The crisis in Nepal over the new Constitution has deepened with protests in Madhes continuing to block the border with India and impacting life in the Kathmandu Valley and the hinterland.
With supplies running low, youth cadres of major political parties are whipping up anti-India sentiments and all Indian TV channels were taken off air Tuesday by cable operators. Moves are also afoot to stop screening of Hindi films.
China Southern cancelled its flights to Nepal Tuesday saying it would not be able to fly without refuelling at the Tribhuvan International Airport. Airport authorities had earlier indicated that there could be shortage of aviation fuel because supplies were not coming in to the country.
Indian ambassador Ranjit Rae, speaking at a meeting organised by the Nepal-India Maitri Sangh, said there was no blockade by India, nor was India against Nepal’s Constitution.
“We welcome the recent steps taken by the government of Nepal to hold dialogue with the agitating groups to end the existing political crisis in a peaceful manner… Nepal has come out of a very difficult situation and we don’t want it to return to another difficult situation,” he said.
“Nepal-India friendship is very old, solid and very much stable, and it doesn’t depend on any specific issue or incident. I am confident even after these difficult days, our friendship will be stronger,” Rae said.
Nepal’s Ambassador to India Deep Kumar Upadhyaya hoped that there would be ease in supply of essential commodities from India soon since efforts were being made at the diplomatic and political level.
“India has always played an important role during the hardship faced by Nepal in the past which was evident during the recent earthquakes. Let’s not speak irresponsible things and develop negative attitude towards each other at this sensitive time which might damage the centuries-old friendly relations,” he said.
In Bhaktapur, youths burnt the effigy of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi while nine youth organisations submitted a memorandum to the UN country representative claiming that the sovereignty and independence of Nepal was “under threat”.
Meanwhile, former Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai, who resigned from the Maoist party last weekend over the promulgation of the new Constitution, was chased away by Madhesi youths in Janakpur after he refused to burn a copy of the Constitution.
Bhattarai said he was of the view that the “injustice meted out” to Madhesis and Tharus should be addressed. He said he was willing to be a link between Kathmandu and the Terai to resolve the crisis. But he was forced to leave after Madhesis asked him to burn a copy of the Constitution.
Adding to the confusion in Kathmandu, Vice President Parmananda Jha issued a statement in which he accused the state of discriminating against Madhesis. “The state must talk to the Madhesis and fulfil its commitments made earlier,” he said.
K P Oli, chairman of the ruling CPN-UML, hit back at Jha saying he was “getting into party politics” and such “conduct” had almost become routine in the country.
New Delhi, which has been watching the developments with some amount of concern, is likely to “evaluate” the situation after Prime Minister Modi returns from the US early Wednesday. “There will be a stock-taking meeting in the next 24 to 48 hours,” a source indicated Tuesday night.
South Block officials are expected to brief the PM on the latest situation in Nepal. New Delhi has been maintaining that there is “no blockade” of supplies and goods from the Indian side — a claim that does not have many takers in Kathmandu.
In fact, Nepal’s Commerce and Supplies Minister Sunil Bahadur Thapa met External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj Monday before she flew off to New York to attend the UN General Assembly proceedings.
New Delhi, which has counselled the Nepal political leadership to take care of Madhesi aspirations, is learnt to have conveyed that India will not disrupt supplies of essential commodities. India has told Nepal’s leadership that vehicle-owners are not travelling because of the risks involved, owing to the unrest in the Terai region.
Sources said the Nepal government has assured that Indian interests will not be harmed, and they will take necessary steps.
— With PTI