Nepal’s Terai MPs not happy with new commission


Kathmandu : Though Nepal's coalition government announced the formation of a probe panel to investigate the violence in the Terai plains this year, MPs from the area said they were still not satisfied.

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The dissenting MPs have paralysed the parliament for over a month over the issue.

At a cabinet meeting held Friday to discuss the various crises gripping the country, the council of ministers announced a five-member commission to probe the mounting violence in the Terai plains in which nearly 80 people have died.

Headed by Supreme Court judge Khilraj Regmi, the commission also includes a lower court judge Janardan Bahadur Khadka, a senior police officer, deputy inspector general of Nepal Police Rabindra Pratap Shah, an official of the state intelligence department, Sukha Chandra Jha of the National Investigation Centre, and joint attorney general Raj Narayan Pathak.

The commission has been asked to submit its report within a month.

Despite the formation of a commission, Terai MPs Saturday said they were not satisfied with the gesture and would decide if they should allow the house to proceed.

The stalled house was scheduled to convene Saturday afternoon.

Bijay Gachchedar, a powerful MP from the plains and former minister from deposed prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba's Nepali Congress (Democratic) party, said the plains legislators would hold an emergency meeting to decide on their next move.

"The formation of the commission doesn't address all our demands," Gachchedar told IANS. "Though meant to probe violence targeting the Madhesi community (people mostly of Indian origin living in the southern plains), it doesn't include a single Madhesi."

Different Terai groups had been demanding the setting up of the commission for a long time. Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala's government was finally forced to announce the commission as MPs from the southern plains, cutting across party lines, have obstructed parliament proceeding since last month, vowing they would not allow it to function till their demands were met.

With the house remaining paralysed for over five weeks, the international community began pressuring the eight-party alliance to resolve the impasse. This week, ambassadors from the European Union countries based in Nepal, one of the kingdom's biggest donors, met both Koirala and Maoist chief Prachanda to express their growing concern at the "deteriorating internal political situation".

Besides the commission, the dissenting MPs are demanding that the government scrap an earlier commission formed to delineate fresh election constituencies, especially in the Terai belt.

"We want a fresh census in Terai," Gachchedar said. "New constituencies should be formed only after that."

Thousands of Terai residents have been living without citizenship for decades, owing to neglect of the belt by a succession of governments. As a result, they can't vote or hold government jobs.

Though the Maoist guerrillas signed a peace pact last year, signifying an end to their decade-old armed uprising demanding a republic, a fresh movement began in the Terai plains with the Diaspora demanding higher representation in the government and greater rights.

Although the new government began issuing fresh citizenship certificates, Terai residents say thousands still lack them.

After weeks of stalling, Koirala has finally called a meeting of top leaders of the eight parties Saturday. Leaders of the alliance are expected to come up with a fresh date for the much-awaited election.

They have to also decide how to end a strike that has closed down Nepal's schools for nine days now. Another task at hand is to find fresh donors to continue with an ambitious drinking water supply project that runs the risk of being grounded once the Asian Development Bank's financial commitment ends June 30.

Last but not the least, they also have to find a way of combating an imminent fuel crisis as supplies from India dry out because the main fuel transit point at Birgunj-Raxaul will close down due to elections in Bihar.