Nepal 2008: Facts on the Conflict
Violence, abductions on the rise in volatile southeast
July 2008
Violence, abductions on the rise in volatile southeast

RAJBIRAJ, 16 July 2008 (IRIN)

"I was given seven days to pay a huge ransom or face death," a fear-stricken 55-year-old woman who requested anonymity told IRIN in southeastern Nepal on 15 July.

Two days earlier, she had fled her home in Kanchanpur village in southern Nepal's Terai Region and was now displaced following death threats by Nepal's Madhesi Mukti Tigers (MMT), a pro-Madhesi group who had demanded nearly US$2,000.

The group demanded the money to help fund their armed struggle for the rights of ethnic Madhesi in the Terai Region of southern Nepal.

Former head teacher Maina Kaderi, said he had been forced to leave his home in Saptari District in the Terai Region after failing to find a job for the relative of a member of the Madhesi Virus Killers (MVK), another armed group. "I was warned to leave my home immediately or I could be shot dead" I had to leave my job and house to protect my family."

According to local non-governmental organsations (NGOs), human rights activists and government agencies, Saptari is considered to be one of the most dangerous areas in southeastern Nepal: Violence, abductions and killings are on the rise due to the activities of armed ethnic-based groups.

There are some 15 armed political groups in the Saptari and nearby Siraha districts alone, say the police. The Madhesi Virus Killers (MVK), the Madhesi Mukti Tigers (MMT), the Sanyukta Terai Jankranti Party (STJP) and four factions of Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha (JTMM) - all considered arch rivals - are among the most violent.

Organised crime
"Abductions and crimes are growing dangerously and the fragile security situation is being exploited by criminal gangs who have turned abductions into a lucrative business," said local human rights activist Shambu Nanda Chaudhary of Manav Adhikar Sanjal, a local NGO.
The police in Saptari say they are fighting crime, but locals complain they are given no protection.

Meanwhile, the armed groups deny involvement in crime: "Our armed struggle is to bring about a Madhesi autonomous province and ensure the Madhesi find employment in every state sector. We are not involved in criminal activities," Dewan Singh, a leader of MVK, told IRIN by telephone from an undisclosed location.

He said, however, that political groups like JTMM had been involved in abduction and extortion.

Insecurity affecting aid programmes
The growing number of displaced persons, along with attacks on aid workers and government staff, have now become a serious source of concern, according to the NGO Federation of Nepal (NFN).

"Government agencies and NGOs are unable to work actively and freely these days," Binod Chaudhary, NFN's district chairman in Saptari, said.

Insecurity was being blamed for the increasing absence of state officials in the Village Development Committees (VDCs) - important local government executive bodies which implement aid programmes in villages.

Government officials in VDC offices say they are unable to work in the villages due to insecurity, and are themselves often displaced: "We can't go to the villages as there is absolutely no security for us. As soon as we enter the villages, armed groups come and ask for donations and often abduct or threaten to kill us," government officer Dhak Bahadur Adhikari, the district-level chairman of the Nepal Civil Servants Organisation (NCSO), told IRIN.

Over 100 officials in Saptari District had been unable to return to their VDC offices, he explained.

"Government officers are unable to enter villages due to the activities of the armed groups. Many have been transferred or gone on leave. Many probably will not return," said Ram Kumar Yadav, a member of the VDC Rights Protection Centre.

A new Nepal Situation Overview, published every two weeks by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Nepal, said the field presence of government staff working with local bodies had been drastically reduced due to insecurity.

Credit IRIN 2008
Copyright © UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2008
[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), part of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Madhesi factbox
Nepal's largest ethnic group; make up about one third of Nepal's 27 million people
Concentrated in the lowland Terai region, southern Nepal, the country's industrial and agricultural heartland
Traditionally, their main ethnic rivals are the politically dominant hill people known as Pahades
Comprised of various sub-groups with several different languages and dialects and have only recently developed a political consciousness and unity of purpose
Campaign for regional autonomy for the Terai, a federal Nepal, and greater representation in parliament
Militant factions such as the Madhesi People's Rights Forum (MPRF) and the Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha (JTMM) have carried out violent acts
Not allied in any way to the Maoists who have separate political goals
Include some of the most impoverished and disadvantaged castes in Nepal such as Badis (traditional sex workers) and Kamaiyas (bonded labourers)
According to rights activists, Maoist leaders are unable to control their supporters.
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