Saturday, December 15, 2007

Hridayesh Tripathi Kantipur Interview

INTERVIEW WITH HRIDAYESH TRIPATHI Hridayesh Tripathi is one of the lawmakers and influential Madheshi leaders who recently quit parliament and the major parties including the Nepali Congress (NC), CPN-UML, CPN-Maoist and Rastriya Prajatantra Party to form a new party in the Terai region. In a recent interview with ekantipur, he shared the reasons behind the decision to launch a new regional party to be led by former NC leader Mahantha Thakur, its demands and future moves. Excerpts:

Q. What’s the rationale behind the decision to set up a new regional party in Terai?

Hridayesh Tripathi: The three major parties—the Nepali Congress, the CPN-UML and the CPN-Maoist— not only failed to address the problems of Madhesh, but also completely failed to comprehend them. The government, the state and parliament, too, have proved ineffective in this regard. Similarly, the achievements of the last Madhesh revolt, too, were not commensurate with the sacrifice made by the Madheshi people. This was chiefly because of the lack of a proper and mature leadership. As a result, only minimal gains could be achieved since the revolt was not organised. Even today, Terai lacks a strong party with clear political agendas. Most importantly, the mindset of the state to opt for a military solution or the use of force to tackle the Madhesh problems stirred us to take this decision.

Q. How can you say for sure that the state is mulling over using force to tackle the problems in the Terai region?

I am not making a guess when I am saying that the state is thinking of using force to suppress the Madhes problems. The government’s recent move to deploy the Armed Police Force (Special Task Force) in seven Terai districts clearly proves that the state wants a solution through the use of force. Similarly, Maoist Chairman Prachanda (addressing the anniversary of the People’s Liberation Army at Maoist cantonment in Chitwan) recently said that the Nepal Army and the Maoist People’s Liberation Army should be jointly mobilised in Terai. These developments are going to invite a big accident in the region. Similarly, a few things that transpired during and after the Madhesh revolt early this year have really moved us. I want to narrate some of them here to show how insensitive the state and the major parties are. Of the 42 people who died during the Madhesh revolt, only one had succumbed to bullets fired by the Maoists. All others were killed in police firing. But the state has not even bothered to declare any one of them a martyr while all 22 people killed during the April uprising were declared martyrs. This shows the state practices discrimination not only against the living Madhesi people but also the dead. Yet another ordeal: Six Madheshi people, who were severely injured during the agitation had been referred to a hospital in Kathmandu for treatment. But the Young Communist League cadres entered the hospital premises and terrorised them. The injured people seeking treatment in the capital were so terrified that they requested us to take them to a hospital in India. Such incidents have reinforced our conviction that a new political force should be established to push for the cause of the Madheshi people. But at the same time we are also mindful of the fact that the agitation must remain peaceful and under control of responsible political leaders.

Q. So you want the agitation in Terai to be well under your control?

Tripathi: Yes. The people had led the last revolt and the leaders had rallied behind. Hence, it could not yield the desired results.

Q. Speculations have been doing rounds that the leaders of the major parties, especially PM Koirala himself, had been trying to set up a new Madheshi party so that the agitation in the region does not spiral out of control. Is your recent move part of the plan? Tripathi: No, the Prime Minister is not at all involved in this. In fact, to destabilise the country. the major parties have become paranoid. They are desperately trying to defame us and our initiative. The Prime Minister has alleged that we took the step at India’s behestThey are simply infuriated by our move. Moreover, why would any party empower us by weakening itself? We have taken this step being responsible. Forget a separatist movement; we are not even talking about any special rights to the Madheshi people. All we are demanding is an equal right. But the state remains insensitive to the just demands of the Madheshi people.

