Nepal: Marginalised groups face government crackdown

Madhesis who make up the majority of inhabitants along Nepal’s southern border with India are seeking improved conditions. Many Madhesis say they are victims of discrimination and rights abuses, and protests seeking repairs to crumbling infrastructure have been met with a forceful response by Nepali police and paramilitaries.

Despite constituting one-third of Nepal’s population, many Madhesis remain stateless and are also under-represented in the bureaucracy, judiciary, and police. Official statistics show Madhesis comprise a mere 1.5 percent of Nepal’s army, and even the British and Indian armies recruiting for their Gurkha brigades do not consider Madhesis warrior material.

The Postal Road traverses the length of the country from east to west as it runs through the villages of the area known as Madhes, but also called Terai, inhabited by Madhesis as well as other indigenous groups and the Pahadis, Nepali-speakers from the hills.

But travellers using this road – Nepal’s oldest highway – cannot fail to spot its neglected condition and the closer one gets to the Indian border, the more decrepit the infrastructure becomes.

To the north, however, another road built in the 1960s and also stretching from east to west along the foothills where the great Indo-Gangetic plain ends and the mountain range bordering China begins, offers a stark contrast.

Built with Indian support, this road avoids Madhesi population centres, and the towns that have sprung along it are mostly inhabited by the settlers from the hills who speak the country’s official language, Nepali.

Advocates on behalf of these marginalised groups have been jailed, and violence has spring up on a number of occasions.

Pray for justice in Nepal, for those who are marginalised and left out of development, pray for the Indian and Nepali Church to care for all members of their societies.

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