Sunday, March 1, 2009

Identity Politics in Nepal Terai: Madhesi, Pahadi & Tharu Conflicts

Finding Your Face in the Figures?

Why not Find Here?

By Divas

Nepal has been geographically divided into three regions: the Himalayas (Himal), the Hills (Pahad), and the plains of Terai(Madhes). Madhes based parties have been demanding for making the whole southern terrain bordering with India as a single Madhes state. Madhesi leaders define Madhesis as original inhabitants of Madhes that include all those who are not of Pahadi or Himali origin. This definition seems to be based on the general perception among Pahadis in identifying Madhesis as the people of the terai region or of recent India orgin. The hill people traditionally have been calling the people living on the plains as Madisey. But, there was no official definition or claim regarding who the Madhesis are or who are not Madhesis until recently. With the demand for a single autonomous Madhes State and ‘wholesale’ inclusion of Madhesis through reservation in all state organs surfaced the controversy on the definition of ‘Madhesi’.

The Tharu communities strongly protest against the Madhesi demand of ‘Whole Madhes, One Single State’. Tharus identify themselves as the original inhabitant of the plains, and differentiate themselves with the Madhesis. Tharus, who mostly have Mongolian features, see Madhesis as either recent arrivals from India or people sharing culture with the India side of the Indo-Nepal border. Some Tharu groups have even warned of armed struggle against the government’s recent listing of the Tharus in the Madhesi community. The government had recently issued a notice listing the castes & ethnicities who would qualify as Madhesi - to address the Madhesi concern against selection of two Pahadi candidates by the Public Service Commision(PSC) in Madhesi quota. While Government’s list addressed the Madhesi concern, it raised more concern among the Tharus for being labeled as Madhesis.

The issues of identity, representation in the state structures, and demarcation of federal lines among the states are more complex than they appear. The candidates selected by PSC who were withdrawn later were among the thousands of Terai inhabitants whose forefathers had migrated from the hills to the plains. Hence, ethnically and culturally, they are Pahadis, but geographically they are not Pahadis. Tharus and Rajbansis claim to be older inhabitants of the plains than the Madhesis or Pahadis. Moreover, there are Muslims, Christians, Limbuwans, & Khambuwans who have been increasingly asserting for separate federal states.

My Impression: Tharus are not Madhesis – if Madhesis need a separate state, Tharu demand for Tharuwan state sounds equally logical, and so on for other tribes, races, ethnicities, and cultures. Forget who came from where in Nepal – all are refugees here, and until a new discovery proves otherwise, all human animals descend from their African ancestors. But, again, you can not claim African land or identity.

BTW, have you any idea where were you and what was your identity just a year before you landed on this planet? Here’s a close up picture of what you looked like then:

Boorchodikey… :D

UPDATE on March 02 : Nepal’s ethnic bodies, including Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (NEFIN) and Tharu Welfare Council (TWC), have claimed that the government’s categorization of Tharus as Madhesis violated the ILO 169 concerning Indigenous and Tribal People. “This is either a conspiracy of the Maoists to divide and rule the indigenous people or a tactics to appease the Madhesi leaders to prop up the falling government” President Pasang Sherpa and General Secretary Om Gurung of NEFIN said on Saturday.

UPDATE: Three persons, including one policeman, were killed in Chitwan as the general strike called by Tharus continued in the districts stalling the whole southern Nepal .


  1. [...] See the original post: Identity Politics in Nepal Terai: Madhesi & Tharu Conflicts [...]

  2. Dear editor,
    I read this above article. But, this article can't give the solution for the unity between the Nepalese people. This is nor the agenda of true Nepalese people.
    Now, the Maoist is in regime. The Maoist, in the name of transforming the country into 'New Nepal' is trying to destroy our culture and traditions. 'The Maoist ministers are cutting down the budgets of such festivals. The Maoist ministers have shown the same tipe of reluctance while marking other festivals which has been continued in the Nepali society for 1400 years. During the Indra Jatra festival ,the Newar community was agitated when they were faced with the budget cut for marking the festival. The Maoist leaders are seen reluctant in preserving our own indentity.'(Puspa Pradhan) The Maoist leaders are going to undermine our culture Dashain & Tihar and the Maoist leaders and Prime Minister Pracanda have violated our traditional dress for official functions which demonstrate Nepalese identity.

