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Chaos in Nepal constituent assembly; oppn, ruling parties fight

Differences between ruling and opposition parties in Nepal over contents of the new constitution turned ugly in the wee hours of Tuesday with Maoist lawmakers attacking ruling party leaders inside Nepal's constituent assembly.

world Updated: Jan 20, 2015 12:42 IST
Utpal Parashar

Maoist lawmakers attacked ruling party leaders and resorted to vandalism inside Nepal's constituent assembly house early on Tuesday over differences on issues related to forms of government, judiciary, federalism and electoral system.

In order to prevent ruling parties from promulgating the constitution through voting, a nationwide strike has also been called by a 30-party alliance led by Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) and a breakaway Maoist faction, Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist.

Proceeding of the constituent assembly had started past midnight on Monday. As soon as Speaker Subhash Nemwang asked ruling Nepali Congress chief whip Chin Kaji Shrestha to present a proposal, Maoist lawmakers rushed to the rostrum.

The opposition lawmakers also tried to reach the chair of Nemwang. On being prevented by marshals, they rushed to the well of the House and resorted to scuffle with marshals and ruling party lawmakers.

As chairperson of UCPN (M) Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda shouted slogans, his colleagues and some leaders from Madhesi parties broke chairs, tables and microphones inside the hall.

Chairperson of ruling Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist) KP Sharma Oli and two of his party colleagues, Vidya Bhandari and Rishi Pokhrel, were attacked by Maoist lawmakers with microphones.

Ugly scenes in Nepal constituent assembly on Tuesday (Photos: RSS/Republica)

"They first tried to attack the Speaker then turned towards me and hit me on the chest with a microphone," Oli later told journalists.

All three lawmakers sustained minor injuries.

Three marshals, responsible for maintaining decorum and security inside the constituent assembly, were also injured in the pandemonium.

Unable to conduct proceedings, Nemwang announced postponement of the meeting till 1:00pm on Tuesday.

Unruly scenes continued even after the speaker announced postponement of proceedings with Maoist and Madhesi lawmakers shouting slogans and breaking furniture inside the hall.

"It is a very unfortunate event. It should be condemned by one and all," Nemwang said after coming out of the assembly hall.

Nepal's lawmakers had promised to deliver a new constitution on January 22, but sharp differences between ruling and opposition parties has prevented it from being introduced.

Opposition parties want to resolve these issues through consensus. But after several rounds of meetings failed to end the deadlock, ruling parties want to promulgate the constitution through two-third majority voting.

UCPN (M) chairperson Prachanda said the Monday night's incident was a reaction against efforts by ruling parties to deliver the constitution through voting at a time when both sides were nearing consensus.

Strike cripples life

Life across Nepal was thrown out of gear on Tuesday due to the strike called by opposition parties to protest against alleged attempts by ruling parties to draft the new constitution through majority vote.

Educational institutions, business establishments and offices remained closed or witnessed thin attendance as members of opposition parties tried to forcibly enforce the strike.

Few taxis, motor cycles and other vehicles were burnt or vandalised by strike enforcers in parts of Kathmandu Valley and the tourist town of Pokhara since early morning.