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Fresh curfew in Nepal towns after bloody unrest

Curfew was imposed after violent protests by ethnic Madhesis clouded a peace process aimed at ending years of conflict in Nepal.

india Updated: Jan 23, 2007 11:26 IST

Authorities imposed day curfews in two southern Nepalese towns on Tuesday after violent protests by ethnic Madhesis clouded a peace process aimed at ending years of conflict.

Two people were killed and dozens wounded on Monday in clashes between police and protesters from Nepal's southern plains who say they have been sidelined by a deal to bring former Maoist rebels into the political mainstream.

Madhesis, from the narrow strip of the Terai region which is home to nearly half of Nepal's 26 million people, share closer cultural links with neighbouring India than with Nepalis residing in the Himalayan mountains of the north.

Lahan, 125 km southeast of the capital Kathmandu, has been in turmoil since last week after a Maoist activist fired at protesters from the Madhesi community.

A 16-year-old boy was killed in that shooting on Friday, which triggered the clashes.

Officials said the town was peaceful overnight, but tensions remained high. "It is quiet now, but we don't know what will happen if the protests resume," said Shekhar Shrestha, who administers the Siraha district where the town is located.

A curfew clamped on Monday in Lahan, was extended from 7am on Tuesday for 12 hours, an official said. A curfew was also imposed in the neighbouring town of Siraha to prevent violence from spreading.

"We have imposed curfews in the two towns to prevent further clashes and to protect the life and property of people," said Shrestha.

Yesterday, hundreds of Madhesi protesters tried to storm a police station in Lahan prompting police to fire at the crowd in self-defence, officials said.

The violence in the Terai is the worst since a landmark peace deal between the Maoists and the multiparty government was signed in November declaring an end to a decade-old insurgency against the monarchy that has left 13,000 people dead.

The Madhesi Peoples Rights Forum, which organised the protests in Lahan, says the peace deal offers little for people living in the Terai, which is the bread basket of impoverished Nepal.

They want autonomy for the region under a federal structure and more representation for Madhesis in government jobs including in the army and police as well as in parliament.

First Published: Jan 23, 2007 11:26 IST