Madhesi parties opposed to Nepal’s new Constitution are mulling a move to impose a fresh blockade of the border with India because they are upset with the government’s unilateral decision to create a mechanism to divide the country into six states.
Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, on a visit to India, has said that all issues related to the Constitution have been sorted out. But the United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF), comprising political parties from the Terai plains, has rejected the political mechanism for demarcation of federal boundaries.
Less than two weeks after ending a blockade of key border trade points, the UDMF is contemplating a move to deny access to them again.
“If the government continues to ignore our demands and take unilateral decisions, we might impose another blockade in April-May,” said Upendra Yadav, chairman of the Federal Socialist Forum-Nepal, a member of the UDMF.
The UDMF described the creation of the mechanism to demarcate the boundaries of the six states as the third unilateral move by the government, after the promulgation of the Constitution and some amendments made to address the demands of Madhesis.
“The mechanism was formed a day ahead of Oli’s India visit, not to solve the problem but it was a drama to please New Delhi,” said Yadav.
The blockade in the Terai, the region where Madhesis are the dominant group, had resulted in a severe shortage of essential goods, medicines and fuel. It was lifted by the UDMF earlier this month, after 135 days, citing the difficulties faced by the people.
Entry of three more Terai-based parties into the UDMF, taking the total number to seven, has bolstered the grouping and it is planning more protests this time around.
“We may have lifted the blockade, but out agitation will continue till our demands are met,” Yadav said.
The UDMF, which wants the creation of two Madhes states stretching from east to west in the Terai region, rejected the political mechanism as it was formed without any terms of reference.
India has described the Nepal government’s talks with Madhesi parties and amendment of the Constitution as positive developments, but wants Oli’s regime to address all outstanding issues through consensus.
“We will continue to hold talks with the government, but doubt their sincerity,” said Yadav.
Violent protests by Madhesi parties since August last year have left 58 people dead, including several security personnel. The parties are opposed to plans to amalgamate parts of the Terai plains with the hills in the proposed states, saying this will perpetuate discrimination against the Madhesis.