Clear message

The signing of the six-point agreement between the Nepal government and the Tharu and other indigenous organisations has heralded a new chapter in defining the unique identities of the communities concerned. It is a victory for all the parties, especially the indigenous communities who have now been guaranteed their separate and independent identity in the run-up to the drafting of the new all-inclusive democratic constitution. Herein, it is worthwhile noting that the Tharu organisations were at the frontline of the present agitation sparked by the ordinance related to reservations. The inclusion of Tharus, Muslims and other indigenous communities under the heading of Madhesis was what ignited the protracted protests. The disapproval of the ordinance provision regarding the same was inevitable. But, the way the events developed to extend the influence took everyone by surprise. It had been assumed at the time of inclusion of the said provision in the Interim Constitution that it would be justified. The present ordinance that evoked such an intense protest by the Tharus and other indigenous communities was but an offshoot of the statute provision. The 13-day general strike witnessed was an indicator that nothing can be imposed arbitrarily on the enlightened people of the country.

The seven major parties, including the opposition, realised that the wrong has to be corrected

through effecting a necessary constitutional amendment. The session of the Legislature-Parliament summoned for March 29 is expected to incorporate the relevant provisions of the agreement legally. It is, however, disconcerting that the administration took so long to deal with problem that has such great national ramifications. Finally, the agreement has been reached to the satisfaction of both the sides. The first and foremost positive result has been that the Tharus, ethnic/indigenous communities, Madhesis, Dalits, Muslims and other minorities of the country will be guaranteed their distinct identities. The amendment to this effect once made will mark the assertion of the rights of the people concerned. Besides, amendments will also be made regarding the various service acts. Meanwhile, the four Tharu agitators who were killed during the protest programmes are to be declared martyrs, and their families will be compensated according to the prevailing arrangements.

Despite the troubles that the bandh may have caused to the other people, the Tharu movement has helped safeguard their distinct identity. Their movement was never directed against any other community, nor had it undesirable overtones, such as those that may threaten to compromise the nation’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. That is why the Tharu movement gained general support. They always subscribed to their own unique place in the national scheme. The Tharus and other indigenous communities have proved that a struggle for the right cause is justified, especially in a federal republican state. However, the amount of violence and the continued need for such struggles shows that Nepal has not yet achieved the right balance between ethnic identity, political rights and social solidarity.