Terai braces for violence as protesters call strike
Mar 27, 2007 - 6:01:45 PM

Kathmandu, March 27 - Nepal's troubled Terai plains, reeling under violence since December, braced for still more disruptions as ethnic protesters called a shutdown April 2 to press their demand for an impartial probe into a carnage last week that left at least 29 dead.

The Madhesi Janadhikar Forum, a band of people from the Terai plains who have been spearheading a movement for an autonomous Madhes state in the south, called for a closure in 22 southern districts even as it withdrew its programme for a civil disobedience movement in the capital scheduled from March 29.

The Forum is demanding an impartial investigation into the massacre in frontier Gaur town Wednesday after clashes between its supporters and the Maoist guerrillas.

Nepal's seven-party government, which remains deadlocked in power-sharing negotiations with the Maoists in the capital, is yet to begin an investigation, despite mounting concern by the UN and the international community.

Though the ruling alliance formed a four-member committee under a judge to investigate the Gaur killings, the committee says it did not receive any official letter from the government.

Its future became uncertain after the Maoists opposed it and demanded a political commission.

The proposal was passed by Nepal's parliament but since then there has been no progress.

Meanwhile, the Maoists, who are poised to join the government soon, have been claiming that most of the victims were their supporters and are asking the government to ban the Forum as a terrorist organisation.

The Maoist leadership is also blaming supporters of King Gyanendra and Hindu extremists from India, saying they infiltrated and unleashed greater violence.

Several rights groups in Nepal are blaming Indian politicians in neighbouring Bihar state who have expressed support for the Madhes movement.

However, the Forum says the support is moral and blames the Maoists, saying they have been attacking Forum rallies in different Terai towns with the government turning a blind eye.

The simmering tension in the plains casts a grave doubt on the election, scheduled to be held by mid-June.

Though Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala is determined to hold the election by June at any cost, his daughter Sujata Koirala, an MP from his Nepali Congress party, says polls are impossible in view of the deteriorating law and order situation.

Her views have also been echoed by former prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, who heads the third largest party in the government.

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