Madhesi Jana Adhikar Forum, Nepal

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Madhesi Jana Adhikar Forum, Nepal
President Upendra Yadav
Founded 2006
Ideology Social democracy,[1]
Madhesi People's Rights,
Madhesh autonomy and Self-determination,
Federalism
Constituent Assembly
10 / 601
Website
www.mprfn.org
Politics of Nepal
Political parties
Elections

Madhesi Jana Adhikar Forum, Nepal (Nepali: मधेसी जन अधिकार फोरम, नेपाल;; translation: Madhesi People's Rights Forum, Nepal) is a political party in Nepal. It was initially not a political party as such, but a political advocacy movement demanding ethnic self determination rights with the formation of a Madhes autonomous region, an election system based on proportional representation, and the setting-up of a federal republic in Nepal.[2] MJF includes former leaders of other political parties, like Nepali Congress and CPN(UML).[3] The party is registered with the Election Commission of Nepal ahead of the 2008 Constituent Assembly election.[4]

Spring 2007 agitation[edit]

MJF declared a 'Madhes bandh' (general strike) on January 16, 2007, demanding amendments in the interim constitution in favor of a federal system and a new delimitation of electoral constituencies.[5][6] 14 MJF cadres, including Upendra Yadav and MP Amresh Kumar Singh, were arrested in Kathmandu after having burnt copies of the interim constitution.[7][8] On January 18, MJF announced a chakkajam (vehicular strike) in Janakpur, in protest of arrests of activists of the organisation.[9]

On January 19, 2007, Maoists opened fire in a MJF rally in Lahan, Siraha district. The clashes had begun as Maoists vehicles were stopped by MJF activists enforcing a chakkajam. One MJF sympathiser, 16-year-old Ramesh Mahato, was killed in the incident. The killing caused an uproar on behalf of MJF, and the situation in the region became yet more intense.[7][10][11] Ensuing violence in Siraha district left several dead in the following days.[12] On January 24, 2007, MJF issued a call for bandh in the Biratnagar, Udaypur and Saptari districts.[13][14] On February 6, 2007, MJF cadres abducted the CPN(M) MP Chinak Kurmi and other Maoist cadres in Bhairawa. They were released after five hours.[15]

On January 25, 2007 MJF and NSP activists vandalised the ancestral home of Madhav Kumar Nepal in Gaur.[16] On January 26, 2007, police opened fire on MJF protestors in Kalaiya, killing Asraf Ali Ansari, 22 years old, and injuring six others.[17] The following day MJF held early morning rallies in Siraha, Saptari, Sarlahi, Sunsari, Mahottari and Rautahat districts. In Malangawa, government offices were padlocked by MJF activists and signs saying 'Nepal Government' were changed to 'Madhesh Government'.[10]

On February 7, 2007, a government committee led by Agriculture Minister Mahantha Thakur sent an invitation to talks to MJF.[18] On February 8, 2007, MJF suspended its strikes for a 10-day period. MJF declared three demands for enterings into talks with the government; removal of Home Minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula, probing into the Lahan killing and forming a high-level committee to look into atrocities during the agitations.[19] On February 19, 2007, MJF gave a call for new protests, strikes and chakkajams.[20] On February 21, 2007, 15 persons were injured in confrontations between Maoists and MJF in Bhairahawa.[11]

On February 22, 2007 the government sent a second invitation for talks to the MJF.[21] The MJF did however, not accept the invitation.[22]

On February 23, 2007, around 150 activists from the Maoist-led Madhesi Rastriya Mukti Morcha attacked a MJF meeting in Bhairahawa.[23] The following day, clashes erupted between Maoists and MJF in Rupandehi and Nepalgunj.[24] On February 27, 2007, a 14 year-old schoolboy was killed during a MJF-Maoist clash in Puraina, Banke district.[25]

