Sat, Sep 26, 2015 - Page 6 News List

Anti-charter protesters in Nepal block India supplies

AFP, KATHMANDU

Hundreds of protesters yesterday blocked a major trading checkpoint between India and Nepal, cutting off vital supplies to the landlocked Himalayan nation as anger deepened over the country’s new constitution.

The protesters, who belong to the Madhesi community, are angry about plans to divide the country into seven federal provinces under the charter adopted on Sunday. More than 40 people have died in weeks of clashes between police and protesters from the Madhesi and Tharu communities, ethnic minorities who say the new internal borders leave them underrepresented in the national parliament.

“We blocked the crossing overnight and we will not budge until the government listens to us and makes changes to these new borders in the constitution,” said Shiva Patel, general secretary of the regional Sadbhawana party.

The blocked checkpoint in Birgunj, a border town 90km south of the capital, serves as the key hub for oil and food imports into Nepal.

“Normally, hundreds of trucks would pass through this checkpoint overnight, but not even one turned up last night,” Patel told reporters by telephone from Birgunj.

“The blockade is our last resort to make the government understand our demands,” he said.

Fears of a fuel shortage have resulted in dozens of commuters lining up at gas stations in Kathmandu while the ongoing protests have sparked concern in India.

“Our freight forwarders and transporters ... [have] voiced complaints about the difficulties they are facing in movement within Nepal and their security fears, due to the prevailing unrest,” New Delhi said in a statement released yesterday. “Nepalese leadership needs to address the causes underlying the present state of confrontation credibly and effectively. Issues of differences should be resolved.”

Nepalese Prime Minister Sushil Koirala this week canceled plans to visit the US and address the UN General Assembly so he could hold talks with protesters, underscoring the severity of the situation.

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