KAILALI, Aug 12: While lawmakers are divided over naming Province 7 and fixing its capital, Tharu leaders have agreed to stand in favor of naming Dipayal as the provincial capital in a conclusion that this move could help them to garner wider support of hilly people in naming the province as Tharuhat. The proposal from ethnic Tharu leaders and civil society leaders, according to the insiders, is aimed at strengthening their identity politics in the region.
The idea of fixing Dipayal which lies in the hilly region as the provincial capital comes at a time while lawmakers are sharply divided over fixing Dhangadhi or Attariya of Kailai as the provincial capital. Both Dhangadhi and Attariya lie in the plain area which borders with India.
A gathering of Tharu lawmakers and leaders held recently concluded that their demand to name Province 7 as Tharuhat could gain wider support from the lawmakers representing the hill areas if they stood in favor of fixing Dipayal as the capital instead of Dhangadhi or Attariya. “Dipayal was the regional headquarters even during Panchyat era. By assessing the pros and cons of the possible areas proposed as provincial capital we have concluded that Dipayal is the best option,” said Dil Bahadur Chaudhary, chief of the Tharu Civil Society, adding, “Tarai can't do well until and unless the hills are developed.”
Dil Bahadur believes people from the hill areas can extend their support to name the province as Tharuhat Province for now in the context of their demand of establishing a Tharuhat province continues. “When we extend our support for their justice they can also support our fight for justice in future,” he said claiming that they are for equitable development.
Another Tharu leader Madhav Chaudhary, who is also the spokesperson for the Tharuhat-Tharuwan Struggle Committee, said they are for fixing Dipayal as the provincial capital despite their disagreement for not having a separate Tharuhat Province by comprising Tharu-majority districts of southern plains. “In the past, we advocated for fixing Dhangadhi as the provincial capital. But now we have chosen Dipayal because the provincial capital should be accessible ensuring equitable justice,” said Madhav.
Tharu leaders say their struggles for an autonomous Tharuhat Province has not ended yet. Instead, they said protests will continued even in the coming days. “We are still firm on establishing the Tharuhat Province incorporating Kailali and Kanchanpur to other Tharu-dominant districts. But this time, we are extending our support to Dipayal for developing the hill areas. Otherwise, the fertile land of Kailai and Kanchanpur will be turned into deserts.”
As the members of the provincial assembly are sharply divided, the naming of the province and fixing its capital have not yet been settled. A committee led by Nepal Communist Party chief whip Tara Lama Tamang was mandated to suggest name and provincial capital of the province within August 6. But it failed to accomplish the given task and the provincial assembly extended deadline by a week.
Pro-Tharuhat supporters have been clashing with supporters of Akhanda Far-western for long since the first Constituent Assembly (CA) election held in 2008. Pro-Tharuhat supports had protested for months demanding to create a separate Tharuhat province including Tharu-dominant districts. The protest continued even after the second CA was elected in 2013. Nine police officials including a toddler were killed in a clash between Tharu and Akhanda Far-western supports just ahead of the promulgation of the constitution in September 2015.