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Hridayesh Tripathi is one of the lawmakers and influential Madheshi leaders who recently quit parliament and the major parties including the Nepali Congress (NC), CPN-UML, CPN-Maoist and Rastriya Prajatantra Party to form a new party in the Terai region. In a recent interview with ekantipur, he shared the reasons behind the decision to launch a new regional party to be led by former NC leader Mahantha Thakur, its demands and future moves. Excerpts:


Q. What’s the rationale behind the decision to set up a new regional party in Terai?


Hridayesh Tripathi: The three major parties—the Nepali Congress, the CPN-UML and the CPN-Maoist— not only failed to address the problems of Madhesh, but also completely failed to comprehend them. The government, the state and parliament, too, have proved ineffective in this regard. Similarly, the achievements of the last Madhesh revolt, too, were not commensurate with the sacrifice made by the Madheshi people. This was chiefly because of the lack of a proper and mature leadership. As a result, only minimal gains could be achieved since the revolt was not organised. Even today, Terai lacks a strong party with clear political agendas. Most importantly, the mindset of the state to opt for a military solution or the use of force to tackle the Madhesh problems stirred us to take this decision.


Q. How can you say for sure that the state is mulling over using force to tackle the problems in the Terai region?


Tripathi: I am not making a guess when I am saying that the state is thinking of using force to suppress the Madhes problems. The government’s recent move to deploy the Armed Police Force (Special Task Force) in seven Terai districts clearly proves that the state wants a solution through the use of force. Similarly, Maoist Chairman Prachanda (addressing the anniversary of the People’s Liberation Army at Maoist cantonment in Chitwan) recently said that the Nepal Army and the Maoist People’s Liberation Army should be jointly mobilised in Terai. These developments are going to invite a big accident in the region.


Similarly, a few things that transpired during and after the Madhesh revolt early this year have really moved us. I want to narrate some of them here to show how insensitive the state and the major parties are. Of the 42 people who died during the Madhesh revolt, only one had succumbed to bullets fired by the Maoists. All others were killed in police firing. But the state has not even bothered to declare any one of them a martyr while all 22 people killed during the April uprising were declared martyrs. This shows the state practices discrimination not only against the living Madhesi people but also the dead.


Yet another ordeal: Six Madheshi people, who were severely injured during the agitation had been referred to a hospital in Kathmandu for treatment. But the Young Communist League cadres entered the hospital premises and terrorised them. The injured people seeking treatment in the capital were so terrified that they requested us to take them to a hospital in India. Such incidents have reinforced our conviction that a new political force should be established to push for the cause of the Madheshi people. But at the same time we are also mindful of the fact that the agitation must remain peaceful and under control of responsible political leaders.


Q. So you want the agitation in Terai to be well under your control?



Tripathi: Yes. The people had led the last revolt and the leaders had rallied behind. Hence, it could not yield the desired results.


Q. Speculations have been doing rounds that the leaders of the major parties, especially PM Koirala himself, had been trying to set up a new Madheshi party so that the agitation in the region does not spiral out of control. Is your recent move part of the plan?


Tripathi: No, the Prime Minister is not at all involved in this. In fact, the major parties have become paranoid. They are desperately trying to defame us and our initiative. The Prime Minister has alleged that we took the step at India’s behest to destabilise the country. They are simply infuriated by our move.


Moreover, why would any party empower us by weakening itself? We have taken this step being responsible. Forget a separatist movement; we are not even talking about any special rights to the Madheshi people. All we are demanding is an equal right. But the state remains insensitive to the just demands of the Madheshi people.


Q. What are your demands?


Tripathi: As I mentioned before, all we demand is equal rights to the Madhesh. A proportional representation based on population. Now you may say that the state has already agreed to it. Yes, there is a constitutional provision to ensure this right. But what is happening in practice? I want to cite an example to prove my point. Recently, the government came up with an Act to ensure reservation for the Madhesi people in the police force only after a massive recruitment of police personnel. Till date, there is no representation of the Madheshi people in the Nepal Army. The same applies to the Maoist army too. And what is happening in the civil service? A lot of secretaries were appointed only a few days back. Only two of them hailed from Madheshi communities.


The state wants to give our rights in credit, but we are demanding in cash. The major parties still seem reluctant to a true restructuring of the state. They are pushing for a proxy representation. The Reservation Act aims to overshadow the demand for a proportional representation. Some of them are arguing that federalism could lead to the disintegration of the nation. But we see that national disintegration is inevitable if the state is not restructured along the federal lines. Prachanda is now saying that the true state restructuring means integration of two armies. But we are not going to settle for anything less than a proportional representation in all organs of the state and a complete restructuring of the state to guarantee our rights. Hridayesh Tripathi is one of the lawmakers and influential Madheshi leaders

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Q. Do you also want the entire Terai as a single autonomous state?


Tripathi: Yes, that’s our demand but the Madheshi people have the final right to decide the number of states in Terai. Here I would also like to mention that the Madheshi people are completely opposed to a separatist movement.


