Nepal 2008: Facts on the Conflict
Nepal Situation Overview 25 June - 11 July 2008
July 2008
Nepal Situation Overview: Covering period of 25 June - 11 July 2008
Political situation

The ruling Seven Party Alliance (SPA) reached a new agreement on 25 June over contentious political issues that were delaying the Constituent Assembly (CA) from drafting a new constitution and forming a new government. The parties agreed to a 21-Point bill, which among other crucial issues included the Fifth Amendment of the interim constitution to elect president, vice-president and Prime Minister through a simple majority.

On 26 June, Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala announced his resignation, calling for the formation of a new government under the leadership of Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M). PM Koirala will continue to act as caretaker PM until he officially tenders his resignation to the new president.

The political stalemate continued after the parliamentary session of the CA was postponed for the twelfth consecutive day since 26 June, following protests by parliamentarians of the Madhesi parties against the SPA's failure to include their demands in the Fifth constitutional Amendment.

The Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (MJF), Terai-Madhesh Democratic Party (TMDP), Federal Republic Front (FRF) and Rajendra Mahato-led Nepal Sadbhawan Party (NSP) staged regular demonstrations inside the Assembly stalling the legislative proceedings. The contention was that demands for an autonomous Madhesh Province in the Terai and proportionate representation of Madhesi in the Nepal Army were agreed by the SPA with the umbrella of Madhesi parties (United Madhesi Democratic Front -UDMF) during an agreement in February 2008.

To end the political deadlock, a constitutional supplementary bill was drafted on 4 July after nearly a week of protracted negotiations to address the demands of the Madhesi parties, but SPA could not table the bill during the CA's scheduled session on 5 July following the rejection by the Madhesi parties.

The CA resumed its parliamentary session on 8 July after agreeing to introduce a newly drafted second supplementary bill, which was tabled on 9 July. The parliamentarians representing the Madhesi parties rejected the bill and boycotted the legislative session.

On 13 July, the CA passed the Fifth Amendment with the new supplementary bill despite lack of consensus from Madhesi parties. It allows the election of president and vice-president and formation of new government through simple majority of the CA. The constitutional supplementary amendment stated that there would not be a single province but multiple autonomous states, such as the Terai-Madhesh for the Madhesi and other indigenous and ethnic groups. The names, numbers and structures, including details of centre and provinces, resources and allocation of resources would be determined by the CA. Entry into the Nepal Army will be based upon the principle of equality and inclusion.

Kathmandu, 12 July 2008
Protests against the 'one Mahesh one province' were staged by various non-Madhesi indigenous groups and led by Tharu Kalkarini Sabha (TKS) and Chure Bhawar Ekata Party (CBEP). On 28 June, CBEP warned that residents of the Chure Bhawar region would take up arms if the SPA agreed to the Madhesi demands. The Tharu Welfare Assembly organised a series of protest programmes in the capital and Terai condemning SPA's action to introduce the new supplementary bill. Around 16 organisations, including Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (NFIN), CPN (Marxist Leninist) and Chure Bhawar Ekta Party announced their support to the Tharu agitation against the Madhesi province.

On 8 July, Tharu groups, including TWC, Tharu Student Society, Tharu Youth Front and Tharuhat Autonomous State Council, formed a new Tharuhat Joint Struggle Committee to intensify protests. The TWC organized a Terai Bandh on 10 July against the demand for a 'One Madhesh one province'. The Bandh was strictly observed in the Districts of Kailali and Kanchanpur where the Tharu formed the ethnic majority, with no vehicular movement and the markets were mainly closed. On 4 July, Federal Republican National Front (FRNF), CBEP and Nepal Loktantrik Samajwadi Dal jointly organised a general strike in the Terai region obstructing public transport and private vehicles on the East-West Highway. The strike mostly affected the eastern districts of Rautahat, Sarlahi, Saptari, Siraha, Mohattari, Dhanusha and Morang, and also Bara and Parsa in the Central Region.

There are serious political concerns in the Eastern Region over the emerging trend of ethnic and indigenous groups declaring autonomous provinces. The Federal Limbuwan State Council (FLSC) has claimed the region's three districts (Morang, Jhapa and Sunsari) as 'Limbuwan State' while the CPN-Maoists and Dhimal caste have declared the region as 'Kochila' and 'Dhimal autonomous state'. An alliance of nine indigenous groups- comprising of Rajbansi, Gangain, Meche, Dhimal, Sathal and Urao among others-known as Eastern Terai Indigenous Janjati Organisation (TIJO) named the region as 'Morang Autonomous State'. The trend of declaring group associated States threatens the social structure of Nepal, which has prompted calls from sociologists for the State Restructure Commission to address this matter cautiously.

After nearly three months since the CA elections, the cabinet nominated the remaining 26 CA members making the 601-member Assembly complete. Out of the 26 members, 15 are from indigenous nationalities and six from marginal ethnic groups. During the reporting period, major parties had started their internal discussions for preparation to form a new government.

The Government of Nepal reportedly handed a formal letter to the UN Secretary General to extend term of UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) for another six months. UNMIN officially closed its regional offices in the Mid-West and Far-West Regions on 10 July.

