December 8, 2015 3:48:58 pm
The hope that both India and Nepal would find an excuse to retreat, end the blockade, and return to normalcy, has receded.
India’s Minister for External Affairs, Sushma Swaraj only said, ‘if Madhesis get justice, and God willed’, the situation would ease up in Nepal in the coming days. However, that lacked a firm commitment despite the vociferous opposition in Parliament grilling the government for ‘interfering’ in a sovereign country’s affairs and not trusting Nepal despite its assurance that Madhesi problems would be addressed through an amendment to the constitution.
It may have been a coincidence that the debate in the Rajya Sabha and the non-committal response of the government came when top four leaders of the United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF), who demand enhanced representation in Nepal’s Parliament and proportional representation in all organs of the state, were in Delhi at the invitation of the government of India. Indian opposition party leaders, especially Mani Shankar Aiyar of the Congress said that out of four Front leaders currently in Delhi, three had lost the elections, implying they did not have the popular support of the Madhesis.
Despite the red carpet welcome, the Front’s argument that they are ‘racially discriminated’ against, may have serious implications for India if it accepts this position as there are many ethnic groups in India and the north eastern regions complain that they are not integrated into India’s mainstream.
Nepal has around 125 ethnic groups and disparity among castes. Dalits or the ‘Shudras’ being treated as ‘untouchables’ has been abolished by law but is still a part of social practice. The Front, with its leadership dominated by upper and intermediary castes, has now begun talking about ‘Racial discrimination’.
The issue raised by the Front essentially revolves around federalism. Clearly, the solution lies in an honest search for effective federalism or the devolution of state power through wider consultations among all sides. The Front also has to seek a solution within the wider national framework, no different yardstick can be applied in deciding and devolving powers to provinces in the mountains and the plains.
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