-  Saturday 24 October 2020

Nepal's Terai Region Hit by Strike, Bombs Explode in South

 -  Bloomberg

Kathmandu, Feb 04 2008 - Nepal's Terai region, on the main trade route to India, was hit by a strike called by ethnic groups demanding greater political rights as bombs exploded in the south disrupting campaigning for April's general elections.

Businesses and transport closed yesterday on the first day of a two-day protest organized by the United Madhesi Front, Nepalnews.com reported on its Web site. A youth group known as the Madhes Defense Brigade is forcing shops to close and blocking roads in Terai, the report said.

At least eight explosions hit the southern town of Rajbiraj where the Nepali Congress, the biggest party in the governing coalition, was organizing a rally yesterday, Nepalnews.com said. At least 11 people, including a policeman, were hurt, it said.

Nepal's government has pledged that a new constitution to be drawn up after the election will give greater rights to the more than 40 ethnic minority groups in the Himalayan country of about 29 million people. Nepal is holding its first national ballot since a peace accord with the rebel Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) in November 2006 ended a 10-year insurgency.

More than 50 people were arrested after yesterday's bombings in Rajbiraj, Nepalnews.com said.

A group called the Madhesi Mukti Tigers said it detonated a bomb two days ago in Inaruwa in the southern Sunsari district where Sher Bahadur Deuba, a former prime minister, was to address a Nepali Congress rally, it said.

Security Failing

Security in the Terai region has ``diminished markedly'' and there are now more than two dozen armed and criminal groups operating there, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in an October report.

At least 25 people were killed last year when general strikes and demonstrations in the region turned violent. The strike protest is to try to press the government into implementing an agreement reached with the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum on political changes.

Members of the Madhesi say they are discriminated against by Nepalis from the hills and underrepresented in government and state institutions.

Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala said last week he will meet Madhesi demands for greater political rights as long as they participate in the April elections.

The United Nations has called on the government to hold ``urgent'' talks with ethnic groups to ensure they take part in the vote. It also asked India to control suspected supporters of groups causing unrest in Terai.

Nepal sends almost 68 percent of its exports to India and its southern neighbor accounts for about 62 percent of Nepal's imports, according to U.S. government data for 2006.

Source : Bloomberg

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