HOMELESS IN OWN HOMELAND
By Sujit Thakur
Introduction Of Madhesi Problems
The total land area of Madhes today is 16,000 sq. miles and it is home to about 16 million people. The southern part of today’s Nepal bordering Indian union’s states of Uttar Pradesh, Uttrakhand, West Bengal and Bihar has a long history. Madhya Desh (In Sanskrit) has got a mention in ancient Vedas, scriptures. Lord Rama, Sita and Gautama Buddha were born in this land. Today, though the name madhes is specifically given to the southern plain of Nepal, the present day Hindi land of India also is a part of Madhya Desh. It is a matter of fact that the residents of these parts of India do not recognize themselves as madhesis; the ancient identity of madhesis (Residents of madhes) is kept intact in Nepal. If we see the life-style, culture, languages across the indo-Nepal border, there is a dead similarity amongst the residents of either side of the border.
Our Motherland Madhes has been victimized since the day of its transfer by the British to Nepal. The present Nepal-ruled Madhes stretching from Mechi (A River in the eastern part of Nepal) to Mahakali (A River in the western part of Nepal) had never been annexed by any King of the Shah Dynasty or any other Nepali and it was handed over to Nepal by the Memorandum of 1816 and Agreement of 1860 due to the self-serving policies of the British.
Article 8 of the “Peace and Friendship Treaty” signed between India and Nepal on July 31, 1950 at Kathmandu states; “So far as the subjects mentioned in this agreement are concerned, it makes all earlier treaties and agreements between British government on behalf of India and Nepal government null and void. As per the article, the memorandum of 1816 and agreement of 1860 pertaining to the transfer of Madhes automatically becomes null and void and thereafter the hegemony of Nepal over Madhes stands totally unauthorized and illegal.
Madhes: A Brief History
Prithvi Narayan Shah, a king of Gorkha, a small state then, is credited to have unified present day Nepal started to extend the Gorkha state by bloody army campaign. Step by step, he attacked and captured various historical republics of indigenous people. In 1768 AD, he attacked Nepal (earlier Kathmandu valley was called Nepal); Jay Prakash Malla was then the king of Nepal. In the army of Malla king, there were 12000 Tirhutia armies. Tirhutia armies sharply defended against the organized army of Prithvi Narayan Shah. After defeating Jay Prakash Malla, Prithvi Narayan Shah terminated the Tirhutias from army force. Having establishing Shah Regime in Nepal, in 1774 AD, King Prithvi Narayan Shah defeated and dismissed army ruler of Makawanpur by pretence, fraud and conspiracy. The Sen rulers of Makwanpur used to pay taxes to Mughal Empire to get benefit from Eastern Madhes’s agricultural products. After Prithvi Narayan Shah got hold of Makwanpur, he had also committed to pay tax to the Muslim emperor. Though the land of Madhes was used to fulfill their food requirements and other lavish expenses, the people of madhes were being treated inhumanly. Madhes became a colony for Nepal and the residents of Madhes were like their slaves .This attitude got continuity for over 250 years and to larger extent, it is still in practice. Prithvi Narayan shah and his clan had an undeclared policy of excluding madhesis from security forces, police, bureaucratic positions .The hatred might have come because of the fact that Prithvi Narayan shah had faced a strong opposition by Tirhutia army who in fact were madhesis.
Madhes people had made the land of madhes fertile by using their blood and sweat, and also fighting against terrible diseases like malaria and other wild animals such as tiger, bear, snakes etc. But those occupied land was snatched from the real owners of the land, who were madhes people and was captured and distributed to royal family members, relatives, armies, officers and other employees as gifts, Birta, Math, Jagir etc and madhes people, who were the real owners of the land, were compelled to work as land tillers. Like Prithvi Narayan Shah, after his regime, his successors continued the same policy to treat madhes people. After the downfall of Mughal regime and rise of British power, Shahbanshi rulers used to gift elephants to British rulers every year as tax which was commutated by article 7 of the treaty of 1801. Madhes was the major financial source to bear the cost of Nepali Shah Rulers. The fund was supplied from madhes to maintain the cost of war in the time of extension of Nepali territory, cost for enjoyment and joy of the Shah rulers and other necessary administrative costs. Madhes land tillers had been suffering from cruelty, injustice and inhumane behaviour of Shah Rulers and subjected to monetary exploitation in fulfilling rulers’ interests. In 1814, British East India Company attacked Nepal from four posts of madhes. At that time, madhesi people, who were victim of exploitation, were preparing to revolt against the medieval cruelty and injustice behaviour of Nepalese rulers. By following the general principle of people’s inalienable right to revolt against injustice and exploitation, groups of unorganized people of east madhes helped the East India Company in the war against Shah Rulers in the name of revolution. Shahbansi rulers of Nepal lost that war against East India Company and surrendered. After the end of war, Nepali ruler requested the British East India Company to support the living cost of their employees. Company government agreed to pay two hundred thousand rupees per year to Shah Ruler. Both the party signed in Sugauli treaty on December 2, 1815 and declared the end of war that had been running from 1814. Through Sugauli Treaty, king of Nepal handed over the land east to Koshi and west to Mahakali. He handed over not only his territory but also delivered all his power of foreign affairs to Company government. After that, madhesi people also got relief from Shah Ruler’s tyranny.