Q. What are your demands?

Tripathi: As I mentioned before, all we demand is equal rights to the Madhesh. A proportional representation based on population. Now you may say that the state has already agreed to it. Yes, there is a constitutional provision to ensure this right. But what is happening in practice? I want to cite an example to prove my point. Recently, the government came up with an Act to ensure reservation for the Madhesi people in the police force only after a massive recruitment of police personnel. Till date, there is no representation of the Madheshi people in the Nepal Army. The same applies to the Maoist army too. And what is happening in the civil service? A lot of secretaries were appointed only a few days back. Only two of them hailed from Madheshi communities. The state wants to give our rights in credit, but we are demanding in cash. The major parties still seem reluctant to a true restructuring of the state. They are pushing for a proxy representation. The Reservation Act aims to overshadow the demand for a proportional representation. Some of them are arguing that federalism could lead to the disintegration of the nation. But we see that national disintegration is inevitable if the state is not restructured along the federal lines. Prachanda is now saying that the true state restructuring means integration of two armies. But we are not going to settle for anything less than a proportional representation in all organs of the state and a complete restructuring of the state to guarantee our rights.

Q. Do you also want the entire Terai as a single autonomous state?

Yes, that’s our demand but the Madheshi people have the final right to decide the number of states in Terai. Here I would also like to mention that the Madheshi people are completely opposed to a separatist movement.

Q. While the major parties have opposed your move, the Madheshi People’s Rights Forum and some armed groups in the Terai acted promptly to welcome it. Co-chairman of the Rastriya Janshakti Party, Dr Prakash Chandra Lohani, too, has written an article welcoming your move. What are we to make out of it?

Tripathi: Any wise person or group that understands our rationale has hailed our move. But one cannot do anything with those who have ill intentions.

Q. The Madheshi leaders’s decision to quit parliament and their parties came like a bolt from the blue. But it wasn’t at all a decision taken in haste, was it?

Yes, you guessed it right. It all started in the build up to the Madhesh revolt shortly after the interim constitution was promulgated. The NSP-A had even written a note of dissent against the discriminatory provisions in the constitution. The Madhesh revolt started after a month. The fringe parties in the Seven-Party Alliance had appealed to the major parties to address the problems immediately. But the appeal apparently fell on a deaf ear. Then I resigned from the cabinet. Only then was an emergency meeting of the SPA convened. The Prime Minister then pledged to give some concessions in two installments (two addresses to the nation within a few days span). The MPs and leaders from Terai met several times and finally the decision to launch a new party was reached.

Q. When will the new party be launched?

Very soon.

Q. Could you be more specific?

The party will be formed within two weeks.

Q. Has the new party’s name been decided?

Not yet. We are brainstorming for a name at the moment. It would be finalised within the next few days.

Q. What about the party’s hierarchy?

So far, we have agreed that Mahanta Thakur will be our leader.

Q. What about your status in the party?

Tripathi: We are yet to work out the other posts in the party.

Q. Who else are going to join you? Could you name some other Madhesi leaders?

I don’t want to divulge their names them right now. They are under constant surveillance following our move. When we approached some of the influential Madheshi leaders from the major parties, they said that they supported our cause. They did not want us to meet them at their residences. They want to meet us secretly. They are also being lured with all sorts of promises. The major parties are also talking about reallocation of the ministerial portfolios to stop them from joining us. All I can say right now is that a significant number of Madheshi leaders from different parties will be joining us soon.

Q. What kind of relation do you intend to have with other Terai-based parties and armed groups such as the factions of the MPRF and JTMM?

Tripathi: We want to forge an alliance with all groups, which stand for the cause of the Madhesh. Why only the parties and groups in Terai, we want a good relation with all the major parties, including the Maoists. But that would depend on these parties’ stances on the Madhesi issues.

