Sushma calls for reconciliation, justice for impoverished people.
In a setback to peacemaking efforts by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, the United Madhesi Democratic Front of Nepal on Monday rejected the “Framework Agreement” that the Nepal government had presented as a breakthrough solution to the nearly four-month-long economic blockade.
In a forceful speech presented in the Rajya Sabha on Monday, Ms. Swaraj urged for reconciliation and justice for the impoverished people of Nepal as well as the Madhesi protesters. But speaking to The Hindu, Rajendra Mahato, former Minister of Nepal and senior member of the UMDF delegation, said that the Nepal government’s disinclination to discuss boundary demarcation for a single Madhes province stretching from Mechi in the east to Mahakali in the west had proved that the government of K.P. Sharma Oli was not yet sincere about guaranteeing rights to the Madhesi people.
The Madhesi leaders said that though they had a good meeting with Ms. Swaraj at the Hyderabad House, they remained unconvinced about Nepal’s sincerity. “Kamal Thapa has proposed a three-step solution package and suggested that the issue of creation of a federal united province of Madhes will be discussed in a committee after three months. Mr. Thapa is trying to deceive us because the issue of a Madhesi province has already been suggested by two different committees that were set up earlier. There is absolutely no need to set up a new committee. The government needs to set up the province of Madhes with all due rights and safeguards for the Madhesi people of Nepal,” Mr. Mahato said.
The Madhesi delegation, which is on a four-day visit to Delhi, has conveyed to New Delhi that the ongoing protest in the Madhes region is the third in the recent history of Nepal and therefore has acquired the kind of intensity that can be witnessed at the Birgunj border trade post where India has a consulate. “India should understand that the blockade of Birgunj border trade post is not engineered by the leadership but by the lakhs of Madhesi people who have faced continuous humiliation in the hands of the Nepali elite,” said Mr. Mahato, emphasising that soon upon going back to Nepal, the UMDF delegation will sit with Madhesi protesters to ensure that the blockade at Birgunj is not allowed to be broken by the Nepali police forces.
Apart from meeting political leaders, the UMDF delegation met a group of serving and retired diplomats at the India International Centre on Monday morning but refused to mellow down out of deference to the street sentiments in Madhes. The Madhesi leaders pointed out that Nepal’s new Constitution has curtailed the rights of citizenship and equality that were granted in the interim constitution which was in place.
“It has been a big mistake to take away the rights enshrined in the interim constitution of Nepal and that is why UMDF is threatening to continue to remain on its protest,” said Rahul Barua, Secretary-General of South Asia Foundation, who has been a facilitator to the visit of UMDF to Delhi. The UMDF delegation has promised to fight on suggesting that the blockade is the only non-violent way to fight for their rights. “The other way is of violent insurgency which will break Nepal and hurt India. The failure of our struggle will give space to the violent elements and that is why we have to fight for what is just and fair for the Madhesi people,” said Mr. Mahato.