Normal life hit across Nepal ahead of constitutional deadline

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Kathmandu, Jan 13 (IANS) With the deadline to promulgate Nepal’s new constitution approaching fast, a general strike called by the alliance of 30 political parties led by Maoists parties UCPN-M and CPN-M crippled normal life across the country Tuesday.

The alliance is pressing for identity and ethnicity-based federalism which the ruling Nepali Congress and Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML) have rejected.
Parties in Nepal have also failed to forge a consensus on key issues like federalism, form of government, models of the judiciary and the electoral system. The sharp division over the intricacies of the new constitution has pushed the deadline for promulgating the new constitution into a limbo.
The self-imposed deadline set by political parties in Nepal is Jan 22 and the chances of Nepal having a new constitution by that deadline are slim.
Political polarisation has heightened and the general strike called by the opposition has ignited confrontation.
The Maoist-led alliance Tuesday boycotted the Constituent Assembly that is tasked to bring out the new constitution. In the absence of opposition parties, Constituent Assembly chairman Subash Chandra Nembang received a report from a key constitutional committee which was headed by Maoist leader and former prime minister Baburam Bhattarai.
Bhattarai did not hand over the report that included an account of the agreements and disagreements on the new constitution. Instead, because of Bhattarai’s absence, former prime minister Surya Bahadur Thapa, who is the oldest assembly member in the Constituent Assembly, handed over the report to Nembang.
Over seven dozens Maoist cadres were arrested across the Himalayan nation while enforcing the shutdown, police said. At least 69 were arrested in Kathmandu alone, Nepal Police spokesperson, Madhav Joshi, said adding that around one dozen vehicles were vandalised.
Vehicles stayed off the roads and market places, and industries, educational institutes and business houses remained shut due to the strike. People across the nation were forced to bear the brunt of the shutdown.
Several incidents of clashes were reported outside Kathmandu.
Several political parties, business communities and local people called on the United Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist and the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist and their alliance to withdraw the strike. People came out on the streets to oppose the strike in various parts of the country.
Samajbadi Party, an ally of the Maoist-led alliance, claimed that thousands of armed security forces were deployed on the streets to foil the strike which the party condemned in a strongly worded statement.
A clash in the southern city of Janakpur between locals and the police left at least six people injured. On Monday, a protestor died during a protest called by the opposition parties in that city.
(Anil Giri can be contacted at girianil@gmail.com)

Last modified: January 13, 2015