Q. The existing parties and groups in Terai could also treat your party as a competitor?

We don’t see any competition. If (Nepal) Sadbhavana Party had genuinely taken up the cause of the Madheshi people then other groups would not have surfaced in Terai, and the region would not be torn by violence like now. Sadbhavana indulged so much in the politics of power that it lost contact with the Madheshi people. A few months back, I had urged the party leadership to launch a movement in Terai sensing the popular mood, but we failed to do so. It was a historic mistake. The Madhesh revolt started soon thereafter. But, the revolt also fizzled out. Had the MPRF been able to lead the Madhesh movement effectively then we would have already achieved what we are striving for. They (MPRF) lacked the political will, maturity and sincerity to take the agitation to a logical end. The Madheshi people are also weary of the armed groups wagging a separatist movement.

Q. Still, don’t you think that the new party will only divide the Madheshi votes if you fail to bring the different groups together?

I want to clarify in the first place that we are not thinking about the politics of votes at all. We are not here to play politics for the sake of it. We are established political leaders who have come together to push for the agendas of the Madheshi people. And, we also want to see to it that there is no spillover effect of the Madhesh movement. Our party will also act as a catalyst to bring the different parties together for the good. We have not even set up our party and the three major parties have already stepped up efforts to bury their hatchets and evolve a consensus. This could be seen as an early achievement of our initiative.

Q. What is your take on the national agenda such as the Constituent Assembly elections?

Obviously we believe that an election to the Constituent Assembly is important to transform the nation. But it is unfortunate that everything is happening in this country, except the elections. This is because, I think, the King, Prachanda, Girija Prasad Koirala and Madhav Kumar Nepal do not want the elections. As they have nothing to loose now, they want the status quo to continue. The Madheshi people, janjatis, Dalits and women are the marginalised groups who are actually yearning for the elections since they want the state restructured to ensure their equal representation and participation in the state organs. If you ask me, I don’t think the major political actors even want a republican order in the country. The Nepali Congress leadership has now and then floated the idea of ceremonial and baby kings. The Maoists brought a superficial motion on republic declaration as if they only wanted publicity. Now they have started to advocate unity with the royalist nationalists. The Madheshi people, however, do not favor the monarchy since the institution has nakedly discriminated against them for centuries.

Q. When are you going to launch the new Madhesh agitation?

It has in fact already begun with the Madheshi leaders’ decision to quit parliament and their parties. However, once we form the party, we will organise a national convention and announce a peaceful agitation, which will establish the rights and authority the Madheshi people.

(By Akhilesh Tripathi & Sanjeev Ghimire)

In The News

MPRF, NSP hold peaceful protest demonstration at Gaur Kantipur The Madhesi People’s Right Forum (MPRF) and Nepal Sadbhawana Party-Mahato (NSP-Mahato) held a mass demonstration at Gaur in Rautahat district demanding withdrawal of the names of their activists filed by the Maoists for their alleged involvement in the Gaur massacre earlier this year. ....... While a majority of locals choose to stay within their homes during the rally which started two hours late from the scheduled time, hundreds of people from many nearby villages had come to participate in the rally. ...... MPRF leader Amar Yadav said that they would continue their fight until the administration drops the names of their cadres who were alleged to be involved in the Gaur massacre. ...... after the police declined to register the names of 127 members of MPRF, NSP and other parties saying they were based on prejudice, the Maoists resorted to banda in Rautahat from December 21 to 24. ....... Later when the police agreed to register the names, the MPRF and the NSP have been staging an indefinite strike in the district for more than 15 days now.