Q. While the major parties have opposed your move, the Madheshi People’s Rights Forum and some armed groups in the Terai acted promptly to welcome it. Co-chairman of the Rastriya Janshakti Party, Dr Prakash Chandra Lohani, too, has written an article welcoming your move. What are we to make out of it?


Tripathi: Any wise person or group that understands our rationale has hailed our move. But one cannot do anything with those who have ill intentions.


Q. The Madheshi leaders’s decision to quit parliament and their parties came like a bolt from the blue. But it wasn’t at all a decision taken in haste, was it?


Tripathi: Yes, you guessed it right. It all started in the build up to the Madhesh revolt shortly after the interim constitution was promulgated. The NSP-A had even written a note of dissent against the discriminatory provisions in the constitution. The Madhesh revolt started after a month. The fringe parties in the Seven-Party Alliance had appealed to the major parties to address the problems immediately. But the appeal apparently fell on a deaf ear. Then I resigned from the cabinet. Only then was an emergency meeting of the SPA convened. The Prime Minister then pledged to give some concessions in two installments (two addresses to the nation within a few days span).


The MPs and leaders from Terai met several times and finally the decision to launch a new party was reached.


Q. When will the new party be launched?


Tripathi: Very soon.


Q. Could you be more specific?


Tripathi: The party will be formed within two weeks.


Q. Has the new party’s name been decided?


Tripathi: Not yet. We are brainstorming for a name at the moment. It would be finalised within the next few days.


Q. What about the party’s hierarchy?


Tripathi: So far, we have agreed that Mahanta Thakur will be our leader.


Q. What about your status in the party?

Tripathi: We are yet to work out the other posts in the party


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Q. Who else are going to join you? Could you name some other Madhesi leaders?


Tripathi: I don’t want to divulge their names them right now. They are under constant surveillance following our move. When we approached some of the influential Madheshi leaders from the major parties, they said that they supported our cause. They did not want us to meet them at their residences. They want to meet us secretly. They are also being lured with all sorts of promises. The major parties are also talking about reallocation of the ministerial portfolios to stop them from joining us. All I can say right now is that a significant number of Madheshi leaders from different parties will be joining us soon.


Q. What kind of relation do you intend to have with other Terai-based parties and armed groups such as the factions of the MPRF and JTMM?


Tripathi: We want to forge an alliance with all groups, which stand for the cause of the Madhesh. Why only the parties and groups in Terai, we want a good relation with all the major parties, including the Maoists. But that would depend on these parties’ stances on the Madhesi issues.


Q. The existing parties and groups in Terai could also treat your party as a competitor?


Tripathi: We don’t see any competition. If (Nepal) Sadbhavana Party had genuinely taken up the cause of the Madheshi people then other groups would not have surfaced in Terai, and the region would not be torn by violence like now. Sadbhavana indulged so much in the politics of power that it lost contact with the Madheshi people. A few months back, I had urged the party leadership to launch a movement in Terai sensing the popular mood, but we failed to do so. It was a historic mistake. The Madhesh revolt started soon thereafter. But, the revolt also fizzled out. Had the MPRF been able to lead the Madhesh movement effectively then we would have already achieved what we are striving for. They (MPRF) lacked the political will, maturity and sincerity to take the agitation to a logical end. The Madheshi people are also weary of the armed groups wagging a separatist movement.


Q. Still, don’t you think that the new party will only divide the Madheshi votes if you fail to bring the different groups together?


Tripathi: I want to clarify in the first place that we are not thinking about the politics of votes at all. We are not here to play politics for the sake of it. We are established political leaders who have come together to push for the agendas of the Madheshi people. And, we also want to see to it that there is no spillover effect of the Madhesh movement. Our party will also act as a catalyst to bring the different parties together for the good. We have not even set up our party and the three major parties have already stepped up efforts to bury their hatchets and evolve a consensus. This could be seen as an early achievement of our initiative.


Q. What is your take on the national agenda such as the Constituent Assembly elections?


Tripathi: Obviously we believe that an election to the Constituent Assembly is important to transform the nation. But it is unfortunate that everything is happening in this country, except the elections. This is because, I think, the King, Prachanda, Girija Prasad Koirala and Madhav Kumar Nepal do not want the elections. As they have nothing to loose now, they want the status quo to continue. The Madheshi people, janjatis, Dalits and women are the marginalised groups who are actually yearning for the elections since they want the state restructured to ensure their equal representation and participation in the state organs. If you ask me, I don’t think the major political actors even want a republican order in the country. The Nepali Congress leadership has now and then floated the idea of ceremonial and baby kings. The Maoists brought a superficial motion on republic declaration as if they only wanted publicity. Now they have started to advocate unity with the royalist nationalists. The Madheshi people, however, do not favor the monarchy since the institution has nakedly discriminated against them for centuries.


Q. When are you going to launch the new Madhesh agitation?


Tripathi: It has in fact already begun with the Madheshi leaders’ decision to quit parliament and their parties. However, once we form the party, we will organise a national convention and announce a peaceful agitation, which will establish the rights and authority the Madheshi people.


(By Akhilesh Tripathi & Sanjeev Ghimire)




Posted on: 2007-12-15 09:39:47

Source : http://www.kantipuronline.com/interview.php?&nid=131373

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