Nepal rebel leader raises battle cry for independent Terai

March 1st, 2008 - 11:21 am ICT by admin  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, March 1 (IANS) Even as the Nepal government tried to allay the fomenting unrest in its restive southern plains by signing a new pact with ethnic groups and promising to form a federal Madhes state, the first group to start an armed struggle for “independence” issued a fresh call for freedom, saying its war would continue till the Terai became an independent country. On Friday night, Jay Krishna Goit, one of the oldest Maoist leaders from the Terai plains who was expelled by his party and subsequently formed the Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha (Goit), made his first appearance on a private television station to speak his mind on the Terai pact signed Thursday and “futility” of the April election.

Goit, who has remained underground since the Maoists started their “People’s War” in 1996 and now flits between the border towns of Nepal and India, ruled out holding talks with the seven-party government or taking part in the constituent assembly election scheduled for April 10, saying that his guerrilla outfit would continue its movement till Terai seceded from Nepal.

“Terai is a separate, independent country,” the sexagenarian, mild-mannered leader, who resembled a retired scholar, told Avenues Television.

“Nepal has no control over it. If Nepalis want to stay there, they have to take the permission of the Terai government. If Indians want to work there, they have to get a work permit from the government.”

Currently, as a result of a friendship treaty between Nepal and India, the citizens of both countries enjoy unrestricted movement on both sides of the border without needing a visa or work permit.

“Till Terai is freed, our struggle will continue,” Goit said.

To prove that it had considerable clout in the plains though three major parties from there had Thursday inked an agreement with the government for a federal autonomous Madhes state and lifted a crippling Terai shutdown after 16 days, Goit’s men Friday killed a 32-year-old man in Bara district in a busy market.

Also, along with other armed groups who are opposing the pact as well as the election, his outfit continued to enforce a closure in the areas in the plains where it holds sway, especially in the east.

“The Nepal government has its army and the Maoists have their People’s Liberation Army,” Goit said. “But both will be defeated (in the battle for a free Terai).”

Dismissing the Girija Prasad Koirala government’s call to begin talks and take part in the polls, Goit said the people of Terai had voted in several elections held by kings as well as the parties but never got any rights.

The April 10 election will see Maoist chief Prachanda as the first president of a republic Nepal and the controversial youth wing of the Maoists, the Young Communist League, take the part of the oppressive security forces, he said.

“There will be no other change for Terai,” he said. “Therefore, the constituent assembly election will not be held in Terai.”

Goit also came down heavily on southern neighbour India, accusing it of nurturing the Maoists and repressing Terai.

“When there was an Interpol red corner notice for the capture of Prachanda and the Maoists were declared a terrorist organisation, he was in New Delhi where the Indian government brokered a deal between the Maoists and Nepal’s opposition parties. Prachanda is the biggest lackey of India as well as the biggest monarchist in Nepal,” he said.

While a succession of elite rulers from the hill communities of Nepal had treated the Terai like a colony, he said India had also exploited the plains that have abundant natural resources.

The Indian Army recruits communities from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh (which lie in India’s Terai plains) and yet bars the same communities from Nepal’s Terai, he said.

He also accused India of signing two unequal water-sharing treaties with Nepal and grabbing the lion’s share of the waters of the Koshi and Gandak rivers.

“The Terai gets only 18 percent of its land irrigated. India is further planning (more) dams and canals across the border that will drain Terai dry,” Goit added.

Accusing India of having forced the Terai parties to abandon their Madhes movement and sign Thursday’s pact, Goit warned that any attempt to put down the armed movement by force would recoil on the Nepal government.

“If Prachanda promises to give us freedom, the issue will be resolved in a couple of hours,” he said, referring to the Maoist chief’s boast that he could fix the problem in 15 days.

“Otherwise, the issue will not be resolved in even 15 lives.”

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