On March 5, 2007, MJF activists detained 18 Maoists, including a CPN(M) MP in Nawalparasi. On March 6, 2007, MJF resumed its protest programme.[26] The reassumption of the strike had been postponed for three days, due to the Holi festival.[27] As ofMarch 7 2007, the Sunsari, Sarlahi, Mahotttari, Dhanusha, Siraha, Bara, Parsa, Rautahat, Nawalparasi, Kapilvastu, Banke and Bardiya districts were affected by the MJF strike.[28] On March 9, 2007 clashes between MJF and Maoists erupted in Nepalgunj.[11]

On March 12, 2007, MJF announced a suspension of its indefinite strike call.[26]

On. March 16, 2007 there were MJF cadres attacked an Eight Party Alliance (i.e. Seven Party Alliance and CPN(M)) rally in Birgunj. MJF also vandalised the Parsa district office of the Nepali Congress. In the afternoon, clashes took place between police and MJF activists in various parts of the city.[29][30]

Gaur carnage[edit]

On March 21, 2007, clashes erupted in Gaur, as MJF and the Madhesi Rastriya Mukti Morcha organised simultaneous rallies. Yadav was supposed to have addressed the MJF rally. Later, 12 bodies were found at the clash site. 15 more bodies were found in Hajmaniya and Mudhbaliya, about 5 kilometers outside of Gaur. According to The Economist, MJF activists had raped, burnt and speared the bodies of the victims.[11][31] The majority of the killed were CPN(M) activists.[32]

In response to the Gaur carnage, CPN(M) chairman Prachanda compared MJF with the Contras of Nicaragua, charging that MJF was used by imperialists to derail the process in Nepal. CPN(M) drafted a resolution, unanimously passed in the interim parliament, condemning the killings and ordering the arrest of the perpetrators. Local administrations began to prohibit the MJF to hold public rallies.[11]

In April 2007, the Human Rights Treaty Monitoring Committee presented a study on the Gaur incident, and concluded that MJF had committedgross violations of human rights, like torturing people to death and raping 3 women.[33]

A MJF spokesperson, Sitanandan Raya, claimed that the Maoists had been the attackers in Gaur, and that MJF had only retaliated.[34] On April 11, 2007, MJF formed a three-member panel of its own to look into the Gaur killings, constisting of former Supreme Court Justice Balram Singh Kunwar, Surendra Mishra and Lal Babu Yadav.[35] The findings of the panel stated that MJF had been attacked by MRMM, and that violence had be committed by other Madhesi outfits, leaving MJF without blame.[36]

On March 28, 2007, there were clashes between Maoists and MJF in Barewa, Rupandehi district. According to media reports, firearms and bombs were used in the fights and three persons were injured.[37]

On the evening of April 4, 2007, MJF and Maoist activist opened fire at each other in Ramgunj Belgachhiya, Sunsari district.[38]

Talks with the government[edit]

In April 2007, a new government talks team was formed, led by Peace and Reconstruction Minister Ram Chandra Poudel and an invitation to talks was sent to MJF.[39] MJF put forth two conditions for entering into talks; suspension of delimitation of election constituencies and guarantees for security in the Madhes region.[40] Upendra Yadav also stated that MJF demanded withdrawal of legal cases against MJF activists, an inquiry into killings during the Madhesi agitations and recognition of those killed as martyrs.[41][42]

MJF organised a Madhes bandh April 20-April 22, 2007, leading to the cancellation of Nepali Congress rally in Janakpur, where the PM G.P. Koirala was supposed to speak.[43] The strike disrupted transports in Morang, Sunsari, Bara, Parsa, Siraha, Sarhali, Saptari, Dhanusha, Rautahat and Mahottari districts. Biratnagar, Inaruwa, Birgunj, Rajbiraj, Lahan, Kalaiya and Gaur were the towns most affected by the strike.[44]

On April 25, 2007, MJF presented a four-member team for talks with the government, constisting of Upendra Yadav, Sitanandan Raya, Kishor Kumar Bishwas Tharu and Mohammad Nasir Siddiqui.[45]

On April 26, 2007, MJF registered itself as a political party with the Election Commission of Nepal.[3]

In May 2007, MJF put forward "three preconditions before holding talks with the government - formation of high level judicial commission to probe atrocities during Madhesi agitation, stopping government-supported attack against MJF cadres and resignation of Nepal Home Minister Krsihna Prasad Sitaula."

