May Day brings respite to troubled Nepal
May 1, 2007 - 11:39:00 AM

Kathmandu, May 1 - May Day, celebrated the world over as the day workers wrested their rights, finally brought respite to troubled Nepal with ethnic protesters calling off a stir that had crippled the Terai plains for eight days.

The Chure Bhawar Ekta Samaj, the diaspora from the hilly ranges in southern Nepal demanding an autonomous state and the release of their detained leaders, called off protests late Monday after marathon seven-hour parleys with the government.

Headed by newly appointed Peace and Reconstruction Minister Ram Chandra Poudel, a team of ministers - mandated to start negotiations with various protesting groups - began dialogue with the Samaj Monday, eight days after the latter called a closure in the plains.

The strike, enforced the previous Monday, had crippled the highway connecting Nepal with India and put thousands of passengers in great difficulty. At least one person died during the agitation while several vehicles were torched and vandalised.

The government, according to Samaj members, has agreed to release nine of its leaders detained during the unrest, provide compensation to families of those killed and form a commission to investigate the violence in the plains where over 70 people have died since January.

Nepal's official media said the ministerial team would open dialogue with another protesting group, the Nepal Adivasi Janajati Mahasangh - an umbrella of indigenous and ethnic groups - on May 5.

However, the main groups behind the Terai unrest, some of whom are armed, are yet to start dialogue with the state.

Upendra Yadav, whose Madhesi Janadhikar Forum established itself as a key force in the Terai plains with its fresh movement for an autonomous state for people of Indian origin, is currently camping in New Delhi, where he is reported to be trying to garner support from Indian leaders.

Politicians he is scheduled to meet include Left leader Sitaram Yechuri, who was in Nepal earlier this month.

Nepal, probably the country with the maximum number of official holidays in Asia, snagged an additional one with the new eight-party government announcing May 1 a public holiday from this year.

In a message to the nation on the occasion of International Labour Day, Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala said that by declaring May 1 a public holiday, his government was highlighting the importance of the day and the respect due to workers.

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