Anti-Hindi protests revive in Nepal

August 4th, 2008 - 3:47 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Aug 4 (IANS) The row that had gripped Nepal for a week after the republic’s Indian-origin first Vice President Parmanand Jha last month took his oath of office in Hindi, neighbour India’s national language, was stoked afresh Monday with indigenous organisations calling a shutdown in the Terai plains, from where Jha comes. The shutdown called by eight indigenous organisations paralysed eastern Nepal, disrupting transport and causing educational institutions and markets to close.

The eight organisations are headed by the Tharus, a community that was the original inhabitant of the southern plains but later displaced by the waves of migrants from India and Nepal’s mountain areas and compelled into slavery.

The protesting organisations have called a Tharuhat shutdown - a closure in 22 Terai districts that they say should be melded to form an autonomous state for the community.

Monday’s closure revives the controversy over Jha’s Hindi oath after the furore died down with the beleaguered official tendering a public apology for unwittingly hurting the sentiments of non-Hindi speaking people.

Anti-Hindi protesters say Jha should have taken the oath of office and secrecy in Nepali or his mother tongue Maithili and had been demanding either a public apology or his resignation.

Bal Krishna Neupane, a nationalistic Nepali lawyer, has also filed a writ in Nepal’s Supreme Court, asking for a fresh swearing-in ceremony.

Judge Damodar Prasad Sharma said the petition would be heard on a priority basis and asked the government to show cause within seven days, which expires Tuesday.

The government has already replied to the court query Sunday, saying that it was a political issue and, therefore, outside the purview of the petition.

The Hindi row further deepened the rift between Nepal’s hill community and people of Indian origin, with the latter supporting Jha and the former dubbing him an “Indian agent”.

The protests, which turned violent and led to the vandalisation of vehicles and clashes, are believed to be led by Maoists.

The former rebels hold Jha responsible for their humiliating defeat in the presidential election last month. Their presidential candidate lost after they refused to support Jha as vice president, which led to Jha’s backers form an anti-Maoist alliance.

The Tharu protest comes even as eight student organisations that had begun the protests said they were suspending their stir since the issue was under the consideration of the apex court.

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