Surprise strike paralyses Nepal

Only 30 days are left for the framing of Nepal`s new Constitution.

Updated: Apr 27, 2011, 15:43 PM IST

Kathmandu: With only 30 days left for the framing of the country`s new Constitution, nine ethnic and indigenous groups on Wednesday enforced a surprise strike in Nepal, paralysing Kathmandu valley and outer districts and leaving thousands of people in the lurch.

Tales of violence began to pour in with protesters vandalising nearly two dozen vehicles while schools, shops and businesses mostly remained closed.

The Tamsaling United Struggle Committee, an ethnic organisation of Tamangs, a Buddhist people who are among the most disadvantaged and the biggest prey of traffickers, and the Newa Autonomous State Cooperative Struggle Committee, an organisation of Newars, the original inhabitants of Kathmandu valley, enforced the general strike after talks with the government broke down on Tuesday.

Nearly 17 ethnic and adivasi communities are members of the two organisations, who are demanding a guarantee from the Jhala Nath Khanal government that the Constitution would be enforced May 28, as per schedule, and that it will pave the way for autonomous federal states.

The protesters walked out of the negotiations called by the Maoist-led Peace Ministry on Tuesday alleging that none of the top political party leaders had turned up and refusing to hold talks with aides.

Capital city Kathmandu, despite the large presence of security forces, was badly hit by the strike call with public transport disappearing from the roads and shops on main thoroughfares remaining closed after protesters flexed their muscle.

Besides Kathmandu`s neighbouring cities Lalitpur and Bhaktapur, 10 more districts in central and eastern Nepal, where the groups have their strongholds, remained crippled.

Parts of western Nepal also faced a shutdown due to a strike called by a Tharu organisation. The Tharus, an indigenous community, have been demanding a Tharu state in the southern plains.

The strike comes in the midst of a tourism campaign started by the government this year to attract one million air-borne tourists.

On the eve of the Nepal Tourism Year 2011 campaign, all the major parties had pledged not to call any general strikes in 2011 to boost the campaign, a promise that has been broken repeatedly.