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Nepal ministerial group to quell Terai turmoil
Apr 9, 2007 - 8:21:59 PM

Kathmandu, April 9 - With less than three months to go before the election, the Nepal government Monday moved to quell mounting turbulence in the Terai region by forming a ministerial team to begin negotiations with protesting groups and reconstituted a commission to probe a massacre in which 29 people were killed.

The move comes even as an armed group of former Maoists called a closure in the Terai Monday. Led by Nagendra Paswan, a former Maoist who broke off from the parent organisation with other rebels from the Terai plains to form the Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha, a closure was enforced in Siraha, Rautahat, Bara and Parsa district.

Announcing the formation of a three-member ministerial team to begin dialogue with dissenters in Terai, newly appointed Information and Communications Minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara made the leap from being the spokesman of his Maoist party to becoming the spokesman of the eight-party government.

Peace and Reconstruction Minister Ram Chandra Poudel, who is also Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala's deputy in the 22-member cabinet, heads the team that includes Minister of State for Water Resources Gyanendra Bahadur Karki and General Administration Minister Ram Chandra Yadav.

It will begin parleys with the various protesting communities, Mahara said.

The government also decided to reconstitute a commission headed by judge Hari Prasad Ghimire formed last month to probe the violence in Gaur town in southern Nepal. A total of 29 people were killed following clashes between the Maoists and the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum, a dissenting group from the Terai plains.

The commission could not begin work due to opposition by the Maoists, who said it had been formed without consulting them.

The government has also formed another group of five ministers headed by Poudel to oversee management of Maoists' guerrilla army.

Over 31,000 soldiers of the rebels' People's Liberation Army have been living in 28 camps supervised by the UN since they signed a peace pact with the government.

A section of the guerrillas are to be integrated with the Nepal Army once the election is over.

The cabinet meeting also decided to amend the newly enforced constitution to allow for the removal of the prime minister through a no-trust motion.

It will add a new clause that will allow parliament to abolish monarchy if the parties feel King Gyanendra or his followers are trying to sabotage the June 20 election.

Meanwhile, Nagendra Paswan, who calls himself Jwala Singh, did not give any reason for Monday's strike. He had last month announced his band was calling off its 'ceasefire' since the government had shown no interest in beginning talks on a Madhes state.

The Singh faction has been demanding an autonomous state in Terai for the plains people and withdrawal of all government and security officials belonging to hill communities.

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