Nepal rebel groups seek UN help for ‘freedom’November 9th, 2008 - 3:06 pm ICT by IANS
Kathmandu, Nov 9 (IANS) As Nepal’s Maoist government sought to open parleys with the armed rebel groups battling for greater rights in the southern plains, two of them have approached the UN seeking self-determination.The Terai Army and Terai Rastriya Mukti Sena, two underground organisations facing police action in Nepal’s turbulent Terai plains, have sent a joint letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, asking for the world body’s support to shake off the Terai’s present “colonial” status and become a free state with the right to self-determination.
The letter, sent during Ban’s recent visit to Nepal, says in the past, the Terai was an independent land.
However, the East India Company that overran India, carved up the fertile plain and gave parts of it to Nepal as “reward” for helping them put down the Sepoy Mutiny in India, regarded as India’s first war of independence.
“Are we and our homeland the Terai pieces of gold that we can be given away as reward?” the letter asks the world body chief.
The two rebel organisations also point out that after India became independent, it signed a new treaty of peace and friendship with Nepal in 1950, which both sides agreed, and replaced all other earlier pacts.
Therefore, the rebels say, the earlier “reward” pact is also invalid and Terai should be restored to its earlier status.
According to the rebels’ letter, the status of Terai has been debated in the UN too.
In February 1953, the then UN secretary-general Dag Hammarsjold had asked Nepal whether it had any non self-governing territory under it.
“It is clear from this that Nepal and Nepals do not have any right to rule over us,” the rebel letter says. “In future, after Terai becomes independent, we will name it Teraidesh.”
Over 40 armed groups are active in the Terai, which became volatile two years ago after the fall of king Gyanendra’s army-backed government and the victory of the Maoist guerrillas, who had been waging an armed war on the state for 10 years.
While some of the groups are criminal in nature, some have a political agenda.
The politically motivated outfits include former Maoist rebels who left the party to wage a separate war for the rights of Terai residents, people of Indian origin who have been ignored by a succession of Nepal governments due to their roots.
While some Terai organisations, including some of the ruling parties, are demanding an autonomous Terai state, some of the armed groups, however, are seeking to break away and form a separate country.