    The republic, securalism & fadaralism is the agenda to destroy Nepal.
    No party leader has any notion toward this aspect. How can the constituent assembly get wayout after doing away all the sensitive norms of the nation.It is meaningless to mull over the nation after doing away with nationality. The national identity such as national dress, national language and the religions of the people should be strengthed to uplift the nation. No nation can improve if the leaders have no concern regarding those aforesaid norms. It will not be in the interest of any Nepali if the nation is disintegrated. The mobocracy is not the concern of the people as it finishes the basic norms and values.
    It is only the monarchy that is a safeguard against the break up of the country and to stop communist dictatorship in the country. Communists would never accept parliamentary democracy and communists would never get along with their class enemies, the parliamentary parties. If parliamentary democracy is the common path of all democratic ideologies, communism is the dictatorship of the so-called proletariats. However, the corrupt and deviant leaders of both the parliamentary parties and the communists are bent on breaking up this country. In multi-party democracy, constructive commitments hold high regards and liberalism, tolerance and freedom of expression are the basic tenets of multi-party democracy. But, the culprits leaders never try to understand the realities of Nepal's sovereignty and the unity of Nepalese People.
    Thank you.
    Dirgha Raj Prasai

  3. I see Dirghaji raised some concerns about our disappearing identity from a different perspective.
    The task of defining identity is as complex as the concept of identity itself. If you want to get at root of all the ethnic conflicts and violent in the world, it some how winds back to identity. It is an elusive concept, often used differently and advantageously by cunning politicians, bureaucrats and corporates.
    The identity as a Madhesi is not clearly defined in Nepal. The popular notion is that people who speak Maithili in Nepal are Madhesis. But the fact that a certain group speaks Maithili does not make them 'Madhesis'. There are more people in Bihar who speak Maithili than in Nepal as a whole. There are more people who speak Maithili in the world than there are Nepali speakers, Maithili stands as the 40th most spoken language world in the world. Language alone can not be the basis of an identity. Also, denying the people of hilly origin the identity as 'Madhesis' is unethical since many of them have stayed in Terai for a considerable time now. Of course, many of them were moved intentionally and strategically in the past.
    The problem will remain unsolved as long as the complex issue of resolving and defining the identity of Madhesis remains vague and incomplete.

  4. @ Dear Dirgha ji, u’ve made a typical passionate argument in the line of conventional so-called Nepali Nationalism. i think it will suffice for me to say that i believe that republic, secularism, and federalism become inevitable once you talk of democratization of any country with diverse and heterogeneous population. However, i agree with u that my writing of this post can’t give a solution for national unity. i think Prez Dr. Ram Baran is doing a really great job in keeping the national unity. OK, call me a Kangresi or madisey fr admiring Ram Baran… :D

    @ Dear Madhesi friend, do you really mean that Pahadis living in Madhes should be allowed to contend in the Madhesi quota? If yes, i guess, u might qualify as the next president of Nepal… :D But, it’s really ironical that Pahadis r now willing to be ‘categorised’ as Madhesis only to book a seat in the bureaucracy. In any case, i refuse to take any concession of that sort. Anyway, have u noticed where do the Madhesis & Pahadis work most united? The real melting pot fr Nepalis is not the U.S., but the Arab countries, and in abduction, extortion, and criminal gangs. No kidding….do a research man.. :D

  5. Dear editor,

    I am not convinced about the argumant of Divas. Why he is going to destroy our stablished cultural-nationalism ? He says-'so-called Nepali Nationalism.?'

    Secularism, Fedaralism & republic is not our need and case. The main problem of nepalese people if foreign's intervation and corruptions.But, the corrupt leaders are active to destroy Nepalese stability & peace.

    Every nations know that a country's existence and prestige can gradually be eroded by finishing off its faith and belief tradition and culture traditional faith and cultural beliefs. After the movement of April 2005, the corrupt leaders of so-called big party (Congress, UML, Maoist) at the hint of foreigners are working to disintegrate the country. No country in the world can always bear the interference and the meddling of foreigners. But this country has seen sudden increase of foreign interference and meddling in the last one-and-a-half-years because of the leaders, who are willing to sell themselves and the country situation has turned appalling because of unprecedented level of corruption, mis-management and chaos. Girija of Nepali Congress, Madhav Nepal of UML and Prachanda of the Maoist are fascinated into breaking the country by taking personal vendetta against the king and putting false and made-up traps one after the other.

