitation in Nepal's Terai region even after 15 rounds of talks with the government, the Samyukta Terai Madhes Loktantrik Morcha, an alliance of four parties based in the Terai-Madhes region, on Friday announced launch of a fresh stir to achieve their demands.

The Morcha said the failure of successive rounds of talks with the government in Kathmandu was proof that it was not serious about the demands raised by the Madhesis and the indigenous groups of the Nepal Terai.

It further announced that any future talks would be held in the Terai and not in Kathmandu.

"We will move to Madhes here onwards," Mahantha Thakur, chairman of the Terai Madhes Loktantrik Party, said at a press conference here on Friday, adding that the government should henceforth come to Madhes for talks.

The Morcha's announcement said the sit-in protests, general strike, peaceful demonstrations and public disobedience will continue -- it, however, made no mention whether the ongoing blockade of key Nepal-India entry points would continue.

The Madhesi political parties and indigenous groups of the Nepal Terai have been agitating against the country's new Constitution which they deem discriminatory.

They are demanding, among others, a redrawing of the boundaries of the provinces in the Himalayan nation as proposed in the new Constitution; and restoration of rights granted to Madhesis in the interim constitution of 2007 which the new charter has snatched away.

The also demand representation in Parliament on the basis of population -- the Nepal Terai has almost 51 percent of the country's population yet gets only one-third of seats in Parliament; and proportional representation in government jobs.

Announcing the decisions of the two-day meeting of the Morcha, the alliance decided to go in for a fresh stir, saying their agitation was now 126 days old during which 55 people had died.

"But there is no change in the mindset of the rulers in Kathmandu based on one ethnicity-based blind nationalism," said Thakur pointing to the discrimination the Madhesis have traditionally suffered at the hands of the Kathmandu-centric ruling elite that has comprised predominantly the Brahmins (Bahuns) and Chhetris of the Nepal hills.

The stir programme includes burning in district headquarters copies of the new Nepal constitution amendment bill, proposed jointly by the government and the Nepali Congress (NC) -- the largest political parties in Nepal's parliament.

Similarly, the alliance will hold torch-light rallies in district headquarters. It will hold mass rallies and protests in district headquarters and boycott government programmes or government-sponsored programmes of ministers, leaders and lawmakers.

"We sat in talks while maintaining flexibility," said Thakur, accusing the government of taking the talks lightly.

The new phase of agitation will be Terai-centric and all the protests will focus on the Terai, he added.

The major agitation demand is for the formation of two provinces in the Nepali Terai -- the Madhes extending from the Mechi river in the east to the Narayani river in mid-western Nepal and Tharuhat pradesh from the Narayani to the Mahakali river in the west.

The Morcha said the NC and the government looked determined to put the amending bills to vote in Parliament for endorsement.

The new constitutional amendment Bills in Parliament will give continuity to the proposal to redraw electoral constituencies on the basis of population and geography with the existing 75 districts as the base which the Morcha has rejected.

Such proposal will not address the demands and grievances of the marginalised communities, the Morcha said adding that besides not fulfilling the demands of the Madhesi communities, the state continued with its oppression in Terai and Tharuhat.

"People in key positions in government continue to make statements against Madhesis, Tharu, Adibasi-Janjati, Muslim, Dalit and other marginalised communities. There is no seriousness among the government as 15 formal and informal talks were held in the past," the Morcha said.

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