Ethnic protesters call indefinite Nepal strike from Monday
Apr 22, 2007 - 11:34:28 AM

Kathmandu, April 22 - Even as Nepal's Terai plains reeled under a three-day closure called by an ethnic group from Friday, a second organisation announced an indefinite strike in the plains as well as hills from Monday.

The new protest call has been given by the Chure Bhawar Pradesh Ekata Samaj, a group that had paralysed parts of the country with a strike called last month as well.

The Samaj began demanding an autonomous Chure state since late last year, after the plains community in the south called for an autonomous Madhes state for plains people.

The Chure region overlaps with the Terai plains, spreading over almost 33 districts and comprising both plains and hills.

Keshav Mainali, senior leader of the Samaj, told the media from Biratnagar, Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala's home town, that his group was calling an indefinite closure from Monday since the government had failed to start negotiations.

Though the eight-party new government of Nepal this month formed a three-member ministerial team to open dialogue with the various dissenting groups, the team is yet to swing into action.

The ruling coalition faced a major challenge Friday when the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum, a group demanding an autonomous Madhes and equal rights for plains people, clamped a three-day strike in southern Nepal, paralysing over eight districts where it has a stronghold.

The fresh turmoil comes even as the Koirala government is set to celebrate a year in power after toppling King Gyanendra's government last April.

Though Nepal's Maoist guerrillas, who had waged a 10-year armed insurgency that killed over 13,000 people, joined the ruling alliance this month signalling a formal end to the communist rebellion, the Himalayan nation has continued to smoulder.

Emboldened by the Maoist success, a string of organisations, some of whom are armed, began waging fresh protests.

Over 60 people have been killed in clashes in the Terai plains since January, causing the Election Commission to rule out holding elections on June 20 due to the fragile security situation.

The continuing turmoil has caused the UN to send four envoys on an unofficial visit.

Rodolfo Stavenhagen, special rapporteur on human rights and fundamental freedom of indigenous people, Doudou Diene, special rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism and two members from the UN Sub Commission on the Promotion and protection of Minorities, will be visiting Nepal from April 23-27 to advise UN rights officers on their work related to ending discrimination and social exclusion.

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