In tragic fallout of the ongoing Madhesi movement/negotiations for constitutional amendment, four Madhesi activists were killed in police firing in Saptari. In the unprovoked firing many people have been seriously injured.

While the government is blaming the main opposition party, the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist–Leninist) or UML, for provoking people, the truth is that the government is squarely liable for these killings. And even if the UML provoked the people -- why then, instead of arresting the agent provocateurs, the police fired on people thus provoked?

According to the reports, the firing occurred when the Madhesi activists tried to disrupt the UML’s Mechi-Mahakali Abhiyaan, a pseudo nationalist campaign. The campaigners, the government says, provoked the Madhesi activists, who then threw stones on the organizers and the police had to resort to firing.

It is hard to believe that a provocation of any type by a group of unarmed activists can be a justification for the point blank firing. Many videos have surfaced ever since which show that the police fired indiscriminately on the activists without warning them.

While the UML is certainly a culprit in this tragic incident, the government, which controls the police and armed forces, has to share the larger portion of the blame. In Nepal, the police is controlled centrally and cannot open fire without the government’s order. It is shameful that Prachanda and his supporter blame a powerless opposition for the fallout.

The UML’s Mechi-Mahakali Abhiyaan is a political mobilization before the upcoming local bodies’ election set for May this year. Under KP Oli’s leadership, the party has redefined itself as a harbinger of Nepali ‘nationalism’ to satisfy aspiration of misguided youth, who see it an expression of Nepal’s sovereignty against ‘foreign influence’. Oli’s ‘nationalism’ is but a caricature of the King Mahendra’s nationalism based on discrimination of the Madhesis and other marginalized groups. Like the Madhesi separatist leader CK Raut, Oli too nurture xenophobia in his supporters. If Raut is doing it in the name of Madhesi people, Oli does so in the name of hill population. Former Prime Minister of Nepal Baburam Bhattarai has rightly pointed out that CK Raut and Oli are two sides of the same coin.

But as the Prime Minister of Nepal, Prachanda cannot wash his hands. He can plant stories of his disapproval of firing. There is no denying the fact that the firing was done on his government’s order. Even if we are to suppose, for a moment, that the police fired without his consent then isn’t a big reason that he should resign immediately? What use is his remaining PM when his own administration does not listen to him?

Prachanda as Prime Minister is a big failure. He became Prime Minister promising amendment of the constitution to address the madhesi people’s grievances, only to ditch the purpose. Under pressure from ‘nationalists’ he put aside his promise and announced local body elections. He should thank his stars that madhesi leaders have no option but to believe him. For them, he is the only leader who at least ‘pretends’ of trying to address their demands. Whereas leaders like Oli don’t even show a formal concern for Madhesi people’s rights. That is the reason the leaders have shown utmost restraint after the killing.

Instead of withdrawing support from his government they have given him 7-day ultimatum to address the problem. Now it is up to him to stand up to the occasion and uplift the confidence of these leaders and people. If he fails this time he may never rise again, at least in the eyes of marginalized madhesi people.