Indian pilgrims’ van stoned during Nepal Terai turmoil

February 9th, 2009 - 5:42 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Feb 9 (IANS) A group of Indian pilgrims had an unnerving experience while travelling through southern Nepal during a shutdown when their vehicle was stoned by ethnic protesters.

The police in Rupandehi district said Monday activists of the Tharu Kalyankarini Sabha threw stones at a Maruti van for venturing out during the closure called by the Sabha in the Terai plains.

The closure started Saturday to protest the recent quota system announced by the Maoist government.

The attack on the Indian vehicle occurred Sunday at the Buddha Chowk area in Bhairahawa town, a key entry point between India and Nepal.

The number plate of the vehicle indicated it was from India’s Uttar Pradesh state.

“We sent a team to the vehicle to provide security,” the police said. “Though its windscreen was shattered, the passengers were not hurt. Later, they drove off with police protection.”

The two-day closure was marked by attacks on vehicles and clashes between the protesters and local traders.

The Tharus are among the original residents of the Terai plains. Descendents from the clan in which the Buddha was born, members of the former ruling community became landless bonded slaves in the course of time when they were evicted by migrants.

The Maoist government’s recent reservation policy keeps 45 percent seats in state organisations for disadvantaged communities, including the Tharus.

However, the group is demanding proportional representation on the basis of population and says the government has clubbed them with Madhesis, people of Indian origin, who would get greater benefits from the quota system.

On Sunday, the community announced it was extending the closure to Monday to protest police repression.

It alleged that dozens of its men have been injured due to “police attacks” and indicated the protests would continue till the government released arrested protesters and bore the cost of medical treatment for those injured in the clashes.

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