One killed in Nepal as Terai violence continues
Mar 28, 2007 - 10:20:32 AM

Kathmandu, March 28 - An ethnic leader from the Terai plains was shot dead in Nepal and another supporter critically injured in what protesters alleged were 'revenge' attacks.

Mata Prasad Verma, a leader of the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum, the ethnic group from Nepal's Terai plains that is spearheading a protest movement demanding an autonomous Madhes state for plains people in southern Nepal, was gunned down at his residence in Bethauni village in Banke district Tuesday night.

An armed gang also attacked Lalka Shah, the owner of a small hotel in Inaruwa town in Sunsari district Tuesday night, critically injuring him.

Shah, who is reported to have received at least 10 dagger wounds, is fighting for his life in hospital.

The night attacks come after a group opened fire in another Terai town, Birgunj, Tuesday morning, injuring seven people, including five Indians.

The plains have been beset with violence, arson and disruption since last December, resulting in the death of over 60 people and deepening the rift between Nepal's hill community, the Pahadis, and the plains people, the Madhesis.

The first spate of arson, vandalism and looting in Nepalgunj town on Christmas Day targeted Madhesis while the district administration remained mute spectator with reports of security personnel taking part in the attacks.

However, the government is yet to take any punitive action against the guilty.

The biggest administrative failure occurred last week when clashes between the Forum and the Maoists resulted in the death of at least 29 people in Gaur town. But the seven-party government of prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala is yet to initiate an investigation into the carnage.

As the government delays its probe, the Maoists are alleging that the Forum was supported by criminal elements, like followers of King Gyanendra, vigilantes armed by the royal regime and Hindu extremists from India, who supported the royal regime.

Forum leaders counter-allege that the violence was unleashed by the state working in tandem with the Maoists to suppress the Madhes movement.

They say their peaceful meetings in other towns have been continuously attacked by the Maoists.

The fresh attacks on Forum leaders comes on the eve of a Terai closure called by the Forum on April 2 to protest against the Gaur incident and demand an impartial investigation by the UN or any international rights organisation.

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