The Nepal government has arrested three activists for holding a referendum on an independent Madhes, the area in the southern Terai plains bordering India that has been rocked by protests over the country’s new constitution.
Sudipraj Kushwaha (26), Chandeshwar Mahato (60) and Bishnudev Chaudhary (35) are members of the Alliance for Independent Madhes (AIM), which seeks the separation of the region from Nepal to form an independent nation.
They were arrested last week from Siraha district for being involved in “anti-national activities”. State-run Rastriya Samachar Samiti quoted police official Shyam Gyawali as saying that a case had been filed against them in a local court.
A statement issued by AIM on Monday said the activists were arrested while holding a “mock referendum” and brought to Kathmandu.
“In recent weeks, the government has intensified its brutal suppression against Madhesi activists through arbitrary arrests, torture and false charges,” it said.
Other Madhesi parties are protesting against the new constitution and seeking changes to address what they call the marginalisation of people in region, but the AIM wants a sovereign Madhes.
The group is led by CK Raut, a PhD from Cambridge University who returned from the US in 2011. He has been arrested several times in the past two years on charges of sedition.
Raut and his followers maintain they conduct their protests in a non-violent manner. The AIM has been conducting training programmes for its cadres and holding a referendum on Madhes in recent weeks.