Shah King of Nepal accepted the semi-colonial administration of British East India Company but after some time, in the name of acceptance or approval of Sugauli treaty, Company government issued a memorandum on December 8, 1816 without any consent of the people of madhes, who were open supporter of Company Government in the war. By the deceiving memorandum, Company Government divided the madhes and provided some part to Nepal such as east to Rapti River, West to Koshi River and north to present Indo-Nepal border. After providing that land, Company government stopped to pay two hundreds thousands rupees to Nepal. To satisfy madhes people, Shah King agreed to add one clause in article 7 of the memorandum. According to the clause, “No legal action will be taken after extradition against the people of madhes, who were supporters of the British India Company, in the period of war”. Those people, who were involved in revolution, had always expressed their dissatisfaction and disagreement with the decision of British India Company, which was against the spirit of madhes people. After getting the territory of madhes, Nepali government started to treat the madhes people as enemies. In this way, land of madhes divided into two parts. Major parts of madhes became the colony of British India Company and some part came under the semi colonial state Nepal. In the madhes land under the British rule, the ruler and people were from different society. Rulers were English and people were local madhes people. The rulers and the people had different social and economic activities. Therefore, there were big practical gaps between rulers and people. The situation was similar in extradited part of madhes in semi-colonial state Nepal. The rulers were from different economic and social background of Nepal and people were from different background. Therefore, they also had big practical, social and economic gaps between rulers and people and this problem still exists.
The King of Nepal agreed to appoint British residential representative in Kathmandu offered by the British Government. However, the strong objection of majority of royalist had raised tension in that issue. In June 21, 1840, the Queen made an endeavour to murder the British representative but she could not succeed to carry out the conspiracy. That incident displeased the British Government. After that incident, British representatives had been trying to end the power of the royal palace in Nepal. In September 16, 1846, by inspiration and support of British Government, Jung Bahadur Kunwor murdered a number of senior officers of the royal palace and army who were invited in the occasion of Baved Parba by the Queen. Moreover, he declared himself as the Prime Minister and chief of the army. After that, he captured every part of governance in his grip, and compelled the King to work only as the rubber stamp, and started his arbitrary rule of his family. In 1850 AD, British Government invited to Jung Bahadur in foreign country and was awarded by the Queen Victoria. After the incident, all Rana rulers became the puppet of British Government. Jung Bahadur had gone to India leading his army of three thousand to suppress to Indian people, who were starting their first independent movement, the Sepoy mutiny, which occurred from 1857 to 1859 AD. After the success of the movement, East India Company ended its rule over the Indian Territory. After passing the Indian Administrative Act, 1858, British Queen Victoria started direct rule over the Indian Territory. British government presented some land to Nepal government of western madhes such as west to Rapti River, east to Mahakali River and north to present Indo-Nepal border. This land was provided as an award for the support of Ranas to the British Government to suppress the fighters for independence of India. That army created violence by rape, murder, looting, firing and other cruel and inhuman behaviour towards the madhes people from Gorakhpur to Lucknow to restore the British colony. Nepal Government called that region Naya Muluk (New region). According to the memorandum of 1816 and treaty of 1860 AD, British India Company divided the land of madhes from the land to west to Mechi, east to Mahakali and north of present Indo-Nepal broader provided to semi-colonial state Nepal.
