Nine die in clashes over Constitution. Kathmandu sends in the army
Kathmandu (AsiaNews) - Eight policemen, beaten and burned to death, and a child as young as two years of age trampled by the crowd. This is the tragic toll from clashes yesterday between police and protesters belonging to the minority Tharu [a tribe of Mongol origin residing in the southern part of Nepal - ed] in the district of Kailali. Bamdev Gautam, Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister, has harshly condemned the violence and decided to mobilize the army to restore control in the region.
Tensions between the Kathmandu government and ethnic minority groups in the country are becoming more heated. The groups complain of a lack of representation in Nepal’s new Constitution, the draft of which was submitted in late June. Yesterday's protests by the Tharu community mark a high level of violence and took place just a few days after clashes with the madhese group, during which four other people were killed. Both groups live in the southern region of Terai [already the scene of violent clashes - ed], and are calling for the establishment of an autonomous province, not provided for by the proposed administrative subdivision in six federal regions that the Constituent Assembly has recently approved.
Local media speak of 21 dead, but the ruling authorities confirm the death of eight policemen, including a senior officer, and that of the two year old. Minister Gautam said in a press conference: "The attack seemed planned and police were trapped between the protesters, who surrounded them and took them by surprise. The attackers had handmade weapons, knives, swords, axes and some guns. Given that local police forces are unable to control the violence by themselves, we decided to send the army. "
Subas Nemwang, Speaker of the House, called on all parties to moderate tones: "The Parliament requires all groups, party leaders, members of civil society and all people of tolerance to work together in solidarity and peace. " Appeals also shared by young Catholics, who last week called on their peers of other religions to work together and to restart the country.