LET IT BE FREE:
7 formidable reasons why India should support an independent Madhesh:
- To avoid an ethnic war, turmoil and violence on its northern border and get a stable and peaceful neighbour, because if Madhesh does not become an independent nation within the next 10 years, it is bound to be marred by a large-scale ethnic conflict and violence.
- To avoid the influx of the 15 million Madheshis as refugees in India. With a conspiracy to deny citizenships to a large number of the Madheshis, stripping them of fundamental rights, and brutally suppressing them using army and police, hundreds of thousands of Madheshis have already taken a refuge in India, unrecorded.
- To stop further settlement of fiercely anti-Indian Pahadi population at its very border. The population of the Pahadis in Madhesh has increased from 6% to 36% between 1951 and 2011. It should be noted that a large number of retired army and police personnel were settled in the border regions through planned (re)settlement projects, and those places are always mired by endless Indo-Nepal border conflicts.
- To avoid a communist/totalitarian state as its northern neighbour, with an open border and a close relationship across the border. (The current government led by K. P. Oli is evidence to it.)
- To keep foreign powers, piggybacking Nepal and using its land for sinister purposes, away from India’s border. Nepal, with its strong anti-Indian sentiment, has been always eager to allow spaces to foreign powers working against India.
- To avoid a poverty-stricken, economically deprived, famine-hit, crime infested region adjacent to India (resulting from the continued Nepali colonisation and exploitation of Madhesh, if unchecked)
- To protect the interest of the people having millennia old relationships and having family, historical, cultural and linguistic ties with India.
Myths and Misconceptions on Independent Madhesh vis-à-vis India
Some of the reasons, for not supporting an independent Madhesh traditionally, given by Indian leaders, policy makers, diplomats and bureaucrats almost unanimously have been:
(1) It will set an encouraging example for secessionist movements in our own country, where we already have problems in Kashmir, Asam, Nagalim and Tripura. (2) If India supports a free Madhesh, Nepal will go out of its hand and China will come closer to India increasing a security threat. (3) Nepal acts as a buffer zone / border protection for India. (4) Nepal may turn into a playing field of international powers, and the security concern of India shall be compromised. (5) India has vital interest in Nepal’s hydropower and other resources and thus cannot annoy it. (6) We cannot interfere in other country’s internal affairs. (7) Madhesh cannot sustain as an independent nation. It’ll be too small. (8) We cannot go against the centuries old cordial relationship with Nepal. We have several lacs of Nepalis working in India, including in the Indian Army. (9) We want peaceful and stable neighbour.
Let’s dissect them one by one:
(1) It will set an encouraging example for secessionist movements in our own country, where we already have problems in Kashmir, Asam, Nagalim and Tripura.
First, Madhesh is not seceding from India that likes of Kashmir and Asam will think that if Madhesh can secede, why can’t. So, at best, we serve only as an “external example”, not an internal one.
Now in this age of TVs and the Internet, it does not matter much whether an example is set near or far, people already know about it–be it South Sudan, Crimea, Scotland or Catalonia. Second, Indian people already have their own strong examples of “splitting” of countries, and birth of Pakistan and Bangladesh, so VIVID and FRESH in their mind and finding a place in their every day’s discourse, whereas a majority of the Indian people, other than the people in the immediate bordering regions of Bihar and UP, barely know about Madhesh. Therefore, the independence of Madhesh can hardly serve as an additional or better example for Indian people for secession.
(2) If India supports a free Madhesh, Nepal will go out of its hand and China will come closer to India increasing a security threat.
This hypothesis perhaps comes from the Nehruvian era of foreign policy, and has been a prominent reason given by diplomats and leaders alike even today. It, first, assumes that Nepal is in the “pocket” of India so that it works in the interest of India’s security. That came close the reality back in the Nehruvian era, but is Nepal still in the “pocket” of India today? Has Nepal not gone out of India’s hands to favour others? The recent confrontations between India and Nepal, despite supposedly complete sweeping of anti-Indian feeling of Nepalis by PM Modi’s visit and India’s immense help after the earthquake in April, can amply clarify this.
With regards to the latter part of the hypothesis: Doesn’t China have other routes to come closer to India? The fact is that China has far more favourable routes, to penetrate India from every direction, and up to its very heart, viz. through the direct border in the north, through the land of its “archenemy” Pakistan from the northernmost to the southernmost part, and through Bangladesh, where investment of China surpasses India by several folds. Even regarding the path through Nepal, has China not come up to the open Indo-Nepal border, with its grandiose ambitions reflecting in the projects such as the Greater Lumbini Development Plan?
