Upendra Yadav, leader of Samajwadi Madheshi Forum, spoke on various issues regarding the ongoing agitation and blockade. Excerpts:
How do you view your agitation?
Our agitation is political in nature. If the three political parties address it politically, it can be settled amicably. If the three parties harp on anti-Indian slogans and link our present blockade with India, it will have a long term implications.
How do you see the likelihood of a settlement through amendment of the constitution?
We want to see our demands addressed. Since this is a political problem, it cannot be settled if they look at it in terms of the constitutional provisions alone. There is no legal and constitutional remedy to a political problem.
How long will your agitation and blockade continue?
Until the leaders of the three parties fulfill our demands presented to them. Since Madheshi people have been living for almost two months in an abnormal situation arising out of the agitation, they have supported us by saying that this agitation should continue until our identity gets its due recognition.
Since the government has already tabled the constitution amendment bill to fulfill the demands, don’t you think it is time to withdraw the agitation?
We don’t know anything about the amendment bill and provisions proposed for amendment. They tabled the bill on their own and at their own whims. As they had done before the promulgation of the new constitution, they did not consult us.
What are your demands?
Our negotiations team has already presented 38 points as demands to the government negotiations team. They are yet to come up with their stands on the demands.
What is your bottom line?
Our bottom line is the boundary of the provinces. We want two states in the plains, including 24 districts. We will continue our agitation until the fulfillment of this demand.
One of the factions of your front is saying that citizenship issue is the bottom line. How do you look at this?
On citizenship, we can accept the provision of the interim constitution.
If the government agrees on all your demands, it will be more or less like rewriting the constitution. How do you look at this?
Whether they term it rewriting or amendment, we cannot accept the new constitution without inclusion of our demands.
Leaders of major parties including UCPN-Maoist leader Prachanda and CPN-UML leader K.P.Sharma Oli have been saying the Madheshi agitation is not an agitation of the people, but just that of a few landlords and foreign conspirators?
We are not surprised to read Prachnda's and Oli’s statements. There has been a communist phobia in Nepal for the last sixty years. It is also true that the communists got all the moral and material support from India. Where did the Naxalites come from? Oli is the leader of that movement. So far as Prachanda is concerned, Nepal’s Maoist guru and Indian scholar S.D. Muni has already revealed how Maoists were given sanctuary in India and how India supported them.
Don’t you think you also received the support from India?
Our agitation purely originated in Madhesh. More than 40 Nepalese have already sacrificed their lives and all of them are sons of the soil of Nepal. Have you seen any Indian national among these dead. It is a jaundiced view of a certain hill class people to project us as close to India. We live in southern parts of Nepal bordering India and we have marriage relations with them -- that is all.
How do you respond to the saying that the buzzword “undeclared blockade” by India is to support your agitation?
Although we have been staging the agitation in the border points, blocking the mobility, I don’t understand why the people in Kathmandu and media have been blaming India for the blockade. I don’t have anything to complain against the communists because they have jaundiced views on Madheshis and India. It is our blockade, don’t give credit to India. This is the agitation of Madheshis, Janjatis and Tharus of Nepal.
As you said the blockade is yours, how do you explain the Indian authorities are not taking any step to stop those agitators who are petting stones to Nepalese police?
Of course, we are demonstrating at the no man's land. Like Nepali Police, Indian Police cannot do anything to us. When Nepalese Armed Police, who killed more than fifty Madheshi unarmed peaceful agitators, came to us, it was natural for us to defend. Rulers of Kathmandu must hear the voices of Nepal rather than blaming India. If the people of Kathmandu suffer, they come with propaganda. People in Madhesh are facing this for the last more than fifty days. Nepal armed police shot Madheshi agitators point blank. There are so many atrocities committed against us.
What do you want to say about the recent acts of some of your agitators who burnt the Chinese flag?
Our agitation is not against any country. Since China is our neighbor, it is impossible to take any hostile position against China. The incident was very unfortunate. Our agitating front has already condemned the act. We regret what happen against friendly country China. Along with India, European Union, UN, USA and even China have been urging Nepalese government to settle the issue of Madhesh through political negotiations.