Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – Nepal’s Madhese minority, which lives in the Morang district of the southern region of Terai, has turned against outsiders to protest an unofficial Indian embargo on its exports to Nepal.
As a result of weeks of trade blockade, including basic items, many Madhese have begun using homemade weapons to attack and rob those who cross the Indian border.
At the same time, anti-Indian hatred is mounting, with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi scorned in a mock prayer in Nepal’s foremost Hindu temple.
Since Nepal’s first secular and democratic constitution was approved, India has imposed an unofficial embargo. Few lorries are allowed to cross the border.
According to local security forces deployed along the border areas to restore order because of the violent protests by minority groups, the Madhese are attacking Nepalis living in mountain areas and in the Himalayan region out of revenge against the government’s failure to meet their constitutional demands.
"People are using the no man's land between the two countries to carry out their attacks,” said Constable Naresh in Birgunj, Parsa district, on the border with the Indian state of Bihar.
“Many Indians have tried to enter Nepal to celebrate Dashain (the biggest Hindu festival), but were beaten and robbed. We cannot do anything because it is not Nepali territory, whilst Indian police just stands and watch."
The worst part, he added, "is that they are unleashing sectarian violence, since they only attack those who do not belong to the Madhese community."
In addition to physical violence, members of the Samyukta Loktantrik Madhesi Morcha (United Madhese Democratic Front), an alliance of four Madhesi parties, set fire to an ambulance in Bardibas, Mahottari district.
On Thursday, a homemade bomb exploded near Lumbini, Buddha’s birthplace, without causing any casualties. The perpetrators of the act are still unknown.
Meanwhile, the embargo is whipping up hatred against Modi, who has been blamed for the initiative.
Some famous Nepali artists and officials staged a parody of the Indian prime minister, mocked with a prayer entitled "Chhyama Puja" ("forgiveness from sins," which usually involves asking the intercession of the gods).
Many people, including comedians and the former government deputy secretary, attended the event, which has taken on a particular significance since it was held at the Pashupatinath Temple, the most famous Hindu temple in the country, where Modi prayed during his 2014 visit. The stated objective of parody was to "absolve him of the sins he committed by imposing a trade embargo on Nepal."
In view of the situation, the US State Department issued an advisory for US citizens travelling to Nepal, warning that “Peaceful demonstrations can become violent. [. . .] Various commodities, including fuel, have become scarce because of a marked reduction of importation. [. . .] This shortage could disrupt public transportation around Nepal. Food, along with the provision of normal goods and services, might also be affected.”
Two Chinese airlines – China Eastern Airlines and China Southern Airlines – have also suspended flights to Kathmandu for lack of fuel.