Nepal Muslims give ultimatum to Maoist government

March 10th, 2009 - 3:56 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, March 10 (IANS) Almost eight months after Nepal’s Maoist Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda pledged to form a Muslim Commission but failed to keep the promise, the angered Muslim community has given an ultimatum, warning to go on the warpath after a fortnight.
The threat of Muslim unrest comes even as the Maoist government of Nepal grapples with ethnic unrest in the southern plains and in the east and violence in the farwest triggered by students demanding a university.

Last July, after the Maoists emerged as the single largest party following elections, its leader Prachanda promised that his government would form a Muslim Commission to compensate the minority community for the “repression” it had suffered in the past when Nepal was a Hindu kingdom.

Nearly eight months later, the Maoist government has made no move to form the commission. Instead, it has stoked fresh resentment in the Muslim community with a controversial reservation ordinance that Muslims fear will ride roughshod over their rights.

Muslims, who form about 4.2 percent of Nepal’s 29 million population and have representation in the interim parliament, are objecting to the government’s recently declared quota policy that reserves 45 percent seats in all state mechanisms for disadvantaged communities.

With a large number of Muslims living in the Terai plains in southern Nepal, the community feels the policy clubs them with Madhesis, people of Indian origin living in the plains and they will lose out to Madhesis in the quota race.

The Muslim warning comes even as an ethnic community from the plains, the Tharus, launched protests nine days ago, raising the same objections. Three people have been killed in the protests that have crippled the Terai plains and raised the spectre of food and fuel scarcity.

On Sunday, Muslims in eastern Nepal issued a 15-day ultimatum to the government. They are asking for the formation of the commission, the withdrawal of the quota ordinance and adequate representation for Muslims in all state organs.

The Muslim Sangharsh Samiti has warned that unless the demands are met, it will kick off protests from March-end.

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