So Nepal is already out of hand of India, and if Madhesh does not become free, China will have a very direct and sensitive access to India via the plains of Madhesh. Only if Nepal gets an opportunity, it will equip all of its Indo-Nepal border posts and the army and APF camps with foreign arms, ammunitions and missiles. On the contrary, if Madhesh becomes free, it will create a double-buffer between China and India in the region, thus making India far more secure, as any access through this route would require dealing with two countries, Nepal and Madhesh.
(3) Nepal acts as a buffer zone / border protection for India.
With Madhesh becoming free, there will be a “double buffer” between India and China, and so any access through this route will require the consents of both governments, of Nepal and Madhesh. This will make it far inaccessible to encroach through this route, and thus making India far more secure.
(4) The zone may turn into a playing field of international powers, and the security concern of India shall be compromised.
Nepal has already become a playing field of international powers and it will not spare a second, if it had any opportunity, to allow any powers working against the interest of India. On the contrary, the Madheshis have such an affinity with India that they always think about the welfare of India, without expecting anything in return. Therefore, a free Madhesh will spare a region, adjacent to India, out of the influence of the sinister international powers landing in Nepal.
(5) India has vital interest in Nepal‘s hydropower and other resources and thus cannot annoy it.
It has been very clear in the past that Nepal, with its paranoiac and anti-Indian sentiment, is very reluctant to commission any project of any scale to India, be it hydropower projects, airport security, irrigation dams, or passport printing. With the current wrangling and alleged “embargo” (alleged by the Pahadis) that at least two or three generations of the Nepali people will find hard to forget, it is only going to be worse in the coming days.
Nevertheless, after independence of Madhesh, there can still be a cooperation between Nepal and India in the area of hydropower and others, which will depend on their relationship in future.
(6) We cannot interfere in other country’s internal affairs. We follow Panchasheel.
Wasn’t it India helping Bangladesh secure its freedom? Isn’t it India sheltering Dalai Lama, and the Tibetan Government in Exile? Has India been able to remain completely silent and isolated in the “internal affairs” of Nepal?
(7) Madhesh cannot sustain as an independent nation. Besides it’ll be too small.
Madhesh has been contributing approximately two-third of GDP and three quarters of revenues of Nepal (59% GDP and 76% of total revenues, according to Frederick Gaige) . In layman’s terms, Madhesh has been feeding and affording whole of Nepal, so how can it not sustain itself?
Madhesh will be larger than 150 countries and independent territories of the world demographically, and by area, it will be large than about 100 of them. So it is evidently not small.
(8) We cannot go against the centuries old cordial ties with Nepal. We have several lacs of Nepalis working in India, including in the Indian Army.
The relationship of India with the Gurkhas is merely two centuries old; it started when the British rulers in India hired the Gurkhas to suppress the Indian people. The relationship has never been in the favour of Indian people: the Gurkhas suppressed the Sepoy Mutiny in India and perpetuated immense brutality on the Indian people, the Rana rulers of Nepal suppressed the Indian Freedom Movement, and so on. On the contrary, the relationship with the Madheshis is millennia old, and it is in many dimensions: historical, ethnic, cultural, linguistic, marital, and religious. Madheshis have always stood with the Indian people throughout the history, and they have invaluable contribution in the Indian Freedom Movement.
The Gurkhas in the Indian Army are more likely to rebel someday; perhaps a large-scale mutiny is inevitable. Therefore, it is in the best interest of India to discontinue the recruitment of the Gurkhas in its national army, once initiated by the British Rulers of India, and retire the existing Gurkha regiments. With unemployment already high in India, the jobs occupied by the Nepalis should be replaced with Indians themselves. This will be reciprocal too, as no Indians are allowed to hold a job in Nepal and, time and again, the Government of Nepal has targeted Indians and Madheshis in the name of work-permits.
It is a misconception, and an insult to the Indian people too, to say that the Gurkhas’s recruitment is essential for mountain warfare; there are already hill people and martial races in India, to replace them and make her proud.
(9) We want peaceful and stable neighbour.
India will have a peaceful and stable neighbour only if Madhesh becomes free. Otherwise, within a decade, its neighbourhood will be rife with all sorts of ethnic wars, massacres and a refugee crisis of a mega scale. The power balance between the Pahadis and the Madheshis, the economic status and the political awareness of the Madheshis have been already changed very much, and an unfulfillable psychological rift has been already come into existence that makes an ethnic war inevitable, if Madhesh does not become free.
A 13-page memorandum submitted to the Indian PM by the Non-Resident Madheshis Association: