Friday, August 15, 2008

NEPAL: Analysts warn of rising ethnic tensions

Nepal has more than 100 castes and similar number of languages. The homegeniety of a caste exists only at community level. There are a mix of communities of different castes interspersed. At a larger say a smallest planning unit level, the castes are mixed to form a very heteregenous society. Newest Republic, Nepal now faces a plethora of demands from each caste/ethnic group.

IRIN, a UN news Agency has covered some essence. This is given below as it is. Thanks to IRIN News.

NEPAL: Analysts warn of rising ethnic tensions

KATHMANDU, 14 August 2008 (IRIN) - Failure to address the grievances of Nepal’s various indigenous and ethnic groups may result in further ethnic tension, warn analysts.
Photo: Naresh Newar/IRIN
Thousands of Pahade families have been displaced over the past year due to commnal tensions between the Madhesi and Pahade

Speaking to IRIN in the capital, Kathmandu, they said the country’s top political parties in the Constituent Assembly (CA) must prioritise the formation of the much-anticipated State Restructure Commission, a key national body that may help to address the federalist demands of diverse ethnic communities.

There has been a growing trend of ethnic and indigenous groups calling for autonomy both in the Terai (fertile southern plains), and in hill areas particularly in the east.

In July several ethnic-based organisations declared autonomy in three of the most important districts of the eastern Terai - Morang, Jhapa and Sunsari.

The Federal Limbuwan State Council (FLSC) of the Limbus ethnic group claimed a region they called the “Limbuwan State”, while another ethnic community - the Dhimal - named it “Kochila”. An alliance of nine indigenous groups known as the Terai Indigenous Janjati Organisation (TIJO) has claimed a region which they call “Morang Autonomous State”.

The Kirants

Other indigenous and ethnic groups like the Tharus and Kirants are also emerging strongly, with the latter involved in armed activities to press for autonomy.

Local human rights non-governmental organisations (NGOs) reported that a group called the Kirant Janbadi Workers Party (KJWP) had attacked police posts and government offices and destroyed important documents.

According to human rights activists, the KJWP continues to threaten local aid workers, civilians and traders in the Bhojpur and Khotang districts of eastern Nepal, where they need the group's permission to operate in so-called “Kirant Land”.
Photo: Naresh Newar/IRIN
Mistrust between different groups is growing due to ethnic politics that is taking a dangerous turn

Ethnic tensions

“Ethnic fundamentalism is in danger of growing and naturally giving birth to communalism, which is detrimental to national unity,” Kapil Shrestha, an independent political analyst told IRIN, adding that mistrust and hatred between the various ethnic communities was apparent, and having an impact on livelihoods and security.

Over the past few years pro-Madhesi armed groups, which have been calling for a single Madhesi province, have been openly campaigning against the people of hill origin, known as the Pahade. The Limbus, Kirants and most indigenous communities (Janjatis) come under the Pahade label.

The Madhesi and Pahade communities have often been involved in communal tensions fuelled by ethnic-based political groups: In September 2007 in Kapilvastu District, the killing of a local Madhesi leader by unknown assailants sparked serious violence between the two groups.

“The armed ethnic groups believe that only raising arms will solve problems, and are using their strategy of fear among civilians,” independent conflict analyst Shovakar Budhathoki said, noting that a dangerous trend was that armed criminal groups were also taking advantage of a weak security situation and exploiting ethno-political issues to provoke communal hatred.

Government officials fear for their safety
Photo: Sagar Shrestha/IRIN
Villagers in shock and grief over violence in southeast Nepal

Local government officials in the Village Development Committees (VDCs), the lowest level of government administration, have faced constant threats from the armed groups.

Frustrated about the lack of state protection, local VDC officials are shutting down their offices and holding strikes to pressure the government to pay serious attention to their security. Around 17 Civil Servants Unions in Sunsari and Siraha districts (eastern Nepal) have been regularly holding strikes.

Government employees said they would return to work only if the government provided security guarantees. “The officials are too afraid to work in the VDCs as the government has been unable to do anything, despite our constant requests,” said Khadag Poudel, president of Bhojpur Civil Servants Organisation.

The District Administration Office (DAO) of Bhojpur explained that although the government had given them assurances of their security, they had remained unwilling to return to work.

Analysts say the government needs to hold talks with the various ethno-political groups and respond to their demands.

Meanwhile, civilians are bearing the brunt of the strikes, armed activities and violence at a time when food and fuel prices are rising.


Theme(s): (IRIN) Conflict, (IRIN) Early Warning


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