A crack in the line

The Cabinet’s instructions to the home ministry on Monday to deal firmly with the ongoing violence in the Tarai are welcome. The unrest in the Tarai is a major reason why many still doubt that the constituent assembly (CA) elections will be held even on the rescheduled date of November 22. It is not just because of the upcoming CA polls that the government should check the violence and punish the guilty severely but because it is the government’s fundamental duty to maintain law and order. The nature of the violence and the agendas of the violent groups, which now approach a dozen in the Tarai, hardly give reason to believe that they just want to have genuine grievances addressed. Dr Ramaraja Prasad Singh, 70, a Nepali politician of long standing, has revealed that he was recently asked at a meeting across the border by the leaders of some of the important armed outfits in the Tarai to head a joint separatist movement but that he declined the offer. Anyway, the present security situation in the country is not satisfactory, but in the Tarai it is highly alarming, as wanton strikes, bandhs, intimidation, extortion, abduction, killing and spreading of communal disharmony have become common.

There can be no dispute over the imperative of addressing the discrimination and injustice against any group or community of whatever geographical region, but continuation of wanton violence even after the major demands raised in the recent Tarai agitation were met through a constitutional amendment provides disturbing signs. At the same time, it reflects a lack of purpose on the government’s part in keeping the peace. Weaker the government appears to be, bolder do the groups seeking to thrive on violence and anarchy get. Indeed, at present the Tarai should receive the highest attention of the security agencies, but the government should equally resolutely move to deal with any law and order problem anywhere in the country whoever may be the perpetrators, including the YCL, a youth wing of the CPN-Maoist.

However, expressions of commitment become meaningful only when they are given the teeth and put into practice. The government thus far has shown a wide gap between the two. Both the Prime Minister and the home minister have made their pledges time and again, but the situation has not improved much, especially in the Tarai. Sadly, the government could not keep its promises. It could not separate the two different issues — addressing the people’s genuine grievances and cracking down on violence. Delay in getting tough with violence has worsened the security environment. Further procrastination might see the situation spiral out of hand. The latest of the PM’s pledges on maintaining internal security was that once the date for the CA polls was announced, the government would get tougher. Now is the time for action. If the government failed this time around, the CA polls would not be possible. Not much time is left for creating a congenial atmosphere for the elections. The eight parties need to act with greater vigour and unity to make the CA polls free, fair and credible.