Warrior clan shuts down Kathmandu, 72-hour closure on cards
Chhetris want they be recognised as indigenous community in new constitution.
Kathmandu: The Nepal government was Sunday hit by a 48-hour general strike called in Kathmandu valley by a protesting warrior community while six Left groups announced a nationwide closure Tuesday, ahead of constitutional turmoil expected next week.
Chhetri Samaj Nepal, an organisation of Chhetris, Nepal`s elite warrior community that had ruled the country in the past, brought life in Kathmandu and its two adjoining cities, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur, to a grinding halt Sunday, demanding that they be recognised as an indigenous community in the new constitution.
"The Chhetris have been residents of Nepal for thousands of years," said Dil Bahadur Chhetri, president of the protesting organisation. "Yet the interim constitution did not recognise us as an indigenous people. If the government doesn`t listen to our demand, we will proceed with other forceful protests."
According to the last census in 2001, the Chhetris were the biggest community in Nepal with the then 3.5 million strong clan amounting to nearly 16 percent of the population.
Nepal was traditionally ruled by an alliance of Chhetris and Brahmins, who found themselves in the dog`s house after a pro-democracy movement in 2006. It ousted King Gyanendra, abolished monarchy and sought to restructure the country into autonomous states with reservations in jobs and education for the underprivileged communities.
Since then, the two alarmed elite groups have begun to hit back, demanding protection of their rights.
The Chhetris submitted a memorandum to Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal listing their demands and giving him till May 8 to address them.
When the beleaguered premier, floundering to save his chair as the opposition mounts pressure for his resignation, ignored the protesters, they began enforcing a series of general strikes.
There are indications of more turbulence to hit the nascent republic next week when the prime minister faces a vote in parliament that could lead to his ouster.
Since May 9, the warrior clan has kept the country paralysed by enforcing calling four regional strikes with a 48-hour Kathmandu valley shutdown from Sunday being the climax.
"We are against the restructuring of the country on the basis of ethnicity, language and religion," Chhetri said. "We are also against reservation on the basis of caste. Rather, it should be on the basis of class with quotas for the economically backward, irrespective of which community they come from."
On Tuesday, after the 48-hour Kathmandu valley shutdown, a Nepal closure is on the cards. A Unified National Struggle Committee, comprising six left groups close to the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) has called the general strike.
The CPN (M) is led by former Maoist minister Matrika Prasad Yadav, who left the ruling Maoist party to float his rebel organisation. The Yadav group has 28 demands, many of whom echo those made by the Maoists when they launched their 10-year armed insurrection in 1996.
The series of shutdowns have hit the government`s tourism initiative to bring one million foreign tourists this year and regenerate the economy that wilted during the Maoist insurgency.
Tourism entrepreneurs held a protest rally against the general strike Sunday.