ITHARI: With different ethnic groups in eastern Nepal contesting for their own states by staking claim to the same territories and organising demonstrations and strikes to get their voices heard, the region is on the verge of finding itself on thin ice. The impending risk of ethnic conflict has snowballed as several groups vying for their own states have started issuing warnings in public not to cross each other.
Voices for bagging nine districts east of Arun are getting louder with calls for Limbuwan, Khambuwan, Kirant, Kochila, Eastern Tharuwan Kochila, Madhes and Tharuhat states.
Limbuwan activists say they won’t compromise on their demand for a Limbuwan state into which they want to incorporate nine districts east of Arun — Sankhuwasabha, Dhankuta, Terhathum, Taplejung, Panchthar, Ilam, Jhapa, Morang and Sunsari. The Federal Limbuwan State Council, Federal Loktantrik National Front-aligned Federal Limbuwan State Council, Limbuwan Mukti Morcha, Autonomous Limbuwan State Council (Unified) and different Limbuwan-related organisations affiliated to Nepali Congress, CPN-UML, Unified CPN-Maoist and Nepal Communist Party- United have warned that they will not accept a constitution that fails to guarantee a Limbuwan state with all the nine districts. This demand of Limbuwan groups, nonetheless, has not gone down well with those calling for a separate Khambuwan state. Their stand is parts of Dhankuta, Sunsari, Sankhuwasabha and other districts west of Arun — Bhojpur, Khotang, Udayapur, Solukhumbu, Ramechhap, Dolakha and Sindhuli — be united to make one autonomous Khambuwan state. Khambuwan National Front, Khambuwan Democratic Front, Autonomous Khambuwan State Council-Unified and Unified Khambuwan Autonomous Association, along with an underground outfit Khambuwan Mukti Morcha (United), have been pitching for such a state. And there are Kirant Rai Yayokhkha and Kiranti leaders of major political parties demanding a Kirant autonomous state with 17 districts — which Limbuwan and Khambuwan are also staking claim to — in its fold.
A group of 30 lawmakers yesterday submitted a memorandum to the prime minister and Constituent Assembly chairman calling for a separate Kochila state with Sunsari, Jhapa and Morang. There are also calls for Madhes and Tharuhat provinces, supporters of which also want Sunsari, Morang, Jhapa, Siraha and Saptari in their states.
Analysts fear that ethnic conflicts are inevitable if parties fail to show political acumen while federating the states. Padam Adhikari, a political analyst, says it is natural for the oppressed to seek freedom. “But it is wrong on the part of parties to exploit the oppressed people’s desire for freedom and fan the flames of ethnic tension,” says Adhikari.
Dambar Khatiwada, another political analyst, feels that ethnic tension could rear its ugly head in eastern Nepal if political parties fail to resolve federalism in a way which satisfies all the concerned groups. Khatiwada keeps it simple: “Eastern Nepal should be federated as Tharuwan, Khambuwan and Limbuwan provinces.” But will Kirants agree to it?