After 1861 AD, with Jung Bahadur’s order, people were made to pay money instead of grain as tax. Rana rulers made one rule for people of Nepalese origin and other for people of Madhes origin. for example in article (section) 152 of concerning murder, Nepalese from Hills could get bail for Rs.10-25 whereas Madhes residents had to pay Rs.100.Moreover, Madhes residents had to get permission letter(visa) to visit Kathmandu as if they were some foreigners. Only on Mahashivaratri, Madhes residents along with Indians were allowed without permit. On contrary, Nepalese and Madhes residents did not require permission to enter then British colony. Thousands and thousands acres of Madhes land were controlled by Nepalese people in the name of Birta (tax free land), salaries, trust and others. To strengthen the power further, Rana rules appointed locals from Madhes as land recorders who acted as Rana’s social representations.
After the independence of India in 1947, Nepal and India signed in “Peace and friendship Treaty 1950″, which nullified all the prior treaties that Nepal made with British rulers. India registered the treaty in UN office with registration number 1302. Also, “Nepal British treaty 1950″ ‘s articles states that all treats made between Nepal and Britain prior to 21 December, 1923 were nullified. That means the treaties of 1816 AD (After Anglo Nepal war) and 1860AD were considered void. After the treaty of 1950, on the basis of UN charter’s section 73, Madhes became an (autonomous) region.
However, in 1951, Nepalese rulers conspired to displace Madhes residents to control Madhes land in the name of population distribution. After East India Company returned Madhes to Nepal, Nepalese rulers wanted their control over madhes. So, they settled Nepalese people in Madhes in the name of (Birta, guthi….) but the population of Nepalese before 1951 was minimal as there was epidemic of Malaria. Every year, 2 million people suffered from Malaria of which, around 10% of victims died. Nepalese from hills feared Malaria .So, Nepalese immigrants were less in number.
Nepal became a member of United Nations, on February 24, 1956, UN secretary General (Doug Hemmer Shold) asked Nepalese Government about any land under Nepal that was under section 73 of UN charter. Nepalese representative stayed mum on this matter. When the matter was asked again, Nepalese representative crossed all moral grounds and answered “No”. Nepalese Government sent a letter to UN to confirm. (See: UN publication ST/DPI/SERA/73/Rev.1, page 8, 1 April, 1957). So, it is clear from above that Madhes is an autonomous region. Nepal has occupied Madhes under baseless facts.
Present Condition of Madhesis in Nepal
In 1952 AD, Nepalese government brought new citizenship act to further discriminate madhesi people. If one has to believe, madhes is a part of Nepal then the residents of madhes automatically become citizen of Nepal. But in this new policy, only those people were eligible to get citizenship, who could speak and understand Nepali language. Majority of Madhesis didn’t speak or understand Nepali hence denied citizenship. Under the new policy, one without a citizenship cannot have land or properties; this rendered millions of Madhesis landless and they were forced to work as bounded labourers.
If knowledge of Hindi would be made compulsory in India to get Indian Citizenship, will it be acceptable to South India, Punjab, Assam, and Bengal? But Nepalese rulers in sheer madness made policy like “One King, One State, one language, and only one look”. These kinds of policies made madhesis non-citizens, their languages suppressed, their culture suppressed. Under this suppression of many years, madhesis have lost their pride and glorified history.
Present condition is not very encouraging but I will take it anyways .I know, the present breed of madhes is knowledgeable, they know their roots, they know their right to freedom. They have started to understand why there is only about 15-20% people of madhesi origin in civil services although their population is above 50%.In Nepal, there are 75 districts altogether, out of 75 chief district officers , only 4 are madhesis , their representation in army and police is negligible, they do not have any say in judicial system. Judiciary and all other bureaucratic apparatuses of state are highly biased against madhesis. Still, the Nepalese rulers are infested with colonial mindset, they think it is their birthright to rule and madhesis are made to serve them.
Scores of Madhesi youths have been extra-judicially killed or detained illegally in name of special security arrangement. Madhes has been made like forte by Nepalese police and army, their arrogance is increasing day by day. Madhes is still keeping its cool but cannot be said till when? If it breaks the limit, a bigger conflict than Maoists’ people war cannot be denied.
A Way Out
In present scenario, staying together with Nepal is not possible. If Delhi and Kathmandu try to dictate terms for madhes or they try to force their deal on people of madhes, it can be catastrophic .There are every possibility that people of madhes and people of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar can unite together if Delhi and Kathmandu together try to suppress the voices of madhes.
I still pray to god to provide us strength to keep ourselves cool. We know the importance of a human life, we definitely do not want violence spread over our society, and we want to see our society prospering, developing in a peaceful environment. We never can find a solution through violent means but when we are left with only two options to choose from, we must chose one. At present we have only two options I guess, “Submit to their atrocities” or “stand to fight them”, we are peace loving but not coward. We are committed to remain committed towards our freedom!