POLITICS Electing Violence

Following the killing of four Madheshi agitators in police firing and street battle with CPN-UML, Nepal’s political course is likely to take a new turn

March 11, 2017, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol.10,No. 14. March 10,2017, (Falgun 27, 2073)

The police firing and pitched battle between Madhesh-centric parties and CPN-UML workers have turned entire Madhesh into a battlefield, which is likely to bring a change in the political landscape, as the bloody violence in Terai Madhesh can force the government to postpone the elections slated for May 14.

Madheshi leaders and activists have termed the incident a barbaric act of CPN-UML cadres and Nepal Police, blaming the CPN-UML leadership squarely for the mayhem. The United Democratic Madheshi Front (UDMF) withdrew its support given to the present coalition government. Although the withdrawal of support cannot make any substantial difference in the strength of the government, this will surely weaken the three-party coalition.

“Since CPN-UML is solely responsible for the killing, it will need to take the responsibility,” said Upendra Yadav, leader of UDMF. “As the overuse of force by police killed the innocent people, the prime minister and home minister should also take the responsibility.”

At a time when UDMF leaders are condemning the CPN-UML and Maoist-led government, the CPN-UML leaders, undertaking a Mechi to Mahakali campaign, have condemned the Madhesh parties and the government for the incident. CPN-UML leader Ishwor Pokharel leveled a serious accusation on Madheshis saying that the incident was a part of the conspiracy to kill his party's top leaders.

Given the statements of Madheshi and CPN-UML leaders, the incident of Rajbiraj may have a long-term political implication in fueling an ideological battle between the communists and others.

Calculated Campaign

Although CPN-UML leaders claim that the caravan was a political campaign to woo the Madheshi voters to the CPN-UML message, the preparations made by CPN-UML showed that it was expecting a threat from Madhesh-centric parties.

The Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist and Leninist (CPN-UML) launched its Mechi-Mahakali caravan on Saturday to show its strength in Terai-Madhesh with a strong battalion of party cadres welcoming it. However, the first round ended with massive protests and bloody clashes in Rajbiraj, 600 kilometers south-east of Kathmandu, rocking the entire strip of Madhesh from Biaratnagar up to Dhangadhi.

The clashes of CPN-UML cadres and workers of Madhesh-centric parties have turned a peaceful and quiet terai-Madhesh of the recent times into a battlefield, putting the recently announced local elections in a limbo.

Marching with 500 vehicles of different kinds and 5,000 cadres (media, security, medical corps, rights activists), CPM-UML leaders spared no time to attack Madhesh-based parties using provocative remarks. Portrayed as anti-Madheshis, CPN-UML leader K.P. Sharma Oli was, to many people in Terai, a villain.

However, former prime minister Oli rejects the charge that he is anti-Madhesh and anti-Madheshis. Oli views that the current tirade against him and his party by Morcha is backed from the southern neighbor.

“CPN-UML is born in Madhesh and his party is a pro-Madhesh party. Those who are launching the agitation are anti-Nepali and supported by outside powers,” thundered Oli at mass meeting. “I don’t budge with anybody and any party. CPN-UML will continue to carry out its caravan from (Friday, March 10)."

March for Confrontation

Despite the frequent warning of Madhesh-centric parties not to hold the rally in Terai, the main opposition CPN-UML, with all its strength, kick-started its Mechi to Mahakali political caravan.

Using provocative remarks, CPN-UML leader Oli launched the caravan on Saturday (March 4) from his home constituency in Jhapa.

With their three people killed in police firing, UDMF cadres hit the streets since early morning (7 March), protesting the fatal police firing in Saptari outside the CPN-UML’s program venue. Despite such violence, CPN-UML decided to continue the march three days later. The resumption of the caravan is only likely to invite more violence in the coming days.

Although Nepal's coalition government announced last month that the polls would be held on May 14 for more than 700 local bodies, the fierce opposition and the new violent incident have made the election uncertain.

Since the promulgation of the new constitution, Madhesis have been saying that the constitution discriminates against them by limiting their representation in state institutions. More than 50 people were killed last year in a bloody battle in Terai following the promulgation of the constitution. Madhesis have long called for the redrawing of provincial boundaries to ensure greater representation of their community.

Safe Passage to Leaders

Although the situation was tense in Saptari, the leaders of the party were escorted with high security to Biratngar from the program venue, Gajendra Narayan Singh Industrial Area, as situation went out of control. By Tuesday morning, most of UML cadres were also escorted towards the Sunsari district.

With police firing killing three and injuring dozens, the UDMF has appealed to its cadres to protest against the brutality of the security forces, leaving the situation in the entire stretch of south tense now.

The decision of UDMF to withdraw support from the government and the intensified political tension, Nepal is now in the midst of facing a constitutional as well political crisis. Although UDMF is targeting CPN-UML, it is likely to launch its agitation against the Maoist Center and Nepali Congress, which are in favor of the local elections.

“If the ruling parties do not listen to our voices to amend the constitution and prefer to kill the Madheshis by bullet, targeting their heads, we won’t mind burning this constitution, which has already given martyrdom to over 60 Madheshis in the last one and a half years. With support from Nepali Congress, CPN-UML and Maoist Center, two communists, have made our land a killing field.”

With the relations between Nepali Congress and Maoist Center deteriorating further and the new political incidents destabilizing Madhesh, local elections seem unlikely, which ultimately means derailing the constitutional process or end of the Constitution of Nepal 2015.

 

 

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