Agitating Madhesi Morcha in Nepal splits

Kathmandu, Jan 3 (IANS) The agitating Madhesi Morcha, an alliance of four regional parties of southern Nepal demanding amendment to the country’s statute, has split with a major constituent, the Sadbhawana Party, on Sunday announcing a separate protest in the Terai region.

For more than four months, the plains of the Nepal Terai have been simmering with Morcha-led protests against the country’s new Constitution that was adopted by the Constituent Assembly on September 20.

The Morcha has expressed dissatisfaction over the content of the new Constitution, including demarcation of the federal units, and called for an inclusive Constitution and citizenship.

Over 55 people, including agitators and police personnel, have been killed during the four months.

The Sadbhawana Party, one of the four constituents of the Samyukta Loktantrik Madhesi Morcha, was against withdrawing border-centric protests until a few days ago and its Chairman Rajendra Mahto had been leading demonstrations at border points.

Uprendra Yadav, chairman of the Sanghiya Samajbadi Forum, criticized Sadbhawana’s decision. “Sadbhawana should not declare protest unilaterally, it is a mistake.”

Mahto is currently undergoing treatment at Medanta Hospital in Gurgaon, near Delhi, for injuries received in a clash with the police at Biratnagar on December 26.

In a series of protest programmes announced unilaterally by the Sadbhawana Party on Sunday, the party has said it will focus on non-violent activities like mass prayers in memory of deceased protestors, fasting, signature campaign and campaigns to internationalise Madhesi issues through social media.

The Morcha is scheduled to hold a meeting on Monday to effect changes in its mode of protest and was likely to lift protests and blockades at key Nepal-India border entry points, sources said.

The latest development has raised serious questions over the political acumen of the agitating parties and a blame game has already begun. Following the Sadbhawana Party’s decision, political experts aver that the development may weaken the over four-month-long protest in the Terai.

There is a massive pressure on the Madhesi Morcha to lift the blockade at the Nepal-India border as landlocked Nepal reels under a massive shortage of essentials including food, fuel and medicines.

Morcha leaders and party insiders said Sadbhawana Party’s “unexpected decision” to lift the border-blockade means that Mahto is trying to convey the impression that his party alone was not objecting to lifting the blockade.

During a recent meeting of the Morcha, top leaders of other constituent parties were learnt to have criticised Mahto’s unsuccessful attempt to disrupt the Biratnagar border entry-point.

Mahto, on his part, has been accusing other Morcha leaders of staying in Kathmandu rather than leading the protests on the ground.

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