The crisis in Nepal is eerily similar in some ways to Pakistan’s schism in 1971.
The Himalayan country of Nepal is undergoing one of the largest crises it has ever faced. The crisis is the result of a new constitution. Nepal has been trying to successfully write and implement a constitution sincethe fall of the monarchy in 2008, but had failed to do so until now, having missed multiple deadlines. While it is a relief to many Nepalese that their country finally has a constitution, there is a perception among a large part of the population that the document has been rammed down their throats without their consent. Over recent weeks, protests have erupted in Nepal, especially in its southern regions, killing many and bringing trade and transportation to a halt.
Nepal is now starting to unravel on ethnic lines, especially since the unifying factors of the monarchy and Hinduism are no longer part of the official state ideology or new constitution; there is very little to hold a country as diverse as Nepal together without real federalism. However, the chief problem with Nepal’s new constitution is the fact that it leaves almost forty percent to half of the country’s population unhappy, the people of the Terai or Madhesh. Terai means “plains,” and the Nepalese Terai is a low-lying belt parallel to Nepal’s southern border with the Indian states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, home to about half of its population. The people of Madhesh speak languages that are closely related to or are dialects of the Hindi spoken across the border (the lingua franca of the Terai is Hindi) such as Awadhi, Tharu, Maithili, and Bhojpuri.