Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Rajendra Mahto's Proposed Madhesi Front

I am too far away from ground realities to give specific advice, but I am glad for the initiative taken by Rajendra Mahto to work to get together a Madhesi Front, and I do want to offer some broad outlines as to how this effort could morph. That is the only way. Before Madhesi leaders can talk to the Pahadis in power, they have to talk to each other. And if they can't talk to each other, they don't have much moral ground to talk to the Madhesi people and seek their vote and support.

Rajendra Mahto and I go back far. I have known him from the early 90s. We worked together back then. It was political work. I have always admired his warmth of personality and his people skills. He can bring people together. That is an important skill to have on a deck like politics where many egos are involved.

The first step would be to get all Madhesi groups to talk to each other. That means the two Sadbhavana factions, the two MJF factions, the three JTMM factions, and all the other armed Madhesi outfits. They will probably have to meet in some place like Patna or Lucknow. This is de ja vu all over again. This is like when the seven parties formed an alliance with the Maoists.

But before they talk to the armed groups, it would be a good idea for the four nonviolent groups to get together first, the two Sadbhavanas, and the two MJFs. That meeting could take place some place like Birgunj. That meeting would decide on the broad parameters of the talks to be held with the armed Madhesi outfits and the alliance to be formed.

The Madhesi Front is going to have to play out a few different scenarios. There is an urgent need for political clarity. A mass movement is going to have to be the weapon of last resort. The group is going to have to decide on a clear agenda and one leader. That one leader part is going to be hard. There is going to be a tendency to want to settle on a ceremonial monarch type person like Ram Raja Prasad Singh or Anandi Devi. I think that will be a mistake. You need someone with a broad mass base who is actually doing the work actively on a daily basis. I would say Rajendra Mahto and Upendra Yadav are best suited for the purpose. They could become president and co-president of the Madhesi Front. And if they can not see eye to eye like that, they are going to have a hard time telling the Madhesi masses to get behind them.

At this point I get the impression the Mahto faction of the Sadbhavana is busy talking to the various armed Madhesi groups through the back channels and less busy talking to the nonviolent groups like the other Sadbhavana and the two MJFs. That is not a good sign. The nonviolent Madhesi groups have to get together first. Imagine the Nepali Congress and the UML not getting together first before trying to forge an alliance with the Maoists. That would not have been a good idea.

The goal is to end up with a common minimum program. That common minimum program has to be as short as possible. If it is too elaborate, you are going to lose focus.

And the Madhesi Front, once formed, should have the authority to make all the armed Madhesi groups declare a ceasefire, and to call off all strikes in the Terai.

I would like to propose a four point common minimum program.
  1. Fully proportional elections to the constituent assembly in April.
  2. An election schedule that lets more new parties to register.
  3. Ek Madhesh, Ek Pradesh.
  4. Formation of a 30,000 strong national army in which Madhesi participation is proportionate to its share of national population. Proportionate participation also in the police and the armed police force.
A mass movement is the weapon of last resort. The only thing you need right now really is a fully PR election. Security sector reform will be carried out by the constituent assembly. So if you want a due share for the Madhesi in the security sector, you make sure there are plenty of Madhesis in the assembly. And you get plenty of Madhesis in the assembly by getting them to vote for you. And you get them to vote for you by bringing forth a ceasefire in the Terai, and an end to all strikes. And by forging a Madhesi Front around four words: Ek Madhesh, Ek Pradesh.

If all Madhesi nonviolent and violent groups could come together under one tent to form a Madhesi Front and rally behind the Ek Madhes Ek Pradesh slogan, that front will sweep the election in the Terai. It could even become the largest political group in the constituent assembly. And if not the largest, it could easily emerge the second largest. At that point it could get either the Prime Ministership or the presidency or the Speakership. It could be in power in a major way. At that point you are not demanding fair security sector reform, you are yourself implementing it because you are in power, you are in the driving seat.

I think the goal of the Madhesi Front should be to keep the Terai open seven days a week from now until the elections. Let the Madhesis make bountiful money. Let all the businesses flourish. So they can donate to the Madhei Front candidates when the time comes.

The relentless bandhs have not been helping the Madhesi cause. They have been chaos, not a movement. Bandhs are a sign of disorganization. You build organization, you don't call bandhs.

The problem with the Madhesi Movement this year has not been that the Madhesi people are not awake. The problem has been that the Madhesi leaders have not been awake and in conversation and united. You have got to talk to each other. The onus right now is on the Madhesi leaders, not on the Madhesi masses.

But this is not to say I am ruling out the idea of a mass movement. You always have to maintain that threat, and you have to carry it out if necessary. But before that can happen, you need utmost political clarity.

Congratulations To Rajendra Mahto
Rajendra Mahto: Three Hours Of Video
Rajendra Mahto In Town
Upendra Yadav: Five Hours Of Video
Upendra Yadav Was In Town

In The News

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UNMIN seeks role in security sector reform extend the term of the UNMIN, which expires this January, by another year. ....... three areas where UNMIN can have active role are: support to the implementation of the peace process and agreements signed by the parties, which is a need that is being increasingly stressed by Nepali political leaders and civil society; assisting a discussion on the future of the country's security sector including a managed transition from the current temporary Maoist army cantonments and restriction to barracks of the Nepal Army to long-term solutions without which there is no exit strategy from UNMIN's arms monitoring and; greater advisory support to promoting public security – the greatest concern of so many Nepalis and a critical requirement for a credible Constituent Assembly election. ...... an increased number of reports of unresolved abductions and killings, whether attributed to armed Madhesi groups, Maoist cadres, or local disputes. ....... bring murderers to justice, as the CPN(M) has committed to do in the tragic case of Birendra Sah, and as I have repeatedly said should be the case with the killers of Maoist cadres in the Terai ....... implementation of commitments made to Janajati, Madhesi and other groups ...... "I want in particular to put on record that UNMIN has not met or sought to meet with the leadership of armed Madhesi groups. This misunderstanding appears to have arisen because there was one meeting in India between United Nations humanitarian officials and the leadership of one armed group. Their purpose was to try to ensure that emergency food relief and other assistance could be delivered in the wake of flooding in the Terai earlier this year without attacks by armed groups against humanitarian workers."
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Mahato vows to form a united front in Madhes by involving even armed outfits Rajendra Mahato has said that he will form a united front with all Madhesi groups including the armed outfits and launch a decisive struggle from mid-November. ....... the formation of the front will be similar to the formation of seven party and Maoists' front before April, 2006 people's movement. ....... "We do not demand separate Madhes state but a united Madhes province" ..... the agitation by the front will press ...... he wants job guarantee to 10,000 Madhesi youths in army and police forces before election can be held. ....... he is forming Madhes Raksha Bahini – a force of youths who are both politically and physically trained – to prevent the agitation from becoming violent. He claims that such Bahini have been formed already in 12 districts
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