INDIA – Peace plea
India, UN urging calm following deadly protests
KATHMANDU — India and the United Nations appealed for all parties to seek peace in Nepal, where hundreds of security forces today were patrolling a western town after ethnic protesters demanding statehood attacked police a day earlier, leaving 11 people dead and many injured.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi called Nepalese counterpart Sushil Koirala to express the concern that political and social instability would seriously compound the tragedy caused by the earthquake that devastated Nepal earlier this year. Modi appealed to the government, all political parties and the people of Nepal to eschew violence and maintain social harmony, the Indian Embassy said in a statement.
Police officers and soldiers were rushed to Tikapur, 400 kilometres west of Kathmandu, after yesterday’s clashes.
Government administrator Raj Kumar Shrestha said authorities were in control of the town and surrounding areas and there were no protests or reports of curfew violations.
At least 20 police officers hurt in the clashes were being treated in hospitals. Seven police officers, the two-year-old son of a police officer, and three protesters were killed. Many protesters fled into the jungle and nearby villages after troops were called into the town, and it was not clear if other protesters were killed.
The embassy statement said Modi told Koirala that the political leadership of Nepal should resolve all outstanding issues through dialogue between all political parties and through the widest possible consultations, including with the public, to strengthen trust and arrive at solutions that reflect the will of all citizens in a united, peaceful Nepal.
Giant neighbour India surrounds Nepal from three sides and has major influence over the Himalayan nation.
Home Minister Bam Dev Gautam told Nepal’s Constituent Assembly that the protesters surrounded police who were enforcing a curfew and attacked them with stones, knives and spears.
The protesters from the Tharu ethnic group are demanding a separate state in the new constitution, which is being finalized in the Constituent Assembly. They say a separate state would give them a stronger say in local affairs. They have organized strikes and street demonstrations, but the protests turned violent yesterday.
In a separate clash today, police shot a protester in Gaur, a town 160 kilometres south of Kathmandu, official said.
Nepal has been governed by an interim constitution for years. The earthquake that killed thousands in April created new urgency for politicians to agree on a draft of a new charter.
The main political parties have agreed on seven federal states, but smaller political parties and ethnic groups oppose either the number or makeup of the states.
New York-based Human Rights Watch called on the government to order an independent investigation into the deaths
and said the security forces must respect basic rights.
“The violence . . . and the deployment of the army threatens to further increase tensions in an already charged situation,” the statement quoted Brad Adams, the group’s Asia director, as saying.
The United Nations also urged political leaders and protesters to sit together to find a peaceful solution before violence spirals out of control.
The spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Rupert Colville in Geneva urged Nepal “to create a climate where minority or dissenting views or beliefs are respected, and security forces only employ force as a last resort and in full accordance with the standards laid out under international law for maintaining public order”.