Crippling strike in southern Nepal continues as talks falter

Other News Materials 23 February 2008 10:11 (UTC +04:00)

(dpa) - The people of southern Nepal faced the prospect of prolonged crippling strike across the region Saturday as talks to resolve the crisis faltered over a key ethnic demand.

The indefinite strike called by the ethnic United Democratic Madhesi Front entered its 11th day Saturday, worsening conditions for people across the region with growing shortages of medicine, food and fuel.

The talks between the government and the leaders of the UDMF faltered over a key demand for a single autonomous state for the southern Nepalese plains known as Terai with the right to self determination.

The ethnic leaders accused the government of not being serious about resolving the crisis that has led to severe shortages of essential items, including fuel, across the Himalayan nation.

"The government has not shown seriousness to meet our demands," UDMF leader Hridesh Tripathi said. "We felt it was useless to continue to hold negotiations when the government is not prepared to address the genuine demands of the ethnic Madhesi community."

Leaders representing the coalition government said they were prepared to meet all demands expect for a single autonomous state for southern Nepal with the right to self determination.

The government has maintained the demand would lead to the break up of the country.

""We are prepared to fulfil five of their demands, but the ethnic leaders were not prepared to climb down from their demand for a single autonomous state," said Jhalanath Khanal, theleader of the Nepal Communist Party of Nepal - Unified Marxist Leninist.

"The final decision on the number of federal states and their geographical make up can only be determined by the constituent assembly chosen by the people through elections in early April," Khanal said.

Following the breakdown of the talks, ethnic leaders warned their indefinite strike would continue until their demands were met.

Several places in southern Nepal continued to remain under curfew after violent protesters clashed with police and blocked highways.

Life remained crippled with shops, businesses, offices and educational institution remaining closed. Public and private transport also remained out of operation across much of the region.

At least two people have been killed and more than two hundred others, including police officers, injured in violence in southern Nepal in the past 11 days.