01/25/2007, 00.00
NEPAL
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People killed in protests by Nepal’s “Indians” against constitution that ignores them

by Prakash Dubey
Nepal 13 million-strong Madhesi community demands local autonomy, equal political representation and fair sharing of resources. Maoists and government troops respond by shooting at demonstrators.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – Armed violence against the Madhesi community continues as its members protest in the Terai region in south-eastern Nepal against their exclusion from the interim constitution.

Since the protest began, five young Madhesis, i.e. Nepalis of Indian origin, have been killed by Maoist fighters or regular army units sent to area by the caretaker government. More than 150 people have been injured.

Social analyst Ram Ekbal Choudhary explains that “the community is protesting against the Pahadi group, the Hill people, who dominate Nepal’s government and politics. As a result of the latter’s influence, Madhesi demands have not even been taken into consideration and they [the Madhesis] find themselves at the margins of the country’s political life”.

Madhesi want “regional autonomy and a share in the country’s economic resources as well as representation on the basis of population to reflect the fact that Madhesis constitute half of Nepal's 27 million population,” he added.

The current violence was triggered, according to Prof Anil Kumar Sinha, when “Maoists opened fire at a group of young people who were peacefully protesting in Lahan. This led to violent unrest across the region.”

In the capital Prime Minister Girja Prasad Koirala called an emergency meeting with leaders from eight political parties, including the Maoists. He has urged Madhesi leaders to intervene.

Madhesi leaders have rejected the prime minister’s request and in a statement released today said that “they will continue the struggle until their demands are reflected in the constitutional charter.”

Meanwhile a Catholic priest in the area warned about looming dangers. “We shut down our schools,” he said, “because we do not want to put our children’s life in danger. The times of the guerrillas are coming back”.

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