Nepal’s plain, also called Tarai, has been on the boil intermittently for over a decade now, but the most aggressive phase was witnessed since September 2015, demanding what they called fair representation in elective bodies in proportion to the Madhesi population.
At least five dozen people lost their lives while resisting the constitution that was promulgated in September 2015, as top leaders of the United Democratic Madhesi Front gave a call for such a resistance, promising up to five million rupees as reward for ‘martyr’ to the cause. India that extended the support to the anti-constitution movement with South Block asserting it has ‘roti beti ka sambandh’ with the Madhesis, also raised the ‘human right violation’ issue in Geneva-based Human Rights council two years ago, extending solidarity with the Madhes movement beyond the bilateral forum. This perhaps emboldened the Madhesi leaders to set target for bigger achievement than their strength and support base, as well as the real politic allowed.
European and other western donors came in a big way in support of the NGOs based in and run by Madhesi activists and ‘intellectuals’ as parallel support network to the movement. But sudden U-turn by India on the issue asking the UMDF turned Rastriya Janata Party leaders to roll back and demand anything they want from within the constitutional framework, has had its chain effect that is mix of anger and sense of betrayal but without any guts to defy it.
In compliance, the RJP has now registered itself with the Election Commission, preparing to contest the local bodies election in one remaining province (province no 2) on September 18. To give a face-saving to the RJP ,the ruling coalition is likely to move a constitutional amendment re-adjusting boundaries in the local bodies and provincial legislature besides making citizenship rules more ‘liberal’, but without any guarantee that it will be adopted as the coalition does not have the two-third support required in parliament.
India took longer than anticipated to realise that it was losing its credibility and goodwill in Nepal, especially in Terai, by backing only a small section of the leaders, mostly the ones who had been rejected by the people in the last election. For five months of blockade that followed the promulgation of the constitution, Indian establishment that was severely criticised by the opposition in Parliament gave ‘credit’ for bringing Nepal into unprecedented shortage to the UDMF which was vastly disproportionate to its size and might. The UMDF’s leadership (with the exception of Rajendra Mahato) and support base come mainly from the minority upper-caste, and not at all represented the original settlers like Tharus, Rajbanshi and settlers, intermediary castes, Dalits and Muslim minorities. The larger than life size recognition provided to the UDMF by Indian officialdom had also annoyed two other parties–forum Loktantrik and Sanghiya Samajvadi Forum–with larger support base in the region, but was far less militant in its approach on politics and Madhesi demands.
What caused this change in Indian stance in regards to RJP is still a matter of speculation but it seems India has started taking stock on Nepal issue.