Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The Social Structure of Madheshi Community Resembles More to the Indian States Like UP and Bihar than any Nepalese Society

Bhulai Chaudhary
General Secretary, Tharu Welfare Society
Preamble: Nowadays, particularly on the issues of Tarai and Madhesh, Tharu and Madheshi, people in the country are in confusion. If, in proper time, this confusion is not clarified, it may invite additional problems. Therefore, the objective of this article is to clarify such confusions.

Nepali Tarai and Tharus: The southern plain part(land) of Nepal from Mechi in the east to Mahakali in the west about 1000 km long and from nothern boarder of India up to 25 - 35 km towards north within Nepal is known as Tarai.
Tarai land was formed along with the formation of new Nepal, but the indigenous Tharus have been original citizens of Tarai, inhabiting since ancient times. Even after the formation of new Nepal, Tharus have been giving their services by nurturing Nepal. This is the reason that the Tharus are supposed to be the oldest, original habitants and sons of the soil and Tarai is known as granary of the country.

Since the beginning, the Tarai has remained as a ‘Tharuhat’, in other word also known as the state of Tharus. This is not new information for Nepalese people though. Tarai is the lowest land of Nepal. In Tharu language ‘Tar’ means low, thus Tarai word is derived from Tharu language, which is a proven fact. That is the main reason why all people have accepted Tharus as main habitant of Tarai, original habitant and son of the soil. There is no contention over this issue.

In the beginning Tharus, alone, inhabited the Tarai. This Tarai was covered by dense forest. In the forest, there was dominance of tigers, lions, bears, bores and wild elephants whereas deserted places within the forest were occupied by Tharu Population and were struggling with the wild animals.

More or less hundreds of years after, around 1826 B.S, with the formation of new Nepal, as the population increased, the need for more grains meant deforestation and falling of trees to create lands for cultivation, thus to continue feed the ever increasing population.

The Tharus then started bringing in Indian manpower and allotted some land to them to grow grains, and in return started to take taxes from them in order to pay taxes to the Kings. If the amount of taxes imposed on the Indian manpower used to be high, they (the Indians) used to go back home only to return whenever imposed on them were low (see Lalmohar no 18,20,21,41,43).

Tharus had their own language (dialect), culture and management system and still have. From very beginning, they had very much an autonomous ruling system and their ruling centers were Kadamaha (Morhang), Vijaypur (Sunsary Dharan), Baramajhhiya (Saptary), Rautahat, Butwal and Dang, among others.

As time went by, despite their ruling rights, it could not be more influential except their social activities. After eradicating Malaria in 2019 B.S, the government started felling trees in order to make space for the increasing population. It was at this time people from India and hilly region in Nepal, migrated to the Tarai plains which in essence was and still is a Tharuhat.

Due to this huge influx of people from India mainly and from the hills made Tharu’s livelihood in their own land pretty difficult. Now if this issue is not addressed properly on time, sooner than later the Tharus in their own Tharuhat might face extinction.

People, deliberate or otherwise call Tarai as Madhesh, which it is not. This is a misnomer and a wrong understanding. The Tarai and Madhesh are not the same but both are different from geographical perspective. Tarai and Madhesh are not synonymous to each other. Thus it is wrong to use Madhesh as synonymous to Tarai. This has created unnecessary confusion all over the country. In the available authoritative records of Nepal, from the time of formation of New Nepal and up to now “Madhesh” word has not been used for Tarai.

In “Naya Nepal Parichaya” written by Hiranya Lal Shrestha in 2039B.S which is taught in I.A course too, Nepal has been divided in three natural part- Himal, Pahad and Tarai.

Similarly in “A Nepalese Discovers His Country” written by Prakash.A.Raj in 2035B.S “Madhesh” word has not been mentioned anywhere in the entire book.

In 1960, Tony Hagen divided Nepal into seven natural parts (Tibetian Marginal Mountain, Inner Himalayas, Mid-lands, Mahabharat range, Shivalik hills and Tarai).
In 1971, Dr. Hark Bahadur Gurung divided Nepal into nine natural geographical parts (Border range, Doons, Himalayan Valley, Himalayan Temperate, Sub temperate, Mahabharata range, Inner Tarai, Chure range, and Tarai).
Likewise, in a survey conducted by F.A.O/ H.M.G/ U.N.D.P, in 1980 by Mr. Nelen divided Nepal into five natural geographical parts e.g High Himalaya, Transposition Zone, Middle Mountains, Shivalik range and Tarai. But nowhere, Madhesh is mentioned.
Similarly in 1986 a HMG made a “land resource plan” wherein Nepal has been divided into five natural zones e.g High Himalayas; High Mountains; Middle Mountains; Shivalik range and Tarai. This division only speaks of the existence of Tarai but no where Madhesh has been mentioned.
This amply clarifies that Madhesh is as such a part of Nepal is completely wrong, ill intentioned and also a deception of the real facts as well. Tarai is not Madhesh. Thus, it would be an injustice to call Tarai a Madhesh.

