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Muslims protest in world's last Hindu nation

world Updated: Mar 12, 2009 21:17 IST
Anirban Roy

Irritated with the legacy of neglect and discrimination, Muslims in world's last Hindu nation, are now on the warpath.

The Joint Muslim National Struggle Committee (JMNSC) on Thursday announced a series of protest programmes demanding amendment in the Interim Constitution to accord constitutional recognition to the distinct identity of Nepali Muslims.

The JMNSC members addressed a press conference in Kathmandu on Thursday and announced their protest schedule, which would be organised in the capital and across Nepal till March 28. It has called for a Kathmandu bandh on March 15.

Bandh will be organised in eastern region on March 22, western region on March 23, central region on March 25 and mid-western region on March 27, the JMNSC members said.

Though almost 10 percent of Nepal's population is Muslims, the JMNSC members alleged that neither the monarchy nor the democratic governments in the Himalayan nation ever treated them equally.

"We have been staying in Nepal as second-class citizens," Taj Mohammad, coordinator of JMNSC, said, adding that stronger protests would be launched if the government failed to meet their demands.

The Muslims demanded that the government should revise its decision to categorise Muslims -- along with Tharus and other janajati groups - as Madhesis. Several other agitating ethnic groups, including the Tharus, have expressed solidarity to the Muslim cause.

The Muslims also demanded proportional representation in every sphere of the state's system, and also demanded for a fresh census and formation of National Muslim Commission immediately.

The protest by the Muslims is likely to put the government under more pressure. At present, entire Terai region is crippled during the last two weeks because of an ongoing protest by the Tharus.