When Nepal emerged from the grim shadow of Maoist violence and the diabolical intent of King Gyanendra to impose an autocratic regime on his people, it was believed that the country would evolve a democratic system of governance promising equality to all social groups. Ironically, eight months later, the quest for equality has pushed the Himalayan nation to the brink of another precipice—ethnic conflict in the Terai region, popularly known as Nepal's granary and industrial hub.
Caught in the conflict in the Terai are the Pahadis, or the hill people of Nepal, and Madhesis, or those who speak Hindi or its various dialects and who're often described as people of Indian origin. The Madhesis, who are settled in Terai's 20 districts that hug the 1,800-km border with India, have been clamouring for adequate political representation and recognition of their rights in the country's future system of governance. These include fresh delimitation of constituencies, representation in Parliament in proportion to population, and a federal structure of governance in which the Terai is recognised as a state. The Madhesis have been discriminated against for long, claim their leaders: they hold only 10 per cent of civil administration posts.