Nepal's main hub for trade with India, Birgunj, simmered with tension on Sunday as traders and Hindu groups erupted in protests following the murder of the chief of a newly-formed militant Hindu organisation that had become involved in anti-Maoist vigilante activities.
Kashinath Adhikari, the 45-year-old chief of Hindu Yuva Sangh, was attacked Saturday evening while he was visiting a Hindu monastery to inspect the construction of a dharamshala on its premises.
Police said four people on motorcycles fired at Adhikari, who died while being treated at the Narayani Regional Hospital.
Adhikari came into prominence last month when he led an attack on a Maoist camp in the town.
In May, the former Maoist guerrillas had called an indefinite shutdown nationwide in a bid to topple the communist-led government.
As public protests began against the closure, Adhikari and his group attacked a camp set up for Maoist cadre, vandalising vehicles, smashing tables and utensils and carting away gas cylinders.
The Hindu group also attacked the Maoist cadre in the camp, injuring over two dozen people, including two members of parliament.
Maoist MP Prabhu Shah, who was severely wounded in the May attack, issued a denial soon after Adhikari's death, saying his party was not involved in the murder.
Since Tiwari was also a real estate dealer, police said business rivalry could not be ruled out as the motive.
Only last week, a businessman and his wife were shot dead in southern Nepal while dozens have been abducted.
Businessmen called a shutdown in Birgunj town Sunday to protest against the murder. Shops and markets remained closed while public transport was scarce. Police said they have detained four people for questioning.
Nepal's only openly royalist party in parliament alleged religious reasons behind the murder.
Former home minister Kamal Thapa, whose Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal is seeking the restoration of monarchy as well as Hinduism as the state religion, said in a statement that the pre-planned murder was committed by people who did not want to see Nepal become a Hindu state again.
Till 2006, Nepal had been the only Hindu kingdom in the world. Though conversions were punishable, the tiny South Asian kingdom enjoyed harmony among its various religious communities.
After it became a secular republic, there are, however, growing reports of religious attacks.