NEPAL

Nepal grinds to a halt amid general strike protesting draft constitution dividing country into provinces

Nepal’s major political parties agreed on an eight-province federal model in June and came up with an agreement to promulgate a new constitution.

PUBLISHED : Monday, 17 August, 2015, 4:57pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 August, 2015, 10:25am

An alliance of smaller parties led by a radical Maoist group shut down Nepal on Monday with a general strike, protesting preparations by major political parties to finalise a draft constitution dividing Nepal into six provinces.

Schools and markets were shuttered, and the streets were mostly empty in Kathmandu and most parts of Nepal.

Police have arrested 51 strike enforcers involved in allegedly intimidating people to comply with the strike, police spokesman Kamal Singh Bam told Kyodo News.

“The strikers vandalised four vehicles and attempted arson on two other vehicles in Kathmandu but were unsuccessful because of police intervention,” Bam said.

Following devastating earthquakes in April and May, Nepal’s major political parties agreed on an eight-province federal model in June and came up with an agreement to promulgate a new constitution, leaving the contentious topic of demarcating provinces to a federal commission.

Under the pressure of widespread criticism and a court ruling that said a constitution without names and boundaries of provinces would not be valid, they came up with a six-province federal model with boundaries earlier this month, prompting various groups disgruntled with the boundaries to launch protests.

Pampha Bhusal, spokesperson of the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist, said the draft constitution disregards many past agreements.

“It does not reflect the aspirations of marginalised groups and is therefore unacceptable,” she said.

The party broke away from the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist in 2012, accusing the latter of giving up agendas of the insurgency, and boycotted elections in 2013. The Maoists fought state forces for 10 years until 2006. The insurgency cost over 17,000 lives.

Monday was the second day of the general strike enforced by the alliance led by the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist. On Sunday, 117 strike enforcers were arrested in the course of the strike that saw 16 vehicles vandalised across the nation, according to police spokesman Bam.

Voting on a final draft is expected to take place at the constituent assembly later this month.