Forty-eight hours after Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala's address urging peace fell on deaf ears and the toll in clashes in the Terai plains continued to rise, the government Friday announced a three-member team to start dialogue with the protesters, a majority of who are of Indian origin.
At an early morning meeting of the cabinet, called to discuss the violence in the plains that has killed 14 people so far, three ministers were chosen to form a new team of negotiators.
Only last year the Koirala government had formed a talks team headed by Home Minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula to begin negotiations with the Maoist guerrillas to end the decade-old Maoist insurgency.
Now a new team headed by agriculture and cooperatives minister Mohanta Thakur, who is also from the Terai plains, has been formed to start talks with protesting organisations in the southern plains, who are demanding an autonomous Madhes state for people from the plains.
The other two members in the team are Rajendra Pandey, local development minister, and Gyanendra Karki, junior minister for water resources.
The composition of the team is likely to create fresh differences between the government and a junior partner, the Nepal Sadbhavana Party (Anandi), a party of plains people, that has not been included.
Home minister Sitaula also held an emergency meeting with security officers in the capital Friday to discuss the spiralling violence in the plains that has seen at least 14 deaths since it started last month.
Fresh turmoil erupted in Sunsari district, the home district of a protesting leader, Upendra Yadav, Thursday.
As demonstrators clashed with police in Inaruwa, the main town, security forces opened fire, resulting in the death of three protesters, including two teenagers. The demonstrators however are claiming that five people were killed.
The fresh deaths in police firing came even as three human rights organisations expressed grave concern at the excessive use of force by security personnel and demanded investigations into the deaths.
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are urging impartial probes as well as immediate start of talks with the dissenters.
Upendra Yadav's Madehsi Janadhikar Forum is leading the protests with other splinter groups from the plains joining in.
The Forum wants an autonomous Madhes state. Two of its other demands - a federal government and proportional representation in the upcoming elections - have already been conceded by the government.
Koirala has pledged to amend the constitution after the elections, scheduled to be held by mid-June, to include the changes.
An organisation of former Maoists, the Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha, is also leading a separate armed movement for an autonomous Madhes state.
The government has asked both to begin talks.
However, the Maoists, one of the biggest political powers in Nepal and headed to join the government soon, have expressed reservations about the two organisations.
Maoist chief Prachanda says his party supports the Madhes movement and has begun a peaceful stir in the plains to have the demands fulfilled,
However, he feels the Forum and the Morcha do not represent the genuine aspirations and demands of the plains people. He also says the protests have been infiltrated by King Gyanendra's followers and Hindu fundamentalists from India.
"But if the government thinks holding talks with them will resolve the Terai violence, we have no objection," Prachanda said.