The indefinite strike called by the Nepal Petroleum Dealers Association (NPDA) was withdrawn on 30 June after nearly a week of protests following intervention by Federation of Nepalese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI) and. The dealers have planned another protest immediately after a new government is formed. The strike caused an acute shortage of petroleum products following the closure of 2,500 dealers despite the recent 25 per cent price increase.

Safety and security
The security situation is deteriorating in the Terai, in particular in the Eastern and Central Regions, where armed groups are increasingly active in the absence of government structures.

In Madhuwapur VDC of Siraha District, an engineer from Kathmandu was abducted by an unknown group on 27 June. Another civilian was abducted on 30 June in Basbitti VDC of the same District, no group has claimed responsibility.

On 2 July, an armed group opened fire at Dhulabari of Mechinagar Municipality in Jhapa District and killed a businessman and injured several others. On 4 July, members of Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha (JTMM) led by Rajan Mukti shot one of two businessmen abducted from Jaleswor-Bardibas in Mahottari. An unidentified group attacked a human rights activist on 6 July at Batahakhola of Dhodhana VDC in Siraha. A YCL cadre was killed by an unidentified gang following his abduction in the District's Mirchaya VDC. In Sunsari, local farmers vandalized a YCL office at Inaruwa protesting against the capture of fertilizer by CPN-Maoists. They also staged a demonstration on the main highway and local markets were closed at Inaruwa.

In another incident, Jwala Singh led JTMM (JTMM-JS) cadres shot dead a civil society member and the former Mayor of Gulariya municipality of Bardiya where he was working as District Coordinator of the Civil Society Network on 29 June. Following the killing, the Federation of Nepalese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI)-Bardiya chapter called for Bandh in Gulariya Bazaar.

Government offices and employees, including those working with police forces, are becoming political targets for political and civilian groups. Cadres of Kirant Jawadi Workers Party (KJWP), whose armed activities increased in the eastern hilly districts of Bhojpur and Khotang, looted the police posts and set fire to a VDC office. In Khotang, the VDC secretaries appealed for security from the local administration following threats from activists of KJWP. The activists threatened VDC Secretary's to donate NPR 200,000 and resign within the month.

VDC Secretaries of the Chisapani, Bopung, Devisthan, Diplung, and Dambrakhu Siwalaya VDCs' were among those displaced from their working stations. Due to regular threats, the VDC Secretaries are not releasing the VDC budget from the District Development Committees (DDC). Once the VDC Secretary releases the budget, they face problems from armed groups demanding donations and from local parities pushing preference for projects in VDCs. Protesting the attack on District Development Committee (DDC) Saptari, the staff of local bodies stopped work for an indefinite period. The staff said they would not return to work until the government assures them security and punishes the guilty. Civil servants shut down all local bodies in the district. The field presence of government staff working with local bodies was drastically reduced due to insecurity. For instance, 30 VDC Secretaries in Jajarkot District are operating from District Headquarters (DHQ). Local people, particularly in Daha, Kortang, Maikot, Thalaraikar and Suwanauli VDCs, are compelled to travel at least three days to access the VDC Office services.

On 1 July, a group of NC activists assaulted the VDC Secretary of Laxmipur Prama VDC of Siraha. The VDC Secretary Welfare Promotion Forum (VDCSWPF) has locked up the offices of DDC, demanding immediate action against the NC activists. Employees of Siraha VDC and DDC submitted a joint resignation to Ministry for Local Development (MOLD) demanding their security.

Concerned over the state of lawlessness and growing insecurity in Morang, the Maoist-affiliated The Nepal Federation of Trade Unions (ANFTU) demanded District Administration Office in Biratnagar for the effective security arrangement to prevent growing number of abduction in the region. In Siraha, members of the ruling party Nepali Congress (NC) organized called a general strike on 7 July protesting against lack of action by the district administration towards controlling the increasing criminal activities.

From 5-8 July, flights from/to Nepalgunj were cancelled due to the protests by the Karnali Rights Coordination Committee (KRCC) and passengers to the Karnali demanding additional flights to the Karnali Zone, protesting airfare hikes and demanding discounts of 55 per cent for students and 50 per cent for children below 12 years old, among others. Irate passengers padlocked the main entrance gate of the Ranjha Airport and the counter of the airlines at the airport. Similar protests were organized in Surkhet and Humla airports three weeks ago by the KRCC, which formed two weeks before the CA election. Following a meeting of the Ministry of the Civil Aviation and CA members from the Karnali, the airport was re-operational from 8 July.

Source:OCHA 2008
Copyright © UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs OCHA 2008
[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

Madhesi factbox
Nepal's largest ethnic group; make up about one third of Nepal's 27 million people
Concentrated in the lowland Terai region, southern Nepal, the country's industrial and agricultural heartland
Traditionally, their main ethnic rivals are the politically dominant hill people known as Pahades
Comprised of various sub-groups with several different languages and dialects and have only recently developed a political consciousness and unity of purpose
Campaign for regional autonomy for the Terai, a federal Nepal, and greater representation in parliament
Militant factions such as the Madhesi People's Rights Forum (MPRF) and the Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha (JTMM) have carried out violent acts
Not allied in any way to the Maoists who have separate political goals
Include some of the most impoverished and disadvantaged castes in Nepal such as Badis (traditional sex workers) and Kamaiyas (bonded labourers)
According to rights activists, Maoist leaders are unable to control their supporters.
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