Are Madhesis Indians or Nepalese?  

Rajnath Singh
Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh Source: Facebook

Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh has drawn critical attention of Nepalese media outlets and the public alike by claiming there are around 10 million Indians ‘living’ in Nepal.

If Mr Singh’s statement is to be taken at its face value then a simple calculation projects that over 35% citizens of the Himalayan nation are Indians – a subject which is both divisive and controversial as the tiny nation prepares to proclaim a new constitution.

During his Maharajganj district (Uttar Pradesh) visit on Sunday, Mr Singh expressed ‘concern’ at the security of Indians living in Nepal. “Although the Madhesi problem is an internal issue of Nepal, the Indian government will protect the interests of the one crore Indians living there,” online edition of India Today quoted him today.

However, neither the reporter nor the minister gave any indication as to how the South Asian giant aimed to ‘protect’ the Indians living inside Nepal.

The report goes on to state that ‘Madhesis are Indians’ who migrated to Nepal ‘years ago’ and received Nepalese citizenship. They are facing persecution in the hands of political parties and militants, it further claimed.

Several vernacular online media outlets in Nepal however have cast the spotlight on another revelation made by the report, that Indian MPs attached to the Bharatiya Janata Party have been supporting ‘the movement of the Madhesis against the Nepal government’. This, Indian Today said, was because ‘Madhesis are predominantly Hindus’.

“Yogi Adityanath, BJP MP from Gorakhpur and Mahant of Gorakshnath Temple, has often been alleged for providing logistic support to the movement of the Madhesis against the Nepal government,”the author of the report reveals.

Madhesi movement
Dr Rajesh Ahiraj

When southasia.com.au reached out to a leading member of the Madhesi community, it appeared the people of Terai did not necessarily reciprocate the enthusiasm of the Indian Home Minister.

“The entire Madhesi community has been hurt by the statement of Rajnath Singh. This is a direct attack on the nationality and Nepali-ism of the Madhesi people,” said Dr Rajesh Ahiraj who has a PhD on Madhesi movement from Tribhuvan University.

He himself is a Madhesi but says he is first a Nepalese and then only a Madhesi.

“Madhesis are Nepalese not Indians. The ignorance of Mr Singh becomes apparent from his statement,” he expressed his frustration.

Dr Ahiraj further added that not only the Indian Home Minister but the entire Indian establishment is unaware of the pains, problems and struggle faced by the Madhesi people living in the plains districts of Nepal.

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