The EU has expressed deep concerns about the ongoing strike by ethnic Madeshis in Nepal. The EU mission in Nepal has called on the PM Girija Prasad Koirala to restore law and order and quell violence in the southern plains before it can hold a planned national election this year. The ethnic Madheshi people are protesting for greater autonomy for their region. The government says it is in talks with the ethnic leaders to end the crisis.
Nepal's Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala (centre)
National elections in Nepal are scheduled for April 10. Preparations are underway to hold them under safe conditions. The polls are crucial for the country, as they will choose a body to rewrite Nepal's constitution and most likely formally abolish the monarchy.
But it seems dark clouds have already started to gather. The country’s southern Terai region, which has cultural ties with northern India, has been hit by strikes and blockades. The protests have been called by an alliance of ethnic Madheshi parties called the United Madheshi Democratic Front (UMDF).
They say that they have long been treated as second-class citizens in Nepal. They have been demanding more rights and greater autonomy for their region, which represents nearly half of the country’s population.
Earlier this week, the Madeshi parties refused to meet the deadline to register candidates for elections, saying they will not take part in the polls unless their demands are met. “It will be extremely difficult to hold elections without the Madeshis, said Ameet Dhakal is from the Kathmandu Post Daily. “And I think for now one is expecting that scenario, and the election commission has already extended the deadline till Monday, so that they can submit their lists.”
For more than a week now, Madheshi protesters have been blocking the main road between the capital and the Indian border, the main corridor for most of the imports from the south. As a result, the capital and other areas are facing massive shortages of fuel and other key commodities.
The strike turned violent in the past week, when protestors clashed with the police. Two were killed and several injured. The unrest forced the government to invite the Madheshi groups for negotiations. And as the talks have now started, a compromise is very much likely on cards, according to Ameet Dhakal:
”Of course there has been a pressure from the ongoing agitation. But when the Madhesis sat on the negotiating table they also felt that some of their demands were unrealistic so they are likely to compromise.”Pressure on both parties to resolve the crisis is also mounting from the outside. The UN has expressed serious concerns. The European Union’s mission in Nepal has released a statement, saying the violence and the strike are putting peace in the country at risk. The EU has also called the two sides to work out an agreement that allows the upcoming polls to go ahead on schedule.