Bihar’s BJP MPs from areas close to the Nepal border urged the Centre on Tuesday to do more to defuse the crisis in the neighbouring nation a day after foreign minister Sushma Swaraj expressed India’s concerns on the rash of violence over a draft constitution.
The lawmakers have underscored the special cultural cross-border ties between the two countries and asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to exercise his personal influence on the Nepal government. One MP has also written a letter to Swaraj.
The pressure from its own legislators comes at a time when the BJP-led government is worried about the security and political implications of the Nepal unrest on the Bihar polls that kick off in less than a month, top sources told HT.
In protests over the last three weeks, excluded groups in Nepal’s Tarai region called Madhesis and Tharus have objected to the constitutional draft, demanding equal citizenship provisions, inclusion in state organs and a revised federal demarcation.
The region has been paralysed by a strike. Forty people have been killed and hundreds have fled fearing police persecution to Bihar’s Sitamarhi and Madhubani districts.
Darbhanga MP Kirti Azad told HT Nepal must do more “to take into account sentiments of people in the Mithilanchal region” in the country. He said Nepal must “ponder more and let everyone participate in the framing of the constitution”.
Azad explained that it was in 1816 after the British India-Nepal treaty that many areas of the Mithila region were handed over to Nepal. "We continue to share roti-beti links. Weddings take place across the border. But they are Nepali citizens and the government must take into account their aspirations,” he said, urging the government of India to do more and take up the issue with Nepal.
Birendra Kumar Chaudhary, BJP’s Lok Sabha lawmaker from Jhanjharpur, said he wrote to the foreign minister, appealing that India take an “initiative” on the matter.
“My constituency is almost at the border. The situation has turned very serious,” he said, adding that the Madhesis had been fighting for long as they were considered “second-class citizens”.
“The Nepal government has not been treating them well. There has been oppression. On grounds of humanity, India must raise the issue with Nepal.”
Ajay Nishad, the BJP MP from Muzaffarpur, echoed Chaudhary’s views. “There are many marriages between people across the border. But according to the current constitutional draft, those who have married into Nepal will have to wait for many years for citizenship, and will not be allowed to hold many political and government posts.”
Nishad said he had even planned to bring up the subject in Parliament's monsoon session. “I urge PM Modi to personally resolve this issue. Madhesis are Nepalis too; their movement is a popular social movement. We should help them get equality.”
The sentiment is shared even by state legislators. Alok Ranjan, BJP MLA of Saharsa, said the government must take “initiative to give justice” to people of the Tarai. “They are demanding equal rights. Modiji has personally improved relations with the Nepal government. We should use this to help address Madhesi demands.”
Two MPs HT spoke to also said many of their constituents had been affected by the Tarai turbulence, this was an emotive issue and the situation should not be allowed to aggravate.