Terai protestors target journalists, ambulances
Kathmandu | February 05, 2007 1:15:23 AM IST
Ignoring Nepal's government's formation of a talks team, ethnic protesters Sunday pursued their campaign for an autonomous state in the Terai plains, journalists and ambulances bearing the brunt of their anger.
Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala's hometown Biratnagar in Morang district came under fresh day curfew Sunday as journalists covering a goodwill rally came under attack in the Bansbari area.
Five journalists, including the Biratnagar correspondent of Indian TV anchor Nalini Singh's Nepal1 television channel, were beaten up and the motorcycle of one of them was vandalised, reportedly by activists of the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (MJF). The Forum has been spearheading the blockades and protests in the Terai plains since mid-January.
On Saturday night, after Forum chief Upendra Yadav demanded the resignation of Home Minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula following the death of 15 people, protesters in Sunsari district stoned four ambulances.
This vandalism triggered a protest by ambulance drivers in Biratnagar Sunday, who announced they would not ply their vehicles.
Fresh day curfew was reinforced in trouble-prone areas in Sunsari and Sarlashi. Nepal's commercial hub Birgunj town in Parsa district, where India has a consulate, also remained under curfew.
Meanwhile, a 17-year-old boy, injured in police action in Janakpur town earlier, died of injuries Saturday, taking the toll to 16.
Yadav said the protests will continue and his group will not begin talks with the government till Sitaula resigned, owing moral responsibility for the police atrocities.
As pre-conditions for starting a dialogue, the Forum has also asked for the arrest of Maoist cadres who killed an 18-year-old boy in Lahan town last month and end of all "state repression" in the plains.
The ball is now in the government's court. Last week, the government formed a team of three ministers and asked the protesters to begin dialogue immediately.
Koirala himself made an address to the nation, asking for peace and restraint and conceding two major demands.
The premier said the government would amend the constitution to provide for a federal government and add more constituencies in the plains to ensure proportional electoral representation before the June elections.
However, he also warned that his government would crack down on violence and arson and asked the protesters to lift all closures.
The Kathmandu Valley Sunday reeled under an acute fuel crisis, following the Terai unrest that is preventing petrol tankers from India to cross over into Nepal.
There is growing fear that if the closures continue, there will be a dearth of other essential commodities as well.
Hundreds of industries, including Indian giants Dabur Nepal and Nepal Lever, have been forced to close their factories due to the scarcity of raw materials.
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