    Some sold up professors, former corrupt officials in the government, money-minded doctors and lawyers and some vagabond journalists in the name of civil society are adding fuel to their deceptive design. They do not have any loyalty and principle and they reach to where they can get profit. Nepal cannot remain safe until some reactionaries of the so-called civil society and the agents of RAW within the political parties are exposed and punished. Ninety-five percent of those traitors are Parade Bahuns. I am also Parade bahun, but I am ver concious for my nationality from the very begining.
    Nepal has great faith on the United Nations. But its like Ian Martin like representatives who tagged along those traitors made the United Nations a total failure in Nepal. Therefore, such representatives of the UN should be chased away before it is too late.

    If we want the stability of Nepal the all nationalist out-site or within the parties, Nepali army, Courts, adimistrations and all patriots should be ready to save the nation. If we want to save Nepal -The permanent organization that can protect the nation and its identity is the royal institution. We need to coordinate and balance the Nepali nationality, royal institution and democracy, bring the prevalent corruption to an end and to focus on development of backward region and classes against the foreign intervention. We cannot go on supporting the mistakes of the corrupt leaders. Nepal has been running with agreement between the monarch and people for continuation of pro-people royal institution. Republic is Herculean attempt from those who have only thought of their vested interest. No one can survive long by stepping on fire. Royal Institution is compulsion and necessity to establish the nation. Please, conver my this opinion to all the interested groups.That is all.

    Thank you.
    Dirgha Raj Prasai

  6. Thanks Dirgha ji, thanks fr ur prompt response, & i really admire ur concern fr unity among people. But, fr ur detailed analysis. i’m afraid i can’t argue so passionately like u. neither I feel qualified to offer a prescription fr all social malady…Still, i don’t feel like joining you in your philosophy which can be summed up in the well known phrases of Nepali Politics:

    “ Hamro Raja Hamro Desh Prana Bhanda Pyaro Cha

    Hamro Bhasa Hamro Bhesa Prana Bhanda Pyaro Cha

    Panchayati Byabastha – Amar Rahos

    Sree 5 Mahendra – Chirayu Rahun”

    BTW: while chanting these slogans in schools, some of we spoiled brats enjoyed distorting the sacred slogan in this way:

    “Sree 5 Birendra: CHILAYI Rahun” :D

    PS: Please write your google group link correctly, it doesn’t work.


  7. Dirgaji,

    There are a couple of comments I want to make here.

    First, I am impressed with your passion for the country. Second, stop calling the editor and divas different people. Divas is the editor of this article, isn't he?
    Third, even though I am impressed with your passion and moved by your dystopic and frustrated description of Nepal's ailing situation, I disagree with you a number of major issues.

    You said ,"The main problem of nepalese people if foreign’s intervation and corruptions."
    The main problem of Nepal is not foreign intervention. That is a part of the problem, a lateral effect of myopic leaders. The main problem of Nepal, pay attention, is the lack of a strong leadership.

    Any country, you name it, and I can show you has only progressed through a strong leadership. Foreign Intervention could be sidelined and diluted with a strong leadership. Look at Cuba, it was under more foreign influence than any other country but the way Castro led the nation with a strong fist kept even mighty powers like the United States at bay. And the living conditions in Cuba are not that bad either. It has somewhere like 15000$ per capita.

    Yes, Dirgajhi, we are currently experiencing a serious vacuum of visionary leadership. Divas, did you say I should be the next president? Thanks man. I would keep my fingers crossed ;))

    Fourth, you said, "If we want to save Nepal -The permanent organization that can protect the nation and its identity is the royal institution."
    I disagree with you, dirghaji. If you think we still regard kings as incarnations of Lord Vishnu and that they have descended from Sun God or something then I don't know what to say to you. Gone are the days of superstition. We don't have to regard someone as the king because of his heritage and inheritance. They have to prove they are capable. Alternatively, if you are suggesting that kingship should be maintained while the king should be chosen as the most able person, someone who has prove his ability rather than through inheritance then that could be a valid suggestion. But after all, presidents are akin to those symbolic powers who try to maintain unity by welcoming foreign visitors, receiving them at the airports and giving them company when they leave, keep them as guests in the guest-house near their presidential building.

