Nepal: Madhesi armed groups ready for peace talks
|Publisher||Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)|
|Publication Date||14 October 2008|
|Cite as||Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), Nepal: Madhesi armed groups ready for peace talks, 14 October 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/48f6f0d41c.html [accessed 24 July 2014]|
KATHMANDU, 14 October 2008 (IRIN) - Peace talks are likely to be held soon with armed Madhesi groups that have been fighting for a separate province in the Terai, the flat southern region of Nepal, according to senior government officials.
"We are making efforts to establish links with the groups of the Terai to hold a dialogue soon and create an environment conducive for peace talks with them," said the Minister for Peace and Reconstruction, Janardhan Sharma. He is also the coordinator of the recently formed government negotiation team.
The armed groups have responded to the government invitation. "We are positive about having a dialogue with the government but they have to form a trustworthy talks team," said Rajan Mukti, chief of Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha-Rajan, one of the leading groups among the 14 armed Madhesi organisations, in a statement.
However, the group said the government should withdraw all the court cases against their cadres and release their members who were imprisoned this year. The group wants the government to also agree to their demand to hold a referendum in the Terai concerning its autonomy.
The government officials said they were ready to release the cadres from prison and guarantee their safety, said Sharma.
Security of civilians
A truce with the armed groups would provide a major breakthrough for innocent civilians in the Terai, especially the Pahade, who have been targeted by the groups, said local human rights activists.
The Pahade make up about one-third of the population of the Terai, which in turn accounts for nearly half Nepal's population. The communities have had a long history of tension, especially over the control of forests and regional politics, but the level of communal violence has intensified over the past few months due to the armed Madhesi groups, said activists.
"Many live in fear, are robbed and abducted every day and constantly displaced from their homes," said a rights activist, who asked not to be named. Over the year, activists and journalists have been threatened and attacked by the groups for criticising and reporting their armed activities.
"The peace talks are necessary to restore law and order in the Terai as ethnic fundamentalism is putting the whole country at risk," said independent political analyst Kapil Shrestha.
He added that the violence had also affected livelihoods and security. Districts such as Saptari and Siraha in south-east Nepal had seen a majority of the Pahade families displaced en masse from their homes and they were now living in more secure districts in central region, including the capital Kathmandu, where they had to depend on aid agencies for survival, said activists.
The key groups in the Terai include the Madhesi Mukti Tigers, United Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha, Terai Cobra, and Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha-Rajan.
The leaders of the groups, however, denied attacking civilians or spreading communal violence.
According to regular updates by national human rights NGO Informal Sector Service Centre, there were regular incidents of bomb explosions, abductions, extortion and attacks against civilians by the armed groups.