Nepal police arrest dozens in anti-constitution protests
Nepal police on Monday arrested dozens of protestors against a proposed new constitution after they attacked vehicles and forced shops to close on the second day of a nationwide strike.
The shutdown was called to protest plans to restructure Nepal as a federal state comprising six provinces, with opposition parties saying the new internal borders discriminate against historically marginalized communities.
Police spokesman Kamal Singh Bam said 82 people had been arrested “for trying to enforce the strike by forcing shops to shut down and for vandalizing seven vehicles.”
Protestors defied an indefinite curfew imposed overnight in Jumla district in Nepal’s midwest, taking to the streets to demand a separate province as police baton-charged demonstrators.
“Small groups are still sneaking out to vandalize and torch government buildings,” said Jumla police chief, Bishnu Hari Koirala.
“The situation is not yet under control.”
In neighboring Mugu
district, where many also support the call for a separate midwestern province, clashes erupted between security forces and protestors trying to vandalize government offices, local police said.
Work on the constitution began in 2008, two years after the end of a decade-long Maoist insurgency, which left an estimated 16,000 people dead and brought down a 240-year-old Hindu monarchy.
Negotiations faltered on the issue of internal borders and lawmakers only reached agreement after a devastating earthquake in April.
But the plans are opposed by many in Nepal’s midwest and southern plains, where hundreds staged violent protests over the long- awaited constitution last week. Two people were killed when police opened fire on demonstrators.
The strike was called by the CPN- Maoists, a breakaway faction of the Maoist party, and by parties representing minority groups.
“Our demand is that they should cancel this anti- people draft and write a constitution that reflects the people’s aspirations and demands,” Pampha Bhusal, spokeswoman for the CPN-Maoists, told AFP.
Many Nepalis expressed frustration over the strike and its impact on livelihoods already devastated by April’s quake that killed nearly 8,900 people.
“I can’t shut down my business every time someone decides to call a strike,” said Min Bahadur Karki, who owns a hardware store in the capital.
“Everyone has their own interests, there is no way the constitution will satisfy all of them,” Karki told AFP.