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Unrest Intensifies as Constituent Assembly Fails to Meet Deadline in Nepal

The constitutional deadline for Nepal’s 3-year-old Constituent Assembly (CA) is scheduled to expire on 28th May 2011. The assembly has a mandate to carve a new republic and federal statute. Marathon talks among the parties could not yield any results as of Friday afternoon on 27th May 2011.

As a result of the delay, frequent strikes have been called by various pressure groups. The actions have been halting normal life across the county.

A general strike was called by a strong Hindu outfit Vishwa Hindu Mahasangh (VHM), a fringe party inside the Nepal’s Chure Bhavar Ekta Samaj and other pressure groups where threw the life out of gear across the country despite the heavy presence of security forces. The strike enforcers have also asked to declare Nepal as a Hindu state and not to restructure the state along ethnic lines.

A van belonging to Nepal’s prominent Kantipur news Channel and other private and public vehicles were set ablaze by the outfits.
Himalaya Bhakta Pradhananga-chaired-Chure Bhawar Rastriya Ekta Party has taken responsibility for the attack. The party has called two-day nation wide strike, as part of its protest program ahead of a dire constitutional breakdown. The group is protesting against the Constituent Assembly’s failure to give the country a new statute.

Fewer public and private vehicles were seen in the streets of Kathmandu on Friday, due to fear of reprisal from strike organizers while shops and businesses in many parts of the city are open except at the main market places. People were seen heading towards their offices on foot due to lack of enough public vehicles while most of the educational institutions including schools and colleges remained closed.

The strike has partially affected life in many other parts of the country with transportation coming to a grinding halt and main market places including factories, educational institutions, offices partially open.

General strikes are a common means for Nepalese political parties, pressure groups, ethnic groups to pressurize the government to fulfill their demands. In recent years, because of an absence of political stability and lack of consensus among the parties, frequent strikes have been part of life and seen as the means to oppose any issue.

Nepal Bandh, a pressure group opposed to strikes in Nepal, claims that a total of 34 strikes were announced in May 2011.

Political squabbling has prevented the Constituent Assembly from drawing up a new constitution after three years of work. The crisis is likely to force the Himalayan country into further political turmoil.

Nepal has been undergoing huge political transition following the declaration of Republic and secularism in 2006, when Nepal’s Maoist party agreed to join mainstream politics. The decade long insurgency launched by the Maoist party in 1996 killed more than 13,000 people, thousands disappeared and millions were displaced from their home. After the peace agreement, a people’s uprising flushed out the centuries-old monarchy from Nepal, loosing the Hindu nation’s identity.

About Anil Giri

Writes for The Kathmandu Post, the leading English newspaper in Nepal. Earlier, he was stationed in New Delhi as a Chief of Bureau for The Himalayan Times. He has worked for AHN, the US based new agency, The Guardian, Korea Times and others.

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