Terai protesters give Aug 5 deadline to Nepal government


Kathmandu : With less than four months remaining for the crucial constituent assembly election, Nepal's eight-party government faces fresh disruption with two groups of ethnic protesters warning of a fresh stir after Aug 5.

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One of the most powerful groups from the Terai plains, the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum, Saturday gave Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala's government eight days to meet its demands or face fresh agitation in the plains.

The Forum held its third round of negotiations Saturday in the capital with a three-member ministerial team headed by Koirala's deputy, Peace and Reconstruction Minister Ram Chandra Poudel.

The Forum, which registered as a political party this month, is asking the government to dissolve the interim parliament to ensure free and fair elections.

It is also asking for a reshuffle of the current government with the inclusion of representatives from the plains, Adivasis, Dalits, Muslims and other marginalised groups.

In addition, the Forum wants a federal form of government where each community will have its autonomous state with the right to self-determination.

Besides, it is asking the government to choose a proportional election system instead of the complicated mixed system adopted for the Nov 22 election.

Most of the demands, including the call to dissolve parliament and reshuffle the government, are likely to be rejected by the eight-party alliance.

If the demands are not met, the Forum has warned it will start a "peaceful but potent" protest movement.

Similar earlier protests staged by the Forum resulted in blockades of main entry points on the Indo-Nepal border, causing a scarcity of fuel and supplies.

"We do not think this government wants an election," Kishor Biswas, Forum leader and part of its four-member talks team, said.

"Over 60 percent voters are now in the Terai, due to internal migration and population growth. How can you have an election without solving the problem of a region where the majority of voters are?"

Besides the Forum, another group of protesters, the Nepal Adivasi Janajati Mahasangh, has given the government an Aug 9 deadline.

The Mahasangh, an umbrella of nearly 60 communities, had paralysed Nepal earlier this year with a series of closures.

Earlier this week, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also said in his report on Nepal, tabled before the UN Security Council in New York, that the Terai situation remained an obstacle for the polls.

The Koirala government has already postponed the election once from June due to the turmoil in the Terai.