Nepal protesters block border checkpoint with India
A large crowd of angry demonstrators protesting against a recently passed new national constitution have blocked a major trading checkpoint between India and Nepal.
The protesters, who belong to the Madhesi community, blocked a checkpoint in Birgunj town, which is located 90 kilometers south of the capital, Kathmandu.
The checkpoint serves as the key hub for oil and food imports into the landlocked Himalayan nation. Fears of a fuel shortage have seen dozens of commuters line up at gas stations in Kathmandu.
Meanwhile, Shiva Patel, the secretary general of the regional Sadbhawana party, which has been working for the rights of Madhesi, says the protesters will continue to block the site until their demands are met.
Patel argues that the new internal borders as defined in the new constitution will discriminate against historically marginalized communities.
“We blocked the crossing overnight and we will not budge until the government listens to us and makes changes to these new borders in the constitution,” AFP quoted Patel as saying, adding, “The blockade is our last resort to make the government understand our demands.”
“Normally hundreds of trucks would pass through this checkpoint overnight, but not even one turned up last night,” Patel noted.
The Indian government , which exerts significant political influence in Nepal, has expressed concerns over the ongoing situation.
“Our freight forwarders and transporters … [have] voiced complaints about the difficulties they are facing in movement within Nepal and their security fears, due to the prevailing unrest,” Indian government said in a statement on Friday.
This comes a week after Nepal’s parliament overwhelmingly passed a new constitution that had been delayed for years due to differences between political factions.
The new charter came into force on September 20.
A series of protests has continued to rock parts of the country, signaling that the new charter is not likely to allay the concerns of the country’s many marginalized groups. A series of violent protests have claimed the lives of over 40 demonstrators over the past weeks.
The new national constitution aims to restructure Nepal as a federal state made up of seven provinces, and draw a line under a decade-long civil war that ended in 2006.
The members of marginalized groups demand their own separate province. The groups include the Madhesi and Tharu ethnic minorities who mainly inhabit the country’s southern plains.