    Keep this going. I am liking the comments and views by you two. Feel free to criticize the views of 'Next President', is it divas?

  8. [...] Divas at ABC discusses the identity politics in Nepal and the debate between the ethnic communities Madhesis and the [...]

  9. Dear friends,
    I am convinced about 'The main problem of Nepal is the lack of a strong leadership.' But, how you can find among these leaders who are all the agents of India. If we have parmanent institution (people oriented monarchy) we should stand as a sovereign citizens.
    Dear editor,
    May I analysis about the situation frankly ?

    Why would there be a need of a King if Nepal can survive without it ? But Nepal should not be compared to other nations. Nepal does not demand an autocratic royal institution but a pro-people institution. The institution of monarchy is such a force that fights off imperialist force to create a greater Nepal. The King of Nepal never sold the nation, pleaded before foreigners nor killed the people and will never do so. I wouldn’t have said so if I was a citizen of Japan or any other nation, I would have said that the nation will survive without the monarchy, but I am in Nepal. The geographical and class reality of Nepal is such, that the absence of monarchy would mean there will be no Nepal.

    This nation was created with joint efforts between the people and the King. Royal Institution is the backbone of Nepali nationality; it is a pillar of trust for continuing stability between China and India. The royal institution is the base pillar for the lasting creative democratic nationalism, which is pessimistic towards autocratic and imperialist management, traitors and terrorism. Nepal as a republic can pose a threat to both India and China. The royal institution is in row, because some Maoist leaders, puppets from Nepali Congress, and UML following Indian directives went against the royal institution. Nepal is a country having a rich cultural heritage. Now, the Maoist is in regime. The antinationalist pro-Indian leaders are trying to destroy our culture and traditions. The Maoist leaders are going to undermine our culture Dashain & Tihar and the Maoist leaders and Prime Minister Pracanda have violated our traditional dress for official functions which demonstrate Nepalese identity.

    Nepal & Indian culture & traditions is in danger. But, Why India is striving to end the identity of Nepal Nepal and Nepali people spread across the world are very much angry at the nude intervention by India.

    So, please, never try 'exercise in futility'. Their should me our moto-
    no ends justify the means but,means justify the ends' for Nepal's around stability.
    Thank you.
    Dirgha Raj Prasai

  10. Well friends, although we share many similar traits, Divas and the semi-underground editor abc of this blog are as different people as are Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. While Divas has his own opinion and sometimes even expresses offensive remarks, I’ve found that abc tries to remain neutral is all disputes…& like most bloggers incl you, sometimes we think of quitting blogging altogether...

    Yes Madhesi frien, i wished u fr next president of Nepal because of ur generosity to accept Pahadi origin people in Terai as members of ur own community. However, it has it’s own practical difficulties…but i think showing ur openness is more imp in resolving any conflict.

    Prez Dr. Rambaran is doing a great job simply by wearing a defunct dress called daura surwal & speaking of national unity in all his speeches to address the ‘hamro bhasa hamro bhesa’ concerns of so-called nationalist people like Dirgh ji… :D

    About Dirghji, I’d say again that although he shuns other Pahadiya Bahuns except himself as the RAW agents, he himself seems to be unaware of hw his Bahunbad arrogance pervades in his jingoistic national & cultural views.

  11. Chhetri and brahmin are different caste, so why we are included in the same in above chart . Chhetris are now being deprived due to this case and hardly seen in UML, NC and maoist parties. So, we should fight for our different identity.

