India asks Nepal's warring sides to begin talks | india | Hindustan Times
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India asks Nepal's warring sides to begin talks

Indian ambassador Shiv Shankar Mukherjee asked for immediate cessation of violence in the Terai plains and restoration of peace.

india Updated: Jan 26, 2007 14:14 IST

Increasingly concerned at the spiralling violence in Nepal's southern plains close to the border, India on Friday asked the warring ethnic groups to begin talks with the Nepal government immediately.

As the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu celebrated the 58th anniversary of the Indian Republic Day, the Indian ambassador Shiv Shankar Mukherjee asked for immediate cessation of violence in the Terai plains and restoration of peace.

"The first priority is to restore peace," the envoy said. "People who are unleashing violence should be stopped. In a democracy, there is no place for violence, violence can't bring in progress."

India has been watching with mounting alarm the fresh unrest spreading across Terai, where Madhesis, people of Indian origin, live.

Though the first clashes, looting and arson began last Friday in Lahan town in Siraha district, following a transport shutdown called by an ethnic group, the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum, it has spread like wildfire, engulfing key towns in three other districts.

Besides Lahan, Birgunj, the hub of business activities, Janakpur, a famous pilgrim destination, and Biratnagar, the home of Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala lie under day-time curfew.

Despite the curfew, young men in droves, flourishing bamboo and wooden sticks, have been running amok in the streets, vandalising passing vehicles, looting shops and attacking government offices.

Dozens of demonstrators were injured Friday in as police fired in places. So far, five people have died in Lahan town.

Hundreds trucks carrying essential supplies from India have been stranded on both sides of the border, triggering fears of food and fuel scarcity in Nepal.

Though Upendra Yadav, chief of the Forum, says their protests, demanding an autonomous Madhesi state, will continue in a peaceful and democratic manner, the continuing violence has prompted Nepal's government as well as the Maoists to voice fears that the violence is being triggered by King Gyanendra's followers.

They say royalists are trying to create anarchy to prevent the constituent assembly election from being held by June since it could result in the abolition of monarchy.

A section of Nepalis also suspect the collusion of Indian parties like the BJP, VHP and RSS, that have traditionally been supporters of King Gyanendra and a Hindu Nepal, protesting the transformation of the kingdom into a secular country last year.

Mukherjee had to field a question from journalists if the BJP, that had recently sent a team to Kathmandu to study the new developments after the fall of King Gyanendra's government, had a hand in the Terai unrest.

The envoy sidestepped the question saying with India and Nepal sharing an 1800 km open border, it was not possible to vet who was coming to Nepal.

"India fully supports the peace talks," he said. "Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala has called (the ethnic groups) for talks and the Madhesi leaders have agreed to come to talks. All problems should be resolved through negotiations."