Nepal’s agitated Samyukta Loktantrik Madhesi Morcha (SLMM) called off their nearly five-month long blockade at Indo-Nepal border. The end of the protest brings about relief to the country suffering from shortages of fuels, medicines and other supplies.
A statement issued after the meeting of United Democratic Madhesi Front leaders said that considering the current crisis facing the nation and the public necessity and aspirations, the ongoing protest programmes of general strike, border blockade, government office shutdown have been called off for now. The statement also said that the agitation shall continue till the demands are addressed.
This announcement comes ahead of Prime Minister KP Oli’s Indian trip, that is scheduled on February 19, which is the first overseas visit of the new Nepalese premier.
Based in the Tarai lowlands, the Madhesi Front launched the protest in September to force Nepal’s major political parties to make amends in the new charter and give them a greater role in the power structure thus bringing about a new Constitution.
The main border point at Birgunj has seen trucks move about for the first time in more than four months on Friday after the protesters were chased away. It was opened briefly, but it was closed again. Except the border point Birgunj, trade has resumed at all other posts.
To see to it that the Madhesis participate in the parliament, Nepal made changes to the constitution. But the community leaders state that the amendments still fail to address their central fear of division of their ancestral homeland under the seven-province structure.
The government has made a decision to amend the constitution to incorporate demands which have been raised by the agitating Madhesis community. The decision has been favored by the Indian government to address the Madhesis. Demands put forward by the community deals with the proportion of representation in the votes as well as constituency delimitation.
The external affairs minister on Monday reacted to the decision on incorporating the demands of the agitating group by stating that, “the Indian Government has welcomed these developments as positive steps to help create the basis for a solution of the current impasse in Nepal.” An urge was also made by the ministry to the Nepal political forces to show a sense of maturity and flexibility to find solution which satisfies the issues related to the Constitutional dialogue within the agreed frame of time.
The protest of the agitating Madhes-based parties has now been for over four months which has been against the new Constitution that divides the actual ancestral land into the proposed seven-province model. This in turn politically marginalizes the community and puts them in a backfoot. The Madhesis have caused a shortage of medicines and essential goods by blocking the country’s border trade points with India. This is a huge loss to the otherwise landlocked country.
The decision to address the issues of the community was taken by the Nepal government at an emergency cabinet meeting held on Sunday at Singha Durbar. A set political mechanism was suggested to put in place to suggest solutions to the disputes over the boundaries which were proposed within the few months of the formation.
About 50 have been killed due to the protests of the agitating community since the month of August this year. The Madhesis community reside in the Terai region and constitutes about 52 % Nepal’s population.