Kathmandu : Civil servants across the country went on strike in Nepal Tuesday, demanding security, especially in the turbulent Terai plains in the south, bringing the work of the government to a halt.
Three unions of civil servants called a "pen down" strike in Nepal Tuesday, affecting government offices, ministries, courts and other government establishments.
The strike came after the abduction and murder of a senior municipal official in Siraha district in the Terai by a former group of Maoists earlier this month, taking the toll of government employees to seven since March.
The striking government employees are demanding security for staffers and state benefits for the families of those killed.
In addition to the civil servants' agitation, municipal workers have been on strike since Wednesday, protesting the death of Ram Hari Pokhrel, who was killed by members of the Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha in Siraha district.
Three factions of the Morcha as well as nearly 10 other armed groups stepped up activities in the plains since this year, demanding an autonomous state for people from the plains.
The Jwala Singh faction of the Morcha that killed Pokhrel has also given an ultimatum to government employees from the hill community who are working in the plains: to leave within seven days or face dire consequences.
The threats, mounting extortion, abductions and killings have triggered an exodus of government employees from the Terai villages, creating grave doubt about the possibility of holding free and fair elections in November.
Home Minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula, who has been drawing flak from both his party and other members of the ruling alliance for the worsening security situation, left for India Monday with his wife and daughter.
Though the minister is said to be heading for Deoghar town in India's Bihar state to visit a Hindu religious guru, Anukul Thakur, there is widespread speculation in Nepal that he has gone to hold secret meetings with the Morcha factions, who are believed to have bases in Indian towns across the Nepal border.
The Indian factor has been growing stronger in the Terai issue with Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala meeting the Indian ambassador to Nepal Shiv Shankar Mukherjee to ask for Indian assistance.
On Tuesday, Koirala also met Indian politician Sitaram Yechury, whose Communist party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), played an important role in bringing the Maoists and seven Nepali opposition parties together, which resulted in the end of the 10-year-old Maoist insurgency.