Nepal crisis escalates after Madhesis cancel dialogue

Updated - November 17, 2021 02:23 am IST

Published - November 03, 2015 02:05 am IST - NEW DELHI:

Ethnic Madhesi protesters throw stones and bricks at Nepalese policemen in Birganj, a town on the border with India, on Monday.

Ethnic Madhesi protesters throw stones and bricks at Nepalese policemen in Birganj, a town on the border with India, on Monday.

In a two-pronged escalation of the crisis in Nepal, the United Madhesi Democratic Front ended the national dialogue with the government of Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli, even as Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Kamal Thapa, in an unprecedented internationalisation of the crisis, left for Geneva to present Nepal’s case against the blockade before the United Nations Human Rights Council.

The cancellation of the talks followed an early morning police action against the blockading Madhesi activists in Birganj that left one person, an Indian national from Bihar, dead and scores injured. Nepali sources said the action led to the arrest of several Indians who were among the protesters. The deceased was identified as Ashish Kumar Ram (19).

“The talks between the government and the Madhesi leaders have been robbed of legitimacy by the police action which followed our discussion with Mr. Thapa. What is shocking is that our activists were attacked in Birganj within six hours of our talks in Kathmandu. We have failed in securing the attention of Prime Minister Oli,” said Lal Babu Raut, vice-president of the Sanghiya Samajvadi Forum (Nepal).

Caught by surprise The crackdown has, however, caught all stakeholders by surprise, as it followed a daylong fruitful dialogue between representatives of the Sanghiya Samajvadi Forum, a prominent Madhesi party, and a government delegation led by Mr. Thapa.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed “shock” over the death of the youngster from Bihar and requested for details from his Nepalese counterpart during a telephonic conversation.

The dialogue between Mr. Thapa and the Madhesi leadership had given the hint that the ruling coalition, led by the CPN(UML), had sounded out all parties in Parliament, to provide the foundation for bringing in constitutional amendments addressing the grievances of the Madhesi population.

“The police action took place despite the assurances from Mr. Thapa that even the issue of provincial demarcation for the Madhesis will be carried out according to the outcome of the dialogue,” Mr. Raut told The Hindu.

One of the reasons for the action, activists say, is the fear among the Nepali bureaucracy about losing more policemen to lynch mobs.

Of the 45 deaths so far in the blockade-related violence, at least nine were of policemen lynched in the Madhes region. The dismissal of dialogue by the Madhesi leaders has been criticised as overreaction by some sections of the Madhesis who believe talks should not be interrupted as the blockade has affected life and led to scarcity of essential commodities throughout Nepal.

In the meanwhile, Mr. Thapa’s flight to Geneva to address the U.N. Human Rights Council’s review meeting has acquired a new meaning given the chaos and violence in Nepal. Though Nepal has periodically presented its case in Geneva like other countries, the present circumstances hint that Mr. Thapa will highlight the “humanitarian crisis” triggered by the blockade. Sources told The Hindu that earlier the Nepal government had planned to send a lower-level official to Geneva, but at the last moment, the Prime Minister decided that Mr. Thapa represent the country at the UNHRC meeting. Last week, Nepal concluded an energy pact with China to import cooking gas and kerosene through the Tatopani border trade post in the northern Himal region.

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