The tarai card Prashant Jha Nepali Times In one fell swoop, the political landscape changed last week. Mahant Thakur and others quit their parties, and now there are few madhesi leaders committed to the present process ........ Thakur walking out reflects the tightrope act that moderate madhesi leaders have been walking this past year. ...... They could no longer defend the indefensible, the state’s dismal track record in respecting madhesis, its security failures. Madhesi leaders realised the way to build or sustain a political base was by getting back to tarai towns and villages, rather than being near Singha Durbar. ...... Upto now, Delhi had treated the madhes as an irritant to the larger process. But it has now backed this new madhesi front ........ the madhes card is already showing results: negotiations have picked up momentum and the likelihood of an agreement this weekend has increased. ...... the perception among madhesi leaders that India has been unhelpful ...... In a context where national parties have failed to accommodate aspirations, regional parties strengthen and deepen democracy. ....... Thakur and company have the potential to revive politics in the plains and give the tarai a semblance of organised leadership that it sorely needs. Finally, politicians of different hues, some of them discredited, have taken up the political agenda of the madhes. This will marginalise the fringe and criminal outfits. A consolidation of madhesi forces is likely, with more MPs resigning and a possible understanding between the new front and other madhesi forces, especially the ones led by Upendra Yadav, Goit and Jwala Singh. All have welcomed the new front. ....... The natural impulse of Koirala and the Maoists will be to try to divide and conquer by engineering splits among madhesis, encourage Tharus to oppose the front, and go in for more aggressive security operations. ........ a coherent agenda, limited goals for now ..... learn from the MJF’s mistakes and focus on organisation building to ensure that a maximum of madhesi representatives can reach an elected assembly. They must get the militants to lay down arms
Shock and subterfuge CK Lal in hardball politics, there are no permanent friends or foes, only varying interests. ....... And, to keep Kathmandu’s leaders on their toes, a realignment of political forces in Madhes has been quietly engineered. ...... Now that even the Rastriya Prajatantra Party has dumped the monarchy, the republican agenda has lost its sheen. And any adoption of a fully proportional electoral system will be credited to the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum and janajati activists rather than the Maoists.
Ceremonial prime minister the interim constitution gives the leadership of the seven political parties unrestrained power to do as they wish. They haven’t done much for months except hold endless, fruitless discussions. ....... The Maoists have a very clear vision. They have said categorically they don’t want an election they can’t win. The UML is into opportunism,so Madhab Nepal will make best use of whatever deal is offered to him by either the Maoists or monarchists. The political party that really lacks a vision for the future is Koirala’s NC. ....... He is dividing and ruling within his own party by pitting monarchists against republicans to retain control. He needs to come out clearly on issues like ‘baby king’, federalism and restructuring of the state. ........ Polls have to be held, with the Maoists if possible but even without them if necessary. If Koirala doesn’t have what it takes to face that challenge squarely, he has no business being the head of government as well as the state.
Reversed roles India's Naxalite wars are hotting up just as Nepal's Maoists holster their weapons ..... “gravest internal security challenge”. ..... The Naxalites seem to have no shortage of recruits, mainly because India’s blistering economic growth has not percolated through to a large section of rural India. ...... the state's withdrawal from basic services, the agrarian crisis, displacement for special economic zones. The judicial system is in a mess, with a backlog of cases in local courts. Inequitable land policies, unemployment, and the exclusion of tribals by forest contractors provide ready fodder for the Naxalites. ......... There is no one Maoist movement in India, there are many kinds of Naxalites. ...... Bihar’s Maoists have continued with armed action, engaging in brutal clashes with upper caste private militias. They engineered a daring jail break in Jehanabad and an attack on Madhuban in recent years and have expanded to districts bordering Nepal. .......... A CPI (Maoist) member in Ranchi admits: “There is lack of politicisation of the cadre and people join because they are attracted by the gun.” Maoists here are often called ‘Money Collection Centre’, a reference to their levies on contractors, shop keepers, government officials, industries, and development programs. Differences over sharing the loot, and caste tensions between Yadavs and Dalits, have also led to the formation of splinter groups. .......... Local leaders require Naxalite support to win polls in areas under their influence and give money in return. And the Maoists are happy to get protection from these leaders in case they get caught and assure them of security. ...... “Sharp intelligence inputs, a specialised fighting force, and political will can together act as the bitter medicine to kill the Naxal virus” ......... The Grey Hyenas, a special force which lives in the forests like the Maoists, have targeted and killed rebel activists. ...... “There will obviously be deaths. This is a war.” A war in which the poorest Indians are dying every day.

