Nepal vice-president’s apology ends Hindi row

July 30th, 2008 - 2:06 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, July 30 (IANS) Violent protests that had disrupted Nepal for seven consecutive days after the newly elected Vice-President of Indian origin Parmanand Jha took his oath of office in Hindi ended Wednesday with the embattled official offering a public apology. “I express my regrets if I hurt anyone’s sentiments while taking my oath of office (in Hindi),” a statement issued by the beleaguered vice-president’s office said. “It was not my intention to hurt the national unity, integrity, sovereignty and self-respect of any Nepali citizen.”

The former judge, who had been at the centre of a raging controversy since last Wednesday, said he had taken the oath of office and secrecy in Hindi instead of Nepali or his mother tongue Maithili thinking “all communities would be able to understand the meaning and essence of the oath” if it was taken in Hindi.

Expressing sorrow at the demonstrations that shook the nation for seven days and deepened the rift between India-origin Nepalis and others, the statement said that Nepal was a “multi-lingual, multi-religious, multi-cultural and multi-ethnic country” and urged “unity and goodwill”.

Soon after the statement, the public protests, spearheaded by the Maoists, ended, making the nation heave a sign of relief.

Over a dozen people had been hurt, nearly three dozen vehicles damaged, offices vandalised and repeated transport and education strikes called during the escalating anti-Hindi row with protesters calling for Jha’s resignation or a public apology.

Jha will now have to answer Nepal’s Supreme Court’s call to show reason why he took the oath in Hindi.

Nationalistic lawyer Bal Krishna Neupane dragged the first vice-president to court soon after the swearing-in, demanding that Jha take the oath again in Nepali.

In answer to the petition, the apex court said it would give top priority to the case and asked the vice-president last Sunday to furnish his explanation within a week.

Hindi, though widely spoken in Nepal, is identified as the national language of its southern and increasingly unpopular neighbour India. Jha stoked protests further by choosing to wear at the ceremony the dhoti and kurta preferred by his Madhesi community of Indian origin which is looked down upon by Nepal’s hill community.

The mounting row underscored the growing chasm between Nepal’s hill community and Madhesis, people who live in the Terai plains, who began a fierce movement for autonomy soon after the fall of King Gyanendra’s government in 2006.

The main ethnic party from the Terai, the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum that backed Jha at the vice-presidential contest, says the issue was politicised by the Maoists who lost the presidential election for not supporting Jha.

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