Madhesh and Madheshi: Tarai region of Nepal is not a Madhesh (Mid Land). Madhesh (Mid Land) has been mentioned on page no.387 of ‘History of Civilization of Ancient India’ written by Fahiyan in 400 A.D, who was a Chinese historian.
When Fahiyan reached Mathura- on the banks of Jamuna river, he termed the southern mid land as ‘Madhesh’ - the land of Rajputs.

In the same way on page no.1203 “Sanskriti Hindi Kosh” collected and written by Bavan Shivaram Apte and published by Moti Banarasi Das-Delhi, indicates that Kushwanti or Kushasthali which was capital of Kol state- is the real Madhesh, which lies on the northern banks of the river Narmada and on southern side of the Vindhyachal hill.

Probably it is the place which is known as Ramnagar in Bundelkhand. Rajashekhar- a historian has called the King of Kushsthali as the king of Madhesh, which also means middle land or king of Bundelkhand.

According to Nepalese historian Dr. Babu Ram Acharya, in the north from Ambala upto Prayag in the south Madhyadesh (Madhesh) is situated.

Likewise, as described by “Shabda Sagar” in Nepali, the land lying in between- in the north by the Himalayas, in the west Kuruchhetra, in the south Bindhya, and in the east up to Prayag is called a Madhesh.

Hereby, if it analyzed properly the Concept of Madhesh, the Himalayas mean “Himanchal Pradesh”, which is situated in the western side of Nepal in the Indian Territory. And as Eastern border of Madhyadesh is mentioned as “Prayag” so it will be foolish to trace Madhesh in the east and north of Prayag. Here by it is clear that the boundary in the east of Madhesh is Prayag.

According to above described historical facts it is proved that Madhesh was situated in Uttar Pradesh of India or on the south of Vindhyachal hill or nearby Vindhyachal, and those inhabiting there were known as Madheshi.

These historical and geographical evidences show that Tarai of Nepal is situated very far from Narbada River, Vindhyachal hill of the Uttar Pradesh, Prayag, Ambala and Kuruchettra.

This shows that Madhyadesh has never been close to the border of Nepal or adjoined the Nepali territory.

Analyzing all these facts to call Tarai as Madhesh would not only be a treacherous act against own nation but would also tantamount to be called a colonial mindset.

In “Nepal Ko Kanuni Itihas- Ravti Raman Khanal”, during the reign of queen Rajendra Laxmi, in the one hand mentioning exile of Daljit Shah to Madhesh and on the other in the same book (in the page no.99), mentioning Tarai as well in different context implies that Madhesh and Tarai mean different.

The Sugauli Treaty ( signed on 8 December, 1816) between British Government and Nepal, in its memorandum of understanding letter on clauses 2 and 6 states that the land between Koshi and Gandaki river is mentioned as Tirhut (Tharuhat) which again has been mentioned as Tarai land. All these facts show that since ancient times, Tarai region, Tharu language and Tharu culture were developed.

Next evidence is the recollection letter written by British Government on 11 December, 1816 to Nepal Government, wherein it has been straightly mentioned word as Tarai but not Madhesh. In spite of these factual evidences at hand, to interpret Tarai as Madhesh by some interested quarters is how much correct and justifiable it is? It is a serious matter that demands attention. See the lines mentioned below (moreover, the Rajah of Nepal agrees to refrain from prosecuting any inhabitants of Tarai, after its revertance to his rule, on account of having favored the cause of British Government during the war, and should any of those persons, expecting the cultivators of soil, be desirous of quitting their estates and retiring within the company’s territories, he shall not be liable to hindrance-Point 7-Memorandum of Approval from British Government and Accepted by Nepal on Dec 11,1816.

