(Archived artcle from 2015). As English news of the Nepali media are filtered and censored to be “politically correct”, one needs to know the language and communicate regularly with locals, to understand what is in reality going on in Nepal…
There are many levels to find out what is happening in Nepal in reality:1. The English language news of the mainstream Nepali media are using a careful, politically correct language, leaving out sensitive issues which foreigners should rather not know (otherwise it could affect their willingness to visit Nepal as well-paying tourists?). They provide and overview of the “political weather conditions” in Nepal, yet leave out a lot of important (usually negative) events. 2. The Nepali language, Devanagari written mainstream media, which already brings details and important data like names, graphic descriptions and graphic photos, daring openness about castes (what would shock some foreigners I guess) and interviews which detail quite shocking events (like accusing someone of child-abuse etc.). They are more concrete and down-to-earth, less polished and not falsely political correct like the English language news, and of course more detailed and reliable too. 3. Yet the most efficient source of the “news” are always the local people who live those news in their daily lives, and tell them s their experience, in Nepali language, without any fear of being targeted by politicians,censorship or those whom they criticize: in the safety of tea-houses and private yards the news agencies of human society are free and politically incorrect: daring to describe the truth.
NOTE: THE BELOW OPINIONS MIGHT BE SLIGHTLY ONE-SIDED, AS MY SOURCES ARE ONLY PAHADI PEOPLE, NONE OF THEM IS MADESHI. YET I AM NOT TAKING INTO ACCOUNT ANY EXTREMIST SOURCES.
So what do Nepalis say about the Madeshi violence?
In the Terai there is the army deployed now to keep the cover of the boiling pot of Madeshi unrest on top. It is a fragile peace, ensured by curfews which are often broken. Most Nepalis (of other than Madeshi/Tharu national minority) say that when children are shot dead by police in clashes, it can happen only for a single reason: that the protesters bring children as human shields to the front of their crowds. Then, stoning police and army bases, they expect that they would be spared of retaliation, because of the children… Nepalis (of other than Madeshi party) consider the Madeshi Andolan a sign of self-destruction and stupidity, because they are destroying their own infrastructure and businesses. The rest of Nepalis consider this minimally unwise (“if they want once a state, why do they destroy schools, policestations, shops, now?”).
Why did violence erupt in Madesh?
A very simplified and rather childish opinion is below, with which I personally do not identify, but it is interesting to see how many Nepalis understand the Madeshi protests:
They say that their Madeshi brothers (in fact, as everyone knows but is afraid to say aloud – originally Indians who had slowly moved to Nepal through the border) had decided to “overtake” Nepal with the strategy that if they block (by violence and forced strikes) the main venes from where the hilly Nepal receives goods from Indian import, as well as rice and other food items from the rich Terai, the “hilly people” (Pahadis) would “starve to death”, in a simply language. This explains for many Nepalis, why the Madeshi clashes had been most fierce around border crossings like Sonauli (near Bhairahawa), Birganj and Biratnagar, as well as Kailali in the Far West. But the theory continues with an optimist conclusion: because they had realized that if they stop the rice and Indian import (among it crucial petrol, oil, gas), the “Pahadis” would stop electricity, generated by their rivers in hydro-power stations, the clashes are going to stop soon…
(Obviously the above theory is quite politically incorrect, andminimally infantile. Yet the public deserves to know the reality about the sentiments which are fuelling such sudden explosions of violence).
Paranoias about India’s influence:
For most Nepalis it seems there is no question that the Madesh Andolan in the Terai is a strategy of India to slowly occupy the south of Nepal. Nepalis are very patriotic, and they often cannot swallow that in their history Nepal had given to India its Western and Eastern provinces. These Nepalis, who grew up with the idealism of a unified Nepal, those parts are still “ours”, unjustly taken by India…Thus it is just logical for them to see the Terai unrest something planned, financed and provoked by India. This is something that cannot be proved nor denied, as if anything like this is really going on, it is obviously done secretly. Yet it is difficult to believe that any Indian leader would risk to encourage or even convince Madeshis to fight for autonomy, because at one point this could leak out and the result would be devastating for the image of India. My personal opinion is that if there is any provocation from India, that is happening on a low-level, like uncles behind the border telling their Nepali nephews to fight for their rights…
But before we would dismiss these “gossips” of Nepalis immediately, on th ground of being prejudiced due to some historical grievances, we still have to accept the fact that Madeshis are actually Indian people, who were slowly moving up North to Nepal. They look exactly like the Indians just behind the border, speak exactly the same language and wear exactly the same type of light-blue cotton skirt, and even have exactly the same family names…But Nepal had accepted them to be Nepalis, so they are. Yet while traveling in Madesh land years ago, I could hardly use my Nepali language skills: most of the uneducated Madeshis do not speak Nepali, the language of their state. Those who do, usually are the ones who work for Nepali bosses or go to school.
