05/03/2012, 00.00
NEPAL
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Explosions and attacks put new constitution in jeopardy

by Kalpit Parajuli
Two bombs explode in Ramanda Chowk, Terai, one targeting a sit-in by ethnic Madhesi, killing four. Fear of attacks is growing ahead of the deadline for the new constitution on 27 May.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) - The city of Ramanda Chowk, Janakapur District (Terai, southern Nepal) was hit by a number of attacks recently. A bomb exploded yesterday at the Janaki Cinema Hall; no one was killed or wounded. On Monday, four people were killed and more than 30 wounded when another bomb went off near a sit-in protest by ethnic Madhesi, a local indigenous people, in favour of a federal state. Police blamed both attacks on the Janatantrik Tarai Mukti Morcha (JTMM), a terrorist group fighting for the liberation of the Terai region, which claimed responsibility for the Monday bombing.

Less than a month before the country's new constitution is supposed to come into effect on 27 May, relations between the Hindu majority and Nepal's 60 or so ethnic and religious minorities continue to be tense. Minorities want guaranteed protection and rights in the new national charter.

Sources told AsiaNews that in the capital residents are also afraid of attacks, and are staying away from public rallies, sit-ins and demonstrations.

Meanwhile, Nepal's Maoist Prime Minister Bhattarai has conducted a cabinet shuffle today to find an agreement among the country's political parties to complete the final draft of the constitution.

The new cabinet would include people from the conservative leaning Nepali Congress (NC) and the Communist Party of Nepal-United Marxist Leninist (UML).

Indian-styled federalism, re-districting, new civil and penal codes with anti-conversion clauses, and freedom of religion and worship are among the issues that must be still discussed.

Since it was elected in2 008, the country's constituent assembly has postponed the deadline for the new constitution six times. Even now, it is unclear whether the current government can meet the latest deadline. In case of failure, the country could slide towards institutional chaos.

The adoption of a new constitution is part of the process of national reconciliation that began after 11 years of civil war. The latter ended with the fall of Nepal's absolute Hindu monarchy when a global peace accord was reached by the country's armed forces and Maoist rebels. The deal was signed on 21 November 2006 under the aegis of the United Nations and the international community.

The war claimed the lives of 12,800 people and caused about 100,000 refugees.

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