Status of Madhes Before Unification Debunking Some Heresies:Ritu Raj Subedi
It seems, in the midst of all the confusion as of now, we have blunted our critical as well as sensitive faculties required to speak up against the irrational decisions and discourses. Due to the prolonged transition, we are losing a sense of social conscience. Just a few days back, the government raised the price of milk exorbitantly. The prices of DDC milk soared to Rs 10 (green packet) and Rs 8 (blue packet) per litre but to a great quandary, outrageous price hikes in one of the essential consumer items almost went without any public uproar. No strong protest was heard against the decision made by a coalition government of so-called progressive and democratic forces. This decision provided a sufficient pretext to the private dairies to increase the costs of their products on their own. And the people and political parties of different hues, who have been habituated to launch futile street stirs over political cause, have maintained an eerie silence about the un-progressive move that has directly affected the children, the sick, the old and millions of households living in abject penury.
However, there is another more glaring example that bitingly suggests how Nepali folks have demonstrated their total indifference to a vital topic, namely the geographical demarcation of Nepalese territories. For the first time after the unification of Nepal some two and half centuries ago, there is a furious debate over its topographic status. Whatever the outcomes of this raging discourse will be, this will have seismic impacts on the life of the nation. To our bewilderment, this issue of sweeping scale is getting short shrift from the intellectual, critical and patriotic masses. Leaving the matter solely to the discretion of politicians amounts o underestimate of the duty and strength of the citizens at this critical juncture of state restructuring.
The territory of Madhes that is lying on the southern plains is at the centre of hot discussion. A group of Madhesi parties have presented themselves in a manner as if Madhes is their pewa (perquisite) and they are not accepting any comments on the issue by the people other than Madhesis. The dispute was triggered after the ruling parties proposed to incorporate five districts of Terai in the provinces comprising the hilly districts. Madhesi parties have caused rumpus against it.
There have been diabolic drives to distort the history and spread the fallacious information about the motive of Nepal’s unification campaign, the role of Gorkhalis soldiers and status of Madhes prior to its amalgamation into Nepali state. Some self-claimed pro-Madhesi writers are trying to demonise Gorkhalis and depict the history of Madhes wrongly. Prior to the unification, Madhes region was divided into several states but they were not independent ones. They were ruled by the hill or inner Madhes-based rulers. Gorkhalis did not have to wage any battle against the Madhesis. The southern flatlands came into the fold of united Nepal after defeating the hill-based rulers. According to noted historian Surendra KC, the Terai region was ruled by the rulers from the hills before the unification. He said: “Jhapa-Morang was under Bijayapur State; Siraha-Saptari under Chaudandi State; Bara, Parsa and Rautahat under Makawanpur State; Chitwan under Tanahu State; Nawalparasi, Kapilvastu and Butwal under Palpa State; Dang under Salyan State; Banke and Bardiya under Doti State and Kailali and Kanchanpur under Jumla State.”
Ignoring this historical fact, CK Lal, considered to be an analyst of Madhes politics, in his recent article in a Nepali daily, claimed that the Madhesis, who were displaced by Gorkhalis during their victory, are searching for their origin and coming to the Madhesh. Lal further said that Britishers handed over the Terai region to Nepal to ‘buy’ Gorkhali courtiers and hill sepoys. But, another renowned historian Gyanmani Nepal strongly refuted these arguments. Nepal said: “Gorkhalis never fought against the Madhes because it was not something to be reckoned with at that time. Gorkhali first defeated Makawanpur. The victory brought the whole region from the Narayani River to Kamal River in the central Terai to the fold of Gorkhalis.”
According to him, the Terai area beyond the Kamala River belonged to the Chaudandi State and it fell to Gorkhalis as its king and Chautariya, a powerful courtier equivalent to prime minister, fled when they heard the news that Gorkhalis were crossing the Koshi. Likewise, the king and Dewan of Bijaypur had already run away before Gorkhalis swooped on them. “Since there was no any battle between the Gorkhalis and Madhesis, there is no question of displacement of Madhesis by the Gorkhalis.” According to Nepal, Gorkhalis had restored peace and arranged for the human settlements in Terai, leading to the cultivation of vast barren lands.
To the second argument, Nepal said that Gorkhali courtiers never did anything that betrayed their loyalty to the nation. He went on recounting historical anecdotes: “Once British rulers tried to bribe Kaji Damodar Pandey to open a commercial outpost in Kathmandu. They offered him money as much as he wanted but Pandey, a great patriot, turned down the offer. Had he accepted British’s request, he would have remained in power for a longer period. Neither would there be the rise of Bhimsen Thapa nor would he be beheaded at the insturction of lunatic king Ran Bahadur Shah. In a similar manner, the Britishers had offered the bait to Amar Singh Thapa, who took the charge of western front as the army chief during the Anglo-Nepal war. They asked him to come to their camp. In return, he would be anointed as the king of west Nepal. But, Thapa turned down the offer, saying that he would prefer to lay down his life as a common sepoy instead of becoming the king under the Britishers’ blessings.”
A feeling of true patriotism was also high in first Rana prime minister Jung Bahadur although he founded autocratic family rule in Nepal. “Prima facie, Jung Bahadur sucked up to British rulers. But, in fact, he was against the idea of surrendering to the British colonial master when it came to protecting the national integrity. He asked his soldiers to fight to the death like Bengalis (Mirjaphar) did if the English soldiers attacked Nepal but never capitulated to the enemy. He never let any Nepalis join the British army,” said historian Nepal, adding that it was a mere figment of imagination to say that the British gave the austral land of Terai to Nepal to enlist the hill soldiers into British army.
An alliance between UCPN-Maoist, Madhesi parties and Janajatis tends to vilify Nepal’s unification campaign and the role of patriotic Gorkhali soldiers, who under the inspiration of great Prithvi Narayan Shah sacrificed their lives for creating a strong Nepali nation. History does not corroborate the argument that there was confrontation between Madhesis and Gorkhalis during the unification campaign. If we blow up some ‘minor excesses’ that occurred in course of unification campaign out of all proportion, this will put the sensitive historic discourse into wrong perspective.