Hindi in Nepal house creates uproar

July 13th, 2008 - 1:58 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, July 13 (IANS) Nepal might be one of the most avid watchers of Hindi films and Hindi soap operas, but it is now up in arms over Hindi being spoken in its newly- elected constituent assembly. The three Terai parties from south Nepal, who are agitating for a Madhes state in the plains for people of Indian origin, are under fire for speaking in Hindi in the house.

The lawmakers from the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum, Terai Madhes Loktantrik Party and Sadbhavana Party - which together form the fourth largest bloc in the 601-member assembly - have triggered a furious debate. Nepalis have criticised them for first taking oath in Hindi and then, continuing to speak on the floor of the assembly in the language strongly identified as a legacy from India.

The three parties kept the assembly, which also serves as Nepal’s caretaker parliament, paralysed for nearly two weeks to pressure the government into agreeing to the creation of a fully autonomous Madhes state that would also enjoy the right to self-determination.

The demand has sparked fears that it would lead to the disintegration of Nepal with Madhes in future trying to secede or even merge with India.

The demand also delayed the formation of a new government that is to be headed, for the first time in the history of Nepal, by its former Maoist guerrillas, who in the past fought a 10-year war to end Nepal’s 239-year-old dynasty of Shah kings.

With the house resuming business Sunday, it remains to be seen if the government formation and election of republic Nepal’s first president will progress or be blocked again due to the Terai parties’ protests.

The national anger at the disruption erupted Sunday with people from different sections of society taking the Madhes parties to task for speaking in Hindi instead of the main languages spoken in the plains.

Ram Chandra Jha, a veteran politician from the Terai, who is also the chief whip of the third largest party, the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist, says the Terai parties are dreaming of becoming another V. Prabhakaran (chief of the Liberation of Tamil Tigers of Eelam) or Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the founding father of Pakistan.

“The 64 lawmakers from the three Terai parties took oath of office in Hindi,” Jha wrote in the Nepal weekly Sunday. “Whereas the Terai lawmakers from the other parties did it in their mother tongue - Maithili, Bhojpuri, Tharu, Awadhi or Urdu.

“While the other parties showed their commitment to their mother tongue, the Madhes parties surrendered to Hindi.

“The love for one’s motherland is the collective form of love for one’s mother tongue and culture. But the Madhesi parties have put all that in Delhi’s Tihar and Central Jails and chosen to ride into the house on the arrogant elephant of Hindi.”

Jha warned that the pro-Hindi parties’ demand could lead to the partition of Nepal like it had happened in India.

Angry letters also started pouring in at the office of Nepal’s biggest daily, Kantipur.

“How can Hindi be the representative language of Madhes when it is spoken by the smallest community in Terai?” wrote Mohankumar Mahato from Biratnagar town in the plains.

“Most people in Terai speak Maithili, Bhojpuri, Tharu, Awadhi, Urdu, Rajbanshi and other languages,” he said.

A college student from the capital, Kisan Devkota, blamed the use of Hindi in the house for giving rise to an error on an Indian TV channel.

In the recent past, India News channel from India made a gaffe in one of its logos, depicting Nepal a being part of India.

“Soon after a Madhes leader spoke in the house in Hindi, an Indian TV channel showed Nepal to be part of India territory,” Devkota wrote. “It is clearly endangering Nepal’s nationalism and integrity.”

Even the conservative state-run Gorkhapatra daily, Nepal’s oldest newspaper, commented on the phenomenon.

“Our Madhes leaders could have won immense popularity had they chosen to speak in languages that are popular among Nepalis… like Maithili, Bhojpuri and Awadhi,” wrote Dil Sahani, a columnist.

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