Likewise, noted author Dr. Haribans Jha –a Tarai scholar, has described, in his “Madheshi Samudai: Samajik Ra Arthik Biawastha” entitled book, Madheshi word in real meaning ,he has mentioned Tarai word for Tarai, but not Medhesh. A few lines from what Dr. Jha says, “ Madheshis living in Tarai territory, have their own glorious history, art, culture and economy. The Social structure of Madheshi community resembles with the social structure of the Indian states like UP and Bihar rather than the social structure of any Nepalese society. So, those gentlemen who call Madhesh with Tarai, they do it so either from ignorance or make it with mal-intent.

Generally, Madhesh residents are known as Madheshi. While, Madheshi from Madhyadesh of India, for their livelihood, migrated to Nepal, Tharu people of Tarai started to call them the new comers as “Bajiya” that means people from out side or from Brijee Republic and still they call them “Bajiya”. Later on, in 20th century when people from hill region migrated to Tarai and came in contact with these outsider migrants they also began to call the new comers as Madheshi-Madhya deshi-(of Indian origin). Even today the hilly people call to these migrants Madheshi, is true. But they are not the Nepalese will not be a correct evaluation.

C.K. Lal has also supported to this fact. In his own word, “The early 20th century clearing of Tarai forest and almost simultaneous famine in the neighboring states of Bengal, Bihar and Awadh forced many Indians to choose a life of considerable difficulty in the plains of Nepal. Overtime, they became to be known as Madhesis- the people of Madhesh. In this way the entrance of Madhesi can be seen and this is a fact but at present time the facts are being distorted to the extent that some want to delete the word “Indian origin” to serve their own political and vested interests. Madhesh continues to be there in India where it was. Madheshi is a sentimental word. Madhesi is not as such a special caste. If it were the otherwise, they should have their own separate and special culture and tradition. If this is so, then how come they become an indigenous group of Nepal? They are just giving an imaginary name “Madhesh” and due to relation with it they are trying with might and mind to prove through organizations, and also with the support of some political parties and making all these as a ladder to prove that Madheshis are ancient inhabitants of Tarai. Madhesh is not any kind of geography of Nepal. Madhesh is there where it was in India and Madheshi is a sentimental word. Madhesi is not a particular caste, nor they have a fixed place, culture, own mother tongue, then how could they become the ancient inhabitants of Nepal? This must be thought. Remember it that Tarai and Inner Tarai is fundamental base and this is definitely Tharuhat. Tharus are original inhabitants of Tarai. We Tharus humbly request to political parties or organizations not to take any wrong decision that is advantageous to their short term political interests which neglects the criterions forwarded by the Tharus. I wan to put the fact that ”Bajiya” is of Tharu language that implies the meaning for people from out side or from Brajee Republic. As time went by the people from hill region migrated to Tarai and heard the word “Bajiya” from the Tharus repeatedly, the hill people considered the word Bajya as a derogatory word. This later was interpreted by the Nepali dictionary as a word which denoted some sort of abuse. Thus there was distortion of the word.

In this way, real evidences prove that Tarai is not Madhesh but Tharuhat. It is therefore to call Tarai as Madhesh will not be an act of wisdom. Madhesh was and still a part of India. However, in present time, Nepal Government, exploiters of Tharus and colonists are hatching a new strategy to exploit the Tharus by establishing a non-existent entity as a Madhesh state. The interim constitution does mention Madhesh but deliberately avoids the mentioning of the Tharuhat. This is a ploy to ignore the indigenous Tharus. This is a sort of Tsunami not only for the Tharus but also for Nepal as a nation-state. We all Tharus must come together unitedly and protest the arrangement that allows space for the Madheshis. If at this crucial time, we do not act, we will not be able to protect the Tharuhat and this will lead to the very extinction of the Tharus from their own land-the Tharuhat.

We must oppose to the conspiracy that is being hatched in the name of Madhesh. If we could not protect the Tharuhat and Tarai, we will be compelled to be refugee with full of sorrows in our own land.

I make humble request to those who possess love for their country not to accept the concept which equates Tarai with Madhesh. If we fail to understand the gravity of the situation, we might push the nation to become a colony of some powers. The decision that has been made in the name of the Madhesh should be immediately scrapped. I hope that all Nepalese people will put their efforts in scrapping the decisions taken in the recent months by the government, political parties including the Maoists in order to save Tharuhat.

[Mr Chaudhary is currently a member of the NEFIN talks team with the Government, representing Tharu Community]

The article has been taken from

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