Senior Nepal minister quits over Terai unrest
Hridayesh Tripathi, the commerce, industry and supplies minister, sent in his resignation after the toll in the clashes rose to seven.Updated: Jan 29, 2007 17:21 IST
The continuing violence in Nepal's Terai plains on Monday dealt the government an additional blow with an influential minister quitting the cabinet and his party threatening to pull out of the seven-party ruling alliance.
Hridayesh Tripathi, the powerful commerce, industry and supplies minister, on Monday sent in his resignation after the toll in the clashes rose to seven in the plains, most of them occurring due to police firing.
Tripathi, who suffers from jaundice, sent his resignation from his sick bed while his Nepal Sadbhavana Party (Anandi), a party of Madhesis, people of Indian origin living in the southern plains, has warned Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala that it would leave the seven-party alliance as well if their demands were not addressed.
The resignation adds a new drama to the violence that has hit the Terai region from mid-January with a little known organisation, the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum, coming to limelight and leading the new agitation for the Madhesi diaspora.
Upendra Yadav, president of the Forum, says his organisation wants an autonomous Madhes state with proportional representation in parliament and right to self-determination.
Yadav has warned his outfit would not allow elections to be held in June if the constituencies are not revised according to population.
Madhesis, because of their dark skin and proximity to India, are excluded from government, judicial as well as military services.
Though comprising nearly half of Nepal's population, over 40 percent of Madhesis still do not have citizenship or voting rights.
Last month, Tripathi's party had called a closure in Nepalgunj town in the country's midwest to protest the continuing ignoring of the diaspora's grievances, even in the new constitution.
The closure snowballed into a riot between the elite hill and plains communities with the administration turning a blind eye when Madhesi shops were looted and torched.
There are also videotapes circulating in Nepal that show police helping the mobs vandalise Madhesi property.
The incident deepened the already wide rift between the two communities and stoked a cry for an independent Madhesi liberation movement that has brought four key towns to a standstill for over a week now.
Bara, where a second protester was killed in police firing Sunday, taking the roll to seven, Parsa and Rautahat districts remained under curfew on Monday.
Four Madhes ministers from other leading parties along with 53 MPs Sunday urged Koirala to amend the new constitution and give proportional representation to the Madhes region.
As Koirala, who suffered the bereavement of his sister-in-law, called a meeting of the ruling parties as well as the Maoists, Rajendra Mahato, senior leader of the NSP, warned if the demands were not met, his party would leave the alliance.
Splinter parties and socio-political organisations from the plains have started showing solidarity with the Forum-led movement and pledged to continue the agitation till the demands were met.
First Published: Jan 29, 2007 17:21 IST