Parleys with Tarai groups soon: Minister

Kathmandu, October 11:

Peace and Reconstruction Minister Janardan Sharma ‘Prabhakar’ today said informal talks would begin soon with the armed groups in the Tarai.

Task force members -- Development Minister Ram Chandra Jha and Education Minister Renu Yadav -- are currently in the Tarai building access to armed outfits, Prabhakar told reporters at an interaction organised by the Reporters’ Club. As talks committee members, they are working seriously to create an environment for formal talks with the several armed groups operating in the Tarai, the Minister said.

The government is prepared to do everything it takes to create an environment for negotiations, including appointing a team of facilitators and sending letters inviting the armed groups for talks if doing so helps, the Peace Minister said.

The government is working to implement past agreements, particularly the eight-point agreement with Tarai Madhes Democratic Front signed on February 28, which calls for the release of the Madhesi leaders and activists from custody and withdrawal of lawsuits against them.

On the integration of the Maoist PLA combatants, Prabhakar said, “The issue will be tackled within the spirit of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the Interim Constitution.”

Constituent Assembly member and leader of Tarai Madhes Democratic Party Hridayesh Tripathy, however, said the government did not appear serious about creating an atmosphere for dialogue. Building such an atmosphere would call for the release of some central committee members and key activists of different groups from jail and withdrawal of cases against others, Tripathy said. “It’s not a huge number, there’s just about 12-14 of them,” Tripathy said. “They include Jaya Krishna Goit, Jwala Singh, Prafulla, Pawan and Rajan Mukti.”

There was an unwritten agreement while signing the February 28 deal, Tripathi said. The agreement itself was not implemented as the then Peace and Reconstruction Minister backed out, putting things till after the Constituent Assembly election, he said.

Tripathi said there was positive atmosphere, but the success of the talks would depend on the seriousness and honesty of the government side.

Serious troubles will follow should the efforts to mainstream the Tarai based groups fail, he warned. “The Madhesi groups will be polarised with some coming together with more radical demands, backed by aggressive moves and offensives to push for their demand,” according to Tripathi.