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Discontent brewing in Nepal's terai region

A new armed revolt is threatening to take its place in the terai region of Nepal that vows to fight for the uplift of the plains people.

india Updated: Aug 17, 2006 12:57 IST

While the Maoist insurgency, that unleashed a decade-old cycle of violence in Nepal and killed over 13,000 people, is heading for resolution, a new armed revolt is threatening to take its place in the terai region of Nepal.

The seeds of the new uprising were sown two years ago, when a band of Maoists from the terai plains in southern Nepal broke away to form the Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha that vows to fight for the uplift of the plains people.

Headed by Jaya Krishna Goit, the breakaway group became involved in a bitter feud with the Maoists since last year, when several of its leaders were killed by the latter and it began retaliating, killing at least two Maoists last month.

Though the Maoists called a ceasefire in April, when a new multi-party government headed by Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala replaced King Gyanendra's authoritarian regime, southern Nepal is still plagued by violence as the new outfit continues to cross swords with its parent organisation.

"Two months ago, when Koirala and Maoist chief Prachanda signed an agreement in the capital to consolidate the ceasefire, Goit's men were exploding bombs in Raj Biraj town in southern Nepal," says Rajendra Mahato, an MP from Nepal Sadbhavana Party, a party of the terai region that is now part of the coalition government.

"We have asked both the government and the Maoists to start talks with Goit. Peace talks shouldn't take place in a piecemeal manner. If the terai issues are not addressed, Nepal would know no peace in spite of the Maoist ceasefire."

When the Maoists began their guerrilla war - the 'People's War' - 10 years ago, pledging to bring equality, abolish the discriminatory caste system and replace monarchy with a republic, people from the terai plains joined the movement in masses, attracted by the promises.

Though the fertile plains are called the food bowl of Nepal, providing the lion's share of food grains, it is also the most neglected.

A succession of governments, suspicious of the plains people because of their close cultural links with India, sought to centralise power in the hands of the hills people.

There are virtually no terai people in the army, bureaucracy or judiciary. Over 50 lakh terai residents have no citizenship, which prevents them from taking part in any decision-making process.

Even the Maoist leadership excludes men from the terai. In 2003, when the rebels resumed peace talks with the government, it had a terai man, Matrika Prasad Yadav, on the negotiating team. Yadav, however, was dropped this year when the guerrillas began fresh peace parleys.

"The Maoist movement has sent out an important message to the young men of the terai region," says Mahato. "Ten years ago, no one listened to the Maoists. But after they took up the gun, they are getting a red carpet treatment.

"If the problems of the terai region- unemployment, exclusion, lack of education and healthcare - are not addressed, in another five years the terai people might follow in the footsteps of the Maoists and take up arms to wrest their rights."