Madhesis, Janajatis unite to picket Singha Durbar

  • - First protest since the end of border blockade
  • - Partners at odds over stepping up agitation
- ROSHAN SEDHAI, Kathmandu

May 16, 2016-

Donning red bands and red and green caps and carrying flags of different varieties amid tight security, thousands of protesters from the mountains to the plains joined forces on Sunday to picket Singha Durbar on the second day of the Madhesi-Janajati protest against the government and the new constitution.

Protesters affiliated to Sanghiya Gathabandhan, an alliance of Madhesi and Janajati parties, blocked four entry points to the government secretariat demanding constitution amendment to reflect their aspirations.

Around three months after the end of the border-centric protests that created an acute shortage of essential supplies across the country, Madhesi parties have targeted the government secretariat with an aim to build pressure without creating undue public hardship.

The demonstrators chanted slogans against the “disenfranchisement” of Janajati, Madhesi, Dalit, Muslim and other minority communities by the new constitution and carried placards that demanded greater autonomy for Madhesis and the ethnic minorities.

“It was a rare show of unity. Sceptics of the alliance have started believing that it is possible to win this struggle for identity and inclusion if Janajati and Madhesi groups remain united,” said Sanghiya Samajbadi Forum Nepal General Secretary Rajendra Shrestha.

He said that the Kathmandu-centric agitation would continue until the government agreed to address their demands. The protesters have been demanding a major revision to the federal boundaries taking both identity and capability into consideration.

It, however, remains unclear how the agitation will go ahead after the programme to picket Singha Durbar ends on Tuesday.

Later on Sunday evening, Gathabandhan allies held a meeting at the Sanghiya Samajbadi Forum Nepal’s party office to review the programme. The meeting decided to extend Singha Durbar picketing by one more day.

“The gherao programme will remain until Tuesday. Discussions are going on to unveil more programmes of protest,” said SSFN Chairman Upendra Yadav.

Even though the protest brought the two groups together on Sunday, there is considerable divergence on how to move forward.

Gathabandhan leaders said that some Madhesi parties in the alliance were not keen about giving continuity to the Valley-centric protest. Leaders of the Tarai Madhesi Loktantrik Party and the Sadbhawana Party have been stressing the need to resume their Tarai-centred movement to mount additional pressure on the government to carry out works on redrawing the state borders.

They argue that the new alliance, which was formed mainly on Yadav’s insistence, overshadows the Samyukta Loktantrik Madhesi Morcha that waged the earlier struggle without the support of the Janajati communities.

“There is also conflict in our demand for state re-delineation. The alliance will fall apart sooner or later when we reach the negotiation stage with the government,” said a senior Madhesi leader. The regional parties have been demanding two provinces in the plains, parts of which some ethnic communities including Limbuwan, Magarat and Tharuwan activists consider their own territories.

Leaders said that negotiations to form an alliance between Madhesis and Tharus, who constitute one of the largest ethnic communities in the plains, had failed due to the clash of interest on the demarcation of federal boundaries.

BRB extends support

Former Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai has extended his support to the Kathmandu-centric protest of the Madhesi-Janajati alliance. Issuing a statement on Sunday, Bhattarai pledged his moral support to the agitation and the protesters’ demands. He also regretted the delay in addressing the demands of the agitating communities.

No violence reported: SP

KATHMANDU: Metropolitan Police Range, Teku said the protest staged by the Madhesi-Janajati alliance was largely free of violence.

The only reported case of vandalism was on a government vehicle. According to SP Pradhyumna Karki, spokesman for the Range, about 3,500 personnel were deployed at Maitighar, Babarmahal and Bijuli-bazar. There were around 2,000 Nepal Police and over 1,000 Armed Police Force personnel on the ground. More in plain clothes were deployed by the National Investigation Department.

The government had banned the use of batons by protesters after reports that some were training to use them during the demonstration. Meanwhile, TMLP leader Jitendra Sonal said more than two dozen buses carrying protesters to the Valley were stopped and harassed at Nagdhunga. He called it the authorities’ design to foil their Capital-centric agitation. SP Karki said the checks were part of their security arrangement. “We don’t want any weapons or sticks to get into the Valley. Therefore, thorough checks were conducted but there was no harassment meted out,” he said.

Published: 16-05-2016 07:42

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