Govt tables motion for amendment in interim statute NepalNews mid-March election timeline
Parties agree to hold CA polls within 2064 B.S; CA seats increased to 601 CA seats elected under proportional system have been increased to 335, fixing the total number of seats at 601. The number of seats elected under first-past-the-pole will be 240 while the number of CA members to be nominated by the Prime Minister has been increased to 26 from 17.
PM assures Dalits of fair say in constitution-making process He also said he was not happy with the term ‘Dalit’ and that they should be identified only as Nepali citizens. ..... Dalit rights activists had gone to Baluwatar to inform the PM about the conclusions of the recent national conference of Dalit organisations held in the capital. .... The 21-point declaration passed by the conference
Maoists hold discussion with various groups on election system Most of participants of the discussion urged the party not to abandon the demand for the fully proportional representation-based election system. In response, the Maoist leaders assured they would stick to their demand.
Security beefed up in Gaur
Mahato faction files application for party registration

Mahato faction files application for party registration NepalNews with 'arrow' as an election symbol. ...... Rajendra Mahato as its chairman has Laxman Lal Karna as deputy-chairman, Narsingh Chaudhari and Ram Narayan Yadav as vice-presidents and Anil Kumar Jha as general secretary. Security beefed up in Gaur After the administration registered a charge-sheet filed by the Maoists against 127 persons said to be involved in Gaur massacre, the MJF and NSP have launched protests demanding its withdrawal.
Parties form committee to prepare draft of agreement Dr Babu Ram Bhattarai of the CPN-Maoist, Bharat Mohan Adhikari of UML, Bimalendra Nidhi of Nepali Congress, Lila Mani Pokhrel of People's Front Nepal and C. P Mainali of United Left Front ...... they were likely to ink the agreement by afternoon and present at the Interim House for endorsement to avoid constitutional difficulties. The parliament session is scheduled for 4 p.m.

'If Statute is not Amended Today, Govt to Lose Legitimacy' Himalayan Times “They have lost legitimacy and now they cannot justify their continuing in power,” former president of Nepal Bar Association, Shambhu Thapa, told this daily. “Now we have to look for options because the government and the interim parliament have failed to hold the election to constituent assembly in the stipulated time,” Thapa, who was a member of the Interim Constitution Drafting Committee, added. ....... Thapa said the provisions under Part 4 Articles 33 to Article 38 under the Directive Principles and Polices of the State in the Interim Constitution are also constitutional provisions and they are mandatory for the government and the parliament. “These provisions are taken as equal to the fundamental rights of the people; thus they must be followed,” he added Article 33 (A) of the Interim Constitution states that the state shall hold the elections to a constituent assembly by December 29. Former Supreme Court justice Krishna Jung Rayamajhi also said that the provision under Article 33 (A) is mandatory for the state. ......... “It seems that the seven-party alliance and the leaders have been thinking that they are above the Interim Constitution and they are not ready to abide by the rule of law and the constitution,” Rayamajhi added.
Normal Life Crippled as Bandh Continues in Rautahat The indefinite Rautahat bandh announced by Madhesi Janaadnikar Forum and Nepal Sadbhavana Party’s Mahato faction continued to cripple life here. Traffic along all long and short routes stayed off the road and educational institutions and business stayed shut. Commoners and businessmen were hit hard due to the bandh. Locals in Gaur Municipality have allege that the local administration has not taken initiatives to open markets. Security has been beefed up in the district headquarters, Gaur. SP at the district police office, Laxman Neupane, said security has been intensified in the wake of the programmes going to be held by the MJF today and YCL on Sunday.
SPA fails to seal deal on PR seats The CPN-UML has proposed 60-40 ratio for the PR and the first-past-the-post. Nepali Congress today came up with a fresh proposal of 55-45 ratio, and the Maoists are insisting on 80-20 ratio if all-out PR was not acceptable to other parties. ...... “But our position is that CA polls must be held on all-out proportional system,” senior Maoist leader Mohan Baidya alias Kiran told this daily. ..... Home, Defence and Finance among NC, UML and Maoists. The Maoists are learnt to have said that the NC must give up one of the three ministries if the interim government were to run on coalition culture. Maoists are learnt to have insisted on the finance ministry in the to-be restructured government. ....... Mainali said he suggested that three deputy prime ministers could also be appointed to find a meeting point among the major parties. He also said they had even suggested the PM that MMPR (Mixed-Member Proportional Representation) system could be the best option. “But the NC did not subscribe to our views,” Mainali said.

