| May 19, 2019

Federal Alliance capital-centric protest mostlly peaceful

Federal Alliance capital-centric protest mostlly peaceful
KATHMANDU, May 16: Following six months of protests along the Nepal-India border, the Federal Alliance comprising Madhesi and ethnic groups began their Kathmandu-centric protests on Sunday with the picketing of' Singha Durbar as an initial phase.

However, the government, which had again called the agitating forces for talks to resolve their problems, has termed the protests 'untimely and pointless'.
According to the alliance, the Kathmandu-centric protest today was peaceful and a huge success, with active support from the general public and alliance cadres.

Agitating Madhesi forces had intensified their protests at different border points and participated in a protracted economic blockade against Nepal. But the protests ended without any tangible results and came in for sharp criticism from within and outside the country.

Sadbhawana Party Chairman Rajendra Mahato said that the alliance was now united and in a better position to pressure the government from the streets of Kathmandu. "As the government has turned more indifferent over the contentious issues raised by the alliance, we have no option other than pressing our rights through protests," he said.

Mahato alleged that the recent call for dialogue on an individual basis was a strategy of the government to divide and rule over those who are not satisfied with the provisions of the new Constitution. He also informed that they were preparing to announce other protests within two or three days to foil what he described as the government's strategy to divide the dissidents and suppress their community.

Starting from 9 a.m., protestors from 29 Madhesi and Janjati parties gathered in the Singh Durbar area, the center of the country's administration. This was followed by rallies with placards, banners and flags that began from various locations in Kathmandu. The protestors chanted slogans against the government leadership and urged fulfillment of the 26-point demand they submitted to the government. They emphasized the redrawing of provincial boundaries and amending of fsome provisions of the Constitution, among other things.

Government spokesperson Sher Dhan Rai denounced the protest and said, "As the government has been repeatedly calling the alliance forces for talks, intensifying the protest was 'untimely and pointless'.

The alliance would be responsible for any untoward incidents that happen in the Valley in future and the people of Kathmandu were not going to support any further protests, spokesperson Rai, who is also minister for information and communications, said.

The government said that it was inviting the alliance to the negotiating table with maximum flexibility and it was ready to fulfill any just demands constitutionally and legally.

Protest peaceful

Apart from minor scuffles between alliance cadres and the police, the picketing of Singha Durbar remained peaceful, but road traffic in the Valley was disrupted the entire day.

According to SP Pradhumna Kumar Karki, who commanded the security arrangements during the protest and who is also spokesperson of the Metropolitan Police Range Office, Kathmandu, "Because of the tight security arrangements and fewer number of protestors than expected, the situation was peaceful."

Police put the number of protestors at about 2,000 in total, including some 1,100 at Maitighar Mandala, where Chairman of Federal Socialist Forum Nepal Upendra Yadav was in command, and 700 at Hanumansthan where Sadbhawana Party Chairman Mahato was in charge. There were about 200 protestors at other points outside the prohibited areas, according to the police.

A brief scuffle occurred after the protestors tried to cross into the restricted zone.

2,800 police deployed

Under a special security plan, Nepal Police had deployed around 2,200 personnel and the Armed Police Force another 600 personnel. Around 400 personnel from both forces were on standby as a reserve force.

Meanwhile, police seized 285 batons from a vehicle near Maitighar just before the protest started. The protestors also vandalized a government vehicle (Ba 1 Jha 3610) while it was heading towards Singha Durbar from Bhadrakali.

The alliance has accused police of obstructing different vehicles bringing in cadres from outside the Valley. Police denied the allegation.