Nepal eases curfews though constitution protests persist

AP News
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Posted: Sep 22, 2015 5:51 AM
Nepal eases curfews though constitution protests persist

KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) — Protests against Nepal's new constitution were abating, Nepal said Tuesday, just hours after police opened fire on a crowd and injured three in the east of the Himalayan nation.

Curfews imposed amid weeks of violent demonstrations that left more than 40 dead are now being relaxed in parts of the country, the Home Ministry said Tuesday. "The situation is improving," ministry spokesman Laxmi Prasad Dhakal said, describing the continuing protests as "small."

The violence has alarmed neighboring India, with New Delhi calling its ambassador to report on the situation Monday.

"We are deeply concerned over the incidents of violence resulting in death and injury in regions of Nepal bordering India," the Indian foreign ministry said in a statement. "The issues facing Nepal are political in nature and cannot be resolved through force."

On Monday, police opened fire on a crowd of stone-hurling protesters in the eastern city of Biratnagar, and one officer was injured, police said.

A spokesman for the Nepal Oil Corporation, Dipak Baral, said Indian oil tankers are refusing to enter Nepal "because of security concerns." Trucks carrying cargo from India were also stopping short of the border.

While many in Nepal cheered Sunday's adoption of a permanent constitution after a 10-year effort, some ethnic groups say their concerns that the seven newly defined states would have borders cutting through their ethnic homelands were ignored. Some groups have also argued for bigger territory and more seats for ethnic minorities in parliament and government, and other protesters want the country to remain Hindu, rather than secular, as was decided.

"We will continue our protests until the major parties fulfil our demands," said Abhisek Pratap Sah, who leads a group that wants provinces carved out for its members in the southern plains of Nepal.

The government sees the new constitution as a much-needed success for the nation of 28 million, still recovering from a devastating April 25 earthquake that killed thousands.

Amnesty International urged Nepal to rein in security forces, noting in a statement Monday night that investigations by human rights groups "found that in many of the protest-related deaths, the force used by security forces was excessive, disproportionate or unnecessary, contrary to international legal standards."