Sarita Giri, foolish patriots and the shaken political landscape of Terai/Madhesh after Nepal Earthquake

Sarita Giri’s fear 

Recently there has been debate if we can relocate the badly affected Himalayan/Hilly villages to the ‘safe’ Terai region. It has brought large scale earthquake in the social media and in news after Sarita Giri, a politician based on Terai/Madhes region strongly opposed the idea of relocating Himalayan/Hilly community in the Terai. The voice in her support is very dim and dominated by the self-proclaimed patriots, who demand her to be exiled to India or even death penalty.

This looks two very extreme poles of Nepalese society but in fact this is not the case. It is not Madhesi vs Hilly/Himalayan case. My understanding is; Sarita Giri did not say it out of hatred of Hill/Himalayan community. Sarita Giri is not an Indian; she does not want to annex Terai to India. But why she said ‘It is King Mahendra style conspiracy against the Madhesi community to relocate Hilly/Himalayan community in Terai”? There is political reason behind what she is saying which may seriously damage her political career which is already fading. Sarita Giri and many Madhes/Terai based politicians fear if the Hilly/Himalayan community is relocated in the Terai/Madhesh and if their population starts to dominate the Terai/Madheshi community; that means the end of their political career.

Nepali Congress knew it all

All politicians want to secure their political career just like we want to save our job (however in Nepal we retire after 60/65 years but politicians never retire). Some politician do it wisely, some do it foolishly. Sarita Giri did it foolishly, wrong time – people are sensitive and emotional because of huge disaster, wrong place – twitter is not a right place to start serious conversation, wrong style and wrong analogy – King Mahendra’s motive to relocate Hilly community in Terai and present government’s motive to relocate Hilly/Himalayan community in Terai are different although political consequences will be the same. Apparently Nepali Congress, a party massively dominated by the Hill Brhamin and Chhetri had proposed this relocation plan in their party report. This is not hard to understand why they chose Terai instead of another safer Hilly area, although their apparent motive is to help people in dire need, invisibly they also want to extend their political muscles in Terai which was weakened by the raise of the Terai/Madhesh based parties. Sarita Giri knew this quickly and reacted quickly causing backlash and more damage to her political career while Congress now has swiftly kept agenda silent as they have already seen the flow of migration to Terai is inevitable regardless anyone wants or not.

So what?

To the people who are against Giri: You should stop all misogynist, racist, inhuman comments against Sarita Giri or any other Nepali in future. We, the humans have brain and we should make some use of it. Scolding Sarita Giri blatantly leads us nowhere but to the place where we don’t want to go – a divided Nepal. This will benefit the people like C K Raut. This will fuel tension between the communities if continued foolishly. You are blaming your fellow countrywoman of conspiracy and demand death penalty. This is not good. Before portraying Sarita Giri as an ‘Indian Agent’ you should be able to make list of the politicians who haven’t kneeled before Indian ambassador in Lainchaur. Try thinking from so called patriot Shah Kings to B.P. Koirala to ‘revolutionary’ Prachanda; is there any politician/ruler who shook hands of dignity and friendship with an Indian officer? No. So, all politicians want grace of India to secure their job in Nepali politics. We, the people should stand united in this time of disaster. Sarita Giri has already had enough damage to her fading career, now if you keep shouting at her, the only party that benefits in C K Raut.

To Sarita Giri: This game of Madheshi-Pahade politics is over after 25 April. There is already huge number of Hilly/Himalayan people in the Terai before earthquake and it will significantly rise after earthquake even if there is no government plan to relocate them. There is already mass migration to Terai from Hilly/Himalayan region after earthquake and that is unstoppable in future. This will bring a new era of politics in Madhesh/Terai. Madhesh/Terai based parties will be weaker and will extinct one day if they don’t change, if they don’t listen to the growing number of Hill/Himalayan Community. People are more politically aware than you, they are watching every politician and they know a lot about politics. If you want to be in the political scene, if all the Madhesh based politicians want to be in the scene of the politics you better start doing politics in Nepal and for Nepalese people, not in Madhesh/Terai. You should learn to respect and win the sentiments of people from every corner of Nepal; you should come out of narrow framing of community and race to society, country and humanity thats how you keep your political career safe.

