The All-Party Parliamentary Human Rights Group (PHRG) met with Dipendra Jha, Nepalese lawyer, human rights advocate and author of Federal Nepal: Trials and Tribulations, on 7 December, 2017, to discuss the current political and human rights situation in Nepal.
The main points which arose were as follows:
- India’s strategy in Nepal, which the UK and the US seem to have supported, is failing. There is growing expansion of Chinese influence in Nepal. It is believed that India helped create a blockade because it wanted constitutional change; this, however, was a miscalculation and gave more space to the Left and to China.
- There is a new Leftist alliance participating in the elections, which is expected to get a two thirds majority in Parliament and has clear backing from China.
- The people in the Terai region are being mistreated in part because of a backlash against India, as they are seen as being allied to India. 40% of the Nepalese population resides in the Southern belt, with an open border between Nepal and India. Terai was not initially part of Nepal, and its population is largely seen as being “Indian”. There are no job opportunities open to them in many Government agencies, and all relevant state employment exams have to be taken in Nepali. They are also seen as potentially disloyal to the nation so are not allowed to join the army.
- The Maoists initially pledged to work for the emancipation of marginalised communities, as these were their main support base. However, when the Maoists lost the election in the Second Constituent Assembly, they changed their stance and wanted more traction with the ruling elites. The Maoists merged with 5 Leftist parties and will form one party. They receive funding from China, to implement commercial projects such as those in connection with hydropower.
- Dipendra Jha has been threatened, and a former Attorney-General defamed him in an article.
- There has been election-related violence, and police attacks on locals in Terai. It is estimated that between 2015 and 2017 the security forces were responsible for the death of dozens of people in the region. The report of the High-Level Commission of Inquiry into the Terai killings in 2015 and 2016 should be made public and acted on. It would also be helpful to know what the UK is doing in connection with security sector reform in Nepal, and its impact.
- There have been 57 Commissions set up in Nepal over the last 10 years, although none of their reports have been published.
- The Supreme Court asked four years ago for the blanket amnesty for violators to be overturned, but the law has not yet been fully amended.
- The mandate of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) will be extended for one year.
- There is concern about new legislation criminalising blasphemy and prohibiting religious conversion, in light of growing Hindu nationalism.
- There is also concern about demands for secession from some in the South.
- There is high migration from Nepal to the Gulf States, with thousands leaving every day. Over 50% of households, especially those in the Terai, have at least one person working in the Gulf, and remittances are important contributor to the Nepali economy. Migration is related to the lack of employment opportunities, and often involves illiterate people. There are concerns about the exploitation of Nepali workers there.
- Most aid projects are run through the Government, which is corrupt. There is a commission mandated to investigate corruption, but it is heavily politicised.
The PHRG will continue to monitor the situation in Nepal closely, including the challenges faced by HRDs and efforts being made to tackle impunity, and to raise its concerns with the relevant interlocutors.
The PHRG would like to highlight EDM 1165 – Representation of People in Terai Region of Nepal.