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Madhesh (Nepali: मधेश) is an Apabhramsha of "Madhyadesh" (Hindi: मध्यदेश) (Nepali: मधेश) used popularly in Nepal interchangeably for its Terai region. The words "Madhesh/Madhyadesh" and the demonyms "Madhyadeshi/Madhesh/Madhesiya" however have more archaic usage in India compared to Nepal. "Madhesh" as an ethnic region within Nepal is sub-divided as "भित्री मधेश" or "Inner Madhesh" and "बाहिरी मधेश" or "Outer Madhesh". The geographical term focuses on the Indo-Gangetic plain's extension into Nepal up to the first Sivalik or Churia foothills, madhesh focuses on the region's population that is racially, culturally and linguistically akin to the population on the Indian side of the border called Madheshi/Madhesiya/Mahadhesi or Deshwaali. The words and their connotations are highly contested by the proponents of the identity and their opponents creating a major ethnic divide in Nepal, of which national identity itself is disputed.
The word 'Madhesh' is said to be derived from 'Madhya Desh' meaning 'country in the middle'. Some scholars show its origin in 'Matsya Desh' meaning 'country of fish', tracing its origin to the country described in the Hindu scripture the Mahabharata.
Into the 1960s the Nepali outer Terai was heavily forested and Malaria infested and mainly inhabited by Tharu. Other groups were Yadav/Ahir, Koiri, Dhanuk, Teli, Amat, Rajbhar, Kurmi and Danuwar(Tharu). . For many years the jungles acted as a buffer between Nepal and India. The eradication of Malaria and large scale clear cutting of the forests made the fertile plains attractive to migrants from the mountains and especially from the densely populated Indian side of the border. Nepalese government . Today, about half the Nepalese population lives in the Terai(madhesh). The Madheshi claim that although Nepal nominally became a democracy in 1990, historical patterns of government employment being won by Khas, continued to the present day. This has recently lead to demonstrations, the outbreak of violence and the establishment of political parties demanding equal rights, fair representation, greater autonomy within Nepal and even independence.
Movements and parties
The Madheshi movement demands the end to the discrimination to the Madheshi people, greater autonomy within Nepal, and greater representation in the national parliament. The different parties involved in the movement range from the student wings of the ruling parties to the armed Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha. Another group is the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (MJF).
- The cyclopædia of India and of Eastern and Southern Asia: By Edward Balfour
- Hachhethu, Krishna (2007). "Madheshi Nationalism and Restructuring the Nepali State". seminar "Constitutionalism and Diversity in Nepal", organizd by Centre for Nepal and Asia Studies, Trubhuvan University. Kathmandu, Nepal. Retrieved November 23, 2012.