India’s help not needed for Terai talks: Madhesi leader

October 11th, 2008 - 6:32 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Oct 11 (IANS) Even as Nepal’s government sent two emissaries to the border areas to establish contact with the warring armed groups, an influential leader from Terai plains Saturday said neighbour India’s help was not needed to hold parleys with the underground factions.Hridayesh Tripathi, former minister and present lawmaker from the influential Terai Madhes Loktantrik Party (TMLP), said the Maoist-led government could resolve the Terai imbroglio if it was sincere about its call to the groups to start dialogue.

“There are two factions in the government and even the Maoist party itself,” Tripathi said. “One group genuinely wants to hold talks with the armed outfits but its members are few. The bigger faction is trying to wage a psychological propaganda war and pretend it wants dialogue when it wants the turmoil in Terai to continue.”

Tripathi, who said he had held talks with the leaders of four major armed groups from Terai about one and a half months ago, told the media that the outfits - mostly former Maoists - were ready to start dialogue if the state created a conducive environment.

The armed groups are demanding the release of their top leaders from prison and the withdrawal of police cases against some more, which, they say, are false.

Tripathi said there were about a dozen such cases.

“It is the government’s obligation to create a conducive environment for talks, not the rebels’,” he said.

On the eve of the April elections, Tripathi claimed, the then Girija Prasad Koirala government had reached an understanding with the Terai parties, including his own, to begin dialogue with the armed groups.

“Four of the groups had formed a committee to enter into dialogue with the government and even a location in Janakpur town (on the India-Nepal border) was fixed,” Tripathi said.

However, at the last moment, the Koirala government pulled out of the talks, saying they would be held only after the election.

“The announcement made us wary,” Tripathi said. “We felt it could be a ploy to wreck the election.”

Tripathi said that on the eve of the April election, India, the UN Mission in Nepal, the US, Britain, Denmark, Norway and Nepali human rights organisations had pressured the parties to create a conducive environment for the polls and to ensure that they were not postponed yet again.

Now, after the election, with the Maoist government having formed a three-member ministerial team under new Peace and Reconstruction Minister Janardan Sharma to engage the warring groups in talks, Tripathi said there was no need for India’s help.

However, he cautioned that the oldest Terai group, led by former top Maoist leader from the plains Jay Krishna Goit, was not ready for talks except under UN mediation.

Tripathi also warned that the government should begin talks immediately. “Otherwise, the Terai groups’ demands will grow more militant,” he said. “From federalism, they can demand secession.”

At least 14 underground organisations have kept up killings, abductions and extortion in the Terai even after the Maoist guerrillas signed a peace pact two years ago.

The groups announced a unilateral ceasefire Oct 6, saying they would refrain from all violent activities for nine days in honour of Dashain, Nepal’s biggest festival.

They are said to have bases in Indian villages across the border. Recently, at a secret meeting in Bihar’s Katihar district, they decided to join forces and begin a unified armed struggle against the Nepal government, which galvanised the Maoist government into forming a talks team.

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