On May 9, 2007, Yadav and Poudel met for informal talks in Birgunj.[46][47] MJF were however, not ready for talks at the May 18 deadline. After a judicial probe commission had been instituted by the government to look into abuses during the agitations, Yadav stated on May 26, 2007, that MJF was ready for talks if cases were dropped against MJF activists and guarantees for their security was given.[48]

The talks between the Government of Nepal, whose team was headed by Poudel, and the MJF talk team began in Janakpur on June 1, 2007.[49] MJF presented a list of 26 demands, restructuring of state, formation of commission to implement state restructuring, inclusion of Madhesis in all organs of state, federal system of governance, proportional representation, withdrawal of charges against leaders of MJF and compensation to those injured during Madhes agitation.[50] During the first session of talks, agreement was reached on half of the MJF demands. The government side accepted MJF demands for forming a State Reconstruction Commission, giving martyr status for the people who had died during the agitations and compensations to their families.[51]

A second round of talks were held on July 25, 2007, in Dhulikhel. The talks ended inconclusively. According to Bishwas, the government had not fulfilled their obligations since the first round of talks.[52] The talks resumed at the Godavari Resort Village in Lalitpur on July 28, 2007, after the government had asked for a 2-day break to do its 'homework'. After the conclusion of the session, Bishwas stated that there had not been any real progress on key issues like federalism, autonomy and election system.[53]

The fourth round of talks was held on August 5, 2007, at Park Resort Village, Budhanilkantha. The session ended inconclusively, as MJF disagreed with the restructuring of the talks team of the government side. The proposal was that the government team would also include Dev Gurung (CPN(M)), Prakash Sharan Mahat (Nepali Congress (Democratic), former Minister of Foreign Affairs) and Jhala Nath Khanal (CPN(UML)). MJF rejected the inclusion of a Maoist member in the government team.[54]

Upendra Yadav met with PM G.P. Koirala on August 19, 2007. Yadav stated that the PM had been positive towards discussion of the demands of MJF.[55] Talks resumed on August 20, 2007 and carried on for two days.[56] MJF did however leave the talks, saying that the government was not seriously considering their demands.[57][58] MJF then issued a warning for new agitations, and stated August 31, 2007 as the deadline for their demands to be met before they would call for a new revolt.[59][60]

On August 30, 2007, MJF agreed to a 22-point deal with the government, which included a mixed election system, martyr status for those killed during the agitations and declaration of Muslim festivals as public holidays.[61] CPN(M) chair Prachanda rapidly denounced the deal as a 'conspiracy'.[62]

In early September 2007, MJF formed a Central Election Board to lead the election campaign of the party, headed by Sitanandan Raya.[63]

Post-settlement situation[edit]

On June 13, 2007, MJF activists killed a regional Young Communist League leader in Lumbini.[64]

The MJF Central Committee held a meeting June 17-June 18, 2007. The meeting decided to dissolve the Central Committee, and form an ad hoc-committee to lead the party until the holding of a conference.[65]

On June 22, 2007, MJF organised a bandh, protesting the abduction of its youth leader in Koteshwore, Jitendra Shah, by the YCL. The strike disrupted business activities and schools in Rautahat, Bara, Parsa, Siraha, Sunsari, Dhanusha, Saptari, Sarlahi and Mahottari districts. MJF had called on the government to ban YCL a few days earlier.[66]

On June 30, 2007, Kishore Kumar Bishwas stated that MJF would sabotage the holding of Constituent Assembly election, if their demand for proportional representation was not met.[67]

