Madhesi parties on Monday rejected an amendment to Nepal’s new constitution and announced a fresh week-long protest programme to pressure the government to accept their demands.
A meeting of the United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF), comprising four parties, decided to organise various forms of protests in the Terai region bordering India from January 26.
A statement from the UDMF accused the government and major political parties of forcibly passing the amendment bill without taking the Madhesi people on board or addressing all their demands.
On Saturday, Nepal’s parliament passed two amendment proposals for a fresh delimitation to increase the number of constituencies in the Terai area and for proportional inclusion of backward communities in state bodies.
The amendments were rejected by the UDMF, which described them as “incomplete” because they do not address the grouping’s main demand for fresh demarcation of federal boundaries. Madhesi parties are seeking a package deal for their 11 demands.
India welcomed the amendments as a positive development but urged all parties in Nepal to resolve remaining contentious issues through talks.
“We hope other pending issues would be resolved through talks with a spirit of flexibility and compromise,” Indian ambassador Ranjit Rae said in Kathmandu on Monday.
Addressing a programme to mark India’s Republic Day, Rae hoped the political crisis would be resolved soon. He urged everyone to be pragmatic so that economic development isn’t affected by the political turmoil.
“Our sole objective is to see peace, stability and development in Nepal. If there is instability, disturbance and insecurity in our neighbourhood, it will affect our economic development goals,” he said.
Reports said goods were being transported with small carts at the Birganj border crossing despite an ongoing blockade of the main trade point between India and Nepal by Madhesi protesters.
The border point, which accounts for nearly 70% of Indo-Nepal trade, has been blocked since September by the protesters.
Over the past few days, traders have been moving their supplies with horse-drawn carts late at night. There is still no movement of heavy vehicles, including tankers carrying petroleum products.
Madhesi parties have been protesting since August against Nepal’s constitution. Nearly 60 people, including security personnel, have been killed and hundreds injured in clashes between police and protesters.