International Crisis Group issues conflict alert for Nepal c

Kathmandu, Sep 2 (IANS) The International Crisis Group (ICG) has issued a conflict alert for Nepal, warning that the government must act urgently to reduce the risk of more violence in Madhes and the southern plains along the border with India.

“An enormous trust deficit between agitating groups and Kathmandu’s political leadership would worsen if the government and major parties persist with a heavily securitized response to fundamentally political protests, and if they and the media portray the protests as marginal or criminal,” the ICG said in a statement on Wednesday.

The protests that began in the Himalayan country after the major parties agreed to federate the country into six provinces, and later into seven provinces, have claimed 23 lives till Tuesday.

According to Nepal Police spokesperson Kamal Singh Bam, eight members of security agencies — six from Nepal Police and two from Armed Police Force — have been killed. At least 14 protesters and a child have died, and around 190 security personnel and 195 protesters injured in protests.

The ICG also suggested that the government should urgently form an independent commission to investigate the recent killings.

“The anger in the Tarai and among various social groups is real. If it is ignored or mishandled, the violence will grow. If the new constitution is truly to be one for all Nepalis rather than a starting gun for new forms of conflict, its framers must recognise that getting it done right is more important than getting it done fast,” the statement said.

It said it was “unlikely” that the discontent can be resolved by a deal between power-brokers in Kathmandu that does not address core issues.

While some district-level political leaders and parties that represent the Tharu and Madhesi groups in the Constituent Assembly have been involved in the protests or support them, the mobilisation and leadership comes largely from within local communities, it said.

The Samyukta Loktantrik Madhesi Morcha, an alliance of Madhes-based political parties, had launched an indefinite strike from August 18 against the proposed seven-state model.

Madhesi and other minority groups joined the protests fearing the new constitution will marginalise them and not ensure their rights.

The strike has severely crippled normal life in the region.

Despite escalating violence in the region, attempts for talks between the government and the agitating Madhesi and Tharu groups have not been fruitful so far.

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