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Mithila Chaudhary obituary: Champion of the marginalized

Pratik Ghimire

Pratik Ghimire

Mithila Chaudhary obituary: Champion of the marginalized

She led the women’s front in the anti-Panchayat movement as well as the women’s liberation movement in the Tarai

Birth: 20 March 1966, Dhanusha, Nepal  
Death: 10 June 2022, New Delhi, India 

Mithila Chaudhary, a former minister for population and environment, passed away after a long battle with cancer on June 10. She was 56.

Born to an Indian father and a Nepali mother in Madhubani of Bihar, Chaudhary spent her formative years in India. She married Madan Mohan Chaudhary, a lawyer from Saptari district, in 1984.

Besides being a lawyer, Madan Mohan was also a member of the Bishnu Bahadur Manandhar-led Nepal Communist Party (Samyukta). Chaudhary's interest in politics grew following her marriage. 

Her home in Saptari used to be the meeting venue for communist leaders and cadres, and she used to listen to them intently. She was deeply inspired by Manandhar and soon joined the party.

In 1987, Chaudhary lobbied for the establishment of the party’s women’s wing, Nepal National Women Federation, in which she served as the Saptari district committee chair. She also led the women’s front during the anti-Panchayat movement, and encouraged many ordinary women to rise up against the party-less system.

In 1990, during the decisive movement against the Panchayat rule, Chaudhary played a pivotal role to rally party members as well as masses after authorities detained several senior party leaders, including her husband. She too was arrested for spearheading anti-government protests, but soon after democracy was restored in the country she was released along with other party leaders. 

Chaudhary continued her political activism post-1990. She led the Mahila Mukti Aandolan of 1996 organized for the rights of the marginalized women. She also engaged herself in the party's promotional campaigns and elections. 

In 2001, her political career came to a near end when she suffered a major heart attack. But she bounced right back when her leadership was most needed during the Madhes movement of 2007.

Chaudhary once again proved herself an effective leader, for which she was made the party's lawmaker in the second Constituent Assembly under the proportional representation quota. She had gotten an overwhelming support when her party held an internal vote to pick the lawmaker candidate.

In 2017, Chaudhary was appointed the minister for population and environment in the Sher Bahadur Deuba-led coalition government.

During her tenure as a minister, she did a remarkable job in the field of alternative energy and climate change, and represented Nepal with great pride in the international arena, says her son Abhinav.

Nepal became a member of the International Renewable Energy Association during Chaudhary's tenure. She also represented Nepal at the climate change conference, COP23 held in Bonn, Germany where she urged the world leaders to follow the Paris Agreement. 

Chaudhary’s party NCP (Samyukta) merged with the CPN (Maoist Center) while she was in the government. Her engagement in the party affairs started waning following the merger. Meanwhile, her health condition also deteriorated after she was diagnosed with cancer.

Chaudhary parted ways with party politics, but tried to keep herself active to push the cause of the marginalized communities. 

Her son Abhinav says she would push him to help the Dalit community that was  affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns.

Chaudhary passed away in the course of treatment. She is survived by her husband and their son.