June 23, 2021

Praveen's Webspace

writing, mostly, on contemporary issues of human rights, politics & social justice

Views from down south

Here's the link of my article originally written for The Kathmandu Post.

Madhesis are citizens of Nepal just like Pahadis. They were deprived of many of their rights as Nepali citizens before Madhes Movement I and II. The unrest helped to settle the issue of citizenship. However, Madhesis are still struggling for their just identity and status. Let me connect the discourse with an anecdote which took place recently.

I picked up some guests from the Kathmandu valley at Janakpur airport, and drove towards our destination Sindhuli. I cannot specify the location we were passing through, but it was near Sapahi VDC in Dhanusha district where President Ram Baran Yadav was born and lived. My guests made a remark that astonished me. They said, “Janakpur and the localities we passed by look like Bihar.” I could not help asking them, “Do they really look like Bihar?” They nodded their heads. I didn’t speak anymore to defend my point of view.

I belong to the Madhes community which has long been struggling for its identity. But even after the agitation in Madhes, I see that the identity of citizens like us is still in jeopardy. If high profile and distinguished people like my guests treat our own land like another country, how will the general people in the country treat us? Such remarks only create feelings of prejudice and frustration among the Madhesi people. The Madhes movements may have solved the long-debated citizenship issue to a great extent, but the people in Madhes have not been able to get their identity with dignity.

Another incident I recall happened at a get-together. The gathering consisted of around 20 persons including four Madhesis. The team leader asked all of us to sing songs turn by turn while we were having snacks and beverages. Two of us sang songs in our local languages Bhojpuri and Maithili. Soon he addressed us like political leaders from Madhes and commented, “You two acted like Madhesi political leaders. Now sing songs in the Nepali language.”

We are not good enough at singing in Nepali, but we were compelled to do so. After we got back to our rooms, we could not sleep as the incident kept going through our minds. We questioned each other. Why can’t we express ourselves in our mother tongue or local language? Isn’t it our human right to make use of our own language and culture?

Meanwhile, Madhesis are still addressed using humiliating words at some places. Many of them, especially those who cannot defend themselves, are victims of such ill practices and humiliation at different regions in our country. I don’t mean that all the Pahadis are the same, since I have been supported by more Pahadis than Madhesis in advancing my career. The Madhes movements and changes in policies and legal provisions are not enough to ensure our identity with dignity. The Pahadis need to change their attitude and mindset towards Madhes and its people.