A Mindful Reflection of the Madhesi Conflict

How to cite this journal: Author, Date of the post, WMO Conflict Insight, Title of the post, ISSN:
2628-6998, https://worldmediation.org/journal/

Crisis on the Nepal-India border as blockade continues: Three million Nepalese children under the age of five are at risk of death due to a shortage of fuel, food, and medicine (Plesch 2015). 

Nepal went through a decade-long civil war from 1996 until 2006. During the war, the Maoist political party tried to overrule the traditional monarchy and implement democratic governance structures. Additionally, Nepal was struck by a massive earthquake in 2015 and a series of aftershocks that furthermore negatively affected political tensions within Nepal and with its neighboring country, India. 

Madhesi Conflict History

After the earthquake in 2015, India imposed an unofficial blockade, which was supported by a part of the Nepali ethnic group of Madhesis in the country’s south. The political group protested the newly developed constitutions and felt marginalized as their request for an autonomous region in Nepal’s southern Terai remained unfulfilled. Inspired by the country’s recent protests and the Maoist party, the Madhesis initiated protests against the Government of Nepal. Thereby, more than 50 people have been killed. As a result, the Government of India, bordering the Terai, imposed a security-concern-related unofficial border blockade. Nepal, being highly dependent on supplies from India, such as fuel, food, and medicine, faced shortages that put vulnerable groups at severe risk, especially during the back-then harsh winter. The blockade started in September 2015 and affected Nepal for several months. The conflict, however, remains. During several mediation meetings, the Government of Nepal and the Madhesis drafted an agreement in which the Government promised the Madhesis more rights. However, the promises remain unfulfilled until now (Plesch 2015).

Mindful Reflection

Mindful mediation is a social competency that can be found in everyone. Additionally, mindful meditation is a fundamental requirement for human beings to be able to live together. Furthermore, mindful mediation contributes to communication within communities and groups. 

In the theory of Buddhism, attachment and greed, tanha is the origin of suffering or conflict, dukkha. Ignorance, moha, leads to false views. False views are the source of attachment. According to Buddhism, the cause of tanha is incorrect (Erdmann n.d.). 

According to the theory of Buddhism, the realization or correct understanding of this process can eliminate ignorance. The Madhesis party protests since 2007. Inspired by demonstrations of the Maoists that led to enforcing their interests, the Madhesis always felt that their interests were ignored, underrepresented, or neglected. According to this theory, one can argue that the Government of Nepal ignores the Madhesis’ requests and is thereby not necessarily mindful. Even worse, interests are ignored, false promises are given, and the implementation of agreements remains unfulfilled. Mindfulness in mediation processes has the potential to support sustainable agreements and help people understand each other more. The Government of Nepal could reflect on its position and ask itself: 

  • What influences the Madhesis to protest?
  • Why are their demands so crucial to them? 
  • What affects the Madhesis’ perspectives? 
  • Why do we, as the Government of Nepal, reject their requests? 
  • What influences the Government to ignore agreements? 
  • How do we, as government officials, individually think and act? Why? 
  • Where is the origin of the Government’s position? 
  • Are there characteristics of the Madhesi culture that the Government does not understand?

However, one can also argue that the Madhesis’s interests are rooted in greed. Their demands for an autonomous region come from different desires based on personal interests. Therefore, the Madhesis involved in the blockade could ask themselves: 

  • Why do we protest for so long, even if people die during fights? 
  • What influences the government to refuse to accept our demands? 
  • Why are the demands so vital to us that we do not give up? 
  • Would integrating a third party help to resolve the dispute? 
  • How did we grow up? 
  • Does our religion play a role in our viewpoint? 
  • How can we detach ourselves from our demands? 

To exterminate attachment, according to Buddhism, the cause must be eliminated. Eliminating causes can occur through exchanging viewpoints, for example, through mediation. Parties need to observe and watch the purpose of the conflict. 

Asking mindful questions during future mediation sessions could be a tool to increase the mutual understanding of the parties. However, I could not find relevant information on the eventual use of mindful meditation in previous mediation attempts. If not used yet, mutual understanding through the reflection of one’s perspective and the broad range of influencing factors could make a significant difference in resolving this conflict. 

A mediator needs to be able to listen deeply, think critically, and speak wisely. Therefore, the mediator does not only need to include questions similar to the ones mentioned above but also supports the conflicting parties in critically reflecting on their viewpoints. 

Furthermore, mediators must reflect on their upbringing, viewpoints, and other influencing factors. Questions to be asked can include: 

  • How does my family background control my communication? 
  • How does my cultural background reflect in mediation processes?
  • Why did I choose to become a mediator?
  • Do my previous relationships influence my behavior in this mediation process? 

In conclusion, mindful mediation could bring chances to resolve the Madhesis conflict in Nepal’s Terai. 


Erdmann, Daniel. “Section: B) – Syllabus 1 – World Mediation Organization.” n.d. https://worldmediation.org/. Accessed March 12, 2020.

Plesch, Valerie. “Crisis on Nepal-India Border as Blockade Continues.” 2015. https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/inpictures/2015/12/crisis-nepal-india-border-blockade-continues-151223082533785.html. Accessed March 12, 2020.

Tobias Volz

With over 10 years of experience in social and economic development and peacebuilding, I am an Education Advisor at GIZ/ Khmer Rouge Tribunal, a global leader in international cooperation and sustainable development. I hold a PhD in Mediation and Conflict Resolution and, among others, a Master's degree in Organization and Communication from the University of Kaiserslautern-Landau. In my current role, I collaborate with universities in the Philippines, Timor-Leste, and Cambodia in developing peace and conflict studies curricula, integrating best practices from local and traditional practices in non-violent conflict transformation. Previously, I provided technical assistance and advice on fundraising, networking, and capacity sharing for peace, gender, LGBTQIA+, and SRHR projects and programs in Nepal, Myanmar, and Georgia. I have also established and managed partnerships with universities, donors, and research institutions, and produced technical reports, proposals, and communication materials. My core competencies include curriculum development, fundraising, networking, LGBTQIA+ advocacy, and project management. I am passionate and dedicated to advocate for human rights in Asia and beyond.

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