Terai stalemate stops Maoist march to power in Nepal

June 30th, 2008 - 7:42 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, June 30 (IANS) Four days after Nepal’s prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala resigned, the former Maoist guerrillas’ bid to form the next government continued to be blocked by three main parties from the Terai plains who Monday kept up their disruption of parliament proceedings. The newly-elected constituent assembly, that will also serve as Nepal’s caretaker parliament till a new constitution is drafted, was paralysed yet again as the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum, Terai Madhes Loktantrik Party and Sadbhavana Party — who together form the fourth-largest bloc in the house — kept up their protests demanding the immediate formation of a new state in the plains.

The three parties started their protests Thursday when the ruling parties tried to move an amendment that would allow the Maoists to form the next government by presenting a simple majority in the assembly instead of the currently required two-thirds.

The protesters say the Koirala government signed a pact with them before the April election, pledging it would carve out an autonomous Madhes state in the Terai plains and ensure proportional representation for plains people, once excluded from all government organs, in the army, bureaucracy and judiciary.

They are demanding the formation of the new state before they allow any further changes in the constitution.

Though the ruling parties have stepped up consultations with the protesters to find a solution, the Terai parties have warned they would start a crippling movement soon if their demand is not met.

In the past, prolonged shutdowns by Terai agitators cut off Nepal’s supplies from India and brought the government to its knees.

However, Nepal’s ruling parties say the creation of a single Madhes state in the plains would lead to the disintegration of the Himalayan nation.

The Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML) Monday called a press conference, branding the Madhes demand unjust.

UML chief Jhalanath Khanal said in the pre-election pact, the Terai parties had agreed that a commission would be formed to restructure the state and recommend how many autonomous states the new federal republic of Nepal would have.

Khanal also said his party was opposed to carving out the nation into single states for people from the plains, hills and high land as it would deepen the rift between the three communities.

The indigenous communities in the plains are also opposing the Madhes demand, saying their existence would be endangered if the government agrees.

Meanwhile, the Maoists, who are kicking their heels at being pulled back from forming the new government for which they fought a 10-year guerrilla war, have warned they would start a new protest movement if the impasse was not resolved within a week.

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