LAHAN, Jan 19: It has been 13 years since the first Madhes movement began. But the leaders of the Madhes-based parties who had borrowed money from the families of the martyrs to erect their statues have not returned the amount yet.
Before the people’s movement of 2006, there was a statue of the late king Mahendra at the main crossroads of Lahan. The crossroads was popularly known as Mahendra Chowk. During the movement, people dismantled the statue and the crossroads without any statue was named as Loktantrik Chowk (Democratic Crossroads).
Soon after this, the interim constitution of 2063 came into force, which ignited protests in Madhes. When the tensions subsided and the government made a deal with the agitating parties, five people were declared martyrs. The government provided Rs one million to each of the families. People demanded statues of the martyrs at the Loktantrick Chowk, which was renamed as ‘Shahid Chowk’, and the then ‘Madhesi Janaadhikar Forum’ took the lead. The leaders of the forum had back then borrowed money from the families of the martyrs for setting up the statues. They had taken Rs 100,000 from each of the families and five statues of the martyrs – Ramesh Mahato, Bechan Yadav, Bijaya Sahani, Mahommad Anish and Pramod Sadaya were built.
The colors of those statues are now fading. But the amount taken from the families have not been returned to them, except for Rs 30,000 to one family. According to Baleshwar Sadaya, father of martyr Pramod Sadaya, he was given Rs 30,000.
“They returned Rs 30,000 two years later after erecting the statue. They do not talk about rest of the amount anymore,” he lamented.
The other families reported that they have not received any amount from the leaders. One of the man in the forefront during the movement, Krishna Bahadur Yadav, said it is sad that the money of the “poor families” was taken away.
“It is really sad. A little money means a lot for them. It has been over a decade and they are yet living in a hope of getting it back,” he said.
The martyrs’ families express sadness too over the disappointing performance of the Madhesi leaders. This has made them feel that the sacrifice of their sons have gone in vain.
“The leaders have forgotten the martyrs. They had given their life for freedom, development and prosperity of this land, but the leaders have not delivered honestly,” said Rabi Mahato, the father of martyr Ramesh.
There is also another thing that upsets him. Ramesh has been recognized as the first martyr of the Madhes movement and the day he died (Magh 5 or January 19 this year) is marked as Balidani Diwas in Madhes or Martyrs’ Day.
People used to gather at Shahid Chowk to offer their tributes to the martyrs and some formal programs would be organized on this day, every year. But this time, the Province 2 government has planned to observe it in Birgunj. This has hurt the families of the martyrs.
According to Rano Devi Mahato, mother of Ramesh, Madhesi people are still living a miserable life. She has not seen any substantial changes.