Rajesh Ahiraj is the only Nepali scholar who has done Ph.D. on “Madhesh Movement and Madheshism”. Ahiraj, is the editor and publisher of the Madhesh Vani vernacular weekly and also known as an intellectual representing the Tarai community. Ahiraj has completed his LLB course from the Nepal Law Campus before doing his Ph.D.
Born in Rautahat, he later migrated to Sharlahi. Ahiraj is one among the strong critic of the present political leaders who are involved in the Tarai based politics. Ahiraj talked to People’s Review on contemporary political issues in the country. Excerpts of the interview given below:
Q. You are known as an intellectual and also an active journalist representing the Tarai community in Nepal, but you are a strong critic of those political leaders who are doing politics in the name of the Tarai community. What could be the reason?
A. In this 21st century, there is no space for doing politics in the name of class, caste, ethnicity, religion etc. Instead of resolving issues, these leaders are found only running to get to power by giving continuation to the issues by pushing the country towards more conflict. Look at the past Madheshi uprisings, the major concerns raised by the Tarai people were education, health facilities, good roads, irrigation, development, employment and such things. And the Tarai leaders became ministers and got the very portfolios related to the Tarai people’s demands in the government, but the problems faced by the Tarai people were never resolved. Those who became the leaders and ministers after the Madhesh movement were reluctant to resolve the issues of the Tarai people when they were in power.
I have been unable to find three things among the Madheshi leaders – their base, their views and their attitude.
Q. Were they comparatively corrupt when they were in power?
A. They practiced corruption as retailers not as whole-sellers.
Q. You are against the reservation policy guaranteed by the constitution. Why?
A. Only a healthy society can make a healthy nation. Poverty, unemployment, illiteracy are not related to castes. Opportunity too is not related to castes. Such reservation policy will discourage the hidden capability of an individual and those who score 90 percent, will remain unfit for jobs, whereas, those who just bag 40 percent, will get the opportunity. Reservation policy will not contribute in making the nation prosperous.
Q. You are against the federalism that the country has adopted. What is the reason?
A. Federalism cannot be considered as an achievement. There are different systems in the state mechanism. Of late, Nepal has adopted federalism. First of all, we don’t need federalism. If someone cannot stay without federalism, then, just three provinces having borders with both India and China are enough.
We don’t need federalism just to provide jobs to the political leaders or to practice corruption or to destroy ethnic harmony in the society. In a country like Nepal, one nation, two political parties and three provinces are more than enough.
Q. Where is the Tarai politics heading towards?
A. People from all the 77 districts are suffering from poverty, illiteracy, unemployment and most of all corruption. Among them, the Tarai people are comparatively in a better situation to protest against the government on these issues. The Tarai people have participated in the uprisings that took place in Tarai. However, the political leaders have always exploited the Tarai people. After the 2006 Tarai unrest, above 70 leaders of the Tarai centric parties have become ministers. What did they do to uplift the Madheshi people when they were in power? This is a burning question in the Tara districts. Earlier, there was unity among the Tarai people. Today, this has ended. The society has been divided on the issues of higher caste and lower caste, religion and such things.
Q. From the eye of a journalist, how do you see the situation of the country?
A. There is a serious lack of independent journalism, instead, I see 99 percent journalists are practicing partisan journalism only. Journalists carry either the ideology of the political parties or the agendas of those who have sponsored them. Our media has not been able to play the role to link Jumla with Janakpurdham and connecting people from Rautahat to Rolpa. The people from Rautahat don’t know that people in Rolpa are dying even due to lack of a basic medicines and the people from Rolpa don’t know that those people in dhoti are also Nepali citizens. Journalists didn’t play the role to link people from different societies and cultures. Journalism has played a negative role in the Nepali society.
In your other query about the country’s situation, what I see is that the definition of democracy has been changed. The new definition is “by the leaders, for the leaders and to the leaders”. We are practicing kleptocracy in the name of loktantra and we are heading towards civil war. Day by day, the population of poor people is increasing. Politics has been criminalized. If such a trend will continue for the next 4/5 years, we may witness a civil war in the country.
Q. You are actively involved in the Campaign of Nepali for Motherland. In fact, what is this?
A. Still, there is a large number of the Nepali citizens who want to see Nepal as a prosperous nation, they want to see Nepal under the control of the Nepali people and not under the control of the foreign powers; the government servicemen should serve the Nepali people and Nepali citizens should stay in the country with pride and glory. There are hundreds of thousands of people within and outside the country who want to see Nepal as a prosperous nation, but they have not joined any of the political parties due to the attitude of the political leaders. Our campaign is to develop a common forum for those hundreds of thousands of Nepalis who love Nepal and who have pride in being a Nepali.
Yes, constitution is needed for a nation but a country has not been constituted just for a constitution. If a constitution will try to discriminate the citizens, then the constitution will invite confrontation. The present constitution of the country has identified different classes of people – women, ethnic, Madheshi, untouchable, etc. We want only one caste or race in the country, which is Nepali. We believe, then only, we can develop a prosperous and common Nepal of all the Nepalis.