Nepal's top Maoist leader Prachanda has said the plight of people of Indian origin in his country will be taken up by the interim government that is to be formed next week. The Maoist leader, replying to a question raised by former Congress MP Shyama Singh at the HT Leadership Summit on Saturday, assured granting citizenship to the four million Madhesis. Prachanda said the interim government — to be formed next week –– would take up the long-pending issue.
Shyama pointed out that, at a time when Nepal prepares itself for major social and political restructuring, an understanding of Madhesis and their demands is integral to understanding what is at stake in Nepal today. She said the Madhesis of Nepal are the lowland people, occupying the strategic Terai belt bordering the Indian states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Uttaranchal. They include different cultural and linguistic groups — Maithilis, Bhojpuris, Awadhis, Tharus — and some smaller tribal groups. The Madhesis claim that they form 40 to 50 per cent of the total population of Nepal.
The domestic economy of Nepal depends overwhelmingly on this region that forms its industrial hub with more than 70 to 80 per cent of all industries located in the Terai, as also its agricultural bowl, producing more than 65 per cent of the nation's foodgrains.
The Madhesis' issue is as old as the emergence of Nepal's democratic movement in 1950s. At that time, it was the imposition of Nepali as the medium of education.
In the mid-1970s and 80s, issues of citizenship and 'work permit' were the major problems for the Madhesis. For the last 50 years, they have been raising their voice against alleged 'discrimination' by the state, yet their problems have remained unresolved. Their major demands continue to revolve around questions of citizenship and political participation. Earlier this year, the Loktrantrik Madhesi Alliance or Democratic Madhesi Alliance (DMA) began a week-long 'gherao programme' to highlight their plight. The DMA is a united platform of various Madhesis groups. The aim of the DMA is to ensure that Madhesis are not left out in the process of building a new Nepal.