Protests Over Nepal Constitution Injure Dozens, Police Say

By Binaj Gurubacharya 21 July 2015

KATHMANDU, Nepal — Protesters clashed with police in southern Nepal on Monday as the government tried to collect the public’s suggestions on the draft of the country’s long-overdue constitution.

Police reported dozens of injuries in the clashes in several southern towns, hours after protesters stormed the national stadium and threw chairs at the deputy prime minister. About 200 protesters from Rastriya Prajatantra Party Nepal scuffled with police at the stadium and demanded that Nepal remain a Hindu nation.

Supporters of smaller opposition parties also say the draft was prepared by larger political parties and exclude their concerns and suggestions.

Police were also investing a possible attack on the Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat’s vehicle with petrol bombs when he was driving though a mountain road west of Kathmandu.

Nepal was declared a secular republic after its centuries-old monarchy was abolished in 2008. The monarchs that ruled Nepal promoted Hinduism and the kings were believed by some to be a reincarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu.

“Nepal is a Hindu state and will remain a Hindu state. Almost all Nepalese are Hindus and we will continue to protest until the country is declared a Hindu state once again,” said one of the protesters, Madhav Bhattarai.

Riot police pushed the protesters out of the arena, and no one was hurt in the morning scuffles.

Deputy Prime Minister Prakash Man Singh had been addressing the crowd gathered as part of the campaign to collect public suggestions on the draft constitution.

The government sent lawmakers to their constituencies on Monday and Tuesday to collect public comment. The constitution was supposed to be written by a Constituent Assembly elected in 2008. It failed to finish the task, and another assembly elected in 2012 has also struggled because of disagreements between political parties.

Nepal has been governed by an interim constitution for seven years.

But since a devastating earthquake killed nearly 9,000 people in April, there has been pressure on the parties to speed up the constitution process.

One major issue is deciding how to divide the country’s federal states.

At the meeting in Kathmandu Monday, participants also voiced concerns about the rights of women and minorities.

“Women are still not given equal rights in the new draft despite promises from the politicians,” said Sita Shrestha, a housewife.