Prime Minister Narendra Modi has come under criticism from the Madeshi community for not speaking up in support of constitutional change during his recently concluded two-day visit to the Himalayan country.
“Everyone was expecting him to speak on the issues of Madhesis, whereas he not only completely ignored them, he did not even utter the word Madhesis even for once,” Dr CK Raut, a Madhesi separatist based in Janakpur in Nepal’s Province number two told National Herald. Raut was referring to the speech delivered by the visiting Indian leader on Friday, on the first day of his trip.
Dubbing PM Modi’s visit to a predominantly Madhesi Janakpur a complete disaster, Raut remarked, “A grand maestro and tall world leader as he is, nowhere could he prove his charm, and people, who were brought from many far districts, returned disappointed with a heavy heart.”
Raut noted that Nepali security forces had arrested 28 persons from PM Modi’s rally venue in Janakpur during the address, most of them released the next day. “Their only crime was that they were holding Welcome PM Modi placards and shouting slogans in support of a free Madhesi homeland,” said Raut, who says he is under a 24-hour surveillance of the Nepalese police in Janakpur.
Lalbabu Raut, the chief minister of Province number two, who, along with PM Modi, also addressed the crowd in Janakpur, noted during his speech that Madeshi people’s “struggle” against the “discriminatory” constitution was ongoing.
"The state is biased against Madhes. Madhesi people are forced to live in relatively worse poverty, unemployment, deprivation, exploitation and oppression due to biased mentality," remarked CM Raut as Modi listened.
“The Constitution, or the Madhesi issue, wasn’t mentioned in either PM Modi’s joint statement or in any of his speeches during the visit,” Professor SD Muni, a Nepal-watcher and a former special envoy with the Indian government, told NH.
Muni said, “The CM saying it in front of PM Modi that their struggle for Constitution would continue sends out a big message to New Delhi.”
Muni said that there was a sense of disappointment with India among the Madhesi people as it was being perceived that India had “apparently given up on their agenda and was not pressuring Kathmandu enough on the issue of constitutional change.”
“He praised the election process, he spoke about the new stable government, but never did he mention the Constitution,” reiterated Muni.
Muni went to add on that PM Modi failed to confront or attempt to address the “anti-India sentiment” in Nepal, more prominent among people of the hills, the roots of which lie in the economic blockade imposed by New Delhi in 2015 to press Nepal to include the demands of Madhesi people in Nepal’s new constitution.
Sympathy for the Madhesi people, who form around half of Nepal’s total population and enjoy close cultural and religious ties with India, is growing on this side of the border as well.
In India, a suspended parliamentarian from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Kirti Azad, representing Darbhanga near the border with Nepal, last week appealed to PM Modi to annul a 200-year-old treaty with Kathmandu which gave it control of the primarily Madhes areas of Nepal.