[On Saturday, the police were attempting to clear protesters from the Madhesi group, which opposes the recently passed Constitution, who had been blocking a highway in Saptari District. The protesters attacked the police with firebombs, spears, sticks and stones, Mr. Thakur said.]
By Bhadra Sharma
KATHMANDU, Nepal — Violence flared in southern Nepal when the police open fire on protesters who had been blocking the country’s main highway, an official said on Sunday. The shootings threatened to deepen a political crisis over the country’s new Constitution.
Two protesters were killed in the violence that broke out Saturday night in the Bhardaha and Rupani areas of southern Nepal, and at least 28 were hurt, including 15 police officers, said Anil Kumar Thakur, the chief district officer in Saptari, which includes the two areas.
A third protester was killed on Sunday evening in Rajbiraj, the headquarters of Saptari District, when the police fired on protesters who had set fire to a police van after the killings the night before, Mr. Thakur said.
On Saturday, the police were attempting to clear protesters from the Madhesi group, which opposes the recently passed Constitution, who had been blocking a highway in Saptari District. The protesters attacked the police with firebombs, spears, sticks and stones, Mr. Thakur said.
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But according to Shambhu Jha, a Madhesi protester who said he was at the clash in Bhardaha, the group fought with the police only after officers used tear gas on the protesters. He said that at least 36 protesters had been injured.
Saturday’s violence was the latest in a series of clashes that began in August when key political parties began to finalize the drafting of a Constitution that would divide the country into provinces. Madhesis, who live largely in the southern plains and have close geographic and historical ties with India, say that the provinces were drawn in such a way as to dilute their political voice. More than 40 people have been killed in violent confrontations since.
Some Madhesi protesters have staged a sit-in on a main border post with India for about two months, and one Indian man was killed in a clash with the police there this month.
Trade between India and Nepal has slowed drastically since the passage of the Constitution, causing a fuel crisis in Nepal. Nepalese officials accuse India of imposing an unofficial blockade because of its objections to the process that led to the passage of the Constitution, which India considers not inclusive enough. India has denied ordering a blockade, but maintained that the trade impasse occurred because of security problems in Nepal over the Constitution.
The United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, expressed “his growing concern over the blocking of essential supplies on the Nepal-India border,” in a statement on Friday. He urged all sides in the dispute to lift restrictions.
On Sunday, the spokesman of India’s Ministry of External Affairs, Vikas Swarup, said on Twitter that India was “distressed at loss of lives in police firing in Saptari” and urged a political solution, which India has been promoting since the protests began.
But talks between the government and Madhesi groups have yielded little progress.
“We may have to quit talks if the government continues to kill the people,” said Laxman Lal Karna, a member of the United Democratic Madhesi Front, an umbrella organization of Madhesi parties.
Nida Najar contributed reporting from New Delhi