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Clashes in Kathmandu as ethnic protesters call shutdown

Ethnic groups began enforcing a shutdown in the capital to pressure the Govt into conceding their demands for greater representation.

india Updated: Feb 15, 2007 13:27 IST
Indo-Asian News Service
Indo-Asian News Service

Fresh clashes broke out in Kathmandu on Thursday as ethnic groups began enforcing a shutdown in the capital as well as neighbouring districts of Lalitpur and Bhaktapur to pressure the government into conceding their demands for greater representation.

Pasang Sherpa, president of Nepal Adivasi Janajati Mahasangh, the federation of nearly 60 ethnic groups that has called the general strike, said one of its senior leaders, Ram Bahadur Thapa Magar, had been seriously hurt in police action and had to be admitted to hospital.

Unwary schoolchildren and office-goers, who did not know about the closure due to bad weather and prolonged power outages on Wednesday, found themselves in the lurch as protesters began erecting obstructions on roads to stop traffic.

Shops and markets that had opened in the morning began hastily downing their shutters as the first demonstrations hit the roads.

There were reports that some vehicles were pelted with stones and vandalised. Sherpa accused the security forces of instigating violence.

"We want our protests to be peaceful," he said. "But policemen began attacking us and passing vehicles to make it look like our work."

Nepal's original indigenous tribes and those that are grossly backward due to government negligence are demanding a series of autonomous states for different communities as well as electoral representation on the basis of communities.

The Mahasangh began protests before the new constitution was promulgated, asking the government to make amendments to ensure proper secularism.

The protesters include communities that earlier supported the Maoist guerrillas but left them with the grievance that the rebels had simply exploited them.

The Tharu community, who lost over 700 people while taking part in the Maoists' People's War, now feel let down by the rebels.

One of the most disadvantaged communities, the Tharus, were turned into bonded slaves by migrants and though the government abolished the system, continue to sell their children.

The protesters also include the Tamangs, a Buddhist community that has been victims of traffickers who sell Nepali girls and women to India's brothels.

Besides the Kathmandu valley bandh, the Tharu community has also called a shutdown in all the southern districts on Thursday.

From Sunday, the protesters have called five more general strikes in Nepal's five regions. Finally, on February 28, they have called for a Nepal shutdown.

First Published: Feb 15, 2007 13:27 IST