The movement led by the United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF) and the related blockade of the Raxaul-Birgunj checkpost which accounts for up to 70 per cent of supplies to land-locked Nepal from India, concluded as mysteriously, as they had begun 135 days ago.
Last week, the largely sympathetic crowds from Raxaul in Bihar turned unexpectedly hostile- they burnt down the tents erected along the no-man’s land between the two countries and removed Front activists who had been on dharna there all this while. Then, gradually the vehicles loaded with goods began their journey into Nepal.
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The lifting of the ‘blockade’ was not officially announced – its imposition on September 20 which coincided with India’s curt response to the promulgation of Nepal’s new Constitution had also been without fanfare.
The blockade and India’s passive response at the time were seen as an endorsement of the Front’s protest against the Constitution that allegedly refused to recognize Madhesi demands for proportional representation of Madhesis in organs of the state, at least 50 per cent seats from the region in Parliament, and a review of the proposed delimitation of the proposed provincial boundaries. The Front had called it ‘too little and too less’ even after the Constitution was amended by the government.
In order to mobilise more support from the adjoining provinces, top leaders of the Front met Lalu Prasad Yadav and his Rastriya Janata Dal’s Vice President Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, just over a week ago. Both Singh and Yadav said the Constitution snatched away even the existing rights of the Madhesis and ‘we will extend all support to Madhesis in Nepal with whom we have roti-beti relations with.’ Singh had said, provoking an angry protest from the Nepal government.
Prominent Front leader Upendra Yadav, in his briefing to the RJD leaders, had said the communist alliance that rules Nepal was moving closer to China against India. That meeting between the Front and RJD leaders, however, seems to have backfired. In Nepal, Rajendra Mahato, chairman of the Nepal Sadhbhavana Party and a Front constituent, unilaterally called off the Raxaul blockade on Monday, signalling that the Front was not so united any longer. “They dismantled the tent there after we decided to pull back and end the blockade,” said Mahato.
Meanwhile, Delhi had perhaps realized that the blockade and depleting support for the Front leaders in Nepal was costing it dear, harming its image in the international community while China gained at its expense.
The lifting of the ‘undeclared’ blockade was the pre-condition set by Prime Minister Oli to visit India in the hope of mending the relationship that has been under severe strain in the last few months. However, it is still too early to assess the impact of the blockade’s termination and whether it will contribute to political stability.