“Back Off China” : Madhesi leaders warn the communist nation

Back off China
The anti-China protest in Birgunj. Photo courtesy: Annapurna Post

It was #BackOffIndianMedia amidst the frenzied relief operations of the April earthquake followed by a more recent #BackOffIndia when the southern neighbour initiated informal blockade on the transit of Nepalese imports and now it’s China’s turn. Back Off China they say!

However, the communist nation need not be concerned because the anti-China slogan is limited only to Terai – the southern plains districts of Nepal.

Amid a heightened concern that China’s petro-assistance (which has not commenced yet) to Nepal has created in India, Madhesi leaders have claimed that China is trying to kill their movement by supplying fuel to Kathmandu. Local media reports suggest they are concerned that the ‘achievements’ of the Terai movement will be jeopardised should China fuel Nepal’s virtually dry petrol stations. Cooking gas and medicines are also in short supply to the point that the UN resident representative in Nepal recently expressed concern that the blockade is now affecting the very rehabilitation process of victims of the 7.8 magnitude temblor.

Madhesis, or the Nepalese of Indian origin as opposed to those from the hills called the Pahadis, are concerned that the new constitution discriminates against them and so have been agitating against the government chocking the very lifeblood of the tiny nation’s economy. India claims it has no blockade in place but continues to ration the supply of essential commodities – most importantly petrol.

The China concern of Madhesi leaders is born out of Nepal’s high-level negotiation with its northern neighbour to replace Indian Oil Corporation as its main fuel exporter. The Indian entity has for long enjoyed complete monopoly over Nepal’s fuel market.

Madhesi leaders are concerned that they would lose their negotiating capacity should Kathmandu have alternative source of supply and hence, the ‘Back Off China’ placards.

Addressing a large gathering of anti-China protesters in Birgunj, Madhesi leaders claimed that China is ‘interfering’ in Nepal’s internal affairs, Annapurna Dainik reported today. They claim that China is seeking to foil their movement by sending fuel to Kathmandu’s ‘ruling class’ (without any formal agreement) at a time when activists are blockading the border ‘day and night’ to create pressure on the government.

“China has become anti-Madhes. We will present ourselves in a more serious manner should it continue in this way,’ Post quoted Om Prakash Sharraf of Nepal Pariwar Dal.

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