Part of a series about Nepal news. note: the words in blue are hyperlinks. click on them to see more.
Please note: if you got here via twitter, the picture with the tweet is from Sept 1st 2015 Himalayan Times.
Note: I’m not on one side or another. I’m trying to make sense of it. About the only side I am on, is for those persons who got caught in the middle of these things. There is only one Nepal. The people in it are “Nepalis” first and foremost.
Aug 31st Round-Up
A friend of mine from Butwal tells that Butwal is okay, but “most of Terai is a war zone” due to the demonstrations that have flared up in one city after another.
In 2014-2015 I made a number of trips to the Terai to teach critical care skills, and I think they added up to about five months of my year-long total. I was in Terai when the earthquake hit. My bus accident was in Terai. Most often, people told me I was the only foreigner to visit this-or-that place. “People from Kathmandu never come here to train us,” I was told.
I’m in USA right now. On my twitter feed I see that there are daily demonstrations and police encounters happening all over the Terai, including cities where I spent some time.
On the online news, lots of pictures of the “agitators” and “cadre” – the newspapers are using these ominous terms; but the majority of men in the street look like they are sixteen years old. (see above pic).
There was a picture in Online Khabar that showed a police station in Parsa, Near Birgunj, that was set on fire.
Here is Republica’s report of the police posts being burned Aug 30th. As I said yesterday, no matter how sympathetic you may be to the cause of the Terai people, the demonstrators are forcing the Government to send in the Army. Nothing less than the Army will prevent chaos. In that respect, the murders and the demonstrations are hurting their cause, not helping. I made this point via Twitter and I got nasty comments back. The fact is, if all this happened in USA, the National Guard would get called up for duty. In summer 2014 I was in eastern Terai and had the chance to see the kind of problems the police deal with. In summer 2015 I was in western Terai and I learned firsthand about the issue of thrashing of doctors there, perhaps more prevalent than other parts of Nepal (it happens everywhere, including Kathmandu).
There are three options
a) no police;
b) police in their stations;
c) the Army.
Option b is out due to the personal threat to each individual. Option a is out – It is not possible to have no police – they are needed every day to settle disputes of various kinds and prevent “ordinary violence” from happening.
that leaves option c.
Yesterday I found the website of the Terai Human Rights Defenders Alliance. They published their own report on the events in Tikapur. I’ll let you read it for yourself. The THRDA even has a FaceBook Page!
Crash lesson in Terai history.
The THRDA used the term “Communal Violence” which has popped up here and there, and I finally decided to key on that phrase more. Usually it refers to some kind of riot, such as Hindu/Muslim or Madhesi/Pahadi or the like – in Europe it also applies to Protestant/Catholic violence. One of the debates taking place is where to place blame on inciting this – is it from outside agitators or it is deeply engrained in the culture? For me, I have seen enough of it in the context of smaller groups to think that reacting violently is just something people do in Nepal when they are totally frustrated. It’s clearly something that prevents doctors and nurses from wanting to serve in rural areas of Nepal; I don’t think Nepal can truly improve it’s health problems without improving access, which means addressing the threat to doctors.
The Terai has a long history of neglect.
On the web, in newspaper archives, are a number of detailed descriptions of events in Terai from 2006 (“No Madhes Wave”) and 2007, when there was Communal Violence in the area of Kapilvastu that led to thousands of people fleeing their homes. Nepali has many waves of Communal Violence – another big year was 2012 when elections took place and the Terai people were put in districts shared with the hills. In most contests, the contests were won by the hill people. Election analysis put a lot of emphasis on the fact that votes are made on the basis of ethnic identity. In the current round of press reports, there is a pattern in which the reporter notes that the leaders of these demonstrations are often guys who are Maoists but who lost elections in 2012. I suppose they are thinking it’s a pattern. It certainly has been building up. Click here to see a video of a 2013 protest march, of staggering size in Dunghadi. Here is one that took place in Kailali one week before the murders of police.
Tharuhat versus Akhanda?
Here is a video taken just a week before the police were murdered. In this one, the police are separating two groups – the Tharu and the Akhanda (hill people transplanted to Terai). And another one, that starts with a barricade to prevent the Akhanda (on bikes) from parading through. It should be noted that one of the leaders who planned the premeditated murder of police said they chose the police so as not to enrage the entire group of Akhanda. This was faulty logic on so many levels!
A bit of chaos
There was an editorial in Republica that laid out the conspiracy theories and essentially blamed a lot of the problems on India. There was an NRN intellectual guy who linked everything to colonialism and said we all need to re-read Franz Fanon’s 1958 book, The Wretched of the Earth. About the only guy that didn’t get called was this guy.
It’s clear that there is a longstanding history.
The THRDA report contained a short paragraph that said after the demonstration was over, some Tharu people went to the hospital and got admitted for treatment, but that a mob of non-Tharu people came around and started beating them while they were in the hospital. Needless to say, the Tharus, even ones that had nothing to do with the demonstrations, are afraid to go to the doctor, or to get admitted to a hospital. UPDATE: In Birgunj September 1st, the police fired rubber bullets at a mob on the premises of a hospital to prevent them from vandalizing the place.
I am following this closely for a variety of reasons. First, I go to the Terai in my training, and I work on the issues of violence against health care workers when there. Next, as many of you know, my novel about Nepal was written partly to explore the collectivist culture with a goal of showing why and how violence takes place (along with being a honking good story worthy of a Bollywood movie). And finally, I have many friends in Terai, doctors and nurses, who are affected by this. I hope they are all okay.
The country is still having aftershocks. The tourism industry is still down by forty per cent. The young people are still leaving as fast as they can. The monsoon floods are causing more landslides this year. But the government, and the Army are dealing with – this.