Kathmandu: Nepal’s south-eastern Province 2 bordering India has been named Madhes Pradesh with Janakpur retained as its capital, settling a long-standing debate on the region’s official reference after it was made a province in 2015.
The Provincial Assembly on Monday voted in a two-thirds majority for both decisions. Of the 99 voting members, 78 voted for Janakpur as capital, and 80 voted for the provincial name Madhes.
Madhes is Nepal’s smallest province in terms of area but the second largest in terms of population. It borders India (Bihar) in the south and has eight districts – Bara, Parsa, Rautahat, Sarlahi, Mahottari, Dhanusha, Siraha, and Saptari.
Majority of the population in the region is of Indian descent and Maithili is the most widely spoken language.
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Senior Lokatantrik Samajwadi Party leader Rajendra Mahato said the new province name is a milestone in Nepal moving towards complete federalism, with the identity of Madhesis.
Colloquially Madhesi means people from the southern plains. In Hindu religious text, Madesh refers to Lord Shiva.
Province 2, or Madhes Pradesh now, was formed after Nepal’s new Constitution came into effect in September 2015, turning the country into a ‘Federal Democratic Republic’.
Before attaining provincial status, the Madhesi parties had extensively campaigned for greater rights, representation, and autonomy. Nearly 50 people had died in agitations between September 2015 and February 2016.
The provincial government declared a public holiday on Tuesday to mark the occasion.
Janata Samajbadi Party Chairperson Upendra Yadav said that naming Province 2 as Madhes Province has honored the Madhes movement.
”The sacrifice of the Madhes people and their dream is reflected in the naming of the province as Madhes. We’re happy to have this name for our province,” he said addressing a celebration program on Monday.
Minister for Physical Infrastructures and Transport, Renu Kumari Yadav, also said the dispute entrenched for long on naming the province has now ended. ”We are proud of Madhes Province,” she said. The province got its name nearly four years after the provincial assembly election. Of the seven provinces in Nepal, only Province 1 remains to be named.