  12. Dirghaji,

    Royal institution as a uniting force is all good, everyone would be all smiles if it were effective as an institution.
    As a good analyst, you must have realized how royal institution was becoming defunct and aristocratic in the past. By appointing Panchayat-era hardcore royalists, it was not moving in a positive direction. It was not giving us hope, instead,we were apprehensive that the royal institution was trying to move us in Panchayat era, an era that our countrymen got rid of through struggle.
    Royalists were proving to be very irresponsible. Road accidents by royalists was on the rise and they didn't care because they could get away with it. If Maoists were the terrorists at that time, royalists were the criminals impersonated as protectors.
    Also, our taxes were not being used in the best ways possible. Why would we pay our taxes for private tours of royal family members to foreign countries. If they have such lofty demands for luxury then they should be using their own earnings which are not insignificant either keeping in mind the low living costs of a poor nation, Nepal. The expenses of royal palace was adding insult to the penury, widening our deficits.
    Also, what was our king doing? He was only seen as participating in religious ceremonies. He left all his administrative works to his little puppets and was busy in religious rituals. What for? You can not make 'virtue out of poverty'. Religion is not going to feed hungry stomachs. If you advocate a royal institution, dirghaji then all of these aspects will have to be taken care of. Moreover, if the king tries to be active and take administration into his own hands, there is always the chance of he becoming a tyrant since he would have unparalleled power. A tyrant dictator could be worse than incompetent and corrupt Prime Minister and his cabinet since there is always the option of check and balance.

  13. Dear Madhesi Friend,
    I am not convince about your arguments about the Nepalese nationality & monarchy. I am not the blind supporter of monarchy, but, I am in Nepal, as a Nepali, I want the soverign country, I think, without monarchy Nepal can't stand.
    Nepalese monarchy is the most convincing identity of Nepal's independence and its sovereignty. Nepal could remain an independent and sovereign country only because of monarchy. Indian conspirators are taking some deviant leaders of the political parties on their shoulders with the sole aim that it will be easy for them to control Nepal if monarchy can be displaced. But such a situation will be a happy one for India also.
    Dear friend !
    If we want to save the identities & sovereignty of our country there must be reinstate the monarchy. So, all the nationalists withen the parties & outsite we should request the King to mideate to salve the crisis.
    Can the future of the country be decided just because so called big political parties ganged up together? Those powerful nations, who in the past shed blood in Vietnam, North and South Korea, East and West Germany, Cambodia, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia, are now trying to drag Nepal into a civil war. So, if the political leaders, including the Maoists, tried to trample on this truth, one should know that the existence of Nepal will be finished. Please, reply with comment.
    Thaat is all.
    Thank you.
    Dirgha Raj Prasai

  14. Dear friend
    Please, correct - 'we should request the King to mediate to salve the crisis.' but not 'mideate'
    D.R. Prasai

  15. Enough is enough. Yesterday’s news reports state that the agitating Tharus of Chitwan, Siraha, & Bardia prevented even the rickshaws carrying sick people from reaching hospitals. Hundreds of foreign tourists and thousands of Nepali passengers are stranded on the road. i was sympathetic to the Tharus until they were protesting decently. But now i don’t understand why Tharus are protesting for being categorized as Madhesis – especially when Tharus seem to be imitating the same Madhesi method of ethnic cleansing & terror strategy during the first Madhesi Movement. Torturing commoners in the name of movement is a crime regardless of who do it – Madhesi, Pahadi, or Tharu. If this is called the New Nepal, I’m sorry to say that for me it’s a Wrong Nepal.

  16. I am happy to say that I like Dirgha Prasain's comments and it also a valid point that one article cannot provide the solution of a country which is being destroyed by misguided unethical leaderships.

  17. dear what the fuck

    i know wanna why you ppl wanna stay in nepal man.... come on
    why don't you madhesis fuck off to bangladesh..... i don't want any fucking ugly
    madhesi's living in my country man go somewhere else.... fuck off and go somewhere else

    but tibetans are welcome in Nepal
    ulgy madhesi can fuck off and bother showing your ugly face in Nepal

    bcuz nobody wants to see your Black Ugly Dark skin ppl like u in Nepal
    go to fucking Africa To All Fucking Madhesi

  18. Dear Readers / concerned Nepal Lovers

    What has been done is done?

    But where is the solution all agitating protesters demand of state , continued disturbance falling economy ,unemployment .

    Who is loosing ?

    Every Nepal resident.
    Think about it Phadis/madehsis/Tharus.
    what r u giving to Ur coming generations.

    Think from your mind & Heart and find a peaceful solution.

    Don't think from your Assholes.

    You have disturbed the severity of peaceful Nepal.

    FUCK Maoists Fuck Prachand

  19. Grow up!! Find peace!!

  20. well i read through this article....i really sympathise with my tribe coz my tribe tharu is vanishing and we are being recognised as madhesis....which is not fair....madhesis should be thrown away from nepal or should be kicked out for violating the peaceful addition, tharus should raise their voice for such kind.......


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