Tensions run high in Nepal over naming of provincial capitals
Tensions ran high in parts of Nepal, including the Terai region bordering India, on Thursday following protests over some of the seven provincial capitals named by the government and dozens were injured in clashes between protesters and security forces.
Minor clashes were reported from several places, and curfew was imposed in the eastern city of Dhankuta to bring the situation under control.
The government had on Wednesday named the governors of the seven provinces and selected the provincial capitals as part of efforts to put in place the provincial assemblies and governments elected in December. The bodies are expected to begin functioning after two weeks.
Fixing the provincial capitals is essential for administering the oath of office and secrecy to the newly elected lawmakers and chief ministers in the new provinces.
There was tension in Dhankuta from Thursday morning over the government decision’s to select Biratnagar as the capital of Province no 1. Protestors demanded the government revoke its decision, and at least 17 people were injured in the city during a clash between protestors and security personnel.
After the protestors started setting fire to government buildings, including the high court and a hospital, the local administration clamped indefinite curfew in Dhankuta.
The administration also issued an order prohibiting large gatherings in Dhankuta district after demonstrators vandalised and torched government offices. Local residents had been staging protests for the past few weeks, demanding the district be declared the capital of Province no 1.
Birgunj, a key city along the border with India, too was tense after the government declared Janakpur as the capital of Province no 2. Two Madhes-based parties are set to form government in this province. Residents of Birgunj called a general strike and took to the streets to protest against the government’s decision. They demanded the government declare Birgunj as the capital.
Om Prakash Saraf, who is leading the protests, said the movement is gaining momentum and people are spontaneously coming out on the streets. Several groups in Birgunj have extended support to the demand. The protestors said Birgunj was the center of the Madhesi movement and lost a huge volume of trade during the standoff between India and Nepal in 2015.
The nearby district of Bara too was totally shut down by protestors.
In Doti district, more than a dozen people were injured when protesters and security personnel clashed. The protesters, who opposed to the naming of Dhangadi as capital of Province no 7, shouted slogans against Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, who belongs to the province.
Protests were also reported from Dang city, which had been backed by top leaders of several political parties to be named the capital of Province no 5. Local residents intensified their demonstrations early on Thursday and blocked the East-West Highway. They said they would not pay taxes or allow elected representatives to enter the region till their demands are met.
Several other cities in Nepal also witnessed similar protests ahead of elections to the upper house of Parliament scheduled for February 7 in all seven provinces.