So while it is so obvious that there must be some Indian element in Madesh, the politically correct version is that they are Nepalis and should participate in all rights as Nepalis. Fair enough. Yet when a nation moves behind a border to another nation, it feels just a little strange when that nation demands an autonomous area to be its own.
Madeshi x Tharu:
I was explained by a Tharu lady that Tharus are not the same as Madeshis, although other Nepalis see them as the same. In fact one can easily distinguish that the Tharus have a very special culture, architecture, traditions, and Madeshis have their own. The best places to study Tharu culture are around Chitwan, but also near Dumarvana (near Simara, Bara District) I had seen beautiful rather remote Tharu villages. While the Tharus’ ecologically sustainable lifestyle, using only natural materials, decorating clay houses, unusual cleanliness and tidiness of the yards an houses at all times, are immediately capturing, a trip to a Madeshi village is quite a different experience.
“Come with us or we will attack you too”
The army is protecting the non-Madeshi inhabitants from the Madeshi protesters in bigger cities like Birganj, Gaur, Kailali, Biratnagar. Nepali language newspapers write that currently the army has an order to protect airports and jails as well. Life for the numerous non-Madeshi inhabitants in the Terai became very difficult. Their hope for the future had dissolved, as it is difficult to imagine to continue to live side-by-side with those who are lynching policemen and shooting children… People are staying in their houses, and all news I have from Birganj, Simara, Jitpur say that people are even afraid to leave the city, as they could be attacked on the roads. There are whole villages in the Terai which are full on non-Madeshi people, Bahuns, Chetris,Tamangs, Magars. Muslims in the Terai seem to have joined the Madeshis too, showing that they feel to belong to the same nation (the Muslims of Nepal mostly arrived from India).
Some say that the symbolical “border: between the Madeshis and Pahadis is now the East-West Highway: north of it is Nepal, south is… Madeshi land?
A brother of a friend in Jitpur (of Bahun caste, who are considered Pahadis, hill-people) had been told by agitating Madeshis that if he does not join their agitation in the streets, they would attack him and his family too. They are going from house-to-house and force people to join their protest, facing often police firing. Jitpur is a small town far from the main road leading to Birganj, inside the flat fields, and army is not controlling it. It seems that army had been sent only to strategic cities, but obvioulsy not to smaller villages and towns. Thus in those places the “Pahadis”, among whom Tamangs also belong, are in great problem.
Allegedly many Pahadis had already left their houses and fields, shops and property in the Terai, and returned to their “safe haven” hills yes, hills of Nepal had been most hit by the earthquakes). In any case, if the violence once stops, it will take long time to consolidate the moods and emotions, and calm down the Madeshi anger.
Remembering those few good people whom I did meet in the area of Halkhoriya, and who did try to protect and later save me from the white-robed monster of Halkhoriya, the ‘Buddha Boy’, I hope they are safe and stay safe. Although Ram Bomjon and his gang and their fanatic followers in the surrounding villages harmed more than 40 people, I also had met kind and dharmic people in Piluwa, Nijgadh, Ratanpuri, Simara and smaller settlements. They never harmed Madeshis and never spoke against them. Some of them took poor Madeshi children to help out in their shops, in exchange for giving them food, shelter and salary. Some others gave Madeshi men well-paid jobs in construction. I saw a healthy and mutually respecting life between Madeshis and Pahadis in 2011.
Nepal must solve the Madeshi problem in such a wise and ethical way that the goat and the cabbage both stays intact… Nepal’s most dense jungles, with most wild animals and birds, are in the Terai belt, where Madeshis live. Lumbini, Buddha’s birth place, is also surrounded with Madeshi villages. Janakpur, Sita’s birthplace from the Ramayana, is also a crucial place for Hindus. Bardiya, another national park, is on a Madeshi-dominated land too. Fields in the Terai yield four times a year, thus the rest of Nepal is quite dependent on the Terai’s agriculture.
Nepal’s greatest asset are its jungles. Yet due to the Terai upheavals, forest protection could not be continued effectively,and wood-smuggling had appeared immediately. Cutting down green trees they smuggle them during the night on roads to India.