Madhesi parties in Nepal on Monday officially called off their four and half month long blockade of key border points with India as part of their protest against the new constitution.
The decision comes three days after Indian traders forcibly removed blockade on the Miteri Bridge in Birganj after a gap of 135 days, allowing smooth movement of cargo vehicles into Nepal.
A meeting of United Democratic Madhesi Front, comprising four parties, agreed to call of their protests citing present situation in the country and difficulties faced by citizens.
“Programmes carried out as part of the protests including general strike, blockade of border points and closure of government offices have been stayed with immediate effect,” said a release.
The UDMF, however, decided to continue with other ‘milder’ forms of protests and give different shape to their agitation in coming days after wider consultations with various groups.
The front castigated some leaders from within for spreading false rumours about the agitation and the blockade and accused them of siding with forces which were trying to destabilise the protests.
“Our protests would continue till all our demands are met. We haven’t backed off nor are going to in future,” the release added.
The UDMF have decided to hold baton and torch rallies in Terai, the region bordering India where Madhesis reside, in the coming days.
Official announcement of removal of the blockade has paved the way for Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s visit to India this month. He had expressed reservations on the visit till the situation normalised.
Madhesis have been protesting against the new statute since August seeking a package deal for their 11-point demands which include fresh demarcation of federal boundaries and proportional representation in all state organs.
They have also rejected an amendment of the constitution passed by the parliament last month. The protests, which had turned violent on several occasions, have claimed 58 lives till date.
Blockade of the key border point at Birganj, through which nearly 70% of the Indo-Nepal trade takes place, had resulted in severe crisis of essentials, especially petroleum products.
Despite India’s denials, Kathmandu had accused New Delhi of imposing an unofficial blockade on Nepal in order to support the Madhesis, who share close cultural and family ties across the border.