Anti-constitution protesters picket key government complex in Nepal

Kathmandu, May 15 (IANS) Thousands of supporters of Madhesi and Janajati parties marched here on Sunday and picketed a key Nepal government office complex to protest against the new constitution which they say discriminates against the marginalised sections.

The protesters jammed approach roads to ‘Singha Durbar’, the Rana palace complex that houses key ministries, ahead of the budget session of Parliament, throwing life out of gear in the affected areas.

“We will not leave Kathmandu until our rights are guaranteed in the constitution,” said Upendra Yadav, chairman of the Sanghiya Samajwadi Forum-Nepal and leading the mass protest in Kathmandu.

The government deployed heavy security, including personnel in riot gear, to tackle the protests and announced restrictions on assemblies around Singha Durbar ahead of the demonstration.

At least one government vehicle was vandalised by the protesters who are demanding that the constitution promulgated in September last year should be made more broad-based and inclusive of the rights of the marginalised communities.

They also demand that the boundaries of seven federal units should be redrawn in line with the demands of Madhesis, Janajatis and other affected communities.

The constitution includes plans to divide the country into seven federal provinces as defined by schedule 4. The provinces will be formed by grouping together the existing 75 districts.

The protesters chanted slogans that they will not accept the seven federal province-model and called for the resignation of Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli who, they say, has been thwarting their demands.

Sanghiya Samajwadi Forum-Nepal General Secretary Rajendra Shrestha said the demonstration was aimed at pressuring the government to find a solution to the Terai crisis through amendment in the constitution.

Top Madhesi leaders Upendra Yadav and Rajendra Mahato led two separate protests along key approaches to Singha Durbar.

Madhesi parties had earlier blockaded the key Nepal-India entry points for six months in order to coerce the government to address their demands.

They have now decided to centre their agitation in Kathmandu in order to sustain pressure on the government. On Saturday, they held a mass demonstration in the capital.

Other major parties, particularly Nepali Congress and UCPN (Maoist), have been more liberal in their approach to resolving the political standoff.

Yadav told reporters on Sunday that the movement could unseat Oli government.

“One should understand that such a movement had thrown the monarchy from Nepal some years ago. Our movement will overthrow K.P. Oli,” he said.

Oli has so far taken a hardline approach to addressing the demands of Madhesi and Janajatis, but stated that he was ready to resolve the standoff through talks.

In all, 36 rounds of talks have so far been held between the government and the agitating Madhesis and Janajatis, but no headway has been made.

The violence during the anti-constitution movement since September has resulted in the death of 59 people, including police personnel.

(Anil Giri can be contacted at girianil@gmail.com)

–IANS

giri/kb/dg

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