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Protests, clashes in Province 5 districts over demarcations

With the government bent on tabling the constitution amendment bill in parliament, protests have intensified again in various districts of western and mid-western regions after a gap of few days. Protests that had been toned down earlier in view of the hardships caused to the locals, have now been intensified from Friday with an announcement of a three-day general strike in all districts of Province 5.

'Joint struggle committees' comprising leaders of major political parties in the districts--Nawalparasi, Rupandehi, Kapilvastu, Dang, Banke, Bardiya, Rukum, Rolpa, Pyuthan, Arghakhanchi, Gulmi and Palpa--announced the strike against government preparations to table the amendment proposal in parliament. The strike has largely affected vehicular movement while schools, government offices, factories and markets remained closed. 

Tensions ran high in Gulmi, Nepalgunj of Banke and Rolpa after the protestors prevented locals from using all kinds of vehicles. Over 24 protestors including lawmaker Kamala Sunar and two policemen were injured in a clash in Gulmi, said protestors. UML lawmaker Gokarna Bista of Gulmi constituency 3 claimed that the situation turned tense after the police intervened into peaceful demonstrations. 

Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Mahendra Nepal said that the protestors padlocked the district administration office of Gulmi at 10:30 am and refused to open it despite repeated requests by police. "The clash occurred as we had to intervene into the rally to open the administration office," said Nepal. The two sides had clashed at 12:30 pm.

In Rolpa, Nepali Congress lawmaker Chandra Bhandari said Khatak Bahadur Khatri, Bishwa Prakash Chand, Begam Kunwar, Rajendra Gharti, Dipak Thapa, Gagan KC, Gangaram KC and  Dipak Thapa among others were injured in clashes with police. 
In Nepalgunj, agitating cadres of the UML vandalized a private car (Na A Pa Aa 1981) at BP Chwok when it was heading toward Nepalgunj Medical College. Clashes erupted briefly there between the agitators and the youths travelling in the car. There were five youths in the car. The car's driver was seriously injured when protesters hit him in the head.  UML district Secretary Ratna Khatri claimed that the youths travelling in the car had first attacked peaceful demonstrators. 

Eyewitnesses however rubbished Khatri's claim. "Protesters snatched key which later initiated the clash," said an eyewitness. A large number of police deployed from the District Administration Office took the situation under control. A motorcycle was also vandalized in the district. Protesters carried out torch processions in Banke against 'police interference'. In Pyuthan, a cross-party struggle committee has enforced banda in the district from Friday demanding withdrawal of the constitution amendment bill, which proposes to take away the hill districts from Province 5. 

Protesters said the banda will continue till Sunday. The general life remains largely affected due to the strike.  Vehicular movement was halted and local markets, schools and factories remained closed. "Federalism is meant for efficient service delivery," said Rastriya Janamorcha chairperson of Pyuthan chapter adding "But the locals will face more difficulties if the proposed amendment is made."

Protestors have threatened to continue protests unless the government withdraws controversial bill. Locals in Rolpa and Pyuthan have been demanding that the districts be retained within Province 5. In Bardiya, local political parties have enforced a three-day strike starting Friday. The protests led by the main opposition CPN-UML is also supported by the CPN-ML and Rastriya Janamorcha. "Now onward, we won't allow even two-wheelers on the roads," said UML Bardiya district chapter head Hari Gyawali. 

17-12-2016, MyRepublica



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