Nepal government rejects key ethnic demand


Kathmandu : Nepal braced for trouble Sunday after a party pulled out of the ruling coalition government, accusing it of failing to address grievances of the ethnic Madhesi community.

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The pullout by the regional Sadbhawana Party, which promotes Madhesi interests, followed Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala’s rejection of demands by ethnic groups for an autonomous state in southern Nepal with the right of self-determination.

“I cannot fulfil the demand that undervalues the national unity and integrity,” the official newspaper Rising Nepal quoted Koirala as saying. “I will not bow down to pressure from any world power on the issue.”

Koirala’s comments came as an indefinite strike across the southern plains, known as the Terai, entered its fifth day.

The strike has crippled normal life and Nepal’s supply system, leaving much of the country short on fuel and essentials.

Most of Nepal’s imports are brought through the Terai, and the closure of the area has meant no new supplies were entering the country.

Various Madhesi groups declared the strike, demanding the government immediately fulfil their demands, including an autonomous state, compensation for those killed in violence over the issue and increased representation of the Madhesi in government jobs.

The United Democratic Madhesi Front, which is spearheading the strike, has already said it would not back down until its demands are met.

The Sadbhawana Party not only pulled out of the ruling coalition, but also announced that its members were resigning from the interim parliament.

Political analysts in Kathmandu said the party’s move is largely dictated by its dwindling support in southern Nepal and its attempts to win back supporters as the Madhesi unrest is gaining in intensity.

On Saturday, dozens of people, including police personnel, were injured in clashes across the region.

Southern Nepal has been the centre of violence since the Maoists formally gave up 11 years of violence in November 2006. Thereafter, the Maoists joined the government and ethnic groups began demanding a large say in the country’s political and economic decisions.

At least 140 people have been killed in political violence and rioting in the south since then.