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Madhesis clash with police in Nepal; Oli warns against violence

About 1,000 Madhesis and demonstrators from other minority groups seeking more rights and representation in Nepal’s new Constitution scuffled with police on Monday, even as Prime Minister K P Oli warned that the government will not keep quiet if the protests become violent.

Protesters chanting anti-government slogans picketed near the Prime Minister’s office and tried to break a police barricade, triggering a clash with the police on the third day of their protest.

Riot police used batons to disperse demonstrators. During the protest, three demonstrators and two pedestrians were injured.

Two students were injured as the members of the agitating groups beat them up, accusing them of being government’s vigilantes.

The protesters chanted slogans like ‘Down with incompetent government’, ‘Prime Minister K P Oli leave the country’, ‘We want our demands to be fulfilled’ and ‘Ensure our federal and ethnic rights’.

The major demands of Madhesis, mostly of Indian-origin, include re-demarcation of the seven province model of federal structure, inclusiveness and proportionate representation of marginalised groups and ethnic minorities including the Madhesis, indigenous groups and dalits in all the state bodies.

Meanwhile, speaking at a separate programme to pay tribute to CPN-UML’s late leader Madan Bhandari, Prime Minister Oli asked the agitating groups to engage themselves in reconstruction of earthquake damaged structures across the country instead of taking to streets and creating traffic jams in the busy streets of the capital.

The Madhesi protesters jammed roads here after they were rejected by the people of southern Nepal, where their protests led to border blockade for six months, Oli said.

The government will not keep quiet, if the protest becomes violent, he warned.Stating that the government is ready to address all the demands through talks, the Prime Minister asked the dissenting parties to arrive at the negotiating table.

“The government wants solution to the problem through dialogues. For that, we requested the agitating parties for talks time and again,” he said.

The Federal Alliance, the grouping of seven Madhes-based political parties and 22 other ethnic groups, also announced that they would picket the Prime Minister’s official residence in Baluwatar during their fourth day of protest on Tuesday.

About 1,000 protesters picketed near the Singhdurbar Secretariat, the main administrative complex that also houses the Prime Minister’s Office, on Monday to protest the Constitution that divides the country into seven federal provinces.

Hundreds of riot policemen were deployed at the protest venue, which comes under restricted area.
The Federal Alliance will stage their protest in front of the Prime Minister’s residence as part of its efforts to exert more pressure on the Premier to fulfil their demands.

Federal Alliance spokesperson Parashu Ram Tamang said police personnel stopped “hundreds of leaders and cadres” heading to join the protest, interrogated them, seized flags and banners and frisked them unnecessarily. They want the government to re-write the Constitution to meet their demands. The alliance started their Kathmandu- centric fresh protests on Saturday.

Madhesis earlier had launched six-month-long agitation from September to February in which more than 50 people were killed. The agitation had also crippled the landlocked country’s economy as supplies from India were blocked. Nepal had accused India of imposing an “economic blockade”, which India strongly denied.

The alliance has this time changed its strategy and focused their protest in the capital city in an attempt to draw attention of the government and other stakeholders to their demands. 
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