LAHAN, June 16: Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli on Monday sent the agitating United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF) a third invitation letter for talks.
Following receipt of the letter, the constituents of the UDMF have become divided into two viewpoints.
Some UDMF leaders argue that the PM could have sent the letter to the Federal Alliance, while others claim that the letter was sent deliberately to the UDMF.
UDMF, which launched the Madhes movement, and the Federal Alliance, which is currently staging sit-in protests in Kathmandu, now look to be competing for the leadership of a safe landing for the movement. However, locals in Madhes argue that the two alliances should not foment any differences as the Madesh issue might get sidelined.
The Madhesi intelligentsia has taken the PM's latest letter to the UDMF as a positive development. Nevertheless, Madhesi civil society members criticize the government for inaction toward providing compensation for those killed during the protests and medical treatment for the injured. According to them, the government needs to be serious about compensating the families of the deceased and providing treatment to the injured.
Although the Madhes agitations that lasted for around six months and the Indian blockade have now ended, the movement is still on. It recently shifted to Kathmandu, where the agitating parties have been staging sit-ins under the banner of the Federal Alliance. The movement started by UDMF is now under the control of the 29-party Federal Alliance.
The movement was much hyped in Madhes because of the active role of Rajendra Mahato, chair of the Sadbhawana Party. After police beat him up in Biratnagar while blocking the border, the movement regained momentum. Now, with the expansion of the agitating alliance, misunderstanding among Madhesi leaders has flared.
At this juncture in the movement, it is illogical to debate whether the agenda or the leadership is more important, according to Madhes-based political analysts. Tula Narayan Sah, one of analysts, placed emphasis on the agenda rather than the leaders or the alliance. “Instead of starting a discourse on who leads the movement, what is important is to secure all the rights,” he said.
Prof. Mahadev Sah argues likewise. He said the government should be more flexible, sincere and accountable in the talks while the agitating groups should also be serious. “Talks are the only option for resolving the issue,” he added.
A source close to UDMF told Republica that the letter addressed to the UDMF alone is one of key reasons for rejecting the government's talks invite. The agitating Madhes-based leaders for their part said publicly that internal discussions will decide whether or not to participate in talks with the government.
Asked the reason for not joining talks as called by the government, Sadbhawana Party Chair Mahato said that the government first needs to be honest and prepared for the talks.
Another leader, Rajkishor Yadav, who chairs the Madhesi People's Rights Forum (Republic), said the government must meet the prerequisites for talks, such as compensation for those killed, medical treatment for the injured and withdrawal of charges against protestors, among other things.
According to him, UDMF and the government have already sat for talks 36 times, to no avail.