Ethnic protesters in Nepal withdraw border blockade, strike

AP News
Posted: Feb 08, 2016 7:30 AM

KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) — The main ethnic group that's been protesting for months over Nepal's new constitution is ending its border blockade and general strike, bringing relief to the Himalayan nation severely short of fuel, medicine and other supplies.

The United Democratic Madhesi Front said in a statement Monday it would continue its protests but would no longer block the border points where crucial supplies come on cargo trucks from India.

The strike has shut down schools, markets and transportation in the south, and the group's announcement came days after frustrated traders and residents forcefully removed the barriers at the main border crossing.

Ethnic Madhesis oppose the new constitution because they say its seven federal states have borders that cut through their ancestral homeland in the south. They want a larger state, more government representation and more local autonomy. Talks with the government have continued but no agreement has been reached.

The Constituent Assembly adopted a constitution in September after years of delay and despite protests of unfairness.

More than 50 people have been killed since August in clashes between the protesters and security forces.

On Friday, vehicles passed through the Birgunj border point, about 160 kilometers (100 miles) south of Kathmandu. Hundreds of trucks rolled into Nepal bringing in supplies. Fuels trucks were also getting oil from the main storage at Raxaul in India.

Nepal Oil Corp., which imports and distributes fuel in Nepal, has said it would take days for normal supply to resume in the country.

The statement also indicated problems among the Madhesi groups. The United Democratic Madhesi Front is made up of four main Madhesi groups, and the statement blamed Sadhbhawana Party leader Rajendra Mahato, for weakening the front's protests.