January 3, 2011
The Madhesi Perspective
This week’s split of the southern political party – Terai Madhes Democratic Party (TMDP) – seems to guarantee that national politics will become even more complex in 2011. Parliament’s landscape was already littered with 27 political parties – most of which continue to focus on power-grabs rather than upholding party-inspired ideological principles.
The entire southern swath of Nepal – alternatively known as Madhes or Terai – represents the “bread-basket” of the country, the original breeding ground for the mid-20th century democratic movement in Nepal and, today, over half of the nation’s population. And yet few Westerners understand the profound role its inhabitants will play in the 21st century.
As Dr. C. K. Raut points out in his speech delivered at Harvard University (November 2010), NGOs and INGOs continually sideline Madeshi issues and donor-induced projects in favor of projects located in the hill areas of Nepal:
Let’s see an example of one [international agency] project — “Room To Read”. By 2009, it has established 2564 libraries and 659 schools in Nepal. But where? How many of those libraries and schools were built for Madheshis? If you look at the project’s work area, you can see that they are working mostly in the hills, and in the areas that already have the highest Human Development Index in the country. Similar fate lies for the “One Laptop Per Child” and other major development projects, too.
This month Speaker of the Swiss National Council Pascale Wyss visited Nepal. But, where did she go? She went to Okhaldhunga and Solukhumbu, nearby Mt. Everest.
The negligence of Westerners to focus on southern Nepal – when it is a pivotal player in the country’s future – is the reason why I encourage readers to take the time to study the transcript of Raut’s speech, “Brooms Against Bullets: A Saga of the Madheshi Movement in Nepal.”
It includes a compact history of the region beginning with the arrival of the historical Buddha, who was born in Lumbini, Nepal; moves forward to the late 1850s, when the British handed Madhes over to the Gurkhas; and concludes with the violence of 2007, when mass protests ensued after the 2006 peace agreement.
It covers all the major issues of present-day southern Nepal from the Madhesi perspective: racial and gender discrimination, colonization, language barriers, the illegal Kamaiya system, child marriage, mortality rates, ongoing injustice to Dalits (the so-called untouchables), lack of law and order and – last but not least – international indifference.
Below are some of the photographs and charts presented in conjunction with Raut’s Cambridge speech:
More about Dr. C. K. Raut
Dr. Raut was born in Mahadeva Village, in the Saptari district of Nepal. He attended primary school in his home village, and secondary school in nearby Katti Village. He went on to study at Tribhuvan University (Nepal), Tokyo University (Japan) and Cambridge University (UK). Dr. Raut is also the president of the Non-Resident Madheshis Association, a global Diaspora organization of Madhesis living abroad.
Transcript of Dr. Raut’s Cambridge University speech