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Trucks cross into Nepal from India as blocked checkpoint reopens

AFP | Last Updated: Friday, February 5, 2016 - 20:05

Kathmandu: Cargo trucks drove through a border crossing in Nepal for the first time in months on Friday, police said, following a blockade that has caused a crippling shortage of fuel and vital supplies across the landlocked country.

"There is no blockade at the checkpoint right now, and over 150 small and big vehicles have passed through since this afternoon," local police chief Raju Babu Shrestha told AFP.

Demonstrators from Nepal`s Madhesi ethnic minority have led a blockade of the key border crossing in Birgunj, 90 kilometres (55 miles) south of Kathmandu, since September.

Shrestha said that Nepali and Indian businessmen and locals had dismantled the protesters` tents and opened the blocked border.

However, Shiva Patel, general secretary of the Sadbhawana political party which represents the Madhesi minority, said that protesters had not withdrawn the blockade.

"Black market goons and police forced our supporters off the crossing. There was a large mass (of people) there, and it was not safe for us to return," Patel said.

"We will have a meeting tomorrow morning to discuss what to do next."

More than 50 people have been killed in clashes between police and people protesting against the Himalayan nation`s new constitution, which demonstrators say leaves them politically marginalised.

In a bid to break the deadlock, parties tabled a bill to amend the constitution and increase the presence of the Madhesi -- who mainly live in the southern plains -- in government bodies through proportional representation.

But protesters have argued that the bill, currently under discussion in parliament, is incomplete and does not address their main demand to revise the federal state borders laid out in the charter.

First Published: Friday, February 5, 2016 - 19:59

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