Nepalese police yesterday fired teargas and water cannon at thousands of opposition supporters who converged on the capital to protest against controversial plans to vote on a disputed new national constitution. As anger mounted over the planned vote, protesters threw bricks and stones in brief clashes with security forces who responded with about 20 rounds of teargas, police said. "We estimate that around 35,000 people are participating in today's rally," Kathmandu police spokesman Dinesh Acharya said, while another officer said 4,000 police were lining the route through Kathmandu. Years of squabbling have seen Nepal's politicians miss a series of deadlines to draft the charter which was designed to draw a line under a decade of civil war. The government's push last month to hold a vote, rather than seek agreement on disputed terms of the constitution, sparked protests including inside parliament itself, deepening discord between ruling parties and the opposition led by former Maoist rebels. Yesterday, flag-waving demonstrators, riding motorcycles and travelling on foot, packed Kathmandu's narrow streets and shouted slogans calling for a constitution based on consensus. The situation briefly turned violent when protesters tried to enter a restricted area near parliament and police moved in to disperse them. Gopal KC, a doctor at Kathmandu's Civil Service Hospital, said "24 people have been admitted here, all with minor injuries". Police spokesman Acharya said four officers were also wounded after protesters threw stones at them. As thousands poured into the heart of Kathmandu, Maoist chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal, known better as Prachanda, addressed supporters and said "today's demonstration clearly shows how powerful we are". "Our strength should not be underestimated, otherwise the ruling parties should be prepared to face the upcoming challenge," he said, warning of fresh protests unless lawmakers abandoned plans for a vote and returned to the negotiating table. Man Bahadur Khadka, a 52-year-old farmer from eastern Nepal, joined the rally to pressure lawmakers to draft a charter that was "friendly to the poor". "I don't think the ruling parties should push through a constitution based on a majority vote," Khadka said. "They should realise that many sons of poor farmers lost their lives fighting for a better future for people like us," he said. A key sticking point concerns internal borders, with the opposition pushing for provinces to be created along lines that could favour historically marginalised communities.