Nepal’s Hindi war: Embattled vice president strikes back


Kathmandu : Nepal’s ongoing “Hindi battle” saw a new twist Friday with embattled Vice President Paramananda Jha, who had been ordered by the apex court to re-take his oath of office in Nepali by Sunday or face dismissal, striking back.

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Jha, a 65-year-old former judge himself who has refused to take his oath of office and secrecy in Nepali under duress, Friday challenged the verdict delivered by the chief justice and asked the attorney general for a review.

The retaliation comes after mounting speculation that Jha would resign in order to avoid the humiliation of being forced to take the oath once more.

Jha’s legal advisor Mithilesh Singh has asked for the controversial Supreme Court judgment to be reviewed by a full bench of five judges.

Singh has also filed a separate appeal in the Patan Appellate Court and the first hearing is scheduled for Tuesday.

It means Nepal’s Hindi war will now continue to smoulder.

The battle started last year when Nepal became a republic and Jha was elected its first vice president with the support of Nepal’s Hindi parties, which have their stronghold in the Terai plains along the India-Nepal border.

A Kathmandu lawyer, Balkrishna Neupane, filed a writ against the vice president, terming his oath unconstitutional since he took it in Hindi, a language close to the heart of the Terai residents but disliked by Nepal’s hill community, who consider it to be solely an Indian language.

In a surprise move, Nepal’s Supreme Court, which has been known to drag its feet on controversial disputes for years, delivered its verdict with lightning speed, upholding the lawyer’s contention and ordering Jha to take the oath again in Nepali or face removal from his post.

Jha calls the verdict biased. He has accused Chief Justice Min Bahadur Rayamajhi, who was one of the two judges delivering the verdict, of harbouring personal animosity towards him and using the chance to settle old scores.

The debate over whether Jha should take the oath again or quit has dominated Nepal since the verdict came last month.

While the ruling parties, the government and President Ram Baran Yadav have been urging Jha to obey the court, the Hindi parties, as well as the Maoists, have said he should resign instead of taking the oath in Nepali.

In the Terai, the opinion is unanimous. The residents of the plains, looked down upon by the elite hill community for centuries and excluded from all benefits, say they would “disown” the vice president if he takes the oath again in Nepali.

From Thursday, in a bid to put pressure on the government, the Terai parties began street protests in Kathmandu. The protests continued Thursday with the Terai Madhes Loktantrik Party joining the fray.

Police arrested student leaders of the party in the capital during the protest.

The Hindi parties have asked the president, who himself is from the Terai but is a conformist, to find a way out so that Jha doesn’t lose face. Otherwise, they have warned him of severe consequences.

The government, in a bid to sweeten Jha’s bitter pill, said the constitution would be amended to allow future presidents and vice presidents to take the oath in their mother tongue.

However, the Hindi parties are asking for the amendment to be effected now so that Jha’s position is safeguarded.