Hundreds of protesters opposing Nepal’s new Constitution today blocked a key trade checkpoint with India, cutting off vital supplies to the country, even as the Indian envoy here met top Nepali leaders and assured them that the problem was due to unrest in the region.
Hundreds of trucks loaded with essential goods, cooking gas cylinders and petroleum products were stalled at the Nepal-India border due to the agitation. The protesters belonging to the Joint Madhesi Front were opposing the provision in the new Constitution that divides the country into seven federal provinces.
The agitating Madhesi Front claims that the Constitution does not guarantee enough rights and representation to the Madhesi and Tharu communities residing in southern Nepal.
Madhesis are Indian-origin inhabitants of the Terai plains bordering India.
At least 40 people have died in over a month of clashes between police and protesters from the Madhesi and Tharu communities and ethnic minorities who say the new internal borders leave them under-represented in the country’s Parliament.
The blocked checkpoint in Birgunj which lies 200 km south of the capital, serves as a major transit point between Nepal and India.
Although the shutdown in the region was lifted temporarily today due to the Muslim festival of Eid-ul-Azha, the blockade continued at the Nepal-India border check point affecting normal life.
Indian Ambassador to Nepal Ranjit Rae today held separate meetings with Prime Minister Sushil Koirala, CPN-UML Chairman KP Oli and senior leader Madhav Kumar Nepal.
According to reports, the leaders told Ambassador Rae that the two nations should improve their relations and the problems of Nepal should be dealt by Nepali leaders themselves.
The leaders also drew Rae’s attention to the crisis at the entry points to Nepal from India where Nepal-bound cargo and freight have been left stranded at the Indian side of the border and has allegedly not been given clearance.
Rae stated that the problems were not created due to India. He said the obstruction was caused by the protests in Nepal’s Tarai/Madhes region. Due to the fear of shortage of petroleum products many people were seen lining up at petrol pumps in Kathmandu.
Nepal solely depends on Indian Oil Corporation for the supply of petroleum products.
Nepal’s ministry of commerce and supplies has initiated diplomatic efforts to open two trading points lying in the country’s northern border with China, officials said.
According to sources in the ministry, the government is making efforts to reopen Tatopani check point, situated 110 km east of the capital, which was closed due to landslides in the aftermath of the April 25 earthquake and the Rasuwagadhi check point in northern Nepal to ease supply of goods in view of the blockade of trading points at the southern border.
The efforts are being made so as to avoid shortage of essential goods during the forthcoming festival season, Vijaya Dashami and Deepawali, the officials said.