Anti-government protesters clashed with police in several towns across southern Nepal and attacked a municipal building yesterday as they forced a shutdown in the region over local elections.
Shops, schools and factories were closed and public transport remained off the streets in the country’s southern flatland bordering India in a shutdown called by an alliance of seven regional parties dominated by ethnic Madhesis who live in the region.
The Madhesis have protested against the government, which announced Monday that polls would be held on May 14 for more than 700 local bodies, the first local elections in 20 years.
Delayed for years because of civil war and political infighting, the elections are warranted under the constitution that was promulgated in September 2015.
But the protesters have refused to participate in the polls and are demanding amendments to the constitution.
Manish Suman, a leader of the protesting group, said rallies and meetings were organised across dozens of towns and cities in the region.
“Tens of thousands have participated in the rallies. They have blocked roads and chanted slogans against the government,” he said.
The Madhesis say the constitution discriminates against them by limiting their representation in state institutions.
They have long called for the redrawing of provincial boundaries to ensure greater representation for their community.
“Some 60 protesters marched in Rajbiraj. Some of them hurled stones at a municipality building and damaged its glass windows,” Keshari Raj Ghimire, a senior police officer, said.
Two protesters clashed with police while they tried to wave black flags at a former deputy prime minister visiting a south-eastern town, a local police officer said.
Suman said the two were seriously injured and were being treated in hospital.
An alliance of nine opposition parties in Nepal yesterday decided to obstruct the constitution amendment bill that seeks to address the demands of agitating Madhesi parties in the parliament, a media report said.
A meeting of the opposition parties, led by the CPN-UML, held in Kathmandu decided to obstruct the House proceedings if the government tries to push the amendment bill through, Rastriya Janamukti Party Loktantrik- lawmaker Shiva Lal Thapa said.
The opposition, however, said they will allow the proceedings to run if other issues such as election bill and impeachment motion were discussed in the parliament.
The meeting also decided to hold further talks with ruling parties and United Democratic Madhesi Front on the disputed issues including the amendment bill.
The government has tabled the constitution amendment bill in the parliament in order to address the demands of the agitating Madhesi parties, that mainly include re-demarcation of provincial boundary and citizenship issues.
The Madhesi parties have relaunched agitation to oppose the local body election announced by the election commission on Monday.
Madhesis, mostly of Indian-origin, launched a six-month-long agitation from September 2015 to February last year in which more than 50 people were killed.
The agitation had also crippled the landlocked country’s economy as supplies from India were blocked.
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