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Nepal Maoist leader predicts end of ethnic unrest

Prachanda said the Govt and Maoists will offer concessions and talks in a bid to end a wave of ethnic unrest gripping the Terai region.

india Updated: Feb 07, 2007 12:02 IST
Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse

Nepal's Maoist leader said on Wednesday that his former rebels and the government will offer concessions and talks in a bid to end a wave of ethnic unrest gripping the south of the country.

Prachanda, who uses one name, told the agency in an interview that the Maoists and government would announce their willingness to "address the genuine demands of the masses and also have dialogue with people who are trying to organise the movement."

"I think today it will be resolved," he said.

The unrest flared nearly three weeks ago after a Maoist cadre killed a protester and there has been widespread rioting by Mahadhesi groups in Nepal's southern Terai region since.

Eighteen protesters and one police officer have been killed during the protests. Hundreds have been injured and roads to the capital have been blocked for nearly three weeks.

The Madhesi community, which dominates the country's southern plains and accounts for around a third of Nepal's 27 million people, has long complained of discrimination and being shut out of power.

The leader of the group that claims to be behind the protests has said he wants to establish the Madhesi as an autonomous region, and win Madhesis more seats in government.

The Maoist leader said that although the Madhesis had genuine demands that needed to be addressed, the unrest had been fuelled by pro-royalists, the United States and Indian Hindu extremists.

"The whole thing is motivated to marginalise our influence among the Madhesi people," said Prachanda, whose name means "the fierce one."

Several former royal-appointed ministers and pro-monarchists were arrested or placed under surveillance last week, accused of fomenting the unrest.

But Madhesi leaders deny any royal links.

The violence has cast a cloud over the new government, which has pledged to hold elections this year to rewrite the constitution and decide the future of the monarchy.

King Gyanendra handed back power to parliament in April 2006 after mass protests led by an alliance of political parties and the Maoists.

First Published: Feb 07, 2007 12:02 IST