Security maximized in Gaur following blasts Kantipur The administration deployed an additional reinforcement of over 2,000 security personnel here on Friday ...... the administration also warned it would take "any measure" to control violence and hooliganism. ..... MPRF, along with Nepal Sadbhawana Party (NSP) has called a mass assembly here for Friday to protest the complaint filed by Maoists with the police against MPRF members. Similarly, the Maoists have announced a program on Saturday to commemorate the deceased of Gaur carnage. ........ five serial explosions took place in Rautahat headquarters Gaur late Thursday night despite tight security, adding to the worries of the already terrified authorities and locals. ....... the explosions that occurred in a span of a few minutes slightly damaged a house belonging to one Rajiv Manandhar. ...... The bombs were planted at the bus park area, Customs Office, and Rice Mill area ....... The bombs were set off when the city was facing electricity blackout
JTMM confirms it carried out Gaur blasts district secretary of the Morcha Shakti Singh confirmed ..... The house of a local resident Rajiv Manandhar was slightly damaged when the group hurled a bomb at his house ..... Life in the district has been thrown completely out of gear for the last two weeks with the MPRF and NSP enforcing their banda (general strike) to press for the withdrawal of cases filed against their cadres by Maoists for their alleged involvement in the Gaur massacre.
OHCHR concerned over MPRF, Maoist meets in Gaur
विखण्डन योजनालाई र्समर्थन हुन्न ः भारत

Resignation row echoes in parliament; PM consults with NC lawmakers from Terai NepalNews The row over the resignation of four Madhesi MPs including a senior minister figured prominently in Thursday’s parliamentary debate. Speaking during the Special Hour, the MPs expressed serious concern over the resignation, with most of them describing it as an ill-timed move which will further complicate the situation in Terai. Maoist MP Dev Gurung said that feudalism is the root cause of the problems in Terai, and claimed that the resignation of the Madhesi leaders is not intended to resolve the problems. Rastriya Janashakti Party chairman and MP Surya Bahadur Thapa said the government’s incompetence led to the resignation fiasco. Saying that the leaders of the seven parties have been making irresponsible comments with regard to nationality, Thapa urged the parties to handle the resignation issue sensibly. UML’s Lal Babu Pandit described the resignation of Madhesi MPs as an inopportune move, criticising them for “running away from responsibility” in the most critical time. Nepali Congress MP Harihar Dahal said that quitting the parliament would not lead to any solution. He however claimed that the nation was suffering because of the Maoists. Sunil Prajapati of Nepal Workers and Peasants Party said that since the MPs resigned alleging the parliament of indifference towards the problems in Terai, the parties must be serious about this developemnt. The country, he said, might plunge into sectarian conflict if these issues are not address on time. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala has discussed the resignation issue with Nepali Congress lawmakers form Terai. During the meeting held at Baluwatar Thursday afternoon, the Prime Minister sought suggestions from the MPs on how to address the problems dogging the Terai region and create an enabling atmosphere for constituent assembly polls, NC chief whip Ananda Dhungana said. MPs from 21 Terai districts were present during the discussion.
CEC demands three months for polls preparation Citing the recent attempts of some Madhesi leaders to form a regional party, Pokharel said it was be a political matter whether a party having regional political agenda could be registered at the EC. He however made it clear that the interim constitution and existing laws do not have provisions to register regional party.

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