If Laxman Thakur can, why can’t Chitwan? Why can’t Jhapa? Why can’t you?

When I was reading the news of Laxman Thakur in Annapurna Post about how he is planning to give refuge to some 500 people in his home town, I was so filled with emotion first and wanted to know whether his mother tongue is Maithili or Bhojpuri, I even tried to translate some ‘nice’ words into Maithili to say thank you and to tell him how proud I was of him. I know he might be better than me in Nepali, but I wanted to be Laxman Thakur, I wanted to say thank you to him in the language he learnt from his mother. After a while I couldn’t stop thinking about the news. I had different ideas in my mind. I suddenly started to think, if he can convince his villagers to accommodate some 500 people what about the rich and developed districts like Chitwan? If the village is reachable by good conditioned road, if there is no risk of landslide or further damage, if the family is healthy and hasn’t got vulnerable member they should remain where they are and government must help them in their place. We are strong people and we can rebuild. But, if the village is at risk of landslide, people are vulnerable, people are traumatised, there is no road and difficult to reach then they should be relocated temporarily or permanently. There can be three different ways to accommodate people in dire need: 1. People can take shelter in the houses of the relatives or the generous ones like Laxman Thakur. This will be basically temporary shelter during monsoon. The people will return to their place or find work and move out in maximum 6 months’ time. The people who have lost homes and nowhere to stay and also there is risk of landslide or other problem in their place can take shelter in such Home Stay. The aid agencies or government should help the accommodating family with the food and other aid. The accommodating family should be selected carefully. The EQ victims should not be accommodated with the family whose member has records such as child sex abuse or other criminal or suspicious record. This can be tracked with the help of local police or local community leaders, head teachers etc.  The government and local authority should appeal the people of the nation to help and if interested accommodate people in their homes for six months or so. 2. The local authorities of unaffected districts like Chitwan can provide permanent or temporary accommodation to the people of need. Temporary shelters should be for the similar people the same as earlier mentioned and they will be back to their places of find job and move out after maximum 1 year time.  The shelter can be tents or government suggest temporary shelter of tin or other local materials. It is important that water, sanitation, security and other basic things are provided in these temporary shelters. The Local authority should be careful that these places should not turn into slum in future. The failure of the central government to rebuild the EQ victims’ village/town can result in long stay in these settlements and turn the place into slum. So the very careful, clever and determined effort plus sound co-operation between the Central government and local authority is crucial.  Permanent settlement should also be provided by the local authority of unaffected areas where Earthquake Victims (EQ) are unable to return to their place because of risk such as landslide or trauma or some other genuine reason.  If every unaffected district take their share of responsibility the problem will be solved much faster and effectively. While settling the EQ victims the local authority must respect the local people’s concerns. It is wise that the integration process is started from the beginning and the security and the health of both the EQ victims and local people is not compromised. Cultural, religious and ecological issues should be considered before selecting the area for settlement. The early involvement of local community organizations and community leaders, use of local volunteer will help building harmony and good relationship with the EQ victims settling in their neighbourhood. Nepalese are known as friendly people, so if there is good management there won’t be issue in integration. 3. Government should rent the houses in the unaffected and developed regions to provide immediate shelter to the vulnerable EQ victims like pregnant women, children, elderly, disabled, sick and injured. They should be able to live with their family in the rented property and government should provide the rent, food and other aid. This will help people recover from the trauma and also their family will be with them. The other family member should be encouraged to find work, or the NGOs or Aid Agencies’ focus should be training them in construction and other sector rather than buying them bottle of mineral water.