In the summer of 2007, MJF formed a youth wing, Madhesi Youth Forum. According to a report in the daily newspaper Nepal Samacharpatra, MJF intended to provide combat training to the cadres of MYF. Nepal Samacharpatra stated that the motivation behind the formation of MYF had been countering the influence of YCL.[68]

Split[edit]

A split occurred in MJF in September 2007, as the MJF vice chairmen Bhagyanath Gupta and Kishor Kumar Bishwash and Ram Kumar Sharma and Jitendra Sonal were expelled from MJF. They had opposed the 22-point deal with the government, demanding fully proportional election system and declaration of republic before the election. They had also disagreed with Yadav's recognition of Nepali as the national language through the 22-point deal, and demanded that both Nepali and Hindi be declared national languages. The expellees then formed a party of their own, Madhesi Janadhikar Forum Madhesh.[69][70][71][72]

Reviving protest movement and negotiations[edit]

On October 6, 2007, MJF stated that the government had failed to fulfill its parts of the 22-point agreement and was failing to safeguard communal harmony. MJF called for the formation of a neutral 'election government' ahead of the polls. The party announced a withdrawal from the election campaign and initiation of a new wave of protests on November 22, 2007.[73]

Prime Minister Koirala met with Yadav on November 16, 2007, and promised to fulfill the demands raised by MJF, thus cancelling the new wave of protest programmes scheduled for November 22.[74] On November 17, 2007, Yadav called for the resignation of the Prime Minister.[75]

MJF and the Rajendra Mahato-led Nepal Sadbhavana Party formed the United Madhesi Front, with a 9-point programme. The front called for the creation of a Madhes autonomous state.[76] On January 19, 2008 the Front announced a protest movement starting January 23. On January 20, 2008, the Tarai-Madhesh Loktantrik Party sided with the call for mass protests.[77] A strike that began on January 23, 2008, had its greatest impact in Janakpur.[78]

On February 3, 2008, UMF stepped up its protests, calling for a shut-down strike across several districts. On the second day of the shutdown, MJF activists clashed with police in Nawalparasi.[79]

MJF, SP and TMLP formed a new front on February 9, 2008, the United Democratic Madhesi Front. UDMF put forth six demands, including formation of a Madhesi autonomous state, right to self-determination, proportional representation of Madhesis, Janajatis and Dalits and recruitments of Madhesis to Nepal Army. UDMF announced protests on February 11–12, and an indefinite strike starting February 13.[80] On February 16, 2008, police open fire on protestors in Jitpur, Bara district.[81] The strike was to last for 16 days, causing shortages of goods in the Kathmandu valley. The strike ended with a deal between government and UDMF, providing for a federal state structure with an autonomous Madhesi state, proportional recruitment of marginalised communities into Nepal Army, martyrhood status to be declared for the killed in the Madhesi movement agitations and free medical treatment for the injured. A special provision was also made so that the UDMF parties could file candidates for the Constituent Assembly election (the ordinary deadline had already passed).[82]

Election campaign[edit]

On March 3, 2008, MJF submitted a list of 101 candidates for the proportional representation election.[83] The party also nominated 105 candidates for the First Past the Post seats. The party did however fail to meet the requirement of nominating 33% women. In the FPTP seats, only three MJF candidates were women.[84] On March 16, 2008, MJF released its election manifesto. The manifesto proposed making Nepal a federal, secular republic with an executive President. The parliament would have two chambers, the upper chamber would be an 'Assembly of Ethnicities'. According to the manifesto, regions of Nepal should have the right to self-determination and the formation of a single Madhesh province. The manifesto also demanded increased recruitment of Madhesi youths into the army.[85]

Views by NGOs[edit]

In a report, INSEC (which had participated in the previous probe on the Gaur killings) accused the MJF of 33 killings and 7 adductions in the period of November 2006-November 2007.[86] Reporters Without Borders stated in a report dated June 2007 that MJF was 'the most aggressive group towards journalists'.[87]

Muslim faction[edit]

MJF has an organised Muslim faction. The general secretary of the faction is Mohammad Nasir Siddhique.[88]

References[edit]

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