Nepal police arrest 188 as charter protest turns violent

2015-07-24 17:28
(File, AFP)

(File, AFP)

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Kathmandu - Nearly 200 demonstrators were arrested in Nepal on Friday as they torched vehicles and forced schools, shops and businesses to shut down in protest over government plans to bring in a new constitution.

Police said they had arrested 188 Maoist activists over the violence and deployed heavy security during the first national strike since a devastating quake hit the country in April.

"Four vehicles have been torched and another 19 vandalised," police spokesperson Kamal Singh Bam told AFP, adding that no casualties had been reported so far.

Nepal's Maoists struck a deal with rival parties on a new constitution last month after years of bitter disagreement, spurred by an earthquake that killed more than 8,800 people in the Himalayan nation.

But a breakaway faction of the party says the deal betrays the principles of the Maoists, who fought a decade-long civil war with the state that ended in 2006 and led to the abolition of a centuries-old feudal monarchy.


"The draft is against the people and the spirit and hopes of the people's war," their spokesman Khadga Bahadur Bishwokarma told AFP, referring to the conflict.

"The constitution does not address the problems of the ethnic, racial and gender discrimination that we fought against."

Dozens have been injured this week in clashes between police and protesters angered by the terms of the draft constitution, after a public consultation process began on Monday.

A key sticking point concerns internal borders, with the opposition pushing for new provinces to be created along lines that could favour historically marginalised communities.

Other parties have attacked this model, calling it a threat to national unity.

Friday's strike emptied Kathmandu's usually packed roads of traffic and many Nepalis expressed frustration over the impact on livelihoods already devastated by the quake.

"I am tired of strikes. It is people like us who suffer, whenever there is a strike, there is no work and we go hungry," said daily wage labourer, Karma Tamang.

Bank official Nisha Shrestha told AFP she was on her way to work in defiance of the strike.

"It makes me angry that at a time when we are trying to recover from an earthquake, these people want to trouble us more with strikes," the 28-year-old said.

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