Fresh blood stains Nepal's Terai protests
Mar 10, 2007 - 10:18:24 AM

Kathmandu, March 10 - Fresh blood stained the protests in Nepal's Terai plains with a protester dying in clashes, taking the toll to at least 32 in the ongoing Madhes movement.

Tularam Tripathi, a middle-aged supporter of the Madhes Janadhikar Forum, the group that is spearheading the agitation in the plains of south Nepal since January, died in Banke district, where the seeds of the movement were sown last year, following attacks on people from the plains.

While media reports Saturday said Tripathi died after locals resisted the Forum's attempts to enforce a shutdown, the Forum says the Maoists and a biased administration are trying to suppress their agitation.

Nearly 30 more people, including policemen, were hurt in clashes Friday and following the death, curfew was clamped from afternoon to Saturday dawn.

The Forum began its stir from mid-January, after violence broke out in Nepalgunj, in which police officials were shown abetting attacks on the shops and properties of plains people. It is demanding an autonomous Madhes state for people of the Terai region, who are of Indian origin, with the right to self-determination.

Its three-week stir from January shut down Nepal's lifeline, the highway connecting the country with India and providing the main route for supplies-bearing convoys and fuel, forcing Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala to agree to concede some of their demands.

On Friday, the ailing prime minister made a rare appearance in parliament to take part in a vote in which the majority of legislators consented to amend the new constitution.

The amendment now paves the way for Nepal becoming a federal state after the elections in June and adding more electoral constituencies in the Terai plains to give better representation to the plains people.

However, while the government spent two months in getting the amendment through, it is not enough to appease the protesters in the plains.

The Forum wants Home Minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula, who is being backed by the Maoists, to quit over the deaths in the plains that have now far outpaced the number of victims during the anti-monarchy protests last year that brought King Gyanendra's government down.

However, the government has not made any move to replace Sitaula or take action against the Maoists, who killed two of the protesters.

Meanwhile, trade and commerce has come to a standstill, key trading points have remained closed since mid-January causing a loss of billions of rupees to both India and Nepal, and the transport sector is in a shambles.

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