Ethnic Protesters in Nepal Reject Constitutional Amendment

By Binaj Gurubacharya 25 January 2016

KATHMANDU — Ethnic protesters in Nepal rejected a constitutional amendment passed by the parliament in a bid to end months of protests that have blocked a key border crossing with India and caused shortages of fuel and other supplies.

Members of Madhesi ethnic parties boycotted a late night vote Saturday that approved the first amendment to the constitution with overwhelming support. Laxman Lal Karna of the United Democratic Madhesi Front said Sunday that the amendment was incomplete and did not address their concerns.

“We reject the amendment that does little to address our demands. It does not even touch our main demand for changing the borders of the provinces,” Karna said.

The amendment backed by the ruling coalition and the main opposition party changes the constitution to ensure proportionate inclusion of minority communities in government and electoral constituencies.

The constitution was adopted in September by the Constituent Assembly despite protests from Madhesi groups.

The Madhesis in south Nepal have been protesting for months, saying the constitution carved Nepal’s seven states unfairly with borders that cut through their ancestral homeland. They want a larger state, more government representation and more local autonomy.

The protests and a general strike in much of southern Nepal has blocked a key border crossing with India, through which Nepal gets much of its fuel and other supplies. It resulted in a severe shortage of fuel and medicines.

More than 50 people have been killed since August in protest-related violence. Three people were killed on Thursday when police opened fire on Madhesi protesters who tried to attack a political rally organized by Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Oli’s party in a southeast Nepal town.

Talks between the protesting groups and the government have continued but no agreement has been reached.