Team formed to hold talks with Madhesi, Tharu forces

Kathmandu, October 19

The government today formed a four-member talks team under Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Kamal Thapa to hold dialogue with the protesting Madhesi and Janajati forces.

The Cabinet decided to this effect according to Minister without portfolio Ram Janam Chaudhari. The other members of the talks team include himself, Minister of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Agni Prasad Kharel and Minister of General Administration Rekha Sharma.

According to Minister Chaudhari, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli told the Cabinet that talks would be held with Nepali Congress and an NC representative would be inducted in the talks team later. “The NC was part of the talks team and it should again be a part of the new team,” Chaudhari quoted the PM as telling today’s Cabinet.

Earlier, the major parties had held two rounds of informal talks with representatives of United Democratic Madhesi Front.

According to Minister Chaudhari, the new talks team will try to fulfil the conditions of protesting parties for talks and hold dialogue with them.

When asked to comment on the formation of the government talks team, Upendra Yadav, chairman of Federal Socialist Forum-Nepal, a constituent of the UDMF, said forming talks team itself was not a big deal and they were waiting to see what results the newly formed talks team would bring.

He said the resolution of issues would depend on the government’s willingness to change the provincial boundaries; implement the eight-point and 22-point agreement and show readiness to address the concerns of Madhesi and Janajati people.

Yadav said he was sceptical that ‘DPM Thapa — who opposes republicanism and federalism — would coordinate the government’s talks team as for the protesting forces, republicanism and federalism were vital issues.

The talks team will have to negotiate with representatives of UDMF and Tharuhat/Tharuwan Joint Struggle Committee.

The government formed a talks team a day after the UDMF responded to Oli’s offer of talks saying it would not withdraw its protests for the sake of talks.

The protesting parties have demanded, among other things, withdrawal of armed police force from Tarai districts and withdrawal of cases against their leaders and cadres and martyrdom status for those who were killed during protests.

According to Chaudhari, DPM Thapa briefed the Cabinet about his meetings with Indian leaders and said they leaders told him that the supply of essential goods and fuel were hindered mainly due to obstruction by disgruntled forces of Nepal and that India had been sending goods from the border entry points where there was not obstruction from the Nepali forces.