Structural approaches to understanding social movements (SM) capture our imagination in very many ways. This should not surprise anyone given the dynamic nature of the SMs, approaching them through structural cause and effect remains an attractive proposition to analyse social movements. These premises have remained valid for the study of the Madhes movement that occurred in the early 2007 in Southern Nepal. Some of the literatures (Gautam 2008; Mathema 2011) on the movement have paid attention to the structure-led processes and outcomes in explaining the Madhes movement. Therefore, structural forces have been identified as the reason for the occurrence of the movement.

However, an important factor is missing in these analysis—the role of the individual. Therefore, this paper proposes that a different approach be adopted where both structural factors and the role of individual is considered together. For that the paper proposes adopting life-history approach to understanding the Madhes movement. This paper will chart out the trajectory of the SM by digging into the life of two key actors of the Madhes movement—Upendra Yadav and Jay Prakash Prasad Gupta. In doing so, the paper attempts to bring dialogue between the larger structural forces responsible for the movement and the lived experience of its actors. Corrigall-Brown and Mabel Ho (2013) maintain that life history as a technique has been used in SM to generate ‘rich and textured details about social processes’ by intersecting personal narratives and the social processes.

The two actors—Yadav and Gupta—were crucial in shaping the Madhes movement, for the duo provided ideological and organisational leadership to the movement. Therefore, the social process that took place during the Madhes movement, the paper maintains, can be better explained by digging into their respective life trajectories and will open up new facets of the movement not explored before. For this, the paper will conduct interviews with the two leaders in addition to conducting allied interviews with their contemporaries and reading the materials that Yadav and Gupta have produced.