Nepal police, protesters clash during strike over constitution

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 07, 2015 7:51 AM

By Gopal Sharma

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Stone-throwing Nepali opposition protesters led by Maoists clashed with police in the capital on Tuesday as they enforced a three-day nationwide shutdown of schools, business and transport in the latest violence to mar talks over a new constitution.

Police in helmets and carrying shields fired tear gas to stop protesters attacking vehicles near the prime minister's office, police official Kamal Singh Bam said. The protesters burnt a taxi after dousing it with petrol.

The impoverished Himalayan nation wedged between India and China emerged in 2006 from a civil war led by the Maoists that left 17,000 dead. It abolished the monarchy in 2008.

Politicians have missed several deadlines to agree on a new charter for the fledgling republic, and turmoil has increased in recent months. At least two activists were injured in Tuesday's clashes, a protest organizer said.

An opposition front led by Maoist former rebels sponsored the biggest nationwide shutdown in five years to press the coalition government to seek consensus on the first republican constitution, seen as vital to ending instability.

"The strike is to exert pressure on the government that has not listened to our demands in negotiations," Maoist leader Dinanath Sharma said.

From dawn, opposition activists waving red hammer and sickle flags fanned across Kathmandu to enforce the strike. Elsewhere, activists threw stones and damaged half a dozen vehicles but no serious injuries were reported, Bam said. Two dozen protesters were detained.

Pashupati Murarka, of the Federation of the Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI), said one day of shutdown caused losses worth $20 million and would scare away tourists and investors and deny work to thousands of daily wage earners.

"I am sick of the strike," said Dipak Adhikari, a government employee who had to walk 8 km (five miles) to work. "I think it only adds people's hatred toward the organizers."

(Reporting by Gopal Sharma; Editing by Nick Macfie)