Hindi row turns into war in Nepal

July 29th, 2008 - 3:37 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, July 29 (IANS) The raging row in Nepal sparked by the vice-president taking his oath of office in Hindi last week turned into war Tuesday with the rift between the hill people and Indian-origin plains community widening and protesters from both sides going on the rampage. Nearly three dozen vehicles were vandalised in the capital and the turbulent Terai plains along the India-Nepal border, while closures were called in border towns.

Ignoring lawmakers’ appeals to maintain harmony and national unity, angry crowds kept up demonstrations here as well as in southern districts, burning tyres and the effigy of Vice President Parmanand Jha for the sixth consecutive day.

They are demanding either the Indian-origin official’s resignation or a fresh oath-taking in Nepali instead of the Hindi used by him last Wednesday.

The eight student organisations, who had begun the protests last week branding Jha an anti-national for taking his oath in a language identified as the national tongue of neighbour India, said they would call off their stir Tuesday out of deference to the Supreme Court.

But the issue snowballed with Indian-origin youngsters now taking up cudgels on embattled Jha’s behalf.

Madhesi youths began retaliatory public demonstrations, saying Jha had done nothing wrong in taking his oath in Hindi and condemning the “dictatorial” demand for a fresh oath.

While anti-Hindi protesters shut down transport and educational institutions in Nawalparasi district, Madhesis called a counter-closure in Parsa.

The controversy reached Nepal’s Supreme Court after a nationalistic lawyer, Bal Krishna Neupane, filed a writ, calling Jha’s swearing-in unconstitutional and asking for him to be barred from office till he took the oath again in Nepali.

Judge Damodar Prasad Sharma has asked Jha’s office to explain within a week why he took the oath in Hindi. However, the judge rejected the call to bar the official from his office or to slap a similar show-cause notice on newly elected President Ram Baran Yadav, who is also of Indian origin.

Meanwhile, the third largest party in Nepal, the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML) that had backed Jha in the four-cornered contest, made a volte face and began to call for his resignation.

The Hindi row has been fuelled by the Maoists, who refused to support Jha in the election and paid the price by being defeated in the presidential election by a three-party alliance.

Though Nepal’s alarmed constituent assembly ordered the government to maintain law and order, the caretaker government of Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, preoccupied with its